Currently Wandering » Outdoor Family, Adventure Travel, Simple Living - Family of 5 Traveling the United States in an Airstream.

Airstream Remodel: Queen to Twins Part 2

In Part 1 of this post, we removed most of the queen, , and cut the bottoms and the tops of the beds to fit the space we needed. Now, to build the rest of the beds! Before we dive in, please enjoy this shot of me looking manly at the miter saw.

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We were very lucky in this project to have my Father, Paul, out to help for a few days. He modified a needed trip to Salt Lake City to squeeze in some help for us, and we are grateful! The project progressed much better, and faster, then it would have without his help.

Our first order of business was to cut the vertical supports for the beds. We used 3/4 inch prefinished maple plywood for these pieces. We cut out the main supports for both sides at the same time, batching parts of the process where it would help. Our plans involved several notches to allow for trim, support in the front corner, and the hinge of each bed.

We removed the centers of each support to save weight, and the savings added up. I weighed the removed centers, and it was roughly 50 lbs of weight that would NOT be added to the Airstream. The removed middle weighed more then the surrounding piece! I relied upon the engineering knowledge (and extensive experience) of my Father to leave the right amount of material to provide the necessary support. The straight lines of the middle pieces were plunge cut with a skilsaw, and the corners finished with a jig saw. We routed the inside edges to make storage access a little less sharp.
Queen to Twin Part II_001Custom work requires lots of custom fitting. We scribed and cut the back of each piece to fit the curve of the Airstream. Note the blue tape visible on the leftmost support: each piece was fit and placed in order. You can see a temporary support attached where the bed hinge will be placed, as well as the empty front notch of each support.

The beds were formed by attaching the bottom 1/4 melamine to the vertical supports with screws. This allows the entire unit to be carried in and placed in the right spot as a single unit. This picture was taken during a test fit.
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In the middle of our workday, our previously ordered mattresses arrived. Each mattress was ordered the right size and shape to fit into it’s place. The mattresses arrived with all the air removed. As we opened the packaging, the foam began to expand to it’s proper shape and thickness.

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We spent a little more than minimally necessary, and bought a three layer mattress: memory foam, air foam, and then a sturdy foam on the bottom. I’m sure they have more formal names, but that’s what we are going with for blogging purposes. They are comfortable, and we like the zippered covers they came with. The mattresses were purchased from mattressinsider.com and cost roughly $900 for all three, custom cut from our previously made templates, and shipped. As a side note, we are extremely happy with this company. They have great customer service, walked Jess through all of our options and made recommendations. They even saved our templates should we want to order custom mattress protectors or sheets!

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We decided in the middle of the first day that some trim would finish out the job nicely. I had planned on using some gel stain on some oak or poplar to match the wenge interior (dark wood) on our International CCD Airstream, but hadn’t done the purchasing yet. We took a break and drove up to MacBeath Hardwood in Salt Lake City an bought a 5 foot piece of 4/4 wenge to use as trim. At over $22 a board foot, wenge is not cheap, but you’ll see later that it was worth it.

Working that wenge was a joy. We cut off just the segments we needed (note the DARK sawdust on the garage floor) and planed it down to the desired size. One coat of finish was all it needed, and we let it dry overnight.

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The next morning, we began the final assembly of the first bed, including cutting and installing the lower trim piece you see in the picture. This piece hides the front edge of the 1/4 melamine bottom, and sticks up enough to prevent the storage bins from sliding out from under the bed while towing.

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The bottom trim was secured with finish nails and brads, both through the bottom and into the 3/4 vertical supports. You can also see here that we had finished the mdf bottom of the 1/4 melamine as a moisture prevention step. Time will tell if that was enough.

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After the first bed was in place, we made quick work of the second bed for the other side. We cut and mounted the hinges to the 3/8 baltic birch plywood bed top, and secured them in place. The back of the bed top was secured to the vertical supports to hold those corners in place, and the front corner was supported with a strip of 3/4 maple. In addition to the bottom trim, each 3/4 vertical support received a piece of wenge trim to hide the front edge of the plywood.

The last major piece shown here is the covering of the white panel you see in the first picture, just behind the orange bucket. That melamine plywood was part of the original queen, but that piece was under the middle of the bed, and not visible. It was glaring white and ugly. When we removed the queen, we removed the end tables as well. Each end table had a section of wenge veneer plywood that we reused to cover the end. We cut the usable sections of the plywood, then used biscuit joints (unglued) to align the edges together. We screwed those panels in from the inside of the storage compartment. The seam between the two panels is nearly undetectable, and the finished effect is perfect.

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Between the wenge trim on the beds, the wenge panels at the end, and the relocated heater vent (not shown), it is very difficult to tell where the original work ends and the rework begins.

You’ll notice that the beds in the pictures do not yet have gas springs as a lift assist…. because I have not yet installed them!

Continue reading Part III!

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