Mortise and Tenon Bunk Beds


– Woodworking Tools: Compound miter saw, table saw, hand saw, plunge router, rubber mallet, hammer, chisel, drill, brad nailer, disc sander, 4″ angle grinder (with flap disc), etc.

– Wood Glue (lots of it!)

– 1/2″ Dowels

– Stain/Finish

– Wood: 2×6’s, 4×4’s (I used rough sawn pine) and 1×4’s

– 3″ Lag Screws

Step 1: Plan It

So my initiative was to hit the drafting board . I started with what I knew I had to figure with and worked back from there. I knew the dimensions of the space gave me certain size constraints I had to figure around, mainly for the peak of the beds. I also knew I wanted to form them with full size mattresses for both the highest and bottom bunks. I also knew the client wanted some kind of rustic look, not too clean.

The lower bunk ended up just a couple of inches off the ground which allowed for adequate headroom for those on the lower bunk, while also giving the highest bunk enough headroom, as long as the ceilings during this basement room are only 7 feet high.

After a touch little bit of research, I made the choice that mortise and tenon would offer the strongest joints to form this bed last. I didn’t want to possess any exposed screws, I wanted everything to possess an old fashioned look, so i made a decision to use dowels to additionally to the mortise and tenon joints. Full disclosure, I did find yourself using screws in only one aspect of the development of the beds for the only purpose of having the ability to deconstruct the beds to maneuver them in and out of the space , but more thereon later.

I contacted an area saw mill for the wood for this project. They were ready to cut me some rough sawn pine that had actual dimensions of 2″ by 6″ by 12′ and 4″ by 4″ by 12′. This differs from most 2×6’s and 4×4’s that you simply can get from your home improvement stores that typically have an actual dimension of 1 1/2″ by 5 1/2″ and three 1/2″ by 3 1/2″ respectively. The 1×4 slats I used for the bed supports were from the ironmongery shop and people do have an actual dimension of 3/4″ by 3 1/2″. Keep that in mind when reading through my process and my measurements. All this suggests is that you simply will need to adjust your numbers to suit the lumber you’ve got available .

After many tweaking the numbers, I finally had all my measurements. I then took the rough lumber and commenced cutting my boards right down to size. This part was relatively quick, and therefore the only thing that took a while was deciding the way to maximize my cuts out of the 12′ boards to possess as little waste as possible. I made bound to add 3″ to each board that might have tenons to go away room to form the tenons at 1 1/2″ on each end.

Step 2: Setup: Mortise Making

The actual construction of this project isn’t too hard, it had been really the mortise and tenon making that was very repetitive. Once you’ve found out the way to make the joints, everything quite just falls into place (no pun intended). Like I said, this was my first raid mortise and tenon joinery, therefore the learning curve was what took the foremost amount of your time on this project on behalf of me fixing my tools and jigs took a while and patience, but within the end of the day they’re going to prevent tons of labor and headaches.

**Pro Tip: One thing I learned in researching this system was to always make your mortises first, then fine tune your tenon to suit .

The first objective was to return up with a jig that might work for the plunge router to form the mortises. I needed something that I can clamp onto different size thicknesses of wood (2″ and 4″) and make two different size mortises (1″x2″ and 1″x5″, both at 1.5″ deep). I made the most a part of the jig to suit centered on 4″ thick pieces, large enough to form a 1″x5″ mortise. Then I made an insert out of 1/4″ MDF to dam off some of the plane to limit the router to form a 1″x2″ mortise. Next I made an attachment to the fence underneath the plane that, when inserted, would allow the jig to take a seat centered on a 2″ thick piece. This allowed me to quickly adapt the router jig, which might save me tons of your time .

**I didn’t bother to offer the dimensions of this jig I made because it’ll all be hooked in to the size of the router you’re using, the dimensions of the lumber you’re using, and therefore the size of the mortises you’re trying to form presumably this jig won’t be used considerably after this project, however, it had been still well well worth the time it took to form it.

When it came time to form the mortises, I used a 1/4″ up-spiral bit to form the cuts. I had to form variety of passes to finish the complete depth of the mortise that I wanted to form . One rule of thumb I used when doing this was to never go deeper with the plunge router than the width of the bit. Since my bit was only 1/4″ wide, I made sure to not go further than 1/4″ deep for every pass. Once I routed out the perimeter of the mortise, I used a zig-zag motion to route out the middle , then i might drop the router bit another 1/4″ and continue until I completed the complete depth of the mortise.

