After spending the first four years of my daughter's life living in rental homes I wanted to build something nice for her to help her have some ownership of the new house we purchased and of her new room. I started searching the internet and found a bunch of inspiring princess beds. I showed her some of the Instructables and images I found and developed a game plan. This Instructable will take you through the process i followed to create her new playset/bed.
I did this with the following hand tools:
I would recommend the following tools if I had it to do over and if I wanted things to work out better:
I don't have a full materials list as I kind of did this whole thing with just an idea in my mind and some graph paper combined with Sketch Up. But if I recall this was the majority of what I used:
4-5 eight foot 2x6s
5 eight foot 2x4s
6 sheets of 1/2" MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard, see rant at the end about MDF
1 Sheet of 3/4" plywood
Screws of many sizes and many of them!!!! Generally 1.5" and 3" screws were used for the vast majority of the bed
2 eight foot 2x2 furring strips
Step 1: Step 1: the Frame
I had some experience way back in college with building loft beds, so this was the easiest part of the build for me. I do tend to over build things so there was some work here that wasn't 100% necessary. The legs are 4' 2x6s. I chose to go with the 4' height to maximize the pieces of lumber I would get our of each board, plus my kid is about 44" tall at the current time.
The platform itself is 75" x 39", the internet was the easiest place for me to find the dimensions of a twin bed . . . my google-fu is strong! The way I assembled the bed took into account the fact that her room had a base trim along the walls. I really didn't want to remove this trim. I put the legs on the inside of the 2x6s that make up the outside rails to accomplish this.
I added 2x2s to the inside of the rails too in order to give the plywood a little something extra to support it. (Note: at the lumber store I was casually perusing the aisles and came across 2x2 furring strips. These weren't as high quality as what they sell in 2x2s but if you are picky you can find straight boards without a lot of knots in them and they are about 1/2 the cost.) To assemble the frame I used the Kreg Jig to put pocket holes on the 39" sides to screw into the 75" boards and I also screwed straight through the 39" sides into the legs. I felt this gave me plenty of rigidity. The jig was set on the 1.5" setting and 2.5" screws were used.
The entire frame was screwed into studs at 5 points. Two on the 39" sides and three on the 75" sides using 3" screws. This firmed the frame right up and it won't be going anywhere anytime soon. Just be sure to screw through the 2x6 and not the 2x2 as you will not have enough screw to get into the studs.
Step 2: Step 2: Towers
The design of the towers of the castle was for each to perform a different function and to be of equal dimensions (my need for symmetry kicked in here.) The left hand tower is going to be a "zoo," a design that has two open sides and bungee cord running the height of these sides to hold in her stuffed animals. Reminiscent of the ball holders you would see at Wal-mart or other large retailers. The right hand tower is a bookshelf, plain and simple.
The two towers are 6' tall and the tops of the crenelations reach up to 6'6". Once again I tried for a consistent pattern that was visually pleasing to me and easy to cut. Each of the sides are 18" wide, the back is 17" to account for the 1/2" material of the side walls. I did not take 1/2" out of the sides for the front panel. I decided not to, but I very easily could have. When building the bookshelf I did not account for the 1/2" roof material and thus the roof sticks up 1/2" above the intended top of the tower. On the zoo the top was left open so that animals could be tossed in from above. The towers are screwed right into the bedframe to prevent them from moving.
Step 3: Step 3: Decorative Panels
The entrance to the castle and the side panel over the bed are mostly decorative but also serve to hold the little tyke in bed. I originally counted on having crenelations clear across the front and side, but I decided to change it to the style more reminiscent of Cinderella's castle or the My Little Pony castle with triangular roofs and such. There has been some concerns stated that the point could pose a potential threat. After the bed gets painted I may go back and make trim for the top of this part to act as a cap and to protect the ends of the MDF.
These parts I did not cut ahead of time. I knew what their dimensions should have been, but I prefer to measure one things are dry fit to make sure I get it right. For example, I had to cut a notch in the end wall to account for the base trim mentioned before. Also, I'm sure the zoo tower would have been closer to the wall if it weren't for the trim, so I would have been thrown off by that much had I not waited to cut the main piece.
Since these pieces were made of 1/2" MDF they aren't really strong by themselves. I screwed them into the bed frame itself. Doing so left the bottoms in need of serious support so I cut 2x4s to fit behind the legs of the platform and the towers and cut them to length to be flush with the opening in front and from wall to bookshelf on the end. I then screwed the MDF panels and the towers to the 2x4s.
The opening to get underneath was not a predetermined size, I just measured in 6 inches from either side and then up to a certain height which was totally arbitrary. The point of the opening is right at the bottom of the 2x6 side support and the angle was determined arbitrarily again. The point goes up to 6' height and the bottom of the angle is 6" in from the towers again.
Step 4: Step 4: Ladder
This part of the build I fought myself over for a long time. I originally had planned to build stairs into the end of the bed with storage underneath and maybe some drawers in the steps. However, in the end I decided that this would add more cost and trouble than it was worth. I do not know how to cut my own stringers and my favorite big box lumber store only sold precut stringers in treated lumber, which I did not want to use in my kid's bedroom.
In the end a simple ladder built from 2x4s won the day. I didn't even lay this out with much precision I just estimated the angle to cut to get the desired angle for the ladder I wanted and cut the two supports. Then I cut the rungs to be 18" in width (the size of the opening) and screwed them in at distances that looked to be about equal. (I was tired by this point and wanted to be done.)
The 2x4s you see on the side are for support. I can see the edge of the opening being used for a handle getting in and out of the bed, so they needed to be supported. The piece below the ladder is screwed into the bed frame. The upright piece is only really supported at the bottom where it meets the bed frame. The top cross piece is screwed into the support for the roof of the bookshelf, supporting the plain MDF of the end piece.
Step 5: Step 5: More to Come
Once the bed was fully assembled it was done enough to call it "finished" but there is still more work to be done. My wife is in the process of painting the whole thing. Our daughter picked out sparkly white for the main color trimmed in purple (after a little convincing). Lowes sells a product from Valspar that adds glitter to the paint, which is how we got the sparkles.
After paint I picked up two strands of LED Christmas lights to staple to the bottom of the bed platform for light inside. I will plug these into a surge protector so that she can have a switch to turn her lights on and off. It seemed to be the most simple method to put these on a switch. The bungee cording still needs to be added to the zoo too, but we didn't wan to add that until painting was done.
My wife is also a very talented artist so she intends to add a mural to the back wall which will make the castle look as though there is more to it than just what I built.
Step 6: Rants and Thoughts
MDF is DIRTY!!!! This was the first time I've ever worked with the stuff. I chose it to save a few dollars on this material over plywood and it is supposed to take paint very well. This stuff made the finest sawdust that I've ever encountered AND it was the most airborne sawdust too. EVERYTHING in my garage is now covered in a thick layer of sawdust. If you are going to work with MDF do so in a dedicated workshop or using a table saw hooked to a vacuum.
Overall this has been a very fun project, which I may have enjoyed more than my daughter. Using hand tools not everything came out perfectly square. Being as though this was built for a 4 year old I'm not too worried about it. It's good enough. Where I work we have a saying, "Do you want pretty or functional?" This definitely falls into the functional category.
I think all told I have about $300 in materials and probably 18 hours into the actual construction. If anyone can get use out of my idea and my google sketch up drawing I hope that it could save you some time in planning. I don't know how many hours I had in planning total, but it was a lot.
I will post an update after everything gets painted and trimmed out. Until then, enjoy this post and have fun building.