|Project by cjh||posted 1234 days ago||4204 views||12 times favorited||12 comments|
This project started with the need for a bunk bed and an idea my daughter had to have a themed room at our cottage in Michigan. She decided on a beach theme and while we could have bought just any bunk bed, the room presented some challenges that really made any other bunk bed less than ideal. (Not to mention that I was really looking forward to building something special for her)
The first challenge was that the celling is relatively low. Additionally, there is a soffit that wraps around 2 sides of the room which makes it even lower in some areas. A traditional sized bunk bed would have made the top bunk very tight and waste a lot of space under the bottom bunk. The second challenge is that the room is also very small (9’x10’). (It’s a cottage after all) I needed the beds to not be directly above each other to maximize the space. Lastly, there really weren’t any beds that my daughter liked or thought fit her “beach” theme. Well………. there was one …….it had a tiki theme with lots of large bamboo. She liked it, but it was around $10K …..so….. that wasn’t going to happen. I also didn’t think I could get my hands on lots of large bamboo and was concerned about working with it, if I could.
My inspiration was originally focused on the lifeguard houses you see on beaches. I liked the thick timbers with crisscross supports and pier like appearance. I showed her some pictures and she though it matched what she was thinking of. I also created 1/12 model of the bed to visualize my plans dimensions and give her a better idea of what it would look like. Additionally, I created a sketch up drawing of the room to have a 3D reference of the space (since the room was 3.5 hours way from my shop). I did a rough design of the bed in sketch up to see relative dimension as they related to the room and then I was off and running.
Side note: I had originally planned on doing crisscross supports at each end of the bed like the pictures I was basing my design on, but when I got to that point in the construction, I decided that since the supports were just for esthetics, they would make getting under and around the bed more restrictive. In this tight little room, the more open the bed was the better. In this case, I opted for function over form.
The bed is made entirely of construction grade dimensional lumber. I went with a mixture of 2×8, 4×4 and 2×12 to get some contract between white pine and douglas fir on different elements of the bed. The joinery is all half lap joints that provide all of the mechanical support of the bed. I used wood screws to secure the joints (So the bed can be completely disassembled into single pieces and I didn’t see the need in using bed bolts). The platform for the mattresses is tongue and groove slats so it also can be made small for transport.
For the finish, I chose to use Tung oil for its simplicity and I cut it 1:1 with citrus solvent. The citrus solvent really worked fanatic. There was no toxicity or VOC’s ( it just smelled like oranges). In the past I have tried tung oil straight, however it is way too thick and tends to gum up. I did one coat with a brush and then wiped on the second and third coats allowing 24 hours to dry in between. My daughter had originally mentioned that she wanted the bed painted white, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it (not a fan of painted furniture). I’m not sure if she was being polite, but after I showed her a sample for the tung oil finish, she said she liked it better.
The eventual plan is to hang some grass skirts from the ceiling the drape over the upper bunk window/bedrail to create more of a thatched roof, however it will be up to my daughter and my wife to work out those details.
There is only a couple things I would do different on this project if I were to do it again. The first is that I dadoed the ladder into the runner on the bottom bunk and made the angle at the top fix exactly with the top bunk. This was fine in my shop (that has a level floor). However after assembly in my daughter’s room, I quickly found out that the floor was uneven enough to make bottom dado throw off the angle of top connection just a touch so the joint isn’t completely flush. With some field modification I got it decent, but it wasn’t what it was in the shop (a touch disappointing). The last thing I would do different would be change my method for cutting out the half lap joints on the big timbers. During the course of this project I was very fortunate to have a neighbor offer to sell me his vintage Dewalt 1030 radial arm saw and I eagerly snatched it up. It was in perfect condition (The neighbor is a woodworker too and took very good care of his tools). So I used a Dado blade on the RAS to cut the joints. This worked very well but because they were deep cuts I really had to keep the dado relatively thin and make lots of passes. If I went too thick, the saw’s power made the cuts difficult to do in a controlled manner. I was so excited to get the saw that I think I didn’t really analyze if it was the best approach. It wasn’t a biggie, but in hindsight I should have bulked out the material with the bandsaw and used the RAS for the precision cut. It wouldn’t have change the quality but it would have made it go faster. It’s actually very amazing how accurate the saw was after I tuned it up using Mr. Sawdust’s Book.
It was a fun project. I tried to keep track of the cost but lost sight after the initial lumber purchase. I would estimate that all-in-all I probably spent $300 in material, $100 in supplies and sunk about 80 hours (over the course of a year) into this project.