Obviously employing a round bit within the router created an oblong mortise with rounded corners. Ideally, most mortises have square corners. What I could have done was take my sharpened chisel and shaved out the corners to face them off, but that might have taken tons of what I considered “unnecessary” time. Instead, the trail of least resistance” to unravel this was to slightly round off the corners of the tenons instead. Speaking of tenons…

Step 3: Setup: Tenon Making

When making the tenons, I used my sliding miter saw, a hand saw, and a chisel for pack up . A feature I discovered on my miter saw a couple of things”> are some things I came to seek out a few years ago which may be a depth stop. I’m unsure how frequent this handy feature is on other miter saws but it sure saved me plenty of your time when making the tenons.

Basically, a depth stop does just what it says, it prevents the blade of the saw from taking place all the way, stopping it at a height that’s set by the user. All it’s on my miter saw may be a small black lever on the proper side of the blade that, when pulled out, will stop the blade from dropping completely.

I made a test cut almost a blade width into the piece on each side to doublecheck the thickness of the tenon it might make. Also note that when my blade has the depth stop in situ , the blade won’t slide all the way back causing my move be incomplete (see pictures). to urge around this, I used a scrap piece of lumber clamped to the fence of my miter saw to act as a spacer.

I was ready to use this to line my blade to chop approximately 7/16″ deep on each side of my 2″x6″ the leave a tenon that’s a touch quite 1″ thick that runs the complete width of the board (6′). the additional thickness gave me many shave down the remainder with a chisel by hand, to make sure a decent fit. Next I needed to chop approximately 1/2″ off each end of the tenon to offer me a final tenon dimension of 1″x5″. i attempted a couple of different techniques for cutting the sides of the tenon off but ultimately found that the simplest thing to try to to was to chop it with the hand saw. I used a bit of tape on the saw blade to offer me a depth gage of a touch but 1/2″ to make certain I didn’t cut too deep, then once more , I shaved down the surplus with a chisel by hand to a decent fit.

As I’ve already mentioned, because the mortises had rounded corners, i want to round off the tenons to match. This was as simple as using the hand chisel to shave off the corners. Again, this was much easier and fewer time consuming than squaring off the corners of the mortises.

And a bit like the mortise making, “wash, rinse, repeat”…

Like I’ve said previously, the development of this project isn’t terribly difficult. the most important thing on behalf of me on this was repetition and discipline. I did find a couple of ways to save lots of time on certain processes without cutting corners and sacrificing quality. When it decreased thereto , some things were just tedious and took time. But it all paid off within the end.

Step 4: Rails and Slats

The rails were pretty simple . I single 2×6 board that runs down the length of the bed for both rock bottom and top bunk. In efforts to stay the bed frames as small as possible I cut an L-shaped notch from the highest of the wood on the rails that might leave the beds to take a seat recessed into them by about 1 1/2″ and was a 1/2″ wide.

At this stage it had been time to feature some support pieces that ran the length of the bed also that might support the 1″x4″ slats that hold the mattress. I ripped down the 2″x6″ pieces in half to form a bit that was approximately 2″x3″x75″ that was an equivalent length of my rails. I then attached them to the rails at 3/4″ below the notch I made, since the 1″x4″ slats i used to be using had an actual thickness of 3/4″. this is able to allow the 1″x4″ slats to take a seat flush with the notch i made. As pictured, I made an easy spacer employing a couple pieces of scrap wood that helped me set the right spacing all the way down the rail.

A full size bed is 53″ wide, so I cut the slats to 52″, this plus the 1/2″ notch on the rails on all sides would give me a full 53″ for a pleasant fit the mattress. These slats would be put aside and would later be set in situ during the ultimate assembly process.

Step 5: Dry Fit and Glue Up

After all the mortise and tenon making, I emerged from the heaping pile of saw dust and excelsior able to start putting things together. i used to be on the brink of glue up but wanted to dry fit all my pieces before drilling out holes for the dowels. Once i used to be confident a joint fit tight, I used a 1/2″ drilling bit to drill two holes through the post and thru the tenon for joints on my 2″x6″s and one hole for my 2″x3″s.

With this design i made a decision that both the foot and therefore the head of the bed would be completely assembled and glued up which the rails that ran the length of the bed would be put together once everything was finished and moved into the space .

Once I had everything dry fit and drilled, I took it all apart and commenced the glueup. I made bound to place a generous amount of glue on the tenon and inside the mortise before joining the 2 pieces, then I squeezed some glue into, and inserted dowels into the pre-drilled holes for pins that were intentionally left about 1/2″ too long, to be trimmed later. I used a rubber mallet to make sure the dowels were seated properly.

On some pieces, particularly the ladder end of the bed, I had to pay special attention to what order I glued these pieces up. a number of it takes a touch of reverseengineering to work out. make certain to pay special attention to the present when watching the planning you opt on. Then all that was left was to let the glue dry overnight.

