How to Build Bunk Beds: MOTHER's $10-per-square-foot Earth Sheltered House, Part V

You can learn how to build bunk beds that serve multiple functions and cost very little.

| January/February 1985

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    You can save a lot of money by making your own furniture, and you'll take away the satisfaction of a job well done.
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    This multipurpose bunk-bed design is great for sleeping, storing and working!

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Is it possible to achieve food and energy independence on 1 acre? Well, with imagination, hard work and the right 1 acre, we think it can be done — and that's what this project is all about. Of course, providing most of the basic needs for four people from such a small piece of ground is a tall order. Still, we think it's a goal worth pursuing, and we're hoping that in this series of articles about our low-cost homestead we'll be able to help some of you in your struggles to increase your self-reliance by doing some of the experimenting for you.

In previous installments, we discussed our initial plans for the project, the construction of the building's shell, its waterproofing and insulation, some special energy-related "extras" and construction of the handmade kitchen cabinetry. This time, we'll again focus on the interior appointments by detailing how to build bunk beds for the children's bedroom. 

A truly rewarding game to play when planning an affordable homestead is cost avoidance, and when it comes to furniture, shucking the store-bought suites in favor of simple and functional owner-made substitutes can net a handsome return. This is especially true if you're able to purchase rough-cut air-dried lumber or, better yet, are in a position to harvest your own. Even if you have to buy your wood at a mill or a lumberyard, though, you'll be able to realize a healthy saving and still enjoy a quality piece of work with only a moderate amount of expended effort if you respect a "simplicity in design" rule of thumb.

The bunk beds in this article — created by Eco-Village staff member James McGinnis and former staffer Dean Davis — represent a successful marriage of elementary construction techniques and attention to craftsmanship. Though you won't be able to duplicate the achievement with just a handsaw and a block plane, it shouldn't take more than an enthusiast's moderately well-equipped shop (which would include a table saw with combination and dado blades, a router and a router table, a belt sander, a circular saw, a drill with common-size wood-boring bits and the ubiquitous assortment of clamps, hammers, chisels, sanding blocks and measuring tools) to make great inroads toward that end.

What's more, you needn't be intimidated by the fact that we used good, home-milled oak, for even if you choose to use a clear grade of store-bought pine, the project will be fairly simple to piece together (using our illustrations as a guide), because we've purposely sized the parts to be consistent with dimensional lumber. In fact, just about every piece of wood in the project is ¾ of an inch thick, which makes measuring and fitting relatively uncomplicated.

A close look at the unit reveals its multipurpose, space-saving nature. In addition to providing two 34-by-76-inch sleeping areas, it also furnishes a pair of bookcases at the upper bunk, another pair at the lower bunk and a set of bulletin boards between. And that's not all: At one end (or at both ends, if the room is large enough) an 18 ½ -by-37 ½ -inch bookcase door folds down to become a convenient study desk.


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Fermentation Frenzy! is produced by Fermentation magazine in conjunction with the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR. This one-and-a-half day event is jam-packed with fun and informative hands-on sessions.


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