Resolving a Rickety Bed Frame
Issue: Issue 259
Posted Date: 10/5/2010
I am a member of the Society for Creative Anachronisms (SCA), and we do a lot of camping. Because neither my wife nor I can sleep on the ground without waking up in a lot of pain, I built a queen-sized bed using glued together 2x4s as corner posts (since the only 4x4s that I could find that weren’t pressure treated turned out to be rotten), side rails made out of 2x10s, head- and footboards made from 2x12s (two boards, one on top of the other to make a tall headboard), four slats topped with three-quarter-inch plywood underneath a queen-sized futon mattress. The 2x0s, the 12x12s and the 2x4s I used to make the corner posts are all of white pine.
In order to make this bed easy to take apart for transport, I used hardware that is similar to that used on beds used in the house (fingers that fit into sockets). Unfortunately, the bed was very hard to set up: it fell apart on my son several times as he tried to set it up. To try and fix this, I replaced this hardware with hinges so that I could pop the pins out when I wanted to take the bed apart. However, the bed is not as stable as I would like. Can you give me any suggestions on what I can do to make this bed more stable? We will be using the bed the end of this month on a camping trip, but I am planning on rebuilding it from the ground up this fall/winter.
Since the bed is used for outdoor camping I was also thinking of using pressure treated 4x4s for the corner posts. - John Bridges
Chris Marshall: It sounds like the hinge hardware still allows too much play when the pins are installed to keep the framework tight and stable. I would want a better solution as well. You've also tried the bed rail fasteners, but with disappointing results. I have two ideas — both for you to consider when/if the time comes to rebuild that bed. First, consider using bed bolts run through the corner posts and threading into captured nuts in the rails. Tightening up this hardware should take the "slop" out of the bed frame and still give you the knockdown convenience you want for transport. You can see a photo of those bolts here. Rockler sells them, as do other woodworking suppliers. Another option would be to connect the rails to the corner posts with long through tenons, then use a wedge tusk to lock the tenons against the back sides of the posts (think of a traditional trestle table base). This would also give you a way to disassemble the frame, but building the frame would require more sophisticated woodworking at the outset.
Tim Inman: All that lumber is overkill, John. But, if that's what you want, then you have to deal with the consequences. There is no way in my mind that much lumber can be made lighter and easier to handle. Short of building the bed on a trailer, permanently, I'm at a loss. If it is just comfort you're after, why not use a nice inflatable mattress that folds up when you're done with it?