Feature Story - Bunk Bed in the Bunkhouse

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BUNK BED IN THE BUNKHOUSE - Camping success!
by Kevin Wilbeck
November 2008

My wife, Chris, is admittedly not a hard-core camper.  Two of my very early attempts to introduce her to camping could be called “failures.”  One was in a tiny, smelly rented Scamp (remember those campers?).  The other was on a rainy weekend in a leaky tent with a wet dog.  So, I understand why she wasn’t always so eager to go camping with me.  One of the unwritten rules of camping is that you need to do it enough, to balance out the occasional less-than-ideal experiences … like the two I introduced to Chris.  The other is that as you grow older, comfort becomes a little more important.

So, while we have plenty of space for tents at Camp Coyote (and we will have a few good air mattresses for the tents we provide), The Bunkhouse was built to offer a camp-like experience with a real mattress to sleep on - for people like Chris.  And, we couldn’t call it a "bunkhouse," if it didn’t have a bunk bed, right?

After looking at several frames that didn’t really “fit” with overall design of The Bunkhouse, I decided to try my hand at building a bunk bed.  Since most of the materials used to build The Bunkhouse came from dismantled outbuildings, I thought it would be appropriate to build the bunk bed the same way.  However, I had three challenges:

  1. The Bunkhouse interior trim had hand-carved details, so I didn’t want to just slap some 2’ x 6’ boards together.  I wanted the bed to look like it belonged.
  2. I don’t have a “working” shop, yet, so it had to be built using only a circular saw, router, and hand tools.
  3. Right now, there is no electricity at Camp Coyote, so the bed had to be built in pieces that could fit through the door and assembled without power tools (I did use a cordless drill, so I guess that last statement isn’t completely true.  But, arguably, I don’t think that a 12V drill is REALLY a power tool…).

In my usual fashion, I estimated I could install the bunk bed in two weekends.  I was partially right.  It did take two weekends to install it, bolt it to building’s framing, and mount the bead-board bed flooring.  However, it also took almost three weekends to first build and then paint it.  It took so long, because I always forget to factor in the paint drying time.  OK, you caught me … It’s not the drying time … I am always too optimistic!

The result?  The finished bunk bed looks like the 60+ year old building it is sitting in.  The wood is dinged and dented like it is old, because it IS old.  The bed frame joints are dowelled, because that is an old-fashioned, simple joint.  The legs are visually thinned with rabbet cut corners and 64 hand-cut notches on the face.  The bed floorings are real, thick stock, bead-board.


Chris, Jake and I slept in the bunk bed the weekend after it was done.  Despite the cool weather, the experience was warm, dry, and comfortable.  Jake liked the experience, because he got to finally play on the top bunk (he’s still too young to sleep on the top).  I liked the experience, because as an older camper, I really do prefer a mattress.  But, best of all, Chris liked the experience so much that she gave it a BIG “thumbs up!”  Now that’s a camping success story!    

Bunk bed with full-sized mattress on bottom bunk. Top bunk will also have a full-sized mattress.  Pillows, sheets, blankets and sleeping bags will soon outfit the bunk.

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For more information, call Chris Wilbeck at 515-229-6988.