Introduction: Aspen Log Toddler Bed
I recently purchased my first home and have been enjoying coming up with ideas and designs for making furniture to outfit my home with. I really like rustic design and wood / log furniture. I also like to spoil my almost 3 year old daughter and see what special things I can make for her. Amongst the projects I have made for her are this recently completed Toddler Bed, that became an expedited priority, since she learned how to climb out of her crib. I got the logs for free from a neighbor that had pasture land being over run with Aspen Trees. I based the design off of a bed I found in a Google search, for sale online, I have no affiliation with them, and they don't even know I used their design, but I thought I should give them credit. I have only attempted 1 other log furniture project, which was a crib that I still haven't finished, it is much more complex of a project. I have learned a lot through trial and error and would say that this is a project that most anyone could undertake with a bit of ambition and access to a variety of tools.
Step 1: Materials Needed
Crib Springs (re-purposed from an old Drop-side crib, if you dont have access to metal crib springs you could also just use OSB or slats to support the mattress.)
Original Gorilla Glue
Coated Aircraft Cable (or in this case an old pet leash)
Note: There are lots of ways that tenons can be made on a log, there could be several Instructables just in methods, I will include the tools and methods that I used, I am not saying they are the best, or easiest.
Draw Knife and/ Or long Kitchen Knife - (Or some other way of removing the Bark)
Miter Saw (Chop Saw)
Ocsilating Orbital Sander- (With Belt and cylinder sanding wheels)
1/2 in Drill
2in Tenon Cutter Drill Bit
2 in Forstner Bit
1 1/4in Paddle Bit
Semi-Gloss clear polyurethane
Lots of Cargo Straps
Step 2: Logs
I got the idea to make a log toddler bed over a year ago when my daughter was much to small for the bed still, but I knew that if it was going to be made out of logs they would need time to dry out and cure. I will skip the part of cutting the logs and peeling the bark off, that could be a whole Instructable on its own.
Once you have your logs and the bark is peeled and they have had sufficient time to dry, you can begin this project. Since I wanted to re-use the springs and mattress from my daughters crib I was able to get the bed dimensions from those. In this case the springs are 26 x 55 inches.
I wanted my daughter to be able to climb in and out of it on her own, so that I wouldn't risk her getting hurt falling out of it. So I decided to make it low to the ground. I liked this design since it had a place to get in and out of, but still had rails to keep her in (and most importantly to my daughter to keep all her stuffed animal friends and books, from falling out). In her crib she also liked to sleep close to the side to feel secure, now she can still do that.
4 posts about 4 - 5" in diameter
2 - 24" high for footboard
2 - 30" high for headboard
2 logs about 3- 3.5" in diameter and 57" long for side rails
4 logs about 2.5 - 3" in diameter and 28" long for cross pieces in head and footboards
3 logs about 2.5 - 3" in diameter and 7.5" long for spindles in footboard
4 logs about 2 - 2.5" in diameter and 15.5" long for spindles in headboard
2 logs about 3 - 3.5" in diameter and 34.5" long for side support rails
8 logs about 2- 2.5" in diameter and 12.5" long for spindles in side support rails
2 logs about 3 - 3.5" in diameter and 12.5" long for spindles in side support rails
2 logs about 2.5 - 3" in diameter and 26" long for side bracing
Step 3: Making Footboard
Now that all the logs are cut to the rough size, it is time to make the footboard. I have a 2 inch tenon cutter drill bit that fits in a half inch drill, I used that like a pencil sharpener to make a 2" tenon on each end of the cross pieces for the footboard. Then I used a 2" Forstner Bit to drill two holes in each of the two corner posts.
These holes are a bit tricky if your logs aren't straight, it is best to get logs that both ends are at about the same angle if possible, even if there is a bow or curve in the middle. Check picture notes. On my foot board the holes are drilled in the corner post at about 12" and 20" up from the bottom. It is best to fit the two cross pieces into the corner posts first before trying to do the spindles.
Once you have both the cross pieces drilled and in place, make sure that the footboard is still wide enough that the side rails that will connect the headboard and footboard can connect into the corner posts and still fit at the side of the metal springs. I had forgotten about that and got lucky that mine barely worked still, (I did have to hold them out a little and not push them into the mortises as far as I had drilled them to be).
At this point you are ready to start adding spindles across the footboard. Since the bed is for a toddler I wanted to make sure that the spindles were close enough together that my daughter's head wouldn't get stuck. The building code for railings is that a 4 inch ball can't fit between the spindles, so I decided to make mine 4 inches apart. to determine how many spindles you need and where to place them in the cross pieces, it is best to find the logs that you would like to use for the spindles. get an average diameter of the log, then divide that by two to find the radius. Then you can measure 4 inches from the first corner post, then add the radius of the first spindle, you now have the center point of the first spindle, for the second spindle, you measure from the mark you just made, out the radius of the first spindle, plus four inches, plus the radius of the second spindle, then mark the center point of the second spindle.
If your spindles are fairly uniform in diameter, that is easier to be able to roughly know how many you will need before you start making marks on the wood. With the above method, the spindles may not be centered, you may need to shift them a bit back towards the beginning, making that space smaller than 4 inches, so that the last one isn't too close to the other corner post. This process is complicated to explain but goes pretty quick after you do it once. To keep from making so many marks on the wood, you can put masking tape along the center line of the rail, that way you can make marks and move them, without leaving marks on the wood.
On my bed I ended up using fatter spindles on the foot board and skinny ones on the head board, so I have 3 spindles on the foot board and 4 on the headboard.
