So my son got to big for the crib I made for him a couple of years ago and I was starting to feel bad for making him sleep on a mattress on the floor. It kind of reminded me of a scene from a movie where they find the kidnapped kid in a room with a grubby mattress. So to make up for that I had to make him a cool bed with secret compartments.
I think hidden doors and secret compartments are in our dna. We all want to have that bookcase where you pull the right book that reveals the hidden room. Or lift the candle stick to make the fireplace spin to go down to your secret lab. I know you remember that scene from Young Frankenstein. Remember the Nes game Shadowgate? Or the pc game Myst? Those were full of secret spaces that you had to discover to find the next clue.
The boat bed I built has three..possibly four secret compartments. One is pretty obvious. The hatch in the prow of the boat opens to store blankets and other big items. The name plate on the...um..just a sec...wikipedia...Starboard side is a small drawer to hide goodies in. My guy put a Mickey Mouse toy in there first thing. Also on the...port side there is a flag pole that you push down on to reveal a hidden panel (click on pic 3). That's the cool one. You can also lift off the mattress and store stuff under the bed itself...
Step 1: Design and Materials
I'm not much for making a real exact drawing of what I build. I tend to just go for it. So for this project I did a basic sketch (on paper) with the mattress dimensions, finished height, and the space I had to work with. Then I just used my tape measure and eye-balled the shape I wanted. Another big design factor was that I wanted to be able to take it apart easily if I end up moving in the next two years. So that made it a little more difficult. As I went along in the project I had to make a few minor adjustments in my original dimensions to allow for plywood bending and for the tools I had on hand.
I up-cycled a lot of materials from other projects (crib) and stuff I had on hand. I did buy one sheet of 5/8" ply for the mattress to sit on and 2 sheets of 1/8" to cover the boat. The structure is made mostly from 3/4"material. Plus paint and Polyurethane. Nails, screws glue...all the basics.
Palm sander (random orbit)
Japanese style pull saw
Various drill bits
Step 2: Build the Frame
I drew the profile of the side of the "boat" full size on some poster board material and used it as my pattern(pic 1). This is the exact profile on the rear of the boat. I then cut out four of those, two for each side. These are the rear most uprights. As they get closer to the front they needed to be taller for the gentle curve from aft to prow. So I moved my pattern up 3/4" for two more and then an inch more for the final two. I glued and screwed them to a 1x4 that is 2 inches longer that the mattress.
Then I drew the pattern on to some 1/2 inch ply I had (crib) and figured the width of the bed/boat based on the mattress width. I temporarily screwed that to the back to Hold the sides up(pic 3). I cut one for the front also but based on the uprights on the front.
I then put a 1x2 on top of the notch I had planned out on my pattern. Glue and screw everything.
You can kind of see in the pics how I progressively figured out the shape of the boat.
Step 3: Put on Top Rails
Rip your top rail to overlap the 1/8" plywood sheeting. Then I used a 5/16" drill bit to counter sink where I would screw straight down into the uprights. Pre drill everything so you don't split anything. Glue and screw.
Nice curve. right?
Step 4: Start the Prow
This was a bit tricky. I had to kind of just eye-ball where I wanted the prow to end up without making the boat too long in overall length for my sons room. I also wanted it to be big enough for storing a comforter. First I laid a piece of 1/2" ply on the ground.
Then I held the 2x4 up at an angle to see where it should go and then marked and cut it. Then I got a better idea of where it would end up. I then sketched the curve on to the ply that is sitting on the ground for the bottom of the prow and cut it out with a jigsaw.
After I made sure the curve was nice I screwed the 2/4 in through the bottom.
Step 5: Finish Top of Prow
I had to then figure out where the top of the prow should be so I bent a board from front to back with an approximation of the curve of the rails. Then I cut it on that mark.
I then used two 1x8's from the front of the rails to the prow. I clamped them in place and then freehand drew the curve on to the top side. Then I cut out one with the jigsaw and tested it on both sides. Once it fit well I flipped it over and traced out onto the other board, cut it out, and then fit them into place.
I flipped the prow over on to a work bench and fit the 2x2 uprights into place. Once it all lined up good I used a quarter round bit and routed all the edges.
Step 6: Cover the Sides
I used 1/8" plywood to cover the boat. My dad built a kayak out of 1/4" ply so I figured this would be plenty strong for a fake boat. Once it was all glued up and dry it was surprisingly strong and light.
