Disappearing beds and eating pillows.

Workshopshed: Today’s guest post is from Russ who is making the most of his space with a fold-down bed.

Russ: Fold-down beds – also known as ‘murphy beds’ are great for occasional use in spare rooms and compact flats. They keep the floor space clear when the bed is not needed, and are simple and fast to operate with one hand when the bed is required. However they do have a problem – the headboard.

With most folding bed mechanisms the mattress is positioned about 30cm away from the wall when the bed is down, and the mechanism does not allow a traditional headboard to be easily fixed. This makes for an awkward gap that is almost purpose-built to lose the pillows in.

My first solution to this problem was to make a parallelogram bracket using panels of chipboard and hinges to mount the headboard to the wall behind the bed, and have it pop out to land on the bed frame when the bed is down. I used a king size headboard for the double bed frame, as it was wide enough to span the outer frame for support. This meant that my bracket would not need to be strong enough to support the full weight of the headboard away from the wall, and would mean it was less exposed to twisting forces as someone rests against the headboard. I attached a couple of small pieces of wood to the bottom edge of the headboard so that it would lock into position on the frame, preventing side to side motion. A couple of heavy duty magnetic catches would hold the headboard in the up position.

This solution worked well enough, but it was heavy and cumbersome to install – each moving panel had 8 hinges, and getting them all aligned proved challenging – resulting in a squeaky and heavy mechanism. It was also hard to fix the bracket to the wall, requiring stubby screwdrivers and working at awkward angles.
A better approach was to use shoulder bolts and threaded inserts to create the hinged action. This greatly reduced the amount of hardware required, and meant that the brackets could be attached to the wall before attaching the rest of the mechanism.

Build

This is how I put it together:

  1. Create two identical panels for the parallelogram out of 18mm construction ply. These were roughly cut with a circular saw, then stuck together with double-sided tape and finished with a hand router to make sure they are identically sized. I made them about 88mm too wide.
  2. Mark out and drill the holes for the threaded inserts at the corners. I used a dowelling jig to do this as I don’t have a pillar drill, and it was easier to get the holes drilled while the panels were wider than necessary, to avoid having to drill close to the edge. I drilled the holes slightly large, as a tight fit so close to the edge of the panel would risk splitting the wood when knocking in the threaded inserts.
  3. I then used the hand router  with a 6mm cutter to cut the excess strips off the panels, the 38mm offcut strips would be used to make the brackets.
  4. I finished the edges of the panels with a roundover cutter in the router. Rounding over the edges reduces the clearance required for the brackets.
  5. I then gently hammered in the inserts. A couple of the corners did split, so I drilled out those corners a little more and secured the affected inserts with araldite epoxy glue. My first attempt used screw-in inserts rather than knock-in, but these proved too challenging to get in square.
  6. The offcut strips of ply were 38mm wide, which is perfect for the 40mm shoulder on the shoulder bolts to give a small amount of tolerance for play. I cut 4 short pieces for the headboard side, 4 longer pieces for the wall side, and finally two mounting rails for the wall side.
  7. Each of the 8 brackets needed a hole drilling through the edge at 90 degrees. I had a few tries using the dowelling jig, but in the end I seemed to get better results just by eyeballing it. This was the most problematic part of the build, and I really missed not having a good pillar drill. The holes were all offset slightly so they were closer to one face than the other – providing a couple of mm of clearance for the folding mechanism. 
  8. The longer brackets were then glued to the wall rails, and holes drilled ready for fixings.
  9. To finish the parts, they were lightly sanded with 120grit, then given two coats of undercoat and a coat of matt satin paint.

Installation

  1. I assembled all the parts and laid them out on the back of the headboard, positioning so that the top parallelogram panel was close to the top edge of the headboard, then screwed the short brackets into the headboard.
  2. At this point I also attached the magnetic catches, to ensure that they were positioned on the wall rails in a manner that would connect properly with the metal strips on the headboard.
  3. I also attached a spare kitchen cupboard damper that I had left over from another project – the intention here was to damp the downward motion of the headboard but it only has a limited effect – a matching pair of dampers more properly tuned to the weight of the headboard would do a much better job.
  4. I then positioned the headboard on the bed the right distance away from the wall, and marked out the position of the rails against the wall.
  5. I could then set the headboard aside and remove the rails, and mark out the positions for the fixings.
  6. This particular wall is of ‘dot and dab’ construction which resists most attempts to fix anything to it. Fortunately I had learned of ‘corefix‘ plugs which are long enough to go through the plasterboard and into the blockwork behind, and use a steel core to ensure the blockwork takes the load rather than the board.
  7. With the rails fixed to the wall, I could then offer up and attach it to the rails with just the 4 shoulder bolts.

Workshopshed: Thanks Russ, another top project and some useful hardware.

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