Introduction: Folding Bed Bench (Hidden Cot)

Picture of Folding Bed Bench (Hidden Cot)

I found a version of this bed at a local antique barn. I loved the idea of it and couldn't find any plans online. So here is my interpretation. 
This bed works well for small basement suite my wife and I rent. We love having friends over, but if anyone needs to sleep over they are usually subjected to the floor. This handy bench solves the problem and provides a conversation piece at the same time. 

This project posed a few complications. Precision and accuracy are necessary. Replicating 32 1x7/8"x24 pieces with 3 holes drilled in the correct spot is difficult. 
Hardware is expensive, again everything needs to be the same. I tried to avoid using washers and discovered the leg pieces flexed and jammed against themselves. Washers solved this issue. 
Finding material that can flex but is still strong enough. I chose this canvas but it will still need to be reinforced with a cotton belt along the edge to prevent the grommets ripping out of the fabric. 

         What I learned: 
No need to replicate exactly what you see, I made the legs 1x7/8x24" because that's what the original was. It would be simpler to do 1x1x24 
Mock everything up first
Sand after everything but before applying a finish. 
Be flexible and don't stick to the original design if it doesn't work. 

I hope to make another in the future and will post a more detailed instructable.

Hope you all enjoy the photographs. 

Maple (Hardwood store listed it as "Eastern maple")
Thick canvas 
               Tools used:
 Drill press
Thickness planer 
Table saw
Mitre chop saw
Cordless drill
Orbital sander
Hinges (x2)
8x2 wood screws (
6x 1 3/4 wood screw (x8)
3/16x 2 1/2 metal screws (x44)
3/16 nuts (x44)
washers (44)
1 5/16 eyelet (x16)
Brass grommets 3/4 (x14)
latch with eyelet (x2)


lsmith254 (author)2013-03-03

Five stars! I love the old designs...we have to salvage and revamp them as we find them because the particle board, masonite and cardboard furniture out there is garbage designed to break, forcing us to buy more. And that price range is right; set up cutting jigs for wood and sell them as DIY kits. Everyone needs to get back to learning these kinds of skills!
Tip on the grommets: mark fabric carefully and set them dead-center on those marks; less than 1/8 inch off and you will get that sofa-bed "bar-in-the-back" feeling. If you are new to using grommets, they can be removed carefully with a pair of wire cutters. If you can't find matching strapping or webbing, just fold the fabric so there are three full layers of canvas for your grommet row. Dampen your canvas with a sponge during test fit and apply pressure with your palms at tight points. Allow to air dry in open position.

Samw (author)lsmith2542013-03-03

You have a very good point. I had my wife hold one end of the fabric taught while I marked the center line on the fabric where it lined up with the hooks.

lsmith254 (author)Samw2013-03-03

;.). Thought others might like this did a great job! No diagonal pull lines, either. Impressive work.

margarethd (author)2015-02-03

A a idéia,vou tentear fazer depois posto as fotos.

kreator (author)2014-06-17

This looks really neat but I have question..doesn't it feel uncomfortable laying on it because of the support pieces running through out it..thanx in advance

karisteed (author)2014-02-20

I am going to attempt to make this bed bench but I have a few questions first, if you don't mind helping me.

1: what are the spacing/placement measurements for the metal screws.

2: what are the measurements/spacing of the back bracing?

Thanks so much for posting this, it will be perfect for my needs!

CindraPalmer (author)2013-06-13

I love this. The original was made for the British army officers serving in India in the 1800's. there is a company in India producing these (for tons of money) but I wanted to build my own to put into my van conversion. Thanks again!

k24tea (author)2013-04-08

This is truly a creative design and an excellent multi-purpose solution for an occasional bed in a small space. Thank you for sharing your rendition! Your photos and description are very clear, and your finished product looks quite professional. I would like to make one like it, but I'm not sure I understand the functional relationship between the bench top, the first set of legs, and the two wide boards across the front face when the cot is opened out. It looks like the top is hinged up and back, forming a sloped headrest. I understand that the two wide boards across the width of the bench/cot provide stability against racking, but do they also somehow support the angle of the headrest? Could you please explain how this works, or perhaps add another photo or a drawing with measurements showing that relationship? Thanks very much!

Samw (author)k24tea2013-04-11

Hi k24tea,
You aren't the only one who has asked me this. I think I will try to upload a sketchup file (if that's possible on here) to show how it works.
In brief, the two wide boards across the face act as a brace/stop, they are distanced apart so when the legs fold open, they meet each other at 90 degrees. This is actually a feature I adapted from the original model.

k24tea (author)Samw2013-04-11

Hmmm...I think I can figure it out if I make it without the face boards, then add them in the right places while the legs are opened out. It's a very clever design feature! If you do manage to upload a SketchUp file, or even just a drawing with the relevant dimensions written in, I'm sure that I and many others will be very appreciative of your effforts. Thanks again for sharing such a great project!

blodefood (author)2013-03-12

When I saw this, I almost did a happy dance! This is about the most useful, compact folding bed I have ever seen. Fantastic 'ible.

Would you be able to tell us the weight capacity (up to ? pounds/kilos)? I wonder if it could be made a little wider and two of them side by side would be a double bed.

