Twin-Sized Bed With Pull-Out Desk, Closet, and Dresser #2: The First Time: Lessons Learned

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Blog entry by gbarteck posted 01-24-2010 10:28 PM 4241 reads 2 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: What went on before... Part 2 of Twin-Sized Bed With Pull-Out Desk, Closet, and Dresser series Part 3: Drawers and Drawer Fronts from Reclaimed Wood. »

In our last episode…you heard about the why of building a pair of captain’s beds. Now we get into the how of building them…

Okay so I need to build a pair of captains beds for my youngest two boys. After seeing what was available inthe furniture stores, we pretty much knew what we wanted in the beds, as far as features are concerned:

  1. A dresser with three large drawers
  2. A reasonable size student desk that can put put away when not in use
  3. A closet capable of hanging clothes and storing shoes and the like.
  4. A ladder for access to the bed

Confident in the functional aspects of the project, I went to consult with my then-11-year-old son about style issues”

“Hey William, what would you like your bed to look like?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, would you like to be be ‘wood colored’ (stained finish) or painted?”

“Painted, I guess.”

“What color?”

“Black. And red…But mostly black.”

Oh… did I say he loves black? And red? Well… he’s the one who’ll be using it every day, so “the customer is always right.”

This was almost a year when I started building the first bed. A few months passed on the calendar, and it was almost summer by the time I finished it. The going was slow mostly due to lack of time to work on it.

I must admit that I didn’t do a whole lot of planning for that firt build, other than figuring out the basic dimensions. In a way, I was relieved that my son wanted his bed painted. I figured that would allow a greater margin of error in handling the lumber. After all, you can hide a lot of mistakes under paint :)

I envisioned the construction to be done as four separate sub-units:

  1. The dresser
  2. The desk
  3. The closet
  4. The bed box
  5. A “space filler” box that would reside behind the dresser unit support the bed box in that area.

And then assemble all of the pieces together at the end.

Were mistakes made along the way? You bet. Mostly careless handling of the lumber whie in the presence of power tools. What happened? Nothing grotesque…nothing bizzare…nothing that a little wood filler couldn’t fix. Like I said, you can hide alot of mistakes under paint.

When the time came to paint each sub-assembly I chose to put on a latex paint over primer. All in all, it worked out ok, but the resulting finish was not as nice as other painted furniture I’ve seen. I figure it was due to the choice of latex over oil-based paint. I keep telling myself to do some experimenting in that regard.

Looking at all of the sub-assemblies after they were completed, I must say that I was happy with the way it all looked. There in my workshop (read “garage”), I put all of pieces together for the first time…or tried to. Let me just say that it’s always a good thing to plan ahead as much as practical for a project like this.

I ended up with a few design flaws. Some appeared at assembly time. Others didn’t rear their ugly heads until a few days after installation.

The first couple of flaws were related to the pull-out desk mechanism. The idea was to mount a pair of fixed casters to the “underdesk”, and mount a “guide rail” within the tunnel that the desk slid into. This guide rail would support the desktop, and keep things aligned so all would go smoothly.

Flaw #1: Failure to provide clearance forthe guide rail to fit between the udnerdesk and the tunner wall. This forced me to change my method for supporting the desktop and guiding it into the tunnel. However, it didn’t take too much time, and after an hour or so The desk was sliding smoothly into place.

Flaw #2 & #3: Failure to account for how the different sub-assemblies would settle into a carpeted floor. After being satisfied with how the assemblies went together, I took it all upstairs to install it in the bedroom. Suddenly there were two problems:

  1. The casters on the desk unit sunk into the carpeting more than the other assemblies did. Thus the desktop no longer fit into it’s guide mechanism anymore. Fortunately this was fixable without any major modifications, but I was peeved that I didn’t think to make this part more easily adjustable.
  2. The bottom drawer of the dresser unit was located to close to the floor so that after an hour or so, the carpet interfered with the drawer making it unopenable. This made it necessary to put the entire bed system “up on blocks” to get clearance for the drawer to open.

Flaw #4: Ladder interferes a little with use of the desk. While the desk is usable, have the chair position on the same area as the ladder makes things awkward.

Here are a couple of pictures of the first bed completed and installed:

William's bed w/desk in

William's bed w/desk out

But some good lessons were learned, and before starting the second bed, I made a scale model using Google Sketchup. This is a wonderful program that would reccommend to all.



This model incorporates changes resulting the lessons learned with the previous build. It doesn’t include the ladder, or the cut-out in the side of the bed box (to make it easier to climb into the bed.)

My second-youngest son says that we wants his bed stained…now I have to be more careful handling my lumber.

Tune in next time for the next exciting chapter in the adventures of Captain(s) Bed in the Land of Recycled Lumber

(Yes there is even some recycled lumber that got used in this project. More on that next time!)


-- "A day without sunshine is like...night."

3 comments so far

View stefang's profile


15512 posts in 2756 days

#1 posted 01-24-2010 11:05 PM

Very nice design and the black paint looks great too. Unless you are making these things every day you are bound to run into some unexpected problems, but it sounded like you didn’t have any problems coping with them. All in all a very well done and attractive result.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View John Steffen's profile

John Steffen

218 posts in 2478 days

#2 posted 01-25-2010 04:25 AM

Looks awesome Greg! Can’t wait to see what you did with the second one.

-- Big John's Woodshed - Farmington, IL

View a1Jim's profile


115177 posts in 2999 days

#3 posted 01-25-2010 04:32 AM

cool beds

-- Custom furniture

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