Are you looking for 18″ doll bunk beds and thinking about making your own? This post outlines my tutorial for making your own DIY 18″ doll bunk beds, perfect for any dolls this size—including American Girl dolls!
How to build your own DIY 18″ doll bunk beds
Today I’m sharing a project I spent A LOT of time on. I wanted to make something special for one of my best friend’s daughters for Christmas, and they love their American Girl dolls. After chatting with their mom for a bit, we decided that matching bunk beds would be a great choice.
And man, when I say I spent a lot of time on these, I’m not kidding. I spent a lot of time stressing over what kind of bunk beds I wanted to make. Then a lot of time browsing Amazon, American Girl, and other knock-off brands—as well as some of the DIY plans out there and the options on Etsy.
I really liked Ana White’s 18″ doll plans, but since I was making two, I wanted something that required a bit less wood, cuts, and construction. These lovely beds from Rogue Engineer were also a great option—but I very lazily didn’t want to deal with anything that wasn’t a 90-degree cut.
I also really liked these house-shaped doll bunk beds by Her Tool Belt. They remind me a lot of the twin-sized house-shaped bed we made for our daughter’s first big kid bed! And these stackable 18″ doll beds were cute, too. A little more in-line with what I was looking for.
Ultimately I decided that something simple like this (but without the ladder) would be my best bet. When I went into the project, I had a rough idea of the size I wanted it to be (basically the size of every other 18″ doll bed). But the first one took a bit of troubleshooting, as is usually the case when you don’t have a clear plan going in 🙂
So here’s what I used:
- 1×2, 1×3, and 1×6 dimensional lumber; 1/4″ plywood; 1/4″ square dowels (cut lists all below)
- 1 1/4 pocket hole screws
- Wood glue
- 1″ nails
- Fine-grit sandpaper
- Measuring tape
- Bar clamps
- Paint and finish of your choice
And here’s how I built my DIY 18″ doll bunk beds!
Step 1: Cut all pieces according to the cut list
First cut all pieces according to the following cut list. This project uses mostly 1×2, but the footer boards are 1×3 and the header boards are 1×6.
- (2) A pieces: 1x2x15.5″ (vertical headboard supports—actual: 3/4×1.5×15.5″)
- (2) B pieces: 1x6x9.5″ (headboard pieces—actual: 3/4×5.5×9.5″)
- (2) C pieces: 1x2x14″ (vertical footboard supports—actual: 3/4×1.5×14″)
- (2) D pieces: 1x4x9.5″ (footboard pieces—actual: 3/4×3.5×9.5″)
- (4) E pieces: 1x2x20″ (horizontal stretchers—actual: 3/4×1.5×20″)
- (4) F pieces: 1/2×1/2×20″ (long square dowel mattress supports)
- (4) G pieces: 1/2×1/2×8.5″ (short square dowel mattress supports)
- (2) H pieces: 1/4x20x9.5″ (plywood mattress base)
Step 2: Drill pocket holes
Next drill pocket holes on the ends of the (2) B pieces, the (2) D pieces, and the (4) E pieces. I love pocket holes, although this one is a pretty tough project to hide them on! Wasn’t looking forward to filling these before painting.
Step 3: Construct the bunk bed headboards
There are a few ways you can construct the bed. I did it two different ways for each bed, and they were about the same. I did need a right-angle drill attachment for one way, so I’ll walk you through the other way here.
First you’ll be working with the (2) A pieces and the (2) B pieces (the 1x6s). That’s the vertical headboard supports and both headboard pieces. Measure and mark 1 inch down from the top of both A pieces and 1 inch up from the bottom as well. This is where you’ll position both of the headboard pieces.
Use pocket hole screws to attach the B pieces to the A pieces (pocket holes are not pictured in the modeling files, but I’ve included images of the build process as well). Bar clamps are a necessary step unless you have an extra set of hands with a strong grip to help. This then forms the entire headboard side of the bed—both levels, top and bottom bunks.
Step 4: Construct the bunk bed footboards
Next repeat this process with the (2) C pieces and the (2) D pieces—the vertical footboard supports and the two footboard pieces (the 1x3s). Measure and mark 1.5 inches down from the top of the C pieces and 1 inch up from the bottom as well.
Use pocket hole screws to attach the D pieces to the C pieces just as you did in step 3. Now you have the entire footboard side of the bed constructed. Almost there!
Step 5: Attach the headboard and footboard sides
Next grab your (4) E pieces, the horizontal stretchers. These are what you’ll use to attach the headboard and footboard sides to form the bed. I chose to face the pocket holes in to hopefully minimize what I had to patch when I was done!
This was tricky to do by myself, but some of my assorted bar clamps helped keep everything in place. I positioned each of the E pieces flush with the bottoms of all of the four headboard and footboard pieces. I also positioned the E pieces toward the inside of the (4) vertical corner pieces.
Step 6: Add the square dowel mattress supports
Next add the F and G pieces around the perimeter of each of the bunkbeds. The pieces should all be flush with the base of each of the E piece horizontal stretchers, as well as the heater and footer pieces.
Step 7: Glue down the mattress bases
And the final step is to run wood glue all around the perimeter of the mattress supports you attached in step 6. Then gently place the H pieces of 1/4″ plywood down onto the glue. I didn’t nail these in place—just relied on the glue to keep things in place.
Step 8: Finish as desired
You can finish these however you’d like. I patched all of the visible pocket holes, cracks, and yucky parts with wood filler. Once that had dried, I sanded it down smooth. Then I painted the beds with two coats of latex paint and primer in one—satin finish for a finish that’s hopefully a bit more durable.
I also made some accessories for these beds, too. They really complete the project, don’t you think?
So here are the final 18″ doll bunk beds!
And here are the finished bunk beds! I’m so happy with how these turned out, and I hope the girls love them. What do you think?