Samw (author)blodefood2013-03-17

Well... ahem, I weigh 190-200 lbs depending which way the wind blows. It holds me well. If you did make one wider then I would imagine using plywood slats would be a better support system than canvas. A foam mattress could then fold up underneath and be placed on top of the slats.

spylock (author)2013-03-08

Thats cool for those that drink,its kinda like a bar.If youve had your limit,or more you can sleep it off right there.

realife11 (author)2013-03-05

Great job!! This also looks like it would be much firmer and stable for the back, than anything you could buy today. Thanks for posting this :-)

danamark (author)2013-03-03

What is the weight of this? Thinking this might be useful in a small DIY camper. In Europe they build campers with bare minimum, multifunction in mind, ex, fold down hinged wall bunk beds that function as day seating, in the US, everything is built, decked in, like a large kitchen, cabinets, doors, for looks, with the weight to go with it. Most are way over what any US compact cars can tow within specs. There is a reason they use FlexSteel seating on railway cars.

Samw (author)danamark2013-03-03

This has substantial weight. Close to 20 lb.

danamark (author)Samw2013-03-04

20 lbs most likely isn't too bad when you consider they plywood in a frame, the mattress, all adding major weight. Trying to keep camper weights in the 1,500-2000 lbs range is tough, you need a lot of double duty functioning items. Being able to remove bedding, vs built in framed, is a big plus as the trailer/camper can do double duty. In my case hauling pellets for a pellet stove in the winter, about 3 tons worth. What I want is a place to sleep without the bugs and AC installed. The bugs will carry you away on some parts of North Carolina's beaches and their camp sites have zero trees for shade.

Check out this one

oimmuk (author)2013-03-04

Hmmm, I could just see a Cutting jig with oversized rolled pin sleeved holes for drilling set it up on a cut off saw or small table saw and you got a real neat arangement.

mtnredhed (author)2013-03-03

One of the more useful projects I've seen in awhile. A great idea for urban living and kids who have friends over. Well done.

DDW_OR (author)2013-03-03

the cot i have "cuts" me on the elbows when i lay on my back. with this i can make it as wide as i need, about 34 inches + frame = 38 inches, round up to 40

Samw (author)DDW_OR2013-03-03

ddw_az, this is a great benefit of this design. However you may want to experiment with different strut support design on the legs. Notice on my version that it is a 6" piece placed between the leg and brace, you might want to try a longer version at a different angle

DDW_OR (author)Samw2013-03-03

It will be a few months until i do this. there are tooooooooooooooo many other critical projects.

madmommy (author)2013-03-03

You should definitely think about selling these. I can imagine there are also some soldiers (especially National Guard) that would use these, as having a working table in the tent is also something that gets packed on those 2 week summer drills. Space saver!

Samw (author)madmommy2013-03-03

Hey madmommy,
I have thought about selling them. Unfortunately this bed takes a lot of time and initial cost plus time would only make worth it to sell for $250. I hadn't thought about National Guard, but if they have to carry it themselves it would be too bulky and heavy.

sachfo (author)2013-03-03

This is great.

Judith756 (author)2013-03-03

Great idea! Great execution. I have frequent bicyclists visiting and an extra bed that takes little space to store it always welcome. Big plus when it can be used as side tables for a couch. Just stain them to match your other furniture.

garys-pdx (author)2013-03-03

If you're serious about selling these beds you should look into the tiny house market. These folks build and live in houses that are typically under 200sf and a multi-use item like this would fit well into their lifestyle.

Also, most tiny houses are custom built so you could offer finishing that complemented the finish of their house. I would suspect that you could easily get $250 and probably more though the market is limited.

Take a look at:

shyrell (author)2013-03-03


raviolikid (author)2013-03-03

This is an elegant solution to a common problem - and beautifully executed. Congratulations!

Arghus (author)2013-03-03

simply genius

Lindie (author)2013-03-03

Love it! Great idea!

StoryAddict (author)2013-03-01

This is so cool! I love couch-surfing when I visit my best friends four hours north, but I really wish I had a bed of my own that I could just fold up. This would be perfect and a fun project to boot. How much do you reckon you spent on supplies (sans power tools)? (I do not have a drill press, but I reckon using a pegboard-guide with a drill might work the same).

Samw (author)StoryAddict2013-03-01

I spent quite a bit on the lumber, about $50.
Hardware was also expensive about $20
Canvas was salvaged from an old military cot for about $10.

Try to set up a "stop box" for drilling holes, that way you don't have to measure out the holes on each piece.

mole1 (author)2013-03-01

This is so cool!!

mcsxr2 (author)2013-03-01

Wow! Just what I need. Lets see.... one for the house, a couple for the waterfront,and one for winter camping. Problem solved!

Phil Cyr (author)2013-02-28

Whoa, love the style!

Penolopy Bulnick (author)2013-02-28

That is really nifty! How is it on the comfy scale? Above futons?

Samw (author)Penolopy Bulnick2013-02-28

Hi Penelopy, I prefer it over the floor and over the futon. I'm 6'4" and find futons too short (usually) and prone to feeling hard after time. I also don't like how they look and how they can fall apart when being used as a couch.
But this is like sleeping in a hammock that doesn't rock.

Penolopy Bulnick (author)Samw2013-02-28

Oooh, that sounds cool! The hammock feel with more structure and stability :)

About This Instructable




Bio: Agriculture student interested in Integrated Pest Management. In the mean time I enjoy using Google Sketchip to plan my ideas which I occasionally make.
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