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Which wood for bunk beds?

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Forum topic by kalapolo posted 08-28-2011 09:33 PM 4432 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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kalapolo

63 posts in 1341 days


08-28-2011 09:33 PM

Topic tags/keywords: bunk beds

#2 is on the way :) and we’re looking to build a set of bunk beds (to alternately be used as two separate twin beds). These are the woods I have easy access to:

Birch
Soft Maple
Red Oak
White Oak

Walnut
Cherry

First grouping are all moderately and similarly priced, and the walnut and cherry are about double the cost of the first four. Aside from cost, any advice on which wood you would choose for twin beds? Looking for something that will be durable/resilient/strong/stable (to withstand children) and not terribly difficult to work/finish. Thanks in advance for your thoughts; this will be our largest project so far!


12 replies so far

View rustynails's profile

rustynails

463 posts in 1181 days


#1 posted 08-28-2011 09:45 PM

When I built two sets of double bunk bed for my cottage I use regular dimensional lumber from the box stores.(2×4 and 2×6’s ) it worker great, I stained them dark and have had them for about 6 years now. They are very strong and didn’t break the bank.

View nate22's profile

nate22

424 posts in 1527 days


#2 posted 08-30-2011 05:00 PM

I have built a lot of bunk beds. Some I have made out of soft brown maple. Maple works really great it is very sturdy and it will take a lot of abuse from kids. But maple in my opion is very durable, strong, stable. And it is easy to work with and stains really nice. If you want to see some of the ones I have made go to my home page on here. And you can get a idea of what they look like. and post pics when you finish it.

-- K & N Furniture Middlebury, In.

View Bertha's profile

Bertha

12951 posts in 1345 days


#3 posted 08-30-2011 05:25 PM

For a bunk bed, I’d probably go with a cheaper wood, decor permitting. A bunk bed of walnut would break the bank where I’m from. Part of the fun of bunk beds is the rustic character, in my way of thinking. I’ve never seen a kid examine a grain pattern or complain about knots;)

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Loren's profile

Loren

7545 posts in 2300 days


#4 posted 08-30-2011 07:29 PM

Hard maple and cherry are hard, brittle woods – durable and bit tricky to work,
but they do look nice. Soft maple is much easier to sand than hard.

Many commercial bunk beds, futon frames and such are made of birch.

-- http://lawoodworking.com

View ShaneA's profile

ShaneA

5295 posts in 1250 days


#5 posted 08-30-2011 08:00 PM

I would vote for maple. Dimensional lumber would work as well. However I rarely choose it because after I look at the needed bf, and compare costs and how many hours I think I will have in the project, I always go with the hardwood. If i am going to take the time and effort to build something, I want to enjoy it and be proud of it. In the end saving $50 or so on a project that is made of 2×4s or a wood i enjoy less (red oak) vs one made of maple doesnt seem like savings in the end. It seems like settling, and for a small cost savings I just dont think its worth it. Its my time or your time that is really the value or the cost, if you will. But like Al said, I doubt the kids will mind or appreciate the differences in the wood or grain. They will probably just want to jump from the top. Birch is a good choice, inexpensive, interesting tones, but the darn stuff will warp quickly if you dont nail it down it down in the first 5 minutes. At least the stuff I get here, but I do like its looks.

View Jerry's profile

Jerry

2195 posts in 2199 days


#6 posted 08-30-2011 11:12 PM

If it were me i would go with a number 2 common cherry or number 2 common walnut and then leave natural with a simple clear coat. The woods are hard enough to offer structural stability and also strong enough for some abuse. Then down the road after it is scratched up, every year or so, you can apply a fresh clear coat to make it look brand new again without the hassle of trying to re match old stain colors.

A number 2 common, sometime referred to as rustic, would place cherry and walnut at a price comparable to oak and the other woods you mentioned.

