While telling someone about our Narnia project awhile back, I described the Dawn Treader berths with their shipshape lights and portholes and the “sail” curtains I was planning. “We’ll get an ocean white-noise-maker for the kids,” I explained, and jokingly added that the only thing missing was that the beds wouldn’t rock with the waves. And–BOOM! Just like that, an idea was born: I knew how we could make the beds rock!
I researched online to see if someone had already covered that ground, but all I could find was a machine one man built to move his bed sideways, an enormous and expensive rocking metal frame, and the idea of hanging the beds from ropes. I had already thought of that very nautical idea, but rejected it as potentially dangerous for small children who might climb the ropes and fall. My idea was this: If a chair can have rockers, why can’t a bed? Herb kindly agreed to turn my idea into reality. So here’s what we did:
(1) We measured the twin mattresses at 37 3/4″ wide by 74″ long. Herb bought 4 sheets of 3/4″ plywood at Lowe’s and had them cut to 39″ x 75″ inches. This left enough room to put quarter round trim around the top edges to help hold the mattresses in place. Herb made 4 beds, but I will give directions for just one bed.
(2) Herb used 2x4s for the base of the bed, attaching them to the rougher, stamped side of the plywood. First, he cut 2 pieces 39″ long and screwed one at each end of the plywood base, 1.5″ away from the end of the plywood. He then cut two pieces 69″ long and screwed them between the end pieces along the sides of the plywood base. This created a rectangular support underneath the plywood. Finally, he cut two 36″ pieces as cross-braces which he attached between the long sides, leaving roughly 22″ between each cross-brace. Herb counter-sunk all the screws so there would be nothing to catch on the mattress or on small children’s fingers. The end result is a sturdy frame that is a mere 4.25″ off the ground and will easily support even a large adult. (We still need to tack pieces of carpet at all the joints to make the bed easier to slide in and out for making up.)
(3) The next step was to make the rockers. If you’re any good at math, you’ve realized that Herb made the bed support frame 3″ shorter than the plywood base. This left a 1.5″ gap at each end of the plywood base–just wide enough for a 2×6″ rocker at each end.
First, Herb cut two rockers 39″ long, the exact width of the bed frame.
(4) This is how we made the curve for the rockers. We set up two sawhorses 25 feet apart. In the center of the far sawhorse (see photo above) we drove a nail and tied a piece of hay twine to it. (We found that other types of string had too much give, which made the rocker tracing turn out uneven.)
We put the 2×6 rocker on the nearest sawhorse. We used a T-square to be sure the string was centered and squared on the middle of the 2×6. I held the string exactly at the center mark of the rocker on the “bottom” edge. Next, without moving my fingers on the twine, I swept the end of the twine in an arc from end to end of the rocker. We had to move the sawhorses about another foot farther apart before we finally got the curve shallow enough to suit us. At that point, I tied a Sharpie marker onto the end of the twine at the place I had been holding. Then I swept the Sharpie from end to end of the rocker to draw the curve.
Herb was taking photos and I forgot to remind him to get a shot of the completed curve drawn onto the rocker. You can see a bit of it in photos below, but you’ll have to take my word that it ended up quite nice with almost no measurable difference between the two ends.
(5) Next we had to cut the rockers, and for this we needed a jigsaw which Herb had bought at Lowe’s. He had used one years ago, but for the life of us, we could NOT get the blade into this one. After half an hour of struggling with the blade, reading the directions, trying to decipher the pathetic drawings, and searching online, Herb finally drove back to Lowe’s with the jigsaw. A couple hours later he came back with a new jigsaw. It wasn’t us! It was the jigsaw!!! When no one at Lowe’s could make the first jigsaw work, they all agreed we had gotten a faulty one! We were glad to discover that we weren’t jigsaw idiots!
(If you’re lucky, you can skip step 5 and go straight to step 6!)
(6) Cut the rockers. Herb started at one end and cut to the middle.
(7) Then he moved to the other end and cut to the middle again.
(8) On the first rocker, there was an uneven bit in the middle which you can see in the photo above and below (on the closest rocker to Herb).
By the time he cut the second rocker, Herb had refined his jigsaw technique and got a very even edge.
(9) He used a hand plane to smooth out any unevenness so that the rockers would move smoothly.
(10) The final step was to screw the rockers onto the ends of the plywood bases. Somehow I neglected to take a photo of this process, but here is the completed bed above (right). You can see a rocker-less plywood base at left, also minus a mattress.
This close-up shows the completed bed at right with the rocker in place. You can see by the reflection on the floor that there is indeed a small gap between rocker and floor. And yes, the bed does rock! It’s a very mild rock because we wanted to imitate gentle ocean waves, not sea monster-riled turmoil! The final step will be to cut strips of excess carpet and tack them to the bottoms of the runners, thus making the bed easy to slide in and out for making up.
If you are quite sharp-eyed, you will notice that the rocker-less bed frame at left does not have a 1.5″ gap at the end for the rockers. This was a goof made on the first bed, but it can still have rockers–they will just go inside the frame.
(11) The final touch on the beds still has to be done. Herb will cut one 75″ piece of 1×6 and attach it along the outside edge of the bed. It will jut up about 1″ high to serve as a “stop” for the mattress; the rest will hang down to cover most of the bed frame without interfering with the rocking motion. I will stain the decorative 1×6 board, add an ornate gilded appliqué in the middle, and screw in two lion head drawer pulls, spaced widely enough that I can easily grasp them to pull the bed out from the wall. Once that final touch is done, I’ll post a photo below so you can see the finished project.