My son wanted a special bed, and none were available (for less than $2000-$3000 dollars). My son is a giant, at 4'6" and 80 lbs in 1st grade. Dilemma for a 6-year-old that big? He doesn't fit into anything and people think he's 8 to 10. Poor kid was tall enough to ride everything at the fair when he was 3, but too young to handle it. It always happens to him. He's a little kid that wants to play on little kid toys, but is too big to do so.
Same goes for loft beds. They make them for "little" people. So I started on my own loft bed. It features furniture-grade plywood, bookshelf tires which also serve as stairs to climb in, a toy chest hood, and an electronics compartment with rocker switches for even more lighting than shown here. When I can afford it, I will be adding headlights. It's been a work in progress. It's a long story with a failed electronics hack, but when I finish with an arduino I had, it will have a LED ground kit to light up the whole underside of the bed (instructable will eventually appear for that one). Edges are finished by plastic T-molding. All in all, I invested 300+ hours in this project over the course of a year and a half. As you can see, my 6-year-old customized it with about 150..... okay a lot of Star Wars stickers. Assembly chosen for this bed was pocket-hole screws (KREG).
What you will need:
- 7 sheets of 3/4" plywood, 1 sheet of 1/2" plywood
- Lots of Paint
- 3D carbon fiber Vinyl sticker
- Polyurethane Clear Coat, I used water-based.
- 12V power supply and any lighting desired. I used clearance strobe lights from walmart, and the top amber marker lights from ebay, and the toybox light from ebay also.
- wooden dowels
- T-molding and the arbor/tri-wing bit
- All of the tools you can think of to get it done! I used a circular saw, jigsaw, Router, Foam brushes, sandpaper, pockethole screws, drill, paint brushes, dremel tool, putty knife, table saw (one became available a year into it), crosscut sled, tape measure, clamps, levels, you get the idea. I used Kreg pocket screws and a jig for drilling.
- one kid saying it will never get done, and 2 toddlers running around on big wheels screaming and fighting to slow you down (just saying)
Included in this instructable is a video of how I learned to apply clear coat. It took me quite a while to figure it out!
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Step 1: Google Sketchup
If you use sketchup, you will see that I don't use it very often! My original loft bed was going to have the book-shelf tires on both sides. I realized as construction went that it made the bed HUGE. I ended up building half a tire for the rear tires, and just the form of a tire on the two back ones.
You can download sketchup for free to view the file here: SketchUp
My Sketchup File and all my templates and measurements are here:
Following step is how I used Sketchup to print up life-size templates.
Step 2: Using Sketchup to Print Templates
Follow the pictures! They show how I used the program to print just what I needed.
When I needed a different Template, I just used my navigation tabs at the top and zoomed into the next portion I wanted to print. I used this method to cut all my curves and angles with the jigsaw.
When taping the pages together to make the life-size template, it will be necessary to slightly overlap the pages, because the printer doesn't account for the margins. My project was so large that if I was off a few millimeters here and there it didn't matter so much.
Step 3: Applying Templates and Cutting
Taking from my tabs in sketchup, I printed life-size templates of every curve that needed cut. I very carefully taped these papers together. The margins on each paper made it more difficult to line up the papers just right, but it made the cutting WAY easier.
Then I used my sketchup file and the measuring tape tool to measure each rectangle or dimension.
Don't mess up! I didn't account for the width of the wood itself when I first started and realized when I began assembling that my bed would be 1 ½ inches too short or 1 ½ inches too narrow for a mattress. It doesn't work to measure twice and cut once if the measurements are wrong before you start!
Using Sketchup to print templates:
Step 4: Stair/Shelf Tires Construction
The "treads" were done with a jigsaw and a taped-on template from my file. Using furniture-grade plywood these stairs and shelves could even hold me up. Pocket-hole construction was used to build. These took a lot of patience. After using the jigsaw, I used a dremel tool to round over the edges of the treads, and then sanded the whole thing.
I used wood glue between all joints, then glued the wood plugs to hide the pocket-holes. I then used a dremel cutter to cut the plugs flush and sanded everything. I used wood putty to fill in gaps in the plywood.