Example, with us, oak cost around 1.75 bf, more or less, but rustic cherry cost 1.50 bf and rustic walnut at 2.10 bf. But when calculating in extra cost related to staining a oak or maple, it is more cost effective to go with walnut or cherry in the rustic. Loom into it for yourself at your local hardwood yards. Get the wood from where the cabinet shops get it from.

-- Jerry Nettrour, San Antonio, www.topqualitycabinets.net

View Tedstor's profile

Tedstor

1369 posts in 1285 days


#7 posted 08-30-2011 11:41 PM

From the woods you listed, either soft maple or white oak would be my choice. My kids are demolition experts, so I can’t see myself spending the dough for anything more expensive than that.

However, a friend of mine just built his daughter a loft bed from douglas fir 4×4s and it looks great. He had to visit a couple different big box shops and pick through the stacks for the best looking stock though. Of course, he probably spent $75 for all the necessary wood and another $20-30 on finish and hardware. Considering people build decks from the stuff, its certainly strong enough for the job.

View pvwoodcrafts's profile

pvwoodcrafts

223 posts in 2573 days


#8 posted 10-13-2011 02:38 PM

I used red oak with keyed through tenons for our cabin. Since the cabin is so small I made the lower bunk about 18 in off the floor and made the top bunk high enough you could sit on the lower one without worrying about hitting your head on the top rail

-- mike & judy western md. www. pvwoodcrafts.com pvwccf1@verizon.net

View linjay's profile

linjay

90 posts in 1276 days


#9 posted 12-24-2011 06:05 AM

This link shows a bunk bed I made in spruce. http://lumberjocks.com/projects/46467 I’m a big fan of spruce. 2×6’s are about $0.50 / ft

-- It's easy when you know how. Ontario, Canada

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2163 posts in 1502 days


#10 posted 12-24-2011 06:33 PM

Quote from ShaneA:

Dimensional lumber would work as well. However I rarely choose it because after I look at the needed bf, and compare costs and how many hours I think I will have in the project, I always go with the hardwood. If i am going to take the time and effort to build something, I want to enjoy it and be proud of it. In the end saving $50 or so on a project that is made of 2×4s or a wood i enjoy less (red oak) vs one made of maple doesnt seem like savings in the end. It seems like settling, and for a small cost savings I just dont think its worth it. Its my time or your time that is really the value or the cost, if you will.

This leads us a little sideways to design issues but bear with me: There will be times when dimensional lumber is the right stuff, but those times are diminishing to zero as you become more accomplished in your craft. If you are going to use dimensional, I’d suggest you go to great pains to make them non-dimensional dimensions. In other words, disguise their origins by going to 1 1/4 or 1 1/8 thick, use widths of 4 or 6 1/4. Plane them and glue them up and plane them again, using balanced knots as design features. Read linjay’s discovery linked in the post above.

One other comment about beds in general (pretty much excluding bunks though): Their principal design features are, when they’re done, the head/footboards and the quilt (or bedspread). This is to point you to where the bulk of your design efforts should go.

Kindly,

Lee

-- "...in his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Roger Clark aka Rex's profile

Roger Clark aka Rex

6940 posts in 2087 days


#11 posted 12-24-2011 06:44 PM

Old railroad sleepers of course …....well it’s Christmas ….....y’all have a happy one :-)

-- Roger-R, Republic of Texas. "Always look on the Bright Side of Life" - An eyeball to eyeball confrontation with a blind person is as complete waste of Time.

View NiteWalker's profile

NiteWalker

2710 posts in 1229 days


#12 posted 12-24-2011 08:16 PM

Of those listed, walnut is my favorite.
If price is an issue, pick any of the 4 top woods. I’d probably go for soft maple or white oak.

For a finish, I use zinsser sealcoat followed by crystalac. If you have spray equipment, crystalac super premium is my top choice. If not, crystalac polyoxide since it can be brushed. It’s extremely durable and chemical resistant. Recoat in 30 minutes.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

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