I don’t remember exactly how it was decided that I would build a castle loft bed for my daughter.
Since I have very little free time, my wife usually vetos any large woodworking project (not to mention that most of my projects don´t turn out exactly how I plan them, and never on the time/budget that I usually quote her.)
But what really sealed the deal was there was no way that we could afford to buy a similar loft bed.
So the project was approved by the House Upper Management (Known to men everywhere as our better halves).
Just to clear the air before we start: this build looks a lot more complicated that it really was. If I could build it, YOU can!
Yes, really. No kidding. How can I be so sure? Well, because I’m a certified and card holding “Barely Competent Woodworker” or BCW for short.
Step 1: BCW
What IS a BCW you may ask?
Well, we´re the kind of woodworker that when people see your work from across the room they´ll say:
“I CAN´T believe you made that yourself!”
But when they get up close to it, they´ll say:
“Oh, yea, now I believe you made it”
Because you know…..oh well….you try, but…hehehe
The main part is that your kid will love it, will remember it for the rest of her life and even love it more because she knows that dad’s love is greater than his woodworking skills.
Now, one of the main rules in being a BCW is to try to suppress your natural tendencies to screw up whatever it is your building.
That old “measure twice and cut once” does not apply to me. It's more of a “measure twice, erase and measure again, take a step back and re-measure, go look at the blueprint, make sure that you measured out the CORRECT piece, take the plywood to the table saw, do everything again and cross you fingers not to screw up and then curse out loud when you realized that you cut THE WRONG PIEACE OF PLYWOOD FOR CRYING OUT LOUD”
I did it again, because, you know….. oh well….
Step 2: The Blueprint and Extras
Because I know myself, I make blueprints. It’s the best way that I have been able to pre-visualize what I want to make. I use sketchup because it’s easy to learn and free. I’m including the model I made that was my “3D blueprint”. All the measurements that I used are out of the model. As you can see, everything is to scale and I also used the model to figure out how I was going to put all the little pieces together. You will also notice that I deviated a little from the model. I felt that the doorway would be a little claustrophobic and the more “open” bottom area does make my daughter’s small room not look crowded.
One other thing. I do realize that one day my little princess will no longer want to sleep in here enchanted castle, so all the parts that make the loft bed “castlely” can be removed and put away so that hopefully one day, another little princess will need a castle.
Before we get down this the bones of the project, just one last thing. I don´t have a lot of tools, so I’m sharing some of the techniques that I have come up with that allow me to build stuff with the things I have. I know that you can rent a lot of good tools that would be un-buyable to a weekend wook-worker like myself, but experience has taught me that you actually have to KNOW how to use those tools, and practice does make perfect. So with little money and even less time, I make do with what I have.
Step 3: The Bookshelves - Castle Towers
These are the most standard parts of the project and the ones that took me the longest to finish. Go figure.
Well, because you know….oh well….
That being said, this is also the part where you can take a short cut: you can use bookshelves that you already have, or buy some prebuild a Home Depot or Loews. The bookshelves don´t have to be the same, in fact, different sized bookshelves will make the castle look more interesting.
Now, here is where you need your first tool:
Something to cut wood into straight pieces. I have a cheap table saw that I bought as a replacement for the one I had that got stolen, but you can use whatever you have, or if your planning skills are better than mine, you can get you plywood cut at your home improvement store.
Once you have all the pieces cut up, it's time to start assembly
Step 4: The Bookshelves - Castle Towers Part 2
Glue, your friend-enemy
Glue is great, it keeps everything nice and together... and it also gets smeared on everything, has the bad habit of drying BEFORE you finish getting everything in place and you always place it at least five times during a build on the wrong side of the piece, because you know…..oh well…
So the way I found that I could glue long pieces together with a good fit is as follows:
- If your going to use screws, use a drill (tool number 2) to pre-drill a small hole so that you can hide the screws head. I use a wood bit with a bit of tape on it as a depth gauge, because if I don’t, then I´ll get drill happy and over drill.
- Glue the longest part to the shortest part. Since this is the first and crucial step in getting everything squared, its easier to do this with a small piece. Use a carpenters square (tool number 3) and one of those squares with built in clamps (tool number 4) to square and hold the two pieces together while you screw them.
- Now comes the tricky part: gluing the side and back of the bookshelf together.
Step 5: The Bookshelves - Castle Towers Part 3
Wait! Did you remember to pre-drill the screw hide-a-head before you try to glue these parts together?
If not, is's a good time to do it. :D
Now comes the tricky part: gluing the side and back of the bookshelf together.