Once you have the marks made on the bottom rail, you can hold the spindles in place, making sure they are straight up and down, and eyeball the marks on the top rail. When you are making the marks and choosing spindles it is important to note which side you started from, ( I like to work from left to right from the outside, you can number the spindles by writing on the bottom center of the spindle, I use a number such as F1 for the first spindle on the footboard, it is important to number them and keep them in the same order, since the measurements and ultimately the space in between is dependent on this.)
After the rail is marked and the spindles are numbered you are now ready to drill the holes in the rails. I used a portable table vice to hold the log and a 1 1/4in paddle drill bit to drill the holes.
To make the spindles fit in the holes, I only have a two inch tenon cutter bit, so if the spindle was larger than 2 inches I used the tenon cutter to get the tenon down to 2 inches, then I used a carving knife and a spindle sander to take off the other 3/4in. to get the tenon down to the right size. I have included a picture of a guide that I made by drilling a 1 1/4in. hole in a scrap piece of wood, that way I was able to keep it on the sander to test the spindle size as I went along.
To make the tenons on the ends of the rails, I used a 2in. tenon cutter drill bit in a 1/2in. drill. That process is pretty simple and is quite similar to sharpening a pencil in an electric pencil sharpener, other than the tenon cutter is a mean machine that tries to tear your arms off and beat you with them.
If the logs are too big to fit in the tenon cutter, you can stand them up on end and use a hammer and chisel to quickly take off large chunks to get them down to a size that will fit in the tenon cutter, then use then tenon cutter to make them smooth and even.
Step 4: Assembling and Gluing
Once you have all the tenons and mortices drilled and have all the spindles fitting in place, you can dry fit all the pieces together. Sometimes you might have to go back and make some spindles shorter, or shave off more to make them fit into the rails far enough that the rail will be able to fit into the post on each side. It takes a lot of trial and error to get everything to fit.
If you can get it all to fit together with a dry fit and resemble the correct shape, making sure everything sits right and it is fairly level over all, you are ready to start gluing. I wanted everything to fit tight, but I still wanted to be able to take the bed apart, so that I could get it in the house, so I glued it up so that the footboard is all one piece, the headboard is one, and each side rail is one, leaving the ability to remove the side rails from the head and footboards.
Gluing is tricky especially when you are outside after dark and the outside lights turn off with a timer after you have wet glue all over everything. I decided that to make sure everything fit together correctly, I would glue all the parts and assemble the entire bed while the glue was still wet.
To do this I first assembled the spindles and rails of the footboard, using the Original Gorilla Glue (since it foams up and expands as it dries, I thought that would help to fill the voids and keep everything tight.) Once I had that together I put a ratcheting cargo strap around them to hold them, then I put glue on the tenons of the rails and inserted them into the two corner posts. I then strapped that together. I was then able to move to the head board and side rails using the same process of gluing and strapping. Finally when all was done, I put straps around the completely assembled bed and tightened it all together, so that everything would dry in place and be in the correct spot.
Straps are your friend, you can't use too many straps! I strapped it and covered it with a tarp, then left it in my driveway overnight to dry and cure the glue.
Step 5: Sanding
After the glue is dried, you will find that some of it squished out of the joints and foamed up on the outside of the logs, it is fairly easy to remove with an old kitchen knife and sandpaper.
After the glue is removed, You will be doing a lot of sanding. I did try to sand off any big knobs, branches and rough knots, before I assembled everything, but at this point you need to look for rough spots and make it as smooth as possible, as your toddler will climb and roll and rub on every surface. You also don't want any blankets to get caught, so sand, and sand, then sand again, and don't forget the ends of the logs that make the side supports to keep them from rolling out, like I did. You will also need to sand the part of the tenons that is still sticking out, as those are pretty rough from the tenon cutter.
Step 6: Finishing
Once you are satisfied with the sanding, you are now ready to apply a finish. I simply used a clear semi-gloss polyurethane finish, that they assured me was safe if my little beaver decided to chew on the logs. I applied the polyurethane with a paint brush with the bed assembled. I put 3 or 4 liberal coats over the entire surface. Then left it to cure for 48 hours before bringing it in the house.
Notice the propane heater to help the polyurethane dry and my painting fingers not to freeze, be sure to have adequate ventilation and a carbon monoxide detector.
Step 7: Final Assembly
You are almost there, thanks for sticking it out.
I didn't want to have any bolts on the outside of the bed, I only wanted logs to show, so I made an x-brace under the mattress springs to hold the ends and side rails together. I used an old pet leash that was steel cable coated in plastic to make the x-brace, with turnbuckles in the middle to be able to tighten the cables.
You will also mount the mattress springs in this step, my crib that I took the springs from used insert nuts in the wood with bolts through the springs. you want to make sure the bed is sitting level, then measure up from the floor on each of the four posts to make the springs level.
Step 8: Yay, for a New Bed!
You are now done, you can add the mattress, blankets and the beautiful little girl to sleep soundly in "the log bed her daddy made her," as she likes to tell everyone. Just that makes it worth it! Now that you have read through all of this, you have nearly spent the same amount of time as it took me to build the bed. I spent the better part of 2.5 Saturdays, as well as a few hours in the evening for sanding, painting, and assembling the bed. Most of the time was spent on making the spindles, it would have only taken 1/4 of the overall time if I had had the 1 inch tenon cutter to make the tenons on the spindles instead of trying to sand them down to the right size.
The bed is really comfy and can handle my daughter jumping, sleeping and throwing tantrums on it. I have even laid on it and had her tuck me in. I am 6' 2" and about 215lbs.
Thanks for reading and happy building!