Step 6: Sanding/Distressing

This step is completely optional based on the look you want. I didn’t want things to look too clean. I decided I would distress the wood to take away all the clean edges and corners. But, there was a lot of surface area to be distressed.

The method I chose to use to do this was to use a 4″ angle grinder with a 60-grit sanding flap disc. Using this aggressive of a grit eats away at the soft pine pretty quickly. The key to this was to keep the grinder moving in quick back and forth motions of about 4″-8″ with the grain across the surface area of the wood. Doing this led to a very “hand-scraped” look that was happy with. I also did a bit of hand distressing by using the edge of the flap disc wheel that would put “gouges” in the surface, and also hit it with a few different tools like hammers, pry bars or large nails and screws. This is the part where you can get creative or use a distressing technique that you’re familiar with. You can see the effect this gave in the next step when the product was finished. There is no shortage of posts online that can give you some techniques if you run out of ideas.

I was also able to cut off the excess on the dowels now that the glue was dry. I still wanted to dowels to sit a little proud of wood posts, but I needed them to all look the same. I didn’t trust myself to be this precise with as many dowels as I had. What I did to get a consistent look was rip a thin piece of excess material to about 1/8″, which is how far out I wanted the dowels to set. I drilled a 1/2″ hole (same size as the dowels) into the ripped piece, then used that as a guide for my hand saw. I simply slipped the thin piece over the dowel, and used the hand saw to cut all the dowels at the exact same length (as pictured). Definitely a time saver here as well!

Step 7: Stain and Finish

After testing out a couple of different stains and combinations of stains, I ended up deciding on Puritan Pine by Minwax. It gave a pleasant natural tone to the wood that might go well with the inside of the space i used to be working in. Also, because this room was dimly lit and with none exterior windows, I didn’t want to travel with anything too dark.

**Pro Tip: one among the simplest ways I’ve come to find out to use stain is employing a stain sponge. Whether I’m dipping the sponge into the stain to use it, or brushing on stain and using the sponge to wipe, I find it easier to use than a rag.

I used a water-based Polyurethane from Varathane to seal the wood. i actually like using the water-based formulas from Varathane. they’re very easy to use and have a number of the fastest drying times when it involves poly. I finished this project with three coats with light sanding in between coats.

Step 8: Final Assembly

Once all the sealer was dry it had been time to maneuver all my pieces in and begin assembling. Since the top and therefore the foot of my bed was glued up into one piece, there was a complete of only 8 pieces to the present bed that needed to be assembled (the head, the foot, 4-2″x6″ bed rails and 2-2″x3″ top bunk rails). Assembly was pretty simple , put the square peg into the square hole.

I wanted the joints where the rails attached to the foot and head of the bed to be durable but not permanent. After all, I imagine the beds won’t stay in there forever. due to this, they were still joined using mortise and tenon joints, I just skipped the glue, and rather than dowels, I countersunk some 3″ lag screws to carry them in situ . Because I wanted a cohesive look with the opposite glued up joints, I countersunk the lag screws in about 3/8″ into the 4×4’s with a 1/2″ bit that might allow me to use my 1/2″ dowels as plugs to hide up the heads of the screws. The dowel plugs stay pretty much without rupture , while are also not too hard to tug out if you would like to urge back to the screws again. This ended up being the right thanks to hide the lag screws.

After the frames were built, I needed to get within the slats. Now, all I had for the the slats were a a support piece that might hold them up, but not in situ . My solution for this was to drill a hole through the slats at the top and foot of the bed into the supports. I glue the dowel into the support piece but didn’t glue the slat in situ (again, i would like to be ready to disassemble this within the future). I then evenly spaced all the slats down the length of the bed and ran two strips of vinyl webbing across the tops of the slats and stapled the webbing to every piece using 5/8″ small crown staples. This was an excellent way of holding all the slats in situ , but if they have to be disassembled, the slats can all be rolled up together.

Step 9: Conclusion

What. A. Project.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this Instructable, this was my first dive into mortise and tenon joinery, and what a dive it was. I learned a whole lot while doing this, but I’m so glad I did it. There’s nothing else like the feeling you get when you are finally ready to tap that tenon into place and everything sits perfectly. It wasn’t all perfect, but I’m proud of myself. And let me tell you, these beds are SOLID. I’m so glad I decided to learn this new-to-me technique.

Most of what I learned was by researching, watching tutorials, and trial and error. If you have some techniques you like to use, please drop them in the comments below. I sure appreciate some constructivecriticism. Just be nice, and remember this was my first go at it, so let all the readers know what you wish you knew on your first go around with similar projects.

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