Introduction: Twin/Twin Bunk Bed Set, Montana Style!

I have some friends that operate a wonderful Ranch over in Montana and they have recently asked me to make a triple wall-unit of Bunk Beds including stairs and Captain's Drawers for their main guest house. I was just getting ready to start the project when I came across a notice about an Instructable's Contest, but i didn't get these done in time to make the here they are anyway. :{)

I have also just been asked to make a set of plans for a Twin/Twin Bunk Bed Set with Stairs, and this project was perfect timing! So, climb in, sit down and hang on!

Step 1: Tools/Equipment List :{)

First off, make sure you use appropriate Personal Protection Equipment(PPE) as you were only giving one pair of eyes/ears!

Here is what I used to make these:

Table Saw

Radial Arm Saw(optional-Skill Saw)

Hand Drill

Orbital Sander

Impact Drill/Driver with magnetic tip

Box of 2.5" Gold Phillips head Screws

4 sliding bar wood Clamps

Tape Measure


Step 2: Materials List :{)

(I purchase the lumber for all of my projects at our local Lowes Home Improvement Store. They always have the best selection of Red Fir/Dour Fir "Select/Premium" grade lumber for my Custom Bed/Wood Projects. AND....they always allow me to pick through the lumber piles to get the best looking ones(probably because I have always put everything back in place when i am finished picking through the they don't have to).

So, here is the Material List for a set of Twin over Twin Bunk Beds with a set of Stairs:

2"x6"= @8

2"x4"= @20

one box of 2.5" gold phillips head screws

NOTE* I have assembled many beds with only one or two phillips bits in my impact drill/driver, some beds I finally finished the bed set on my fifth bit!

80grit sand paper pads

NOTE* you may chose to use a finer grit paper to finish off your set, personal choice!

Step 3: Dig In! :{)

You will need to decide whether you are going to Stain, Paint or leave your set Natural. If you are going to Paint your set, then you can skip this step all together!! :{)

This is one of my favorite parts... As soon as I get home, I like to separate the lumber and put it all away in small stacks that I am going to use. You may laugh, but the lumber always looks differently when you get it home and are looking at it in a different light....always!

For the 2"x6"s

First off, I always set aside the choicest two for the forward facing Mattress Rails(these are going to show the most). I am looking for the best character, swirl, knots and visible grain for these as they are going to show the most walking into the room when you are showing off your handy-work!

Secondly, I set aside the next best looking four pieces and use them for the four Stilts/Corner Posts.

Finally, I take the remaining pair and use them as the opposing Mattress Rails that will be against the wall and not usually seen.

For the 2"x4"s

I look for the choicest four pieces and use them for the two front facing Stilt Braces and the two upper bunk safety rails.

Secondly, I take the next best four and use them for the Head and Foot end pieces.

Third, I take the next best ones for the opposing side of the Stairs.

Now take the worst eight that you have picked out and use them for the Mattress supports and the two that will be ripped length-wise for the Mattress Support rails.

The remaining ones can all be in another pile.

Step 4: Time to Fire Up the SAW, Finally, Let the Wood Chips Fly! :{)

P.P.E. includes Good/Clear Safety Goggles(mine have cheater lenses) and a hearing protection.

Let the saw blade do the work here. Do not force the blade through the cuts. This will often times result in blowing out the end of the cut and damaging the wood, thus causing you a lot more work sanding to clean up the rushed cuts you made). :{)

Here is where you need to figure out a few things.

First, decide on how high you want the lower bunk to be. Decide whether or not you want to be able to store items in containers/tubs under the lower bunk. If you don't, then place this one right on the floor(giving you about 3" of unseen mattress clearance when finished). If you do want clearance under the lower mattress rail for storage. I suggest 14" as this will allow for most of the rubber maid type storage tubs out there.

Secondly, decide how many safety rails you want for the upper bunk person to have, one or two. Both of these options require a different over-all height of the Bunk Bed set and must be decided now or you're going back to Lowes and buying more boards lol.

{these measurements are Providing you have at least an 8' ceiling height, message me if yours is lower and we can figure that out for you}


Mattress Rails= 4@ 78"

Corner Stilts= 4@ 70" (with 14" lower bunk storage clearance and one safety rail on each side)


Safety Rails= 2 @ 78"

Stilt Braces= 4@ 70"

Mattress supports= 12@ 38 7/8"(you will appreciate the 1/8 clearance when you are trying to assemble them) :{)

Head/Foot end= 8@ 39"

Mattress Support Rails= 2@ 75", then ripped width-wise down the center(giving you four pieces about 1.75" x 1.5" x 75")

Step 5: Trim the Ends! :{)

Now I take the time to reset my Radial Arm Saw to a 45* angle and trim a little bit off of the ends of each of the Head/Foot end boards. On the Foot/Head end boards, I only trim the front facing three sides, so the side that is attached to the Stilt itself I do not trim, that side lays flat against the Stilt.

