Introduction: The Micro-Bus Bunk Bed and Playhouse.

About: Life! It's one hell of a thing to happen to a person.

My brother is recently having a new house built to better suit his family. I thought an appropriate house gift would be a bunk bed for his 3 year old son. Since my brother is a huge Volkswagen fan, what better than a VW themed bed. After scouring the web for ideas, and not finding anything up to my expectations, I decided to just design my own. This is the end result. I am pleased with how it turned out, and better yet my nephew just loves it.

The inside will be used as a play area here, but it will easily fit a single mattress for when he is old enough to have a friend over for a sleep over. I am designing bench seat futons at the moment.

I didn't start taking pictures until I was 3/4 of the way through the project. Kind of spaced it out to be honest. I will provide illustrations up to the point pictures were started.

I have added the sketchup file I used in the design phase of the project. Some measurements may be off a tiny bit within it.

A side note. Using the same basic design of this project, I am sure you could tweak some measurements and convert a boring old bunk bed frame into something great.

Step 1: Knocked Down Pictures

These are pictures of the completed project, knocked down, to show how easy it is to move into the bedroom.

Step 2: Materials

Overall cost of the bed was just over $500, sans the mattress. It seems like a lot, but any store bought bunk beds are close to this price, and often times higher. I did find a couple online sites selling a "VW" bunk bed. These ran from $1200 for one style, and $2800 for the other. And to put it as humbly as I can, they are not as nice as this one. :)

All materials can be purchased from most any home store. The only items not purchased from the home store are the VW accents. They can be found online, auto parts stores, and at local junkyards.

"Measurements in inches and feet"

5 sheets of 4'x8' 1/4 inch plywood. I used a premium floor underlayment. The price was really good and of durable quality.
(These are for outer skin.)
2 sheets of 4'x8' 3/4 inch MDF or plywood. (In my project I used 1/2 inch thick and needed to add extra bracing underneath it. I would definitely use 3/4 inch for better stability and less bracing.)
(These are for the floors of top and bottom bases.)
11 sticks of 3/4"x4' dowels.
(These are for the safety railing/faux cargo rack.)
7 pieces of 1"x2"x8' firring strips.
(These are for safety railing/fuax cargo rack.)
3 pieces 1"x3"x8' firring strips.
(These are for the ladder.)
9 pieces of 2"x2"x8' firring strips.
(These are for the frames of doors and safety rail/faux cargo rack.)
2 pieces of 2"x6"x8' studs.
(These are for ribs of curved front end.)
12 - 14 pieces of 2"x3"x8' studs. The amount is dependent on how much bracing you are comfortable with.
(These are for the majority of all the framing.)
1 piece of 4"x4"x4' post. Some home stores will cut this for you. If not, a full 6 or 8 foot stick may need to be bought.
4, pre-cut 16" diameter, 3/4 inch thick plywood circles. Some home stores sell these. Otherwise you will have to cut your own.
1 piece of 3/4"x12"x44.5" pine board. Try to get a nice knot-free piece here.

1 box of drywall screws.
1 box of 2" deck screws.
1 box of 2.5" deck screws.
1 small box of 3.5" deck screws.
4, 1/4 inch x 3" carriage bolts.
4, 1/4 inch washers.
4, 1/4 inch nuts.
4 hinges for the doors
*12 "L" brackets 4"x4" These can be found in the door and hinge section of Home stores.
*12 "L" brackets 1"x1" These can be found in the Home store area that contains framing hardware, such as hurricane straps.

* Pictures supplied in The Wall Frames step of this instructables.

Jigsaw and/or Band-saw if available. (Wishlist for me)
Power drill
Countersink bit
Compound miter saw
Table saw, if available
Hand sander and sand paper
Wood filler
Paints of whatever color you prefer
Clamps for when you need that 3rd or 5th hand to hold pieces up.

Steering Wheel
Pin striping
Little decals and stick-ons.

Step 3: Bottom Frame

This bed is designed to knock down to help facilitate moving. It is easier to start from the bottom and work your way up. I have pre-drilled and countersunk every screw used.

You will need the following size pieces of lumber for this step...
2, 41 inch 2"x3"s
2, 79 inch 2"x3"s
3, 38 inch 2"x3"s
4, 8.5 inch long 4"x4" legs
82"x41" sheet of 3/4" MDF or Plywood.

