Introduction: How to Make a Fold Out Sofa/Futon/Bed Frame

I enjoy relaxing on a sofa and in my bed, and so it may come as no surprise that I would wish to combine the two. After searching Ikea and several other shops, I found the average price for a "tri-fold" futon was in the region of 120GBP ($150). I found this pretty steep for what is basically some planks of pine and a mattress.

So I decided to make my own.

Let me make this clear before I begin: This Instructable is only how to build the frame. I have not yet worked out how I will make the mattress or if I will attempt to buy one, but in the instructables spirit if anyone has any suggestions, suggest away.

This futon folds in three sections to give a comfortably wide (4ft) and long (6ft-ish) bed that could sleep two (if proximity is not an issue!). When it is folded up it forms a sofa that is close to the ground and has an open angle (about 100 degrees) which I find very comfortable to sit on.

I am not a carpenter, crafstman or a great DIY-er, I didn't even take wood tech in school, so this instructable is very accessable. So get up off your computer and turn that empty space in your bedroom or living room into a versatile piece of furniture! If I can do it, so can you!

Step 1: Materials and Tools

This is the list of materials and tools I used during the project. The wood I used was pine as it is cheap, relatively strong yet a little springy to make the futon a bit more comfortable. The type of wood you use is up to you but in my opinion, pine works best. My local hardware store cut the planks for me at no extra cost, but depending on where you go they may charge 10% extra: this is worth it.


12 x 1200mm x 95mm planks (20mm thickness: I think this is standard)
2 x 770mm x 70 mm planks (20mm thickness)
2 x 700mm x 70 mm planks (20mm thickness)
2 x 690mm x 70 mm planks (20mm thickness)

Also some kind of stain, oil or wax to protect it and make it look good.

Nuts, Bolts and Screws:

46 x 40mm screws (4mm head)
4 x 6mm bolts (6mm is the diameter: length needs to be no less than 45mm, 50mm is ideal)
4 x 6mm wingnuts (or regular nuts, but wingnuts are easier to use in assembly and disassembly)


Ruler (graduated in millimetres)
Set Square (or similar)
Electric Screwdriver/Drill
2.5mm drill bit
6.5mm drill bit
Manual Screwdriver
Medium Grade Sandpaper
Rasp or planer (a rasp is a bit like reusable, very coarse sandpaper, but a planer would work just as well)


Scrap piece of wood to test drill bits and screws

The total cost of the wood came to around 33GBP ($40) and the screws, bolts and nuts totalled about 2GBP ($2.50). I alreday had the teak oil so the total cost for this project (assuming you have all the tools) is around 35GBP ($45), but again this depends on where you shop.


When doing any measurements throughout this instructable, remember to MEASURE TWICE, CUT ONCE. This is very important as mistakes are easy to make and rushing things is not a good idea.

Other notes to do with safety:

- Always clamp wood that you are drilling or cutting
- Work in a clean, dry and well ventilated area
- Make sure you know how to use the saw and electric drill correctly and safely
- DO NOT work when you are tired or have drunk alcohol: you will make mistakes and you could injure yourself

Step 3: Preparing the Large Planks

For this step you will need the rasp or planer, and the glasspaper. You will be working on the 12000mm x 95mm planks.

1. Use the rasp to shamfer the edges slightly.

2. Glasspaper the plank to smooth the edges and surfaces, paying particular attention to the ends.
(The glasspapering is easier if you wrap the glasspaper around a small block of wood. I cut a piece of scrap I had lying around.)

Do this for all 12 planks.

Step 4: Marking the Smallest Planks (690mm X 70mm)

***Look at step 7 before doing the measuring to get an idea of what they should look like***

The smallest planks (690mm x 70mm) need to have a small section cut out of one end, the other end tapered slightly and one drill hole.

Small Section(requires some accurate measuring)

1. Measure 85mm down from one end and mark it.
2. At this mark draw a perpendicular line across the wood using the set square.
3. Measure an angle of 7 degrees from one of the edges. Rule a line.
4. Measure 37mm along this line (starting from the edge) and mark it.
5. From this point measure an angle of 95 degrees towards the end of the plank. Rule a line.
6. Shade in the section in the 95 degree angle and the other side of the 7 degree angle. This is the bit to be cut out (main picture).

Drill Hole(mark this before the tapered end)

1. Measure 30mm down and mark it.
2. At this mark draw a perpendicular line across the wood using the set square.
3. Halfway in (35mm) mark the drill hole.

Tapered End(basically two triangles)

1. At the end with the drill hole, measure 20mm down and 20mm across the top. Draw a line.
2. This is the triangle to be cut out.
3. Repeat on other side.

Step 5: Marking the Medium Small Planks (700mm X 70mm)

***Look at step 7 before doing the measuring to get an idea of what they should look like***

The medium small planks need on end tapered and a small triangle taken off the other end. They also need a drill hole at each end.

Drill Holes(mark these first)

1. At one end, measure 30mm down and mark it.
2. At this mark draw a perpendicular line across the wood using the set square.
3. Halfway in (35mm) mark the drill hole.
4. At the other end, measure 50mm down and mark it.
5. At this mark draw a perpendicular line across the wood using the set square.
6. Measure 15mm in and mark the drill hole.

