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How to Build a Murphy Bed

Create a hideaway guest bed with shelf units.

More in Remodeling

position and secure bookcases around a murphy bed Watch Video
  • Time

    Several Weekends

  • Price Range

    $500 - $1,000

  • Difficulty

    Hard

Highlights:

Step 1: Cut the Wall Unit Face Frames

Use a table saw to rip 3/4x96" poplar boards to 1-1/4" finished width. You’ll need four lengths for the vertical face frame pieces and two additional lengths that will be cut into cross pieces.

Reset the saw blade to 1/2" depth and cut a 1/2" deep by 3/4" wide rabbet on one back edge along the length of each piece. The plywood sides and shelves will later be glued and nailed into these rabbets.

Use a compound miter saw to cut the vertical pieces to 95" finished length.

Cut two 1-1/4" lengths into 10 horizontal cross pieces, each 15-1/2". These face pieces will connect the plywood sides of each unit and help support the shelves.

cut rabbet on back edge along length

Step 2: Cut the Plywood Sides and Shelves

Use a circular saw to rough-cut six plywood boards to 3/4x11-1/2".

Reset your table saw blade depth to 1" and finish-cut the plywood boards to 10" width.

Use your compound miter saw or circular saw to cut four of these boards to 95" finished length for the vertical sides.

Cut the two other 10" wide boards into 16-1/2" pieces for the top, bottom and shelves.

Do a dry layout to ensure that all the cut pieces (face frames, cross pieces, sides, shelves and tops and bottoms) fit together correctly.

dry layout to ensure that all cut pieces fit

Step 3: Assemble the Face Frames

An inexpensive pocket hole jig will enable you to quickly and accurately assemble face frames using hidden screws. Use the tapered drill bit and stop collar provided with the jig. Set the stop to the proper measurement for your assembly, measure, mark and clamp the pieces together according to the jig’s directions and use the jig to drill pilot holes for the screws (Image 1).

Measure and mark the placement of the cross pieces, allowing an equal distance between each. Be sure the rabbet on the back of these pieces is at the top – the front of each shelf will rest in these cuts.

Use the pocket hole jig to drill screw holes for all intersecting face frame pieces. Remember to drill all holes on the back side, or inside face, of the frames.

Secure the cross pieces to the vertical pieces with 1-1/4" screws in the pre-drilled holes (Image 2).

Continue until all cross pieces have been added along the length of both face frames.

Cover the screw holes with special tapered wood plugs available with the jig (Image 3). After the screws are installed, place a drop of wood glue on each plug and use a hammer to tap the plugs into place.

Step 4: Assemble the Wall Units

Measure the placement of the face frame cross pieces and transfer these dimensions to the vertical side pieces. Use a square to mark lines for each shelf.

Insert the plywood side pieces into the rabbets at the back of each 95" long face frame piece. Use glue and finishing nails to secure them, then clamp the parts together until the glue dries.

Insert a shelf into each rabbet and use glue and finishing nails to secure it in place. The shelf tops should be flush with the tops of the cross pieces. Also make sure the shelves line it up with the squared marks on the vertical sides. Use finishing nails through the vertical sides to support the shelves.

Cut two pieces of 1/4" plywood to 18" wide by 95" long for the shelf unit backs. Use finishing nails to attach each piece to the back of each unit.

insert shelf into each rabbet

Step 5: Build the Bed Box

Although the construction of a Murphy bed box is a simple part of the project, be sure to cut all pieces to exact dimensions – a tight fit is essential for proper operation.

Once you've determined the measurements for your Murphy bed, rip two 1x12" poplar side-boards to the size needed to allow your mattress to sit slightly above the bed box.

Next, cut the shorter 1x12" end-boards that will form the top and bottom of the bed box. In this example, the top and bottom boards each measure 54-1/2".

With the top and bottom pieces cut, cut the 1x12" boards that will make up the longer sides. Use a square to mark the ends before making the cuts. In this case, the side pieces are cut to 77-1/2".

With the pieces cut, use a router to cut rabbets on the top inside edge of all boards (Image 1).

Here, the depth is set to 3/4". On the long boards, stop the rabbets short of the ends so they are not visible at the finished corners (Image 2).

Cut the bottom board from medium density fiberboard, or MDF, which is a good choice for interior projects such as this. It takes paint well and provides a smooth surface appearance when the bed is stored away.

Finally, cut a 2x8 to create the ledger board that will connect the bed box to the wall. Here, the ledger board is cut to just under 57" long.

Step 6: Assemble the Bed

Use glue and 2" finish nails to assemble the sides and the end boards of the box (Image 1).

Bore pilot holes in the ends where the boards meet, then secure with 2-1/4" wood screws (Image 2).

Repeat these steps until the sides of the entire box have been joined.

Install 6" metal L-brackets in the corners to hold the boards in position and add reinforcement. Secure the brackets with 1" wood screws (Image 3). To avoid splitting the boards, don't put screws in the holes closest to the ends.

Make sure the frame is turned so that the rabbet edges of the boards are exposed. Place construction adhesive along the rabbets, then set 3/4" MDF into the frame. Check to make sure everything is square, then bore pilot holes along the edge of the MDF every 6-8". Secure the panel with 2-1/4" wood screws.

Flip the frame back over and add smaller 2" angle brackets to connect the side rails and the bottom surface (Image 4).

To attach the ledger board, first install the 6" gate hinges to the board (Image 5), then to the bed box.

Position the bed box upright on temporary support blocks. Use shims to raise the box to the exact height and required position – in this case, aligned with the tops of the shelf units.

Attach the ledger board to the wall studs using 3" lag bolts (Image 6).

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