Woodworker's Paradise & The Race Car Bed

Tiki BarWhat do you do when you want to get away, but for whatever reason be it a large workload or a lack of finance, you just can't?

Build your own private getaway. That's what I did, and that's where my love of woodworking shifted gears.

This Tiki Bar features Cedar Posts, a palm frond thatch roof, with a concrete bar top. There is a wrap around deck with rails which are threaded with ship rope. A few nautical decorations and some colorful lighting and its time for the first Luau.

Once the project was finished. I took a step back in my way of thinking. See, for years I have remodeled houses, no phase of construction was new to me, it's what I did. But, there was something about this project that made me really look at focusing on my woodworking skills in a different way. Instead of building a house, what about building the furniture that goes into one. Looking at some of the things hanging on my new bar, like the ship wheel, the way it was built, shaped and stained. Or the signs, how crafty & creative they were. Not to mention the bar stools, slick looking, the basket weaved seats and tapered legs. "I want to do that", I told myself.

I was getting burned out on houses, things were becoming routine, the only things changing was me. My body ached, my mind never stopped, my stress level was rising and my desire was fading. I was ready for a change. As time continued on, I started to acquire more shop tools, the things I would need for my woodworking. Clamps, table saw, drill press, more clamps. (You can never have enough) And so my Little woodshop started taking shape.

Shop pic   shop pic2 

So where to begin

Now that things were coming together, there was only one thing left to do. Build something, but where to begin? Make a cabinet, a jewelry box or perhaps something to give as a gift to someone? Christmas was coming soon, and what better way to get into the swing of things? Looking back now, I could of started off with a simpler project, but that has never been my style. Take a journey with me as I walk you through my first build.

The Race Car Bed

Where to start? I decided the best place to start was the internet. I was sure I’d find some kind of plan or design out there to help me with the task I set for myself. Little did I know the real task was going to be finding the design or coming up with a layout. I came across a few places that sold a full size blue print for a car bed but the plans were around $50.00 and I just couldn’t see myself buying a plan that I'm sure I wouldn’t quite be able to understand. I told myself I just need an idea of where to start. I found some pictures of car beds, that were close to what I was looking for. I just sat at the computer and studied the pictures the components and how the car was designed and any other information I could take away from the photos. And so it begins.

I needed to make some kind of template for myself. I made a quick sketch of the cars shape on a piece of paper and headed out the door. On my way to the big L box store for some materials and supplies, I knew I needed some ¾ inch MDF for the cars body because of its shape ability and sturdiness. I wanted a red race car for the color, so I picked up some Valspar Interior/Exterior High Gloss enamel (gloss red and gloss black) and Valspar tint able primer tinted to grey, a few 2x4 pieces of lumber for the supports for the mattress platform. I ended buying some inexpensive ¼ inch luan plywood to make the template. Well, after loading everything up, I headed home to jump right into the project.

The first step was to draw out the template and cut it out.

Template There are six basic components to the car’s frame. The body which as two parts to give the sides depth, the two wheel wells and the two tires once you cut out the components you just simply repeat the process for the other side of the car.

I drew in the windows and windshield so I could get a better idea of what the final product would look like. One problem I came across was the wheel wells. My cuts were rough and my arches were not perfect. I would correct this during the actual process to make sure I had a nice clean look. Once I had the template done, it was time to cut the MDF and the components for both sides of the bed.

car sideI cut the tires on the table saw using a technique I found on the internet for circle cutting on a table saw, which worked very well. All of the edges of the MDF should be rounded over except the bottom edge because it will sit flat on the floor. This brings me to another problem I encountered.

Well, more like an error then a problem, the main side of the body does not need to be routed on the back edge. This way when it is put together the outer side frame will round over into it to give it a flowing look. Instead of a double rounded over edge….I ended up filling this edge in with a wood filler to build it back out. That’s the thing about wood. Once you cut it, route it or whatever you do to it, you can’t put it back. You have to improvise and fix the error.

cut sidesOk, back to the build, all the sides are cut, routed, and sanded smooth, it’s time to assemble them.

Notice the 2x4’s and the back board…the 2x4’s serve 2 purposes, a way to attach the sides to the back board to give it some sturdiness as well as added support for the headboard shelf. The same goes for the front.

carbackMaking sure you have a level work  surface is very important, so that there is no wobble when the bed sits on the floor. Notice the open area in the front of the car. The grill and hood still need to be put on. An option here is to extent the nose out during the initial cuts and using this space under the hood for a toy box with a hinged hood. I decided against the toy box because I wanted a snubbed nose sports car.

Attach the sides to the 2 by lumber using wood screws recessed so when the outer sides are attached there is a tight fit. And don’t worry about the screws; they will be hidden by the outer sides.

car3It’s really starting to take shape I have attached the headboard shelf and the spoiler and now ready to attach the outer sides. But first I wanted to attach the back of the headboard shelf which I used my new Craig jig to attach the back to the sides and the spoiler using pocket holes.

car rearThe front grill and the hood were next. I routed out the headlights and the grill area about 3/8 inches deep. An alternative here is cutting out the grill area and putting in a plastic insert to give it a realistic look. once again, I decided to take the simple route.


carfrontAs you may notice, there is an awful lot of filler on the front. Poor planning and a crooked cut was the culprit there. After all, this whole venture was a learning process for me. I was learning as I go, and after all was said and done, there are some things I’m sure I would have done differently for better results.

cartireI routed out the tires to make the rim’s shape, painted it with a wood chrome paint and the gloss black enamel. Only mistake here was painting the tires too soon. I decided I wanted to route the all the way through the MDF so that the tires looked more realistic.

car primed It’s getting late in the day, but I attached the sides and the wheel wells so I could get a coat of primer on to set up overnight. Time to call it a night and get some rest.

Day two and the paint is ready to be applied. Now is the time to tape off the window, windshield, grill and headlight areas to protect them from the red paint. They will be painted later in the day. Blue painters tape works well for this, or you can use any masking tape of your choice.

Once the first coat dries, apply a second coat and remove the taped off areas to reveal the primer colored areas to be painted next. These areas will be painted black to give that tinted window look. The grill and headlights will also be painted in. Once everything is painted install the tires and this bed is ready to ROLL!! 

car grill One last personal touch. The little boy's name is Joshua, so I added the grill emblem to personalize this racing bed.

Finished carAnd that is the story of how my car bed went from idea to reality. A lot of trial and error, I learned a lot about paints, materials, as well as some of my weaknesses and strengths. All in all, it was a fun project and I know one little boy who can’t wait to go to bed at night!! As for me, well I was hooked, a woodworker in training you might say, but a woodworker nevertheless.


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