For the back tires, I simply had the same rectangles as the front tires, and drilled and glued in dowels for future use for setting the bed sides onto the tires.
This was the only step I didn't really document how I cut it out and sanded it. Sorry!
Step 5: Bed Construction
I used a Kreg jig for drilling pocket holes throughout the project. I then purchased plastic pocket hole plugs to cover them so I can get back to them for moving the bed in the future.
Building before painting helps to identify mistakes or inaccuracies, in case further woodworking is needed.
As with the rest, I used the sketchup file to follow how I needed to build this bed.
Step 6: T-molding!
There's no need to buy special tools for t-molding. All you need is heavy duty scissors, a utility knife, and some side-cutting pliers (angle wire-cutters). I used a cushioned/rubber handled screwdriver and gently tapped in the t-molding using the handle side of the screwdriver. When a right angle is reached, it's just a matter of cutting the t-molding with the side-cutters straight into the molding flush up to the bottom edge. Then make two 30 degree cuts on each side of the first up to the same bottom edge, and you end with a small triangle missing out of the t-molding's insert. When folding, they just come up flush to each other and it will perfectly fold around the right-angle.
Obviously, the t-molding itself can't be done until painting and finishing is done, but this step is here because the router has to be used before painting and finishing or you will scratch up your finish trying to add it.
Step 7: Painting
As easy as just painting it? No way! I first sanded every last square inch of this entire bed, and cleaning the best I could, I used tack cloth to pick up any remaining dust.
I used an electric paint gun. I was one of those $30-$40 guns found at big box stores. I painted the tires flat black, because I knew my clear coat would made them look shiny afterwards. There are lots of youtube videos out there to show how to use a paint gun, and I don't think my explanation would be very helpful here. I did the painting in stages, though. Like in the tire photo, I did the one side, with a second coat if needed, and then flipped everything over to do the next.
I found the old paint would stick and peel off my plastic backdrop and remain on my pieces. I used sandpaper 220-320 grit to get back to the paint I wanted to remain on the pieces.
I swear it took just as long having to clean the gun every time as it would using a paint brush on all that surface area, but I like the way the paint job turns out better with the gun.
Step 8: Finishing (polyurethane)
I had never really done this part before, so I did a lot of experimenting.
I'm pretty proud of this part. It took the longest. It is recommended to have 3-4 coats of the polyurethane I used. 2 hours between coats, PLUS sanding with 320 grit paper on a block and cleaning the dust with tack cloth between each coat, PLUS 24 hours after you're done before recommended movement, PLUS working full-time and fighting cold weather, makes for a long project!
To not have to worry about runs or drips, I only painted the side gravity helped me with. I used the foam brush. and gently brushed the sides each time. Tires were murder, because there were so many sides.
The video here shows exactly what I did to get the best results I knew how being an amateur. If the video gets you feeling like you're on a boat -- well let's just say I was seeing this stuff at night when I closed my eyes! It was like playing Tetris for an hour too long -- leaves your brain making lines when you go to sleep later.
Step 9: Final Build
Lay the rear piece on the wall. Lay the flat tires and bed side on the floor and line up the holes with the dowels. Once attached, I stood it up against the wall.
The bed side with the 3-D tires just had to be placed onto them the same way and the metal support bar attached with lugs also.
Then I attached the rear piece to the 3-D tire side with my kreg screws, and stood up the opposite side and got it secure.
With a helper, I then hefted the toy box/hood into place and dropped in the three giant slats I made to make sure the whole bed would properly square up. Last was dropping on the roof piece and adding my vinyl, support bar (by the window) and installed and plugged in my electronics.
Step 10: Electronics
As made a template for spacing my holes for the marker lights and for the rocker switch panel which is also the cover to the power supply and wiring for the bed. So I did all the measuring on the computer, and tape and drilled the holes in real life without too much trouble.
The blue runner lights came with their own adhesive, and the other lights just need mounted. I still have one rocker switch remaining for the ground kit and a push-button for changing patterns without needing to see a control box.