My daughter Samantha had received an American Girl Bitty Baby doll she named Bessie. The only thing she had to "put her to bed" in was the box it came with. So, she needed a suitable baby doll bed, however, I didn't want to spend a ton of money on a store bought bed. I decided to build one myself for her using some scrap lumber and a quick cheap trip to Home Depot.
Step 1: Step 1: Get Some Posts and Knobs
In the floorboard and baseboard trim section of your local Home Depot or Lowes, or such, you can find some precut baseboard trim corners. I ran across these, and though they'd make great bedposts if I flipped them upside down and attached some wooden drawer pulls to the tops as bedknobs.
Step 2: Step 2: Footboard, Rails and Headboard
For the footboard and headboard, I had some scrap pine that I cut to equal lengths, and cut a channel across the bottoms for the plywood panel that will support the mattress. You can also see here the holes marked off and drilled for the dowels I will use to fit the bedposts to the footboard and headboard when I glue it all up.
The rails are more scrap I had, with grooves cut to match the grooves in the posts and headboard, footboard. This groove will hold the plywood panel that supports the foam mattress.
Step 3: Step 3: Dowels, Glue and Clamping
Here I have made sure my dowel holes are mated from one part to the other. If they were off a bit, the post would be crooked, so any misalignment must be fixed by enlarging the hole the dowel goes into. I am not too worried about that once the glue is set.
Marking your parts with T for top, L for left, R for right, bottom front, etc. is a great way to make sure you don't get holes in the wrong spot. Remember, you're building a model or puzzle you will have to assemble later, so keep a good eye on your layout.
Once the pieces are glued together, and you are satisfied with the alignment, go ahead and clamp these together and let the glue set.
Step 4: Step 4: Bedrails and Squaring It Up
To get the length of the bed, I measured Samantha's baby doll and added an inch or so, then cut some rails to fit that length.
I couldn't fit the long rails under my drill press, so I clamped them to the deck of my table saw, and used my power drill to drill the dowel holes. The level on the drill helps, but isn't perfect. Slow and steady, careful drilling ensures proper alignment.
The plywood panel that supports the foam mattress will NOT be glued in, it will free float in the grooves along the inside of the bed, by about 1/4 inch on all sides. This is to allow for any expansion or contraction based on humidity. Much like a cabinet door or drawer.
Once the holes are drilled, you can test fit the bed together to check for alignment. Once happy, glue and clamp. As I apply pressure to the clamps, I go ahead and check for square with my machinist's square, adjusting as I increase pressure on the clamps.
Step 5: Step 5: Bedknobs and Boomsticks
Now that the bed is clamped, I can mark my locations for the dowels that will hold the bed knobs on.
I have to drill out the knobs a bit to accept the 1/4 inch dowels, and also drill the tops of the bed posts. I'd like to do this with a boomstick, but I think that would yield too many splinters.
Once that's done, glue it all together and remove any excess glue.
Step 6: Step 6: Sand and Finish
Once you've let the glue set a while, overnight if possible, check for splinters, sand things down, etc. You don't want your toddler hurting herself on this thing. I run it down with some 220 or 400 grit sandpaper to knock the edges off, and make sure there are no splinters.
I chose a gel polyurethane stain and sealer that I used to do the shelf and ceiling rails on Samantha's room, so the bed would match the look of her room.
One note, if you have glue that got on the wood and you didn't remove it quickly with a damp rag, you will get spots where the stain doesn't work. That's ok if you "pre weather" the bed like I plan on doing, with some sandpaper. So it doesn't hurt when my daughter is rough on it.
Step 7: Step 7: Mattress
I went down to the fabric store and get some one inch or thicker foam pad, and used a hot wire cutter to cut it to fit the bed. You can use scissors or a knife, but a hot wire foam cutter is cheap, and does an excellent job.
My wife Katie will sew up a mattress cover for it, and the blanket to match.
Step 8: Step 8: Enjoy!
My daughter Samantha has already put it to good use, and seems to enjoy it. I would say this was a very satisfying and successful gift that she will be able to use for a long time, and possibly hand it down to her kids when the time comes.
Making something that lasts is very gratifying. The fact that it was quite inexpensive was icing on the cake.
Thanks for reading!