On the 2"x4" Head/Foot end boards, I measure about 1/4" and just trim off the edges as pictured...only the three facing sides of each end.

On the 2"x6" Corner/Stilt Boards, I measure down about 1" and trim just the tops off of the corners.

Both of these are not merely for decoration. I do feel the end result is a much more pleasant looking, finished product and you will certainly not get any complaints from the end user who now doesn't have those sharp edges to enter/exit their bed through! :{)

Step 6: Table Saw Time! :{)

Set the height of your saw blade to about 2", so there is about 1/2" of the top of the saw blade sicking up above the 2"x4" boards you are about to Rip.

NOTE* Each Lumber Mill has their own way of Planing their boards for the final user. So with this in mind, I like to make a center mark on my 2"x4", and then align it up on the table saw blade, then slide the fence up against your 2"x4" with the 2"x4" still centered on the blade. Now you will have a fairly close to center rip on your 2"x4" giving you two fairly equal pieces 75" long. I always use a scrap piece to make sure my "quess-timation" was right. I now have two pieces the same, 1.5"x1.75"x75" respectively. Make an adjustment to get your cut more centered if you need to and...

Rip away baby!

Step 7: Time to Cut Some Notchs! :{)

Here is where your Bunk Bed Set will "Stand apart" from all of the others I have ever seen! This is one of the steps that will make your Bunk Bed set incredibly strong. So let's get Notching!

This is a rather tricky step and you must use caution. Years ago, I started out doing this step all by hand with a skill saw. After building many sets of Bunk Beds, I learned that a Radial Arm Saw has a vertical adjustment and can raise the blade just enough to make these cuts that I dreaded so log doing them all by hand. (If you do not own a Radial Arm Saw or do not have access to one, consider buying a used one from your local newspaper or Craig's List just for this project and then afterwards resell it).

Stand a scrap piece of your 2"x6" on edge and set up your Radial Arm Saw so the vertical adjustment allows you to make a cut, 1.5" down from the top edge(referring to the photo). Now make a trial cut on just the end of the trial piece making sure it cuts down only 1.5". Adjust height if necessary.

NOTE* Now here it is very important you have a sharp pencil/pen and can make exact cuts on your marks. :{)

Lay out one of your 2"x6" Stilts on your Radial Arm Saw table or where ever you have enough area to measure out your 2"x6" Stilts. With your measuring tape, measure up, from the bottom end 14" and mark it(this will be the clearance for the storage tubs we spoke about earlier), then measure up further and make a mark at 19.5". This is the first area that will be cut/notched out 1.5" deep for the lower Mattress Rail to fit into.

Next, measure further up to 54" and mark it, then up to 59.5" and mark(this will be the second area that you will cut/notch out for the upper mattress rail to fit into. Now continue up and mark again at 66.5", leaving you with 3.5" remaining to the top/end of the board(this will be the final cut/notched out area for the upper safety rail to fit into. Now confirm your measurements. From the bottom, mark at 14", 19.5", 54", 59.5", 66.5" and 70" to the end(measure twice and cut once, don't cut twice and have it still too short lol).

Now take the other three Stilts and lay them alongside next to this one and transfer the marks onto them as well making sure that the bottom ends of each of them align up evenly before you start marking them. :{)

Once the marks are all transferred to the other three Stilts and you have all four of them marked, Then pair up two of them together. Make sure the bottom ends are straight and even, then clamp them tightly together and dig in!

I like to cut/notch them in pairs(or sets of four at a time if i am doing several sets of these together).

Now Cut/Notch out the area that you marked on your Corner/Stilt pieces, making several passes with the Radial Arm Saw, making little cuts, all the way through the width of the set(you should end up with a bunch of Scrabble pieces). Then remove the pair from the Saw blade, brake off the little Scrabble pieces you have just made. There will be some little stubble left over and that's ok for now.

Then return to the Radial Arm Saw. With the Saw turned on, slide the set of boards back and forth making small adjustments to the saw as you clean up the Scrabble stubble, leaving you with a nice clean notched out area! (If you are not comfortable with this procedure, you can opt for a rough hand file, chisel or rasp file to clean out the notches). :{)

Repeat for the process for the second Mattress Rail area and the Safety rail area. Then complete the process for the second set leaving you with all four Stilts neatly cut/notched out.