Tapered End(at the end with the hole in the middle)

1. Measure 20mm down and 20mm across the top. Draw a line.
2. This is the triangle to be cut out.
3. Repeat on other side.

Triangle(at the end with the hole 15mm in)

1. Measure 25mm down on the side opposite the drill hole.
2. Measure 25mm across the top.
3. Rule a line between the marks. This is the bit needed to be cut out.

Step 6: Marking the Medium Long Planks (770mm X 70mm)

***Look at step 7 before doing the measuring to get an idea of what they should look like***

The long planks need one drill hole and one triangle cut out at one end.

Drill hole
1. Measure 165mm down from one end and mark it.
2. At this mark draw a perpendicular line across the wood using the set square.
3. Measure 15mm in and mark the drill hole.

1. On the opposite side to the drill hole, measure 35mm down and mark it.
2. Then measure 35mm across the top and mark it.
3. Rule a line. This is the triangle to be cut out.

Step 7: Cutting and Drilling

1. Cut and Drill where you have marked on the planks. (6mm drill bit)
2. On the tapered ends, triangles and cut outs smooth and sand roughly (not too much as some measuring is yet to be done).

Now your six small planks should look like this:

This is a good time to test the folding mechanism of your futon. It should be fairly obvious where the hinges attach and so forth but incase it isn't...

- The tapered ends attach to each
- The other end of the middle section attaches to the long section
- The cut out section of the smallest planks should rest on the longest planks when folded up

Step 8: Note: Measuring the Screw Holes

Now we need to add some screw guide holes on the planks. These will make sure the screws go in straight ensuring the best fit and so the wood doesn't crack. This is the most tedious part of the build and also one of the most important. This is a dangerous combination so concentrate. It should not take much longer than 30 minutes.


Step 9: Measuring the Screw Holes on the Long Planks (1200mm X 95mm)

These need to be measured differently:

- 7 planks need to be measured one way
- 4 planks another
- 1 plank is unique

The "7" planks(there will be 4 holes)

1. Measure 150mm down from one side.
2. Draw a perpendicular line across the plank.
3. Measure halfway and make a mark.
4. Now measure 20mm either side of the middle and mark your screw holes.
5. Repeat at the other end.

The "4" planks(same as last time only they are 170mm down)

1. Measure 170mm down from one side.
2. Draw a perpendicular line across the plank.
3. Measure halfway and make a mark.
4. Now measure 20mm either side of the middle and mark your screw holes.
5. Repeat at the other end.

The "1" plank(2 holes)

1. Measure 150mm down from one side.
2. Draw a perpendicular line across the plank.
3. Measure halfway and mark the screw hole.
4. Repeat at the other end.

Step 10: Measuring the Screw Holes on the Other Planks

The different planks need to be measured differently. On the four shorter ones there should be 4 pairs of holes (8) and on the two longer ones there should be 3 pairs of holes and one single hole (7). They all need to be measured along the top edge (see step 7: the top edges are the edges farthest up on the picture).

Shortest planks(690mm x 70mm)

1. Measure 85mm in from the tapered end along the top edge and mark it. (85mm from the original end of the plank: in retrospect this would have been easier before tapering the end).
2. Measure 40mm from this mark and mark it.
3. Measure 135mm from this mark and mark it.
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 twice.
5. Measure 40mm from the last mark and mark it.
6. You now should have 8 marks (4 pairs).
7. Rule perpendicular lines across the wood on all the marks.
8. Measure halfway in on these lines (10mm) and mark the drill holes.
9. Use this plank as a template for the second plank (see picture).

Medium small planks(700mm x 70mm)

1. Measure 145mm from the end with one corner cut off along the top edge and mark it.
2. Measure 40mm from this mark and mark it.
3. Measure 110mm from this mark and mark it.
4 Repeat steps 2 and 3 twice as with the small planks.
5. Measure 40mm from the last mark and mark it.
6. You now should have 8 marks (4 pairs).
7. Rule perpendicular lines across the wood on all the marks.
8. Measure halfway in on these lines (10mm) and mark the drill holes.
9. Use this plank as a template for the second plank (see picture).

Medium long planks (770mm x 70mm)

1. Measure 30mm in from the flat end along the top edge and mark it. (This is the single hole).
2. Measure 135mm from this mark and mark it
3. Measure 40mm from this mark and mark it.
4. Measure 125mm from this mark and mark it.
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 once.
6. Measure 40mm from the last mark and mark it.
7. You now should have 7 marks (3 pairs and one single).
8. Rule perpendicular lines across the wood on all the marks.
9. Measure halfway in on these lines (10mm) and mark the drill holes.
10. Use this plank as a template for the second plank (see picture).

Measure these twice to avoid errors. It will save you time, effort and money in the long run.

Step 11: Drilling the Screw Holes

Using the 2.5mm drill bit, carefully drill on the marks as close to vertical as possible.