One thing that always happens to me when joining long plywood parts together is that they NEVER line up exactly. If you are looking at the piece from above, you will see the “down part” will wobble a bit, and since you have no time to fix this before the glue sets, you end up with a badly joined part.
The way I do it is to have a longer piece of wood that sticks out (see the pic) when the part to be glued bows inward, I use this part to push the wood back and align it correctly and place a screw. If it bows outward, my thumbs are a good enough tool to straighten it and then I place a screw. Not the other way around, cause that would be bad.
Step 6: The Bookshelves - Castle Towers Part 3
Now, I measure a bunch of times and start to place the shelves, again using the carpenters square and square with clamps to hold all the parts together while I drive the screws into place.
Pts, pst. Did you remember to pre drill BEFORE placing the glue?
Because sometimes I forget, cause you know.....oh well...
Why do I place the shelves BEFORE I finish making the "box"?
Because I screw up less when I do it like this.
Finish up by placing the last side in place, glue and screw.
Step 7: The Bookshelves - Castle Towers Part 4
Now, front the 'cases.
As you can see from the pics and the blueprints, the top of the bookcases have a nice "gothic arc" at the top. I made them by using a temple. The temple I made by folding a piece of paper in half, drawing freehand the nicest half arch I could, cutting it and then using it to trace out the arc on the top of the case front. I used a jig saw (tool number 5) to do it.
Step 8: Castle Wall, Window Ladder and Small Tower.
This is the nicest part of the castle, the most important part and the easiest to build.
Using a template (same technique as before) I drew out the windows/ladder in a 12" gird. The window/ladder step is the width of my croc, since I have the biggest feet in the house and I wanted to make sure I could climb up there.
At the top, I cut out a rectangular part so my daughter wouldn't have to climb over the "wall" to reach her bed.
I glued and screwed a 2x3 post to the side that will be joined to the book shelve tower to give the plywood extra reinforcement against warping .
Step 9: Castle Wall, Window Ladder and Small Tower. Part 2
As you can see form the pics, I made some cool "battlements" for the top of the wall.
They are made from the window punch outs and some scrap pieces.
I placed some dowels with a simple and cheap dowel guide (tool number 6) and my only two clamps (tool number 7) to help secure the ornament at the top. Why? so it would be easy to remove one day to "de-castle" the ladder.
Now, I glued and screwed a small triangle piece of scrap (more on how I made it up ahead) as the window ledge.
Then I used the same technique as the one mentioned in the book shelve parte to glue and screw the tall tower to the castle wall. This part is both an ornament (it really looks nice) and functional, as it helps avoid the other side of the plywood from bending.
Step 10: Top Battlements.
I made the simple "moulding" by cutting the corner of a large piece of 2x3. Save the cut corner, that's your window ledge.
Why not use nicer moulding?
First, I wanted something simple. Second, moulding is expensive. And most important: I always screw up mitter cuts. ALWAYS.
No matter how hard I plan, I always manage to cut some wrong, so I went with a cheap alternative that wouldn't hurt so much when I made mistakes.
because you know....oh, well.....you try.....
If you look closely you'll see that tops and bottoms are the same.
Why? Because it looks cool, not because I forgot not to cut ALL MY WOOD and then I really didn't want to send all that nice wood to the scrap bin.
The "made by me moulding" was glued and screwed to a pice of plywood that will be itself just screwed to the top of the towers, all in the name of "de-castleing"
Step 11: Front Castle Ornament.
On the front of the castle you can see some ornamental moulding and mini tower. I made it following the blueprint, reusing the window/ladder temple and placing it on it's own plywood back, to ease installation (8 screws, no glue) and easy "de-castleing"
Step 12: Wood Filler, Sand Paper and Paint.
Ahhh, wood filler, what would a Barely Competent Woodworker be without you?
Fill, sand, fill again and try to make everything look nice before you paint.
I used some children safe, water soluble, washable 100% latex paint.
Follow the instructions on the paint can and hope to do a better job than me.
I try, I really do but me and Paint don't get along.
Paint says I have "issues", I say Paint refuses to do what I want and instead all she does is to go everywhere EXEPT where I want.
because, you know......oh well.
Step 13: Bed Platform, and Putting It All Together
The platform I made as a torsion box, simple and following the blueprint.
Now, to put it together I placed the torsion box on its side, screwed the castle wall in place, screwed the back 2x3 leg in place and my wife helped me to twist it upright.
Then I screwed the bookshelves/towers in place and ended the build by placing the front moulding.
Then, I went back and repainted everything because really, who paints a project BEFORE you finish setting it up, because you would never scratch the paint.
…..oh well….you try, but…hehehe
If I forgot something or something doesn't add up, please let me know so I can fix it.
Wood filler to to rescue!!!