Sarah and I have a little wiener dog named Sadie. She's pretty cool (also a little stubborn and a bit crotchety). We've had her for almost five years now, and since we've had her, she's never had her own bed. We've bought cheap pillowy things, but they never last. She'll lie on anything soft, so buying or making her something that would last just wasn't a priority. Well, Sadie is getting up there in age, and I thought she was due a little bed that she could call her own for years to come. There was also a wood working technique that I'd been wanting to try, called kerfing (I'll get into that), and this was the perfect project to try it with.
It's hard to put a cost on this project because I made it totally from scrap material lying around the shop. To estimate, I'd say you could make this for about 50 bucks, which is a steal! Plus, like I always say, it feels a lot better when you make it yourself. I loved making this bed. Give it a try; I'm sure your dog or cat or hamster would love a custom bed.
Somebody please make a hamster-sized one.
-poplar hardwood plywood (I'll get into this more later)
-1" – 1 1/2" doweling ( you only need about a foot)
-a couple yards of heavier cloth material
-Kreg pocket hole jig
So, first things first. What size animal do you have? If you need to, measure the little critter. I didn't do that. I just imagined holding Sadie and started measuring and drawing on the wood. Since I have a terrible memory, I almost made the bed too small. Sarah walked into the shop right when I was about to cut out the base. She lovingly pointed out that I was an idiot and that Sadie would not fit in the bed. Of course I argued that she would, but then reality set in, and I ended up making it almost twice the initial size, which was a perfect size.
So go ahead and measure and save yourself some time.
Before you cut the base out, find the circumference so you can cut out the wall section. I used a piece of rope to find the length. All you do is carefully place the rope or string (it works best with a stiffer rope) around the edge of the base. You don't have to place the entire rope at once; you do a couple inches, then slide your finger over. After you've got the length, determine the height (considering the size of your pet). I split the total circumference in half, so I had two pieces to cut.
Step Two: Let's go kerfing! Such a funny word, kerfing. A kerf is the slit you make when you cut a piece of wood. Kerfing, a process where you cut a series of slits, makes the piece of wood bendable. If you look at the first picture, you'll notice that I used a couple of different types of plys. On the left is poplar plywood and on the right is oak. The poplar worked the best; it was so bendy after I kerfed it and bent like a dream. The oak obviously worked; it was just a bit stiffer and didn't bend as easily. I also tried making a wall with a piece of pine ply; it snapped right off the bat. Don't use pine.
Alright, so the actual process:
I had the two pieces of plywood cut to length and height needed to circumvent the base. I rounded off one corner for the "entrance" side. Using the rope again, I found out where I needed to kerf. I started about 1/4" before and after each curve. I then drilled some pocket holes on the straightaway parts. Then I was ready to start kerfing. I set the depth of the table saw so that it would leave about 1/8" to 3/16" of wood left (or one layer of wood in the ply). Then I just start cutting slits 1/4" apart. It takes a bit of time.
Step Three: This was the most satisfying and nerve-wracking stage. You just spent all this time preparing the pieces (measuring/cutting/drilling/kerfing), and now you're going to try to bend it! I actually went through four walls making this bed. It was worth it.
It's a pretty straightforward process. Start by screwing in one side (lay some glue down before screwing). I started with the back, so I knew it would be dead center; the front part has more flexibility where it starts or ends. After you have the end screwed in, slowwwwwwly bend the wood, screwing the straightaways down when you get to them. Repeat for the other side.
Step Four: Maybe I should have done this step before bending the walls, but I didn't, and it turned out all right. Decide for yourself when you want to. I initially was going to fill the kerfs with wood filler then proceed with painting and poly. There was a lot more space that needed to be filled than I thought, so I made a slurry of sawdust and wood glue. No measuring was involved; I just threw some sawdust into a small bucket, then started pouring in wood glue. I ended up using about a bottle's worth. I added glue till the slurry was about the consistency of putty or tuna salad.
I filled in all of the kerfs with the slurry, using my hands and a putty knife. I tried to make it smooth as to eliminate a lot of time spent sanding. The slurry was left overnight, then sanded. Then the wood filler was applied to make the surface as smooth as possible. After the filler dried, there was lots more sanding (course grit to fine).
I don't really sew, so I'm not going to try to teach you about it. I made this pillow. I'm proud of it; it's the first one I ever made. It could definitely have turned out better. Maybe in the future when I've gotten a little better, I'll try to share some tips.
There you have it. The bed is Sadie-approved; that's what really matters. I love walking into the room and see she's sleeping in it. I hope you give this a try. Kerfing isn't really hard. You do need a table saw to do this, but if you can access one, this was a really fun project. Leave any questions in the comment section, and I'll try to get back to you. Now, what other things can I make with curved wood… ?
Credits // Author: Josh Rhodes. Photography:Laura Gummerman & Sarah and Josh Rhodes. Photos edited with Imogen from the Folk Collection.