For the side panels I wanted 4 "boards" to run up the length of the boat. I divided the front and back uprights into four equal parts which would be the bottom of each board. Then I ripped the ply with the jigsaw because I wanted kind of a rough old boat look.
Starting at the bottom I glued and nailed the ply onto the frame, gluing along the entire length of the overlap also. The overlap didn't want to stay tight together so I used a couple of 1" screws to hold it together until the glue dried. Later I removed them and filled the holes.
The top "board" of ply has that slight curve in it that runs along the top rail of the entire boat. I clamped that piece of ply where the bottom should go and scribed the back side with the curve. Then I cut it out carefully with the jigsaw.
Step 7: Cover the Prow
This was probably the most difficult part of the whole project. Kind of hard to describe how I did it and I was in a rush to finish before it rained so there is only one pic.
Because of the more aggressive curve around the prow I ran the ply across the grain because it bends more readily that way. They also make "bendy ply" that would have been great for this but I couldn't get ahold of any.
Again I marked all the uprights where the bottom of the board should be. Then I made an 18" cut of ply and just held up in place more or less and marked the angle along the 2x4. Once the angle was cut then I could clamp it in place and draw the curve onto the back side using my bottom of board marks and adding and inch. I only needed to figure out one side and cut the reverse for the other. Each "board" has a different radius because the prow widens towards the top. I just let the boards run long and trimmed them with a hand saw flush with the back of the prow.
Step 8: Secret Panel
I had a rough idea of how I was going to make a secret panel that would lift out when something else was pushed or pulled. I used a thin kerf Japanese style pull saw to cut the top rail where the panel would lift up.
Then I built a basic drawer that served as the panel. It took some trial and error to figure out the mechanics but it's just basically two eyelets screwed in to the bottom of the 1x2 that has a rope that runs through it. When you push down on the flag pull it pulls on the rope that raises the panel. Simple as that!
Perfect place for a iPad...and some how-to books....
Step 9: Secret Drawer
From the beginning I wanted a name plate to have my son's name on it so I decided to make it open up. I just built a tiny drawer with a back that extended up above the sides so when in place the drawer couldn't be pulled out to far and fall.
Stained the front. Printed out a font I liked and transferred it on to the wood. Painted it with watered down acrylics. Polyurethaned the whole thing at the end. Added some brass rivets to the front corners to make it look like it's bolted on the bolt and can't be moved.
Step 10: Banket Storage
I used the space in the prow to hide comforters and large stuff like that. Used another scrap piece of ply from the crib. I trimmed it out and put some hinges and a handle on it. I'll eventually put something to hold it up while it is open but for now my son isn't going to be able to open it on his own for a couple of years.
Step 11: Finish
I stained the top rails and the inside of the side where the mattress will sit. Then painted the outside of the boat solid green. Once the green dried I dry brushed dark green and white in that order to give it a weathered look. I also dry brushed white onto the stained wood to also weather it. I used a damp rag to soften the contrast of the white.
Then I painted with the dark green to paint on moss to give it more detail.
Then I sprayed the whole thing with satin finish polyurethane. I didn't want gloss because...I don't like gloss :) and I wanted it to look old.
Step 12: Add Some Trees
Once I installed it it looked kind of lonely all by itself in his room. So I took some dried eucalyptus branches I had sitting around for another idea I had for the bed (was going to make a rustic loft bed but transportability...) And leaned them in the corners. Once I knew where I wanted them I screwed them together so they wouldn't move if my son pulls on them. Then the sticks looked kind of lonely so I painted some in too. That filled it in a little more.
That's it...Go to bed.
Step 13: Jolly Roger
I added a Jolly Roger flag to the pole to make it a little more fun.
I used a piece of black canvas, white colored pencil and some white acrylic paint. When it was dry I added a piece of grey board to stiffen it a little more on the backside and then tacked it to the flag pole with some upholstery tacks.
Step 14: Secret Compartments Overview
Here's just a review of the secret spaces I've included.
1. Hidden panel that raises when flag pole is pushed down
2. Drawer behind name plate
3. Hatch in prow of boat for comforter
4. Panel under mattress lifts up
Thanks for reading!
Runner Up in the
Secret Doors and Compartments Contest
First Prize in the
Manly Crafts Contest
Third Prize in the