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Easy, Modular, Pine Bunkbeds

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I've been building projects from Instructables for years but have never really had the time to post any of my own projects. I've found myself with a little extra time lately though and decided it was time to start giving back to the community. So, for my very first shot at an Instructable, allow me to present (drum roll please):

Bunk Beds! (and there was much rejoicing!)
(from wikipedia): A type of bed where one bed frame is stacked on top of another.

Like Minivans, the more children you have the better bunk beds start to look. And unless you are lucky enough to live in nice big house where everyone gets their own room, the ability to stack your children at night provides more floor space for things like desks, couches, and toys to trip over.

Unfortunately, bunk beds can be pretty pricey - putting them out of reach for most people. Worse than that, most of the production bunk bed frames on the market that I've seen are pretty flimsy - and I just couldn't justify spending $1,000 to have my kids spend 8 hours a night, 5 feet in the air, worried they were going to come crashing down every time they rolled over!

The good news is, you can pretty easily build a bunk bed that is rock solid, looks great, breaks down easily for moves, and is completely modular - and for only $125 - $200 in wood and supplies.

What do I mean by modular?

Once built, this bunk bed can be assembled as a traditional stacked, one-over-the-other bunk bed frame; as an L-shaped bunk bed, where the bottom bed is only half covered by the top bunk; or even as two separate beds sitting on the floor - all with minimal effort to change around once the pieces are built.

The only power tool you absolutely need is a drill, but having some kind of saw and a hand sander will make your life easier. I'll go over the materials in the next step.

I have 4 kids, and made two sets of bunk beds. There are some style differences in the two (see pictures above) but the one big lesson learned from one to the other was to incorporate that safety bar on the top bunk.

All of the instructions in the guide are for version 2 (with incorporated safety bar)
 
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robbhammack22 days ago

Good design and Instructable!

One note for people building this - standard wood glue does NOT stick well to finished wood, esp. varnished or polyurethaned wood. Even oil-based stains will significantly reduce the strength of the glue bond, I'm afraid

For maximum strength, either stain and varnish after assembly of the glued boards (I know it's MUCH more difficult to get even coverage then), or sand off the varnish where you are applying wood glue and do touch-up after assembly.

Really, by gluing varnished boards together, the glue is pointless - it's the nails / screws etc holding it together, the glue is adding very little strength.

I'm not trying to carp on it to much, I just think beginning woodworkers and those trying it for the first time should know how wood glue works - it's a water based aliphatic resin, just a slightly advanced form of the elmer's glue you probably used as a child - just think how well elmer's works on waterproof stuff like glass, plastic, and metal, and that's how well wood glue works on varnished wood.

Of course, the rules are a little different for polyurethane wood glue.... but it still works best on clean, bare wood.

Again, I really like this design - simple, sturdy, minimal tools required, looks good.

I actually have a mostly complete wood shop, and do furniture with traditional wood joints like mortise and tenon, lap, and bridal joints where there is not a single nail or screw involved - only wood and glue - hence my unfortunate foray into proper glue use.

JCMasterpiece made it!2 months ago

Great plan! I've almost finished the project and it's looking great so far! A couple of things to note that you might want to adjust on the plan.

Under Cutting the Boards to Size: 2x6 Boards you state that 4 of the 2x6 boards need to be cut to 75" and the rest cut to the smaller size. This should be 5 should be cut to 75". I ended up with 2 extra short boards and had to pick up another board to use for the safety bar.

I picked up a 946 ml tin of stain (Cabot) and it was not nearly enough. I went back to get more and found out that the store no longer sells Cabot stains. So I had to get a completely different brand (Minwax) and color. I can tell you from experience that all stains are NOT created equally! After using 2 different brands of stain I still have NO IDEA how you could stain this entire bed with only a 946 ml can.

Under Drilling: Drilling the Cross Pieces you state to drill 4" into the cross pieces. This is definitely overkill! ...or at least it was for me.

While assembling I found that the lag bolts definitely do not seem very secure when holding the cross pieces to the head and footboards. I don't know if you meant some sort of lag screws that will dig into the cross pieces and hold then into place, but the lag bolts with no nuts to grip onto slide way too easily. I put a little bit of wood glue on some of the lag bolts so hopefully that will hold them. I will leave the two beds separated for a while to make sure things don't start to fall apart.

Also, pictures 1 & 2 of drilling make it look as though the holes in the head and foot boards for the bolts for the crossboard are at the halfway point of the vertical 1x6's (about 2 3/4" from the outside). Unfortunately, assembling it this way does NOT fit a standard 39"x75" mattress. The holes need to be closer to 3/4" from the edge in order for the mattress to fit. Looking at the pictures of the completed project it looks like you did put them closer to the edge, but (unless I missed it) this isn't specified in the instructions.

Also, thanks for the tip on not drilling all the way through in order to prevent splintering of the holes! This helped immensely.

Overall it has been a really fun project, and apart from some adjustments to the instructable (hopefully fixed soon) and the concerns about the connection between the ends and the cross pieces, it has been a great plan.

Thank you for sharing it!

Bed.jpg2014-05-08 10.50.35.jpg
aking141 year ago
LOL, just reading a list of most recalled items last week, and bunkbeds were on the list. If you're going to use them, might be a good idea to read back through bunkbed recalls, and make sure this doesn't have any of the flaws mentioned.

Because you're unconscious and the top bunk needs to contain you, people can get hurt or rarely even die from things that aren't obvious at first glance.

fogdor1 year ago
I love the beds... But noticed the steps in the garage to the upper level... Did you make the steps? If so I'd like to ask you a few more questions a out them. Pls email me.... Fogdor@gmail.com
Edgar1 year ago
I have a neat pack of Instructables to talk about, today on my Blog, and your's one of them! :)
http://faz-voce-mesmo.blogspot.pt/2012/11/instructables-traceparts-e-noticias.html

Also, your kid with the Hard hat, if that's not a Poster child for Hackers, Tinkerers, and Gizmo Makers, I don't know what is! LOL
The Valiant (author)  Edgar1 year ago
Thanks and thanks! Kids can't be happier than when banging a nail into a block of wood. They just need opportunity, they come with creativity and enthusiasm built in!
Yup, empowerment is as fun as it is seriously promissing!
cjf1 year ago
nice 'structable (and beds)
Wow! Fab. beds, and fab Instructable! Was very impressed by the safety gear you and your son wore too. Thanks so much for posting!
The Valiant (author)  porcupinemamma1 year ago
Thank you!

When we're young with like to think that safety gear is for 'old folks' but it's so important when working with power tools!
blkhawk1 year ago
Congratulations! Great job! I just added it to my faves.
The Valiant (author)  blkhawk1 year ago
Thanks so much!
I love all the tips and tricks you included - this is such an awesome build. They look great! :D
The Valiant (author)  jessyratfink1 year ago
Thank you!