Introduction: How to Make a Kids Montessori Bed
The kids' Montessori Bed is an integral and super fun part of the Montessori Bedroom. It also happens to be an incredibly fun DIY project you can make for your kids!
As they grow up and get too big for a crib, transitioning kids to a real bed can be tricky. Floor beds like this enable freedom of movement, independence, and mobility, and ease the transition. They can explore their environments and wake up and move around without the worry of falling off the bed. Our 2-year old LOVES it. If you're interested in building something for your kids, keep on reading!
One of the neat features you see in a lot of Montessori Floor Beds, is the "house" style where they have a frame that comes up and over the bed. You might have seen it referred to as a "shed bed", "house bed", or "toddler floor bed" as well. We decided to create a super stylized and really fun version of this and looked to the 'How to Train Your Dragon' films as inspiration for our DRAGON & VIKING theme!
If you're looking for the perfect weekend DIY woodworking project that'll brighten up your kids' day and get them transitioning to the "big kid bed", this is it!
We recommend watching the video above and following along with the written steps!
- 1x6" Pine
- 1x8" Pine
- 2x4" Pine
- 3/4" Plywood
- Walnut-colored Stain
- Milk Paint
- 1" Wood Screws
- 2.5" Machine Screws w/ 1/4" Barrel Nuts
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- Circular Saw - https://amzn.to/3bj2Z0m
- Drill - https://amzn.to/2SvF6tQ
- Impact Driver - https://amzn.to/2SvF6tQ
- Kreg Jig - https://amzn.to/2WbyFQ6
- Angle Grinder - https://amzn.to/3aMYZ76 (Optional)
- Kutzall Shaping Disc - https://amzn.to/2Qb8t4a (Optional)
- Chisel - https://amzn.to/2En3WoS
- Mallet - https://amzn.to/2HclFSH
- Tape Measure - https://amzn.to/2C00Jv7
- Speed Square
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Step 1: Cutting the Wood to Size!
This project uses very simple and easy to find materials. You'll need 2x4s, 1x6" pine, and 1x8" pine boards. When you buy this lumber from the store, be sure to spend some extra time looking through the pile and try to find the straightest boards you can. If they're curved or bowed, it will make the project a lot more difficult.
The bed frame we're making is sized for a Twin mattress, which is typically in the neighborhood of 38" wide by 75" long. So, the two 1x8 side rails will get cut to 75" long and the two 1x8s for the head and footboards get cut to 35".
Tip: Before cutting your pieces to length, it helps to "square" the ends of each piece of wood. The factory ends typically aren't square so doing this before you measure is a good idea.
The 1x6 ridge board that goes at the top gets cut to 75" as well.
There are (4) 2x4s that make up the posts on each corner, these get cut to 24".
The bottom of each of the four pieces of the a-frame is cut at a 115-degree angle. The angles get measured with a protractor and then all four of them are cut.
In the end, we'll have:
- Two side rails
- One headboard and one footboard
- Four posts
- Four a-frame pieces
- One ridge board
Step 2: Cutting the Half-Lap Joints!
Where the a-frame pieces come together at the top, they overlap using a woodworking joint known as a "half-lap". Like most things in woodworking, there are many ways to layout and cut these, but we're going to cover a simple method that makes it very easy using just a circular saw and a chisel.
Start by laying out your pieces on the ground as shown in the video/pictures, and mark as closely as you can where the 2x4s overlap. Remember to mark the front and back.
Next, set the depth of the circular saw blade to exactly half of the depth of the 2x4s. Then, start by cutting inside of one of the lines and work your way across, making incremental cuts every 1/8" or so until you get across to the other side.
Then, using a mallet or hammer, lightly tap across the cut pieces and break off as much of the waste as you can. This helps to rapidly remove the majority of the waste. Lastly, use a chisel to clear out any remaining waste and try to flatten the bottom. You won't see it so it doesn't need to be perfect, but the closer it is to flat, the nicer the joint will overlap.
Finally, test your joint and make any adjustments if necessary!
Step 3: The Supports and Pocket Holes!
We wanted our mattress to sit slightly above the floor, so on the inside of the side rails, we glued a 2x4 to each side that will support a 3/4" piece of plywood, which the mattress will sit on. To do this, we cut two 2x4s at 73" (two inches shorter than the rails) and then glued them on using wood glue and some clamps. (We'll do the same on the headboard and footboard, but not until a little later.)
To attach the headboard and footboard to the corner posts, we're going to use a Kreg Jig and pocket screws. If you're not familiar with pocket screws, they're an incredibly easy and simple way to create basic joinery for furniture. They allow you to connect two pieces of wood and hide the screws in "pockets", usually on the backside of the wood so you can't see them. The Kreg Jig is an affordable and simple to use jig that makes it easy to drill and align the holes.
For now, we drilled the holes but we won't pre-assemble the head and footboards until a little later. Once the glue is dry on the side rails, we also drilled two pocket holes on each side, above the 2x4, so we can later connect these to the head and footboards.
Step 4: The Dowels and Trimming the Corners!
If you're watching the project video, this will seem a little out of order. That is because when we did it we made some mistakes! Thankfully, now we have the benefit of helping you not to make the same ones. :)
Trimming the Corners
You'll notice that since we cut an angle at the bottom of the a-frame pieces, that there's a slight hang-over where it meets the other 2x4 posts. To trim this off, you can put the two pieces together, as shown, and then mark and cut off the tip.
Drilling Holes for the Dowels
The a-frame is going to connect to the head and footboard using dowels, so we need to drill holes for them in the ends of each of the pieces. Before going any further, mark the centers of the 2x4 posts and drill two holes for dowels about 2" apart. You can then hold the posts up to the bottom of the angled pieces and mark the positions of the holes and drill them in the bottom of the angled pieces as well, so the edges line up when assembled.
