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How to make bunk beds – Part 2

After the cutting and building in Part 1, I was ready to start assembling the main structure of the bed. The only difficult part of this was managing the weight of the pieces, luckily, my Dad was still visiting and helped me hold things in place. We built a second jig, matching the one that we used to assemble the legs. We clamped the jigs to the side of the head and foot boards and set the rail pieces in while screwing it together.

The jig made adding the side rails MUCH easier.

The jig made adding the side rails MUCH easier.

This was actually quicker and simpler than I expected. There were only seven side pieces, and the jigs helped a ton. Next up was the ladder, a place where I didn’t even look at the plans. Given the placement of the bed, in relation to the doorway of the room, I knew that the bottom of the ladder couldn’t be more than 10″ from the bed (didn’t want anyone tripping over it walking in the room.) Based on that, we worked backwards, figuring out the angles to cut things. You’ll probably have to do a similar thing, if you follow these plans.

The Ladder:

The ladder was made entirely out of 2×4’s. I used the table saw to cut the long angle in the top of the ladder rails. I used a special taper jig to cut these long cuts. That’s one of the tools that you don’t need until you need it :) The leftover wedge was perfect for transferring the angle to the bottom of the legs, as well as making marks for the ladder steps. Because of the angle of the ladder, the steps were a little wider than the side rails, but as long as the front was lined up, you barely noticed, so I didn’t go to the hassle of trimming their width down. The only exception was the top step. It was considerably thinner because it sat so high on the ladder.

Use the scrap wedge as a guide for the angle of the steps.

Use the scrap wedge as a guide for the angle of the steps.

I went with a 10″ space between steps, which I’d read was safe and reasonable for kids. This actually worked out really well. I decided that I wanted the entire end of the bed to be a ladder, so I wouldn’t have a half-width rail, or worry about more than one child on the ladder (it’s inevitable). I made the side rails of the ladder sit in line with the opening at the foot of the top bunk. The steps were attached with pocket screws like everything else. I think the steps will stay sturdy longer that way, plus, I’d already done so many of them, it was just natural at that point.

The ladder was attached by pre-drilling and screwing through from the inside of the foot board.

The ladder turned out to be very sturdy, and a perfect angle for the kids.

The ladder turned out to be very sturdy, and a perfect angle for the kids.

Shelving:

With the main structure and ladder done, I moved on to the shelving units for each bunk. These all came out of one 1/2″ sheet of MDF. If you plan on staining the bed, instead of painting, MDF won’t be a great choice, but you can change the material and account for the difference in wood thickness. I knew I’d be painting from the beginning, so easier + cheaper = better for me.

At this point, since these had to fit IN something, I stepped away from the plans and measured the opening instead, which was a good idea. I cut long pieces for the top,back, and bottom, then small pieces for the ends and vertical dividers. In assembling them, you’ll want to make sure that everything is square. It’s really easy to get the dividers sitting at an angle, but if you measure and make marks, you can quickly line the pieces up and nail them in with a finishing nailer.

Before construction, mark where the dividers go on top and bottom, so they end up square.

Before construction, mark where the dividers go on top and bottom, so they end up square.

The shelves are big, but fairly lightweight. I was able to set them on the side rail and clamp them in place without any help, but an extra set of hands would have made it easier probably. I shot finishing brads in to hold it, then a couple of screws on each end to firmly attach it to the head and foot boards. You ABSOLUTELY need to at least screw it in, as my boys have already spent a good deal of time sitting on the top shelf. This is the point where you’ll want to grab some wood filler and go to town. This step tool quite a while for me, even though I didn’t worry about filling the pocket holes ( in case I ever need to disassemble it).

Mount the shelves with screws into the foot and head boards, and finishing brads into the side rail.

Mount the shelves with screws into the foot and head boards, and finishing brads into the side rail.

FINISHING:

Next up, PAINTING! This took a good amount of time due to the number of surfaces, but a coat of primer, and 2 coats of black paint later, it was done! I would recommend finding a paint brand and finish that dries hard. I used a latex with a satin finish, and it didn’t really harden like I wanted. It has an almost rubbery touch to it, and I can tell it will get scraped easily. If I were you, I would research what to use more than I did and take your time so that it last longer.

For kids furniture, make sure you find a good, hard drying paint. (and let me know what it is...)

For kids furniture, make sure you find a good, hard drying paint. (and let me know what it is…)

Last up, slats. All of the beds that I’ve ever seen had three or four slats, so I added nine per bunk, because, well… I’m me. I used 1×3’s, and they’re very inexpensive. Using my speed square, I laid them in and added a couple finishing brads to hold them in place. The weight of the mattress eventually does most of the work, although, at some point, I may go back and screw them in place. After some use, I’ve seen them move around a little bit.

Probably overkill on the number of slats, but better safe than sorry, and the wood was really cheap.

Probably overkill on the number of slats, but better safe than sorry, and the wood was really cheap.

Add some mattresses, and WAY TOO MANY TOYS, and BOOM… bunk beds.

finalSplit

Some final shots of each bunk.

finalShot This project was always one of my “someday” projects, so I was almost sad to have it finished. It was a ton of fun to design and build.

Also, my daughter wants bunk beds now (not sure why, though) so maybe I’ll get to design and build a set for her one of these days.

As always, if you have questions or suggestions, I’d love to see them in the comments. Thanks for reading!

 

Want to build your own? Here are some FREE PLANS  I’d love to see some photos of what you build, so be sure to send them my way!

2 Comments

  • adamglendye says:

    My dad built my brother and I bunk beds for our shared room when we were young. We had a great time planning the build, pulling it off, and enjoying them. We moved them to 3 different locations and now they are at our farm house in Lyons, GA. They were pretty basic with the ladder being the ends (stairs about 10″ apart) and the slats was just a sheet of 3/4in ply. Very easy to build, take apart and re-set.

    Yours are MUCH cooler, but I’m sure it will not even be a week before they start jumping off the top bunk!

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