Assemble the frame as shown in first picture. Space the 3 inner braces 18 5/8" apart.
Attach the 4, 4" x 4" to the inside corners using 3.5" screws as shown in second picture.
The third picture shows the frame with the 82" x 41" cut piece of 3/4" MDF attached.

Step 4: Wall Frames

There are 5 parts to the left and right walls of the bus. One side is a continuous piece. It's the side with no doors. The side with the doors consists of the front, back, and two doors. Now depending on where you plan on putting the bus in the room, this is the step you decide which side is which. This instructable shows the build with the doors being on the "passenger" side of bus.

The pre-cut lumber needed here is...

4 pieces of 41.5 inch 2"x3"
4 pieces of 27 inch 2"x3"
2 pieces of 25.5 inch 2"x3"
1 piece 27.5 inch 2"x3"
2 pieces of 19 inch 2"x3"
1 piece of 14.5 inch 2"x3"
2 pieces 14.5 inches long 2"x3" with the end cuts being parallel 82 degrees.
2 pieces 15 inches long 2"x3" with the end cuts being parallel 76 degrees.

1 piece of 75.75 inch 2"x2"
2 pieces of 19 inch 2"x2"
2 pieces of 25.5 inch of 2"x2"
4 pieces of 40 inch 2"x2"
4 pieces of 13.5 inch 2"x2"
2 pieces of 10.5 inch 2"x2"

The pictures explain the layout of these pieces of lumber. Remember to pre-drill and countersink your screws.

Step 5: Front Curved Frame

The main aspect of this build that determines the uniqueness of the VW Micro-bus is the rounded front end. This is actually not too hard to accomplish. I did my curve free hand. If you can find a compass large enough or something to use as a pattern, please feel free.

Cut 3, 44 inch length pieces from the 2"x6" studs. see the first picture to show how to draw the arc.
Use a jigsaw and cut the arc out of this wood. Use the arc to trace onto the remaining two 44" pieces. Clamp the 3 pieces together and sand the curves until each are identical with each other.
Use one of these as a template also to trace the same arc on the piece of 3/4"x12"x44" piece to be used later as the top cap of the front end.

Pre-cut materials are...

3, 44 inches long 2"x6"
2, 39 inches long 2"x2"
2, 23.75 inches long 2"x3"
1, 44 inches long 2"x3"
2, 10 7/8 inches long 2"x3" for bracing the arcs

Use the pictures provided for the layout and assemble. Place screws anywhere you feel is appropriate for strength.

Step 6: Rear Frame

This is one of the more simple frames to assemble. The only difficult part is the angles of the upper pieces. They are cut at the 82 degrees.

Pre-cut list is...

2, 27 inches long 2"x3"
2, 14.5 inches long 2"x3" with parallel cuts at 82 degrees. The angle cuts are on the wide part of the 2"x3"
2, 39.25 inches long 2"x3"
1, 44 inches long 2"x2"

Step 7: The Top Frame

The top frame is a little bigger than the top of the bus, due to the size of a single mattress. I don't think it takes anything away from the finished project though. You'll also notice a couple of the 2"x3" braces inside are on end instead of flat like the outside border is. I did this to help brace and space the middle area of the side walls.

Pre-cut list is...

81"x46" sheet of 3/4" plywood
2, 46 inches long 2"x3"
2, 76 inches long 2"x3"
2, 41 inches long 2"x3" (Pay special attention to how these pieces are positioned in pictures.)
2, 16 inches long 2"x3"
2, 26 inches long 2"x3"
1, 31 inches long 2"x3"
2, 10.5 inches long 2"x3"

Assemble as seen in the pictures.

Step 8: Assemble the Frames.

The following should be some of the last illustrations.  I decided to use colors in these illustrations to better differentiate the frames from the base.  From here on out I will try to use real photos.  Thank goodness, right?  Pictures are so much more helpful. 

Assemble all the frames.  Another person is very helpful here.  If going at it alone during this step, clamps will do.  Start with the wall containing no doors.  Attach this wall with 4 of the 4"x4" "L" brackets in the positions shown in first picture.  The wall will support itself after the brackets are installed.  You now can move one to installing the two walls on the side with the doors.  Use 4 more 4"x4" "L" brackets here.

Then move on to the rear section.  Install with the smaller brackets as shown in the pictures.

Time to place the 4 tires. See illustrations for placement.  You might want to sand and paint the tires before install.

Step 9: Apply the Outer Skin to Sides and Rear Frame.