On the large planks, the holes should go all the way through the planks.

On the smaller planks, the holes only need to extend about 20mm in (doesn't have to be exact).

Step 12: Finishing the Small Planks

After drilling the screw holes we can finish the small planks. The top edge (the one with the holes) should only be lightly sanded as it needs to sit flush with the large planks. I gave the bottom edge a strong bevel.

Step 13: Assembly

Now comes the interesting part. The key to the assembly is preparation. Firstly, screw all of the screws through the long planks so that the ends are just poking out the bottom. This will make lining up the planks on the smaller planks infinitely easier.

The 4 long planks measured earlier attach to the medium short planks (700mm x 70mm) the 7 planks attach to the other planks (the 770mm x 70mm one and the 690mm x 70mm one) and the single holed plank goes on the 770mm x 70mm one). It should be fairly obvious but it is important to get them in the right place so the futon folds properly.

Screw the planks in place to end up with the three sections of the futon. Before finishing the futon, check that everything works. Assemble the futon using the wing nuts and bolts and test it. Everything should work smoothly but if not, you may need to make some adjustments.

(EDIT) I have added an extra diagram which should help you see what I mean.

Step 14: Finishing the Futon

Disassemble the futon into its three parts. Give the whole thing a good sanding to get rid of sharp edges and to prepare it  for treating. Then treat the futon with what you like. I used 3 coats of teak oil which gives it a lovely colour and smell and protects it. However you could use wax or even stain, whatever works. Reassemble and you have a fully functional folding futon frame.


HollyMann made it!(author)2013-08-04

Awesome and useful instructable! If I were you I would submit this to a contest! :) Great job!!!!

VVBoredGuy made it!(author)2013-08-04

unfortunately because I made it so long ago it isn't eligible for any! glad you enjoyed it though

zacharylaporte made it!(author)2012-03-27

Sorry, but i am very confused on how to assemble this futon. What piece goes where? I am trying to make a detailed plan for my wood shop teacher and i can't draw the plan if i don't know how to assemble the pieces.

VVBoredGuy made it!(author)2012-03-27

I have added an extra diagram to the assembly step that should explain further which piece goes where.

With regards to your comment:

"Which support pieces are the 770x70, 700x70 &690x70? Ex.- Which one of these are the middle supports?"

See step 7. That should explain it.

zacharylaporte made it!(author)2012-03-27

Which support pieces are the 770x70, 700x70 &690x70? Ex.- Which one of these are the middle supports?

whisperonthewind made it!(author)2011-09-11

If you clamp two or three boards together, you could use an electric sander to finish the edges of them. I would still smooth the sharp edges down, because they could cut through the fabric cover of the mattress. It wouldn't take much to soften them.

As for making it higher off the ground, that could be accomplished by using wider boards for the support pieces, maybe.

VVBoredGuy made it!(author)2011-09-11

yes, i think the folding mechanism would still work properly if you increased the width of the planks, that's a good idea

oolala170 made it!(author)2011-04-22

how do you put it together

VVBoredGuy made it!(author)2011-04-22

have a look at the bottom of step 7, that tells you which piece goes where

coldbear made it!(author)2011-01-09

For the mattress check upholsterers. Not for the bedding itself (though you might get lucky, but they can let you know who supplies their foam. Strangely enough I've found foam suppliers across the US this way and they do not advertise. The prices from the foam distributors / manufacturers are astonishingly low, and you can get it cut the way you want.

VVBoredGuy made it!(author)2011-01-09

I got lucky at a local recycling centre! Found a futon mattress in good condition, just the right dimensions. I gave it a quick clean and made a cover for it out of nice, red, strong material (cost about £15). It looks very stylish in my room.

Please don't stop suggesting ideas about DIY mattresses though! One, I'm interested and two, the instructables community at large won't all get as lucky as I did.

steptrig made it!(author)2011-01-07

Awesome Instruct! For the futon, how about king size pillows sewn together then covered with heavy fabric? the divisions between pillows would make the tufting points easy to sew. You could also cover the pillows with batting or blankets for a more substantial seat. Or sleeping bags, or old comforters, or... This could be a great recycled project for all those old bedding bits and pieces.

VVBoredGuy made it!(author)2011-01-07

good idea, I could probably pick some old pillows up at a recycling dump or charity shop. the batting would help smooth it out aswell seeing as it serves as a mattress as well. and yes heavy fabric is a must i think

DianeH71 made it!(author)2016-09-26

great would you make me one ?

whisperonthewind made it!(author)2011-11-20

Another thought: you could make storage boxes - maybe out of 1/2" plywood - and use them as supports as a base. Add a couple to use as a coffee table with a removable top, and you could put those under the back of the futon to raise up the whole "bed" when in use. I'm not sure if this would support rowdy activity, but it would continue the whole mobile, portable idea, and the storage boxes could be used to pack stuff in when you move. If you move. What am I saying, of course you're going to move! Otherwise, you wouldn't need a mobile, portable sofa/bed thing.

If I didn't have so many projects going on, I'd be building one of these myself. I have a metal futon which is very comfