Picture of DIY $125 Futon
/* I submitted this project into the 4th Epilog challenge. The project was accepted, but didn't make the final cut before judging. Thank you to everyone who voted, and congrats to the contest finalists! */

Hello fellow DIYers. I'm the DiscountCollegeStudent, but you can call me Disco Stu for short. As my name implies, I'm a college student, and I'm cheap. But don't assume that just because I said you can call me Disco Stu, that I like Disco.

// A quick intro - why I'm on this site, and what I'm looking to accomplish. Feel free to skip if you're bored by long-winded speeches //

I began college at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2008, and halfway through my first semester, the economy collapsed. I struggled to make ends meet in the second semester, and after the school year finished, I withdrew due to financial constraints and moved back home to OC. I spent 2 years taking courses at the local community college in an effort to save money on my GE. College has always been expensive, and a relatively difficult time in a student's life, but it has gotten worse in recent years. If you graduated before 2007, consider yourself very lucky - no matter how much debt you may currently have or whatever worthless degree you may have gotten. If you're currently in college, or getting ready to go soon, cheer up - the worst has yet to come!

Because of the
nature of today's economy, anyone right now, but especially college students, can truly appreciate a good bargain. I'm returning to Berkeley to finish up my degree in Computer Science, and have set out to further change my spending habits in an effort to stretch every dollar. I'll document my efforts on this site in hopes of helping my fellow college students, or anyone else, who may be looking to save a few bucks here and there.

I will try to post up about 2-3 major projects per year to try to give college DIYers a nifty way to save money, acquire something functional and useful, while also getting that DIY monkey off their backs. I'll also post mini-projects if I have any. This is the first project of the many I currently have planned.

// Ok, done rambling //

Back in 2008, I went to my local Wally Mart and got myself a nice futon. It was rolled tubular steel, had good welds, and came with a decent mattress, all for $100. Because of its size, I had to give it away to a friend when I moved. Now that I'm going back to college, I want to get another one. Unfortunately, current futon prices, much like Pet Rock prices, are plain ridiculous . However, unlike Pet Rocks, making a futon at home isn't as easy as some Elmer's glue and googly-eyes.

I searched all over the internet for a good set of Futon instructions. And by, "All over the internet," I mean the first page of Google. A lot of information is scattered here and there, and many of the whole project pages are old. Really old. Like, 1989 "I typed these instructions while playing a radical text-based MUD game..." old. Amazingly, I couldn't find a fully fleshed-out set of plans on Instructables for a proper futon. So I set out to change that.

I collected what I could, and aggregated it all here on this project page for your viewing pleasure. If you've wanted to build a futon all your life (pretty low life expectations, if I may say so), and you wanted proper instructions from someone who knew what they were doing, you're in the wrong place. My woodworking and metalworking skills are next to none. I only own 2 power tools: a B&D cordless drill and my trusty Dremel 300. What I do have, is a good set of basic hand tools, and a lot of patience. If you want to try this project out, I'd recommend you have the same. Being a beginner myself, my instructions, and my assumptions, will be written with the beginner DIYer in mind.

To qualify as a proper futon in my book, it must have:
- Comfortable cushions
- A complex-motion folding mechanism (ie. something more complex than a bi-fold hinge design).
- A sturdy frame.
- Modularity (the ability to be broken down for moving, repairing, replacing, or cleaning purposes)

Remember to use full safety gear, including, but not limited to, work gloves, eye protection, and face mask/respirator. I am not responsible for anything stupid you might do to yourself. If you do something brilliant in the process of building this futon, I claim all the intellectual property rights to it. Patent pending. All rights reserved. No take-backs.

If you're up for it, let's begin. If not, there's probably a rerun of the Simpsons on right now. If you're lucky, it'll be one that doesn't suck (but don't hold your breath).
tedomatic9 months ago

This was one of the best written and informative Instructables I have ever read! I'm getting ready to build a futon for my daughter and was looking for some ideas on the mechanism. This isn't just a guide on building a futon, but a great introduction to different types of woodworking joints and project planning. I especially like that you did this all with hand tools. Thank you!

Great article! If you would like a break from making your own dowels we supply wooden dowels worldwide. Visit our website for more information or get in touch with your requirements.


aking342 years ago
hi did u use screws to secure the hinges or the bolts
DiscountCollegeStudent (author)  aking342 years ago
Screws. The hinges and its screws are countersunk, and using bolts would mean that the bolt head would make the cushion mounting surface uneven.
kleinjahr3 years ago
Nicely done, well made and written. For more ideas about breakdown furniture look around for a book titled "Nomad Furniture".
Is that Hennessey and Papanek? It just so happens that I ordered a copy last Friday off Amazon, but the seller won't ship til after Thanksgiving. Thanks for the suggestion, I was worried about the relevance of a 38 year old book, so it was a complete blind-buy. Now I feel better.
Could be. I've a copy here, somewhere(really should organize my books ). Did find The Nomadic Handbook by Hennessey. Some interesting ideas there ie: couch crate, bedroom in a crate.
As for relevance. In my opinion, it all has some relevance if not direct connection to what we do or make today. I look at Ctesiphon's force pump and see the beginnings of every reciprocating engine. Hero of Alexandria is my hero.
fantine3 years ago
BRAVO! You need never be unemployed if you can both work with your hands and communicate as well as you do. In your chosen field, you may well rack up a few patents. But this instructable is master work that reaches far more people, I'll bet. You have style to boot. Keep busy with your tools and your pen and best of luck to you.
DiscountCollegeStudent (author)  fantine3 years ago
Thank you, Fantine (Les Mis?). I appreciate the kind words. It's encouragement like this that drives me to do these projects and try to help others in matters big and small. Thank you!
I just spent the time to read your entire instructable and I must say that your English teacher is an ***. This is by far the best instructabe I have read to date. I love your method of identifying each piece of wood, and each side of the piece. I would be able to build this as is or modified, and clearly understand why the steps, which helps if it needs to be changed to suit a small bedroom perhaps, or for whatever reason. Just a fantastic, well researched, well written piece of instruction. Your newby status allowed you to understand what every other newby needs to know. Fantastic job!
Thank you, AmatureArtist56! Feedback like this is exactly why I decided to begin documenting my projects in the first place, although the possibility of winning a laser cutter doesn't hurt either. If you do pull the trigger and build this or modify it, feel free to ask any questions, and post up your results for the world to see.

BTW: My teachers are mostly alright. I'm just a chronic underachiever, as I'm sure a lot of Instructables members are/were.
wocket3 years ago
Wow great detailed instructable, and just in time for me to desperatly need a single bed frame. this give me the foundation and confidance to create my own. well done!
DiscountCollegeStudent (author)  wocket3 years ago
Thanks Wocket! I'm glad I was able to help you. If you are in need of a single bed frame, I'd point you towards the $15 bed frame by Stormthirst. Hopefully, you can get some more good ideas from that I'ble as well.
Great piece of furniture! I love the wood!
I had a great time building it, and was pleasantly surprised with how the wood came out looking. Thank you, Penolopy!