Rip one of the 1/4 inch plywood pieces to make it 83.5 inches long and 43 inches wide.  Use the clamps and place it on the frame with no doors.  Using a pencil, trace around the frame where windows need to be cut out, the front and back angles, and also around the wheels for wheel wells.

Use the jigsaw and cut out the pieces not needed.  For the rear wheel well, measure up 8 inches on both sides of drawn line. Make a straight line to give you the guide to cut the flat top of wheel well. (See Illustration.)  You will repeat this on the other sides rear wheel.  

Apply wood glue along the outside of frame where the plywood skin will attach and clamp skin to frame to hold it while using drywall screws to attach.

Measure the areas to be skinned on remaining walls and doors, cut out accordingly, and attach with glue and screws.

Step 10: Attach the Front Frame and Skin.

Attach the front frame with 4 small brackets as shown in illustration.

Use tape measure and measure the front surface of the curved ribs on front frame.  Take this measurement as well as the height of bottom to top and this will be the size of front skin. 

Apply wood glue to the surface of the three ribs.  Now starting from either left or right side line up skin to edge of ribs.  Place some screws in to begin the wrap around attachment.  Once you have a few screws in, start to push the skin in against the ribs and place more screws in.   Continue this process all the way to the other side until you have attached the skin.  The 1/4 plywood should be pliable enough to wrap well.  

You now have two narrow strips left to skin.  The two sides where the ribs attach to frame.  Should be 1.5 inches wide by 27 inches long.  Finish this and you are now done with outer skin.

Take the piece of 3/4"x12"x44.5" and cut the pre-traced arc out.  Now you will have to notch the two inner sides to fit around the wall frame.  See illustration for final look of top cap.

Attach this piece to top of front end with about half inch overhang.  This is the dashboard.

Measure, horizontally, across the front of the skinned front end.  Add 1 inch to this length and cut a 2"x3" this length, this gives you about half inch overhang on each side.  This will be the bumper.  About every 1.5 to 2.5 inches you will be making cuts  approximately 1" in depth. (See picture.) This will allow you to bend the 2"x3".  Find the center on the front end and the piece of 2"x3". Use these center marks to line up the bumper.  Glue and screw the bumper in place. 

Step 11: Place the Top Frame

Get some help here, unless you are He-Man/She-Ra.  Lift the top frame up and set onto walls.  You'll now notice the two 41 inch 2"x3"s you set on end fit nicely between the left and right walls.  This is the junction you will place the "L" brackets to help secure top to bus.  4 small brackets in the front and back will finish securing the structure.  You will now find this bunk bed to be extremely sturdy and stable.  

Step 12: Security Rail/faux Cargo Rack and Ladder

I had already finished this part of the bus, but I will do my best to explain the position of pieces in the attached photos.

Material to pre-cut...

10, 12" pieces of 2"x2"
2, 79" pieces of 1"x2"
2, 60" pieces of 1"x2"
4, 42.5" pieces of 1"x2"
8, 20.5" pieces of 3/4" dowel
6, 25" pieces of 3/4" dowel
4, 29.5" pieces of 3/4" dowel

2, 66.5" pieces of 1"x3"
4, 14.5" pieces of 1"x3"

I have the railing spaced one inch inside from edge. See the pictures for spacing and placement of uprights. To install the dowels a drill press is handy and more precise, but not necessary. On the 2"x2" pieces make two lines 4 inches apart and one line down the middle of wood. These intersections mark where you need to drill out the 3/4" holes to glue dowels in. (See pictures)

The pictures will better explain the process.

The ladder is best to actually build piece by piece onto the rail. The measurements are just generalized. The angle I chose seemed to be the best for strength. Your angle may vary.

Step 13: Inside Skin.

Take measurements of the inside walls and cut out 1/4 plywood skin accordingly. Be sure to cut around any brackets holding frame together to keep the knock-down available in case you win the lottery and need to move into a bigger place. Glue and screw these in place.

Step 14: Accents and Paint

Now the real work begins, hehe. Sand the entirety of the bus. (Don't want the kids to get any splinters.) Apply wood filler to all the countersunk screws, and any gaps you may have where the skin edges up with the frame.

Choose some great colors, designs, or decals and have fun painting this beast. I noticed as I was building this, I kept thinking about green with flowers and "The Mystery Machine" on the side, lol.

Add your accents, and take a deep breath. You are finally done. This project is time consuming and can be frustrating at times, but when you stand back and look at your finished project, ahhh. Such a good feeling!

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