Reply by Derrick

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Posted on How would you build this bunk bed?

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112 posts in 1697 days

#1 posted 01-23-2018 05:49 PM

You ve got a lot of options.

For the corners, you ve got a lot of face grain to face grain area, and a glue joint would probably be strong enough. However, it s easy to reinforce the joint with dowels, a spline, or floating tenons.

To attach the rails, keep in mind a lot of the joint is hidden, so you don t have to be too fancy. You could butt the rail between the corner posts and screw and glue a separate board across the rail and corner to join them. You could do a sort of half-lap joint, where you notch the rail, and notch the corner, so that the rail fits into the notch in the corner, then screw and glue it in place. I d probably go this route, very strong, good mechanical support, lots of glue surface. Floating tenons would also work well. As you said, you could go with through carriage bolts, would would be really strong, but you d either have to like the look, or recess and cover the bolt heads, which would be large, noticeable covers.

For a queen I would also install a hidden rail running head to foot in the middle for more support on the top bed. This could be mortised and tenoned (or loose tenoned into the end rails.) Then use a bunch of 1×4 slats to support the mattress. For the lower bed I d use a center leg or two on full width slats to prevent sagging.

- jmos

For the rails I forgot to mention the traditional method – use a short tenon on the rail into a mortise on the leg and use bed bolt hardware to lock them in. This is usually used to join the side rails. The headboard and foot board are typically permanently attached.

Another question you ll have to address is whether you want to be able to take this apart to move it, or if you want it permanently assembled. If the later, you ll need a saw to get it out of the room. If the former, I d probably skip gluing any of the rails and use screws or bed bolts.

- jmos

First, a couple of observations: I know that looking at a picture, my perspective could be off a bit. To my eye, the whole unit looks a bit tall and I can t help but wonder if the upper bunk will have good head room under a ceiling. Also, could the lower bunk be raised just a bit? Remember, someone will need clean the dust bunnies and toys out from under it.

To your questions: I would be inclined to make the corner posts by mitering the corner with a spline. This would be one of the more difficult methods, but by doing it this way, it will not only be strong, but the joint line will be masked by the corner and the grain will seem to wrap around the corner. I would use epoxy for this as it will give you lots of working time to get it assembled and clamped. Be sure to keep the corner square during glue up.

I agree with jmos. One of your primary concerns is designing in the ability to break it down for moving. Since you are working with queen size, I think it will be difficult to make single headboard/footboard components because of the ultimate size for moving. You will need to do some measuring to see if you can glue all those pieces together and still be able to move them where you need them. Otherwise, most everything needs to be assembled with removable fasteners.

I have built a couple of beds with exposed fasteners where the rail fastened to the footboard/headboard. I used a simple overlap (no dado) with exposed hex head bolts, The heads were countersunk and inserted from the outside into “T” nuts on the inside. I sanded off the cadmium plating and then used gun bluing to darken them. Looked good to my eye. You could also do the reverse and insert screws from the inside out into threaded inserts in the backside of the post. Be sure to use enough and make the bolt holes snug to resist racking of the whole system. Extending the side rail all the way into the backside corner of the post will also provide some rigidity.

I would support the mattress with a sheet of plywood supported by ledgers around the perimeter and two or three cross pieces. Remember that a queen size mattress will be larger than a single sheet of plywood. So, the mattress support will require two pieces. You will need support at the seam; probably crosswise at the midpoint.

- bilyo

Wow! Thank you guys for being so descriptive!!! Bilyo, I think you’re right. I think the bed does look very tall. Everything would have to be adjusted to work with my 8’ ceilings. The bottom could definitely be raised up a bit, and the top would need to come down. I think they should both be able to sit up in bed without hiting their head on the ceiling or the underside of the top bunk.

The thought of whether or not I want to be able to take it down or not did cross my mind. They’re not going to have bunk beds forever. Since I’d be doing this with dimensional lumber, I don’t think I’d have too much of an issue cutting it up to remove it. I’ll let my wife decide on that on though.

You two have given me plenty to work with.

Thank you very much!!

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