Now it is time for a trail fit for the mattress rails. Be sure to keep in mind, that when you do the sanding you will be removing material from the rails resulting in a looser fit. You may need to cut/notch a little bit more if the mattress rails are too wide still. (I'd suggest waiting until you have already done your sanding before you re-cut them at this point). :{)

Step 8: Sand...Sand...Sand Some More! :{)

Now it is time to get the Orbital Sander out and start sanding. I have used many different sanders and have always come back to my Favorite one. I prefer to use a DeWalt 5" Orbital Hand Sander with the 5" Velcro sanding discs. I typically only use the 80grit ones, whether I am staining or painting they seems to give it the best look. You may prefer to finish yours with 120 or 220, which ever you prefer. I sand everything but the Mattress Supports and the Mattress Support Rails. :{)

Step 9: Laying Out the Foot End of the Bunk Bed! :{)

Now comes a tricky part...Lining up/laying out the Stilts so they are evenly spaced and aligned/squared. heh heh heh.

Measure from the bottom and marking upwards at 12", 24", 36" and lastly at 48". Mark both sides at the same time so your marks match on each Stilt. Line up your 39" beautifully chosen ends pieces. I pull mine in 1.5" from the front or outside facing end, which should allow you about 1.5" remaining on the other ends as well(see picture).

I lay mine out on the floor, kneel on them to hold them down and straight. I then Pre-Drill four holes at each end with an 1/8th" bit, a slightly smaller drill bit is fine. This keeps the beautiful Kiln dried wood you just spent a lot of time choosing, cutting, notching and sanding ...from splitting out when you run the screws down into it and sink them flush! Believe me, it is time well spent! ...just sayin' :{)

Step 10: Laying Out the Head End of the Bunk Bed! :{)

Repeat the first step on the Foot end. Simply lay out the two Stilts evenly/squarely at the top and bottom. Measuring 42" outside to outside at the top and bottom. Now measure in 1.5" on the front/forward facing side and make a mark for the Rail to be placed at. I usually mark up from the bottom the same 12" as the Foot End and start there. The 12" mark is where the top of the rail goes, that makes it the top of the step when climbing up into the bed. Next simply lay out the second Rail about where the pillow will go(see picture).

The third Rail will be just under the Upper bunk Mattress Rail and the Forth Rail will be right at the top(See Picture).

Now you have both the Head end and the Foot end completed! :{)

Step 11: Laying Out the Mattress Rail Supports! :{)

Here is where you use the four nice and neatly RIPPED 2"x4" boards attached to the four nice Mattress Rails you hand picked for color, character and beautifully visible grain!

Placing two of the Mattress Support Rails onto your table, side by side with their cut sides down(1.5"x1.75"x75"). Measure 3" in from the top side and mark, then again about every 10" or so until the end. Repeat for the remaining pair and set the second set aside for now.

Now, place your beautiful, hand picked 2"x6" Mattress Rail on to your measuring table, with the nicest side facing down. Place one of the Mattress Support Rails(1.5"x1.75"x75") on top of the back side, flush with the lower edge length wise, centered on the board which will give you about 1.5" gap at each end. Clamp these about 12" from each end and again in the middle.

Now measure on the Support Rail, 3" in from the end on each end. Then again about every 10" down the length of it. I measure from one end and mark at 3", 12", 22", 32".42", 52", 62" and 72" respectively. Now pre-drill each mark centered and screw them together. If you encounter a knot, simply move one way or the other to avoid the knot and drill/screw there, even if you need to move a couple of inchs to avoid a knot is ok.

Repeat this process for all four Mattress Rails. Nice side down(so that no screws show on that beautiful mattress rail you chose for everyone to enjoy). :{)

Moving right along...

Stand two of the Mattress Rails together, ones that you might want to pair up, with the Mattress Rail Supports together(see picture) and measure/mark out for the placement of the Mattress Support boards, 6@. I marked mine 5" from one end, then move your tape measure to the 5" mark and continue marking at 12", 24", 36", 48" and 60". Repeat for the second pair of Mattress Rails(see picture).

almost assembly time! :{)

Step 12: Pre-Drilling Time, Get Your Drill Out!

Now it is time to pre-drill all of the mattress support boards. One hole on each end, about .75"-1" in from the end and centered.

When installing the mattress supports, be sure to place the "nice" side down on the upper bunk so the lower bunk person sees a nice clean board. :{)

Step 13: Final Assembly...! :{)

Hopefully you have a really nice assistant(s) to help you assemble your Custom made Bunk Bed Set!

I like to start with the two ends, and then install the two lower Mattress Rails first, then work upwards to the upper mattress rails, and the safety rails. Squaring/Clamping very tightly as you go!

