The Murphy Bed part two – getting underway

After space considerations forced our hand (a recurring theme around Our Old Rowhouse), we decided to build a Murphy bed in our former guest room so we could keep a guest bed while moving our daughter into this bigger bedroom in anticipation of her soon-to-arrive little brother. This is part two of the story. (Read part one)

Well, I’m sure you could guess where I ended up. (“Ended up with what? What the heck were the choices? What are you talking about, Steve???” Stop, click on the part one link above, skip down to the last few paragraphs and read. It’s ok, we’ll wait.)

Surely you didn’t think I’d be paying someone else to come build us a bed, did you? I mean, I can be all proud and say I PREFER TO DO IT ALL myself, but frankly, they’re just crazy expensive. I would have loved to have seen my family for more than a few token minutes for the last two weeks!

Random aside: a couple days ago, Lily said, “Daddy you’ve been working all the time.” Poor kid. We took a break last night and played and read books together all night. It was great. (And then I started planning the next project after she and Rachel went to bed.)

Because giant holes in the floor or baseboards were out, so was the ready-made murphy spring frame — though I also figured out that the cabinets you build around them after the fact to hide them tend to take up more space, which was also a dealbreaker.

After reading a ton of reviews, one name (or two as I learned shortly) kept coming up. So I chose this great vertical queen kit from Rockler Woodworking  for about $300 — a company I was already familiar with for their great catalogue of awesome woodworking tools and materials.

rockler murphy bed

(I realized later that Create-A-Bed actually makes the kits that Rockler sells, and they’ve been making them for years. Also a plus.)

We found it on Amazon from Rockler for about the same price, so we ended up getting it there since it comes in two days that way.

The kits are pretty basic: a bunch of screws, some hardware, two gas powered springs, and a book of instructions for cutting your own lumber and installing the hardware they provide. The rest is up to you.

Before I bought the kit when I was still figuring out if I could manage to do it, I told Rachel that I might be able to get the bed done by the end of October. Having never built furniture of quite this magnitude before, and certainly not stuff with a lot of moving parts other than cabinet doors, I really just didn’t know what to expect. And without a table saw, cutting anything straight takes me a lot longer!

Though the final product is indeed truly pretty impressive in the end and I’ve enjoyed all the “YOU BUILT WHAT..THAT’S AMAZING?!?!?” comments from friends, honestly, I feel silly claiming credit for impressively building anything. Because the terrific directions (along with a step-by-step DVD starring everybody’s uncle who has a woodshop) walks you through every single step. It’s really just a matter of following directions. Though my elementary school teachers would find this assessment amazing, I’m actually pretty good at following directions when it’s all spelled out for me. Amazing the difference 30 years will make, I guess.

So two weekends ago, I got a ziptruck and loaded up with a few sheets of 3/4″ sanded birch plywood, a couple sheets of 1/2″ plywood, and a bunch of 1-bys for other parts.

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That Sunday after church, I started making all the cuts — you essentially cut all the pieces at one time so you basically have the entire bed in pieces at the end of a really long step one — and managed to finish cutting everything for the entire bed by the next night after work.

After that, you begin drilling all the holes and mounting hardware in specific places…that you then remove so you can apply the finish of your choosing. Relatedly: the only bummer about the basement apartment now is that I have no workshop to speak of. So everything gets done in the backyard. I’m not sure if winter would have been worse — I just got swarmed by mosquitoes every night instead.

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Before painting it all, I had to make sure everything was nice and smooth…so I Ironed all of the boards.

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With everything nice and smooth and all the wrinkles out of the lumber, I set about….

Did I get ya?

Ok ok, I was putting glue-on veneer on all the exposed edges of the cut pieces of plywood. Roll it out, cut it to length, and then use an iron to to activate the glue and roll it down. Boom. I put tinfoil on the iron to keep it from getting glue on it. Then, it got sanded and was ready for paint.

We chose to paint it white to go with all the other built-ins and trim in the house — but high gloss this time, which I used on the last batch of shelves and we’re really digging instead of the satin we’ve used for everything else. (Behr Polar Bear if anyone is curious. Great shade of white.) Painting it all meant covering up the backyard two or three nights in row getting it all primed and sanded and cleaned and painted and dried in time to move it all back inside so it wouldn’t get covered in dew overnight.

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After all the pieces were painted over the course of that week and everything drilled and marked for all of the hardware, I moved everything up into the bedroom on Saturday to begin assembly.

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And then I disappeared for most of Saturday to go to a huge local beer festival (Snallygaster!!!) with some good friends for the day. On Sunday, assembly began in earnest. You start with the bedframe itself. The slat frame goes into the side rails and head/foot rails.

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With the bed box put together, you lay it down on the two giant spreads of plywood for the actual face of the bed when it’s closed (facing down in this picture below) and glue and screw it down.

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Incidentally, you can see how badly we need the extra space in this room if we’re going to put…pretty much anything else in here with a queen bed. The mattress there is leaning against one wall, the bedframe is almost touching the dresser, and it basically looks as cramped as a sardine can in here.

No project at Our Old Rowhouse would be complete without a note left behind.

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Most of these notes go on things that will stay in the house — the built-ins, behind a shelf in the nursery, in the attic on a beam — but I might just take this bed with us if we ever leave the house.

Otherwise, we love leaving these artifacts behind for someone to maybe find one day years or decades down the road when this terrific old house is still standing…and someone steps inside with their Realtor® robot and says “OH GOD IT’S TERRIBLE LOOKING BUT IT’S GOT SO MUCH POTENTIAL” and then maybe finds a note when they’re ripping something out.

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With that and a couple of handles, we’ve got a finished bedframe.

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There’s officially too many pictures in just one post already. Check back tomorrow for the last voluminous volume in this story, chronicling the rest of the assembly and all the great “after” shots.

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