Optionally, you can glue the dowels into the posts at this point, or take care of that later when you're closer to assembling the bed frame.
Step 5: Power Carving!
To give the surface of our wood a faux "hand-hewn" texture, we used a technique called "power carving". This is done by using a regular angle grinder and a shaping disc, and carving away the wood. It's a lot like using a sander, but it takes off WAY more material and can be used to sculpt and shape wood.
We used a coarse shaping disc and used the edge of the disc to lightly applied pressure and give the faces of the wood a 'wavey' texture. If you want to go the extra mile, temporarily assemble the posts and angled pieces and carve them together and you'll get a continuous texture once the bed frame is assembled.
Power carving seems intimidating at first but of the many techniques we've tried, we were surprised at how easy it was to control and pick up quickly. If you're looking for a way to plus your project and challenge yourself as a maker, this is a GREAT technique that you can definitely try at home.
We didn't power carve every single face, only the bits that you'll see. We made sure not to power carve the areas where the wood would join together so that there will be clean joinery between them.
Step 6: Staining the Wood!
To continue our journey towards a "hand-hewn lumber" look, we then lightly sanded all of the power carved faces of the wood and then applied a dark wood stain to each piece.
Depending on the type of stain you use, remember that it's incredibly important to let it cure for several days (we waited 3-4 days) before bringing anything into your child's bedroom. During the curing process it will give off fumes and you don't want kids anywhere near it. Be sure to wear a mask and gloves when applying the stain. Once fully cured, just like the rest of the furniture in your house it is non-toxic.
We chose stain instead of paint because when it's dry you'll still see the wood grain and contrast, giving it a really nice look.
Step 7: Painting the Viking Artwork!
In the 'How to Train Your Dragon' artwork, the buildings all have bright and aggressive colors with lots of Celtic-style knotwork and different designs. To emulate that look, on the front of our "house" we painted some repeating Celtic knots up each of the a-frame pieces, as shown in the book.
We first made a template and traced it on with a pencil. We then used a bright turquoise milk paint as the base layer and used gold paint to make the outline.
This is, of course, an optional step. If you don't like the look of the artwork, just skip it entirely, or paint something totally different! :)
Step 8: Here, There Be Dragons!
One of the defining creative features of the 'How to Train Your Dragon', viking-esque art style is that there are of course dragons everywhere! A lot of the village architecture and houses all have dragons on them so we definitely wanted to add one to ours.
To make the Dragon figurehead, we glued up two pieces of the 1x8 wood that were cut-offs from the side rails to make a thicker piece. Jaimie then drew a really neat looking dragon head shape based on the artwork from the books, and then we cut out the shape using our CNC. Since it's nothing complicated, a scroll saw or jigsaw would work fine but the X-Carve helped us to do it very quickly and accurately.
Once the outer shape was cut out, we drew the design on by hand and then used a hand router to delicately cut out some of the inner material, giving it a raised outline. We did this by hand because it seemed fun. :)
We stained it the same color as the rest of the project and then used milk paint to give it some really bright, loud colors like they did in the film. Turqoise, red, white, and gold.
The dragon figurehead is going to get attached at the top of the bed when we assemble it.
Step 9: Preparing for Assembly!
The ridge board, which connects the two a-frames, gets attached using an "IKEA-style" barrel nut.
First, we clamped the two a-frame pieces together and then drilled a 1/4" hole through the center of the half-lap joint.
Next, on the ridge board, we drilled a shallow hole about 2" in from the end of each side, and then drilled a 1/4" diameter hole through the end that meets up with the hole on the side. When assembled, a 2.5" screw goes in through the front of the a-frame, into the end of the ridge board, and gets screwed into the barrel nut. This holds everything together securely while making it easy to disassemble if we want to move the bed around.
At this stage, we also finish assembling the head and footboards by attaching the corner posts with the pocket screws. To do this, we lined up the back of the boards, held them tightly together and then screwed them together through the pocket holes we made earlier. Once assembled, we then took a piece of 24" piece of 2x4 and glued them to the bottom of each both the head and footboard, just like we did on the side rails in the beginning. This completes the ledge for our 3/4"plywood platform to sit on. (This is done post assembly so it doesn't get in the way of the pocket holes.)
If you haven't done so already, this is the right time to glue your dowels into the corner posts.
Step 10: Assembling the Bed Frame!
As with most bed frames, we didn't do the actual assembly of everything until we brought it into our son's bedroom. The first step was to attach the side rails to the pre-assembled headboard and footboard, and we did this, again, with pocket holes. Two screws for each side, beginning with the headboard and then finally connecting the footboard.
Once you have the bottom frame assembled, the next step was to attach the a-frames to the top. This is done by sliding them onto the dowels and then putting the half-lap joint together. (Optionally, you can put a single drop of glue on the dowels to secure them into place...just make sure to use a very small amount so they aren't stuck there forever. You want to be able to disassemble the bed later on!)
Once the two a-frame sides are in place, the ridge board gets put in place by sliding the screws in through the front of the a-frames and into the ridge board and then screwing them tightly into the barrel nuts.
To attach the Dragon figurehead, we clamped it in place and then screwed it in diagonally from the back. It was positioned to look as though its an extension of the ridge board.
Lastly, we put down the 3/4" plywood that will serve as the platform for the bed. In our case, we had two strips available so we used those...but a full sheet would be better if you have it. Since we used the strips, we put a couple extra pieces of 2x4 in the middle for support.
Step 11: The Final Results!
We were SO happy with the end result and our son absolutely loved it. We spruced up the room quite a bit and added some small "Viking" details here and there and we couldn't be happier.
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