I put four screws into each mattress rail end, two screws into each safety rail end, one screw into each mattress support end about 12 screws off-set into each stilt brace. See pictures for each joint.

Once assembled you can Paint it, Stain it or leave it Natural.

Now you can move it into it's final resting place, toss the new mattresses in it and.....TahDah, you're done! :{)

Be sure to take pictures for your self and to show off what you have made.

Please be sure to post a picture here for all to see, I would appreciate seeing it!

Step 14: Building Stairs...if You Must! :{)

I do like Stairs on Bunk Beds but they are a lot of work in themselves! :{)

First decide on how much room you actually have in the bedroom for a set of Stairs. Make sure you have enough to even have them. The Bunk Bed Set alone will be about 81" long. Now add another 24" for a set of Stairs and see if you have enough room to clear doorways, windows, ceiling fans, etc. If you do decide on making a set, here we go!

Now decide on how many Stair Steps you will want, typically for the age/size of the user. I typically use 4 steps for younger/smaller legs and 3-4 for older/bigger folks.

Pictured is a set that I made to attach two sets of Bunk Beds together, although the principle is the same i'll post a picture of another set I regularly make for a single bunk bed set(this one has a tree house). This set uses four steps. The set I used for the Tree House only has 3 steps as that was all that was needed for that design.

Here is a list of materials you will need for the Tree House style of Stairs, adjust as needed.


2@ 48" outside stilts

2@ 47" first step rails

3@ 39" second and third steps, and fourth safety rail

8@ 21" steps(or as needed to finish the top platform all the way to the rear)


5@ 21" steps(or as needed to finish the top platform)

So, keep alternating the 2x4 and 2x6 for each step until you reach the top platform/step and then just run them all the way to the back. I usually do not put any type of bracing on the top/back of the stairs as they are against the wall and thus not needed. :{)

For this set, I used my scrap pieces and cut the 2"x4" and the 2"x6" stairs step pieces all at 21". I then sanded the tops only and positioned them in groups of 2@ 2"x4" and 1@ 2"x6" for each set of steps looking for color/grain and character matches.

So, lets make the new Stair end to complete the two ends of the Stairs.

I use two upright 2"x4" x 36" high or 48" high as needed for the age/ability of the user(36" for older folks who don't need anything else in their way to climb in/out of the bed, and 48" for those small who may need a little more balance assistance entering/exiting their bed safely in the middle of the night(you decide)!

The first thing I do is align and clamp the Foot end and the new Stair end together. Then I measure out the steps and make small pencil marks onto the top of each rail(both the head/foot ends rails) showing where I will lay out each corresponding step.

Starting on the first step, I mark out 3.5" for the first 2"x4", then mark 5.5" for the 2"x6" and then mark 3.5" for the next 2"x4". So you should have marks on both rails, on the first step at 3.5", 9" and 12.5".

Now from the front end, of the first step, measure out 8" and transfer a mark up to the second set of rails. This is where you will begin laying out the steps for the second step in the same fashion. Measure out another 8" and transfer that mark to your third step, and another 8" and transfer that final mark to your fourth step rails.

Now from each of your 8" marks, on the second, third and fourth steps, mark out (your 2x4 face plate will be installed in front of these) 3.5", 5.5" and 3.5". Adding 2x4 or 2x6 as needed to fill in the top step/platform.

The first step pictured has a face-plate on the front(see picture) and it is 27". This one I notched the ends and then sanded the ends, top and face only.

Next I put one piece inside the lower front, lower rear and upper rear and clamped them all together. I checked for square/alignment and drilled/screwed them in place.

On the first step you will have the face plate, first 2x4, then 2x6, then another 2x4 and that completes the first step.

Moving up to the second step, you have another 2x4 face plate, this one is only 21", then another 2x4, 2x6 and a second 2x4 completing the second step.

The process is repeated for the third step and fourth steps. Which ever is the top step, simply continue alternating between the 2x4 and 2x6(as your stock pile of scraps allow and thus mix them as needed) until you reach the back of the stairs.

I hope this was helpful to you and your family as you build your very own Custom Bunk Bed Set, now with Custom Stairs! Please feel free message me if you have any questions before or during the construction of your set. Please post pictures of the one you make, I would really like to see it.

Mike :{)

Step 15: All Done...! :{)

It has taken me a few evenings and many hours just to put these pictures, basic measurements and instructions together for you. I do hope they have been of some help to you in making your very own Custom Made Bunk Bed Set! If you have any questions about the instructions, assembly or possible modifications you would like assistance with, please feel free to message me and I would be glad to assist you in making one of these for you and your family!

Mike :{)