This humble little toddler bed was the product of desperation. As married students we had little money for our growing family. Our second son was outgrowing his bassinet and our #1 son was to the point of crawling out of the crib. This was the result of invention with little money and few tools.
Advantages: For a toddlers first bed it is nearly impossible to fall out of. The closer a child rolls to the edge, the steeper the climb to fall out.
Durable: This bed has been used as the first bed for most of our 9 children. It has gone to Grandma's and has gone camping with us.
Portable: Packs up and stores easily- no tools for assembly. Just two ends, two dowels and the cover.
Materials: 2 - 8' 2x4 ( one for each end)
2- 4' x 11/4 inch dowels
1 - 4' x 1/2 inch dowel
Fabric: 45 x 40 inches
Tools: Saw (hand or electric), drill, 1 " and 1/2 " drill bits, a square, belt sander or pocket knife, sand paper, paint (optional) sewing machine and supplies - pins, scissors etc.
Step 1: Step 1 - Build the Ends
Horizontals are 30 inches long - cut 4
verticals are 14 inches - cut 4
Outside edge for the verticals is 4 inches from each end even with top and bottom edges. Make sure the verticals and uprights are square. Drill holes as close to vertical as possible.
Drill 1/2 inch holes one at a time. Coat a 3 inch piece of 1/2 inch dowel with white glue or carpenters glue.Hammer into place. Now re-check for square and drill the second hole for the 1/2 inch dowel before the glue sets on your first dowel.
Place dowels on diagonal for maximum strength.Repeat for each corner of the bed. Bolts would work but this bed has been actively used for about 18 years and is still solid.
When I built this I just coated a few inches of dowel and pounded it in the hole until it was flush with the bottom 2x4 and cut it off flush with a hand saw.
Just a quick note here: This bed is for a TODDLER not Martha Stewart! Yes it would look better with legs instead of a 2x4 across the floor. When you are done the base for the bed will be wider than the actual sleeping surface available to your child. That means that while sleeping they can't tip it over!
Step 2: Step 2 Drill Hole and Fit Bed Rails.
When you have the ends finished stand them up and take a look at them. If you haven't drilled the holes for the larger dowels yet then now is the time to figure out which way you want to be up on your end boards. Verticals go to the outside to limit the amount of things you want him to bang his head on so as to have an excuse to get you up in the middle of the night!
Center the spot where you want to have your bed rails. I put mine 2 inches in from the end and 1 1/2 inches from the top. Drill a 1" hole through your horizontal pieces. This needs to be as close to perpendicular as possible. Otherwise you will have problems every time you assemble your bed.
Fit the dowel to the holes by reducing the final three inches on each end of the large dowels to fit in the 1 inch diameter holes.
Way back when I whittled them down with a pocket knife and smoothed out with sandpaper. An easier way would be use a belt sander. Take your time. You want this to be a snug fit. In all the years we have used the bed we have had an end fall off only once.
Step 3: Step 3 - Build a Cover
We used a heavy cotton cover for the bed. Anything about the weight of good denim will work. Cut a piece of fabric 45 x 40 inches. Hem the ends to fit inside your bed by folding the ends in 2 x and using two seams. The current cover is 41 inches long after hemming. Hem the sides by making folding in and sewing 3 1/2 - 4 inches from one side. Run two seams to make a four inch sleeve for the dowels to go through. After you have one sleeve sewn slide a dowel through it and install on your bed. Fold over the other dowel. Cut to fit leaving enough fabric for a 4 inch sleeve. You will want to the fabric to be snug. When I built this cover it was too loose. To fix that I ran a seam down the outside. It was far easier than unpicking the seams already sewn. The effect looks like a decorative edge.
Step 4: Step 4 Assembly
Lay one end down on the floor with verticals down. Insert the 4 foot dowels in their respective holes. Slide the cover over them. Add the other end. It should take some wiggling to get the end on with the cover installed and tight.
When our children were wetting through on a regular basis we would bed them down on a bath towel. When that one gets wet we would swap out towels. When the bed gets wet overnight the cover came off and went in the wash. Consider making a spare so your toddler can have his nap while the other is in the dryer.
Our grandson is four months old and safely sleeps through the night in it when he comes to visit.
Never did get around to painting it. Good idea to sand and paint. It will look better than the original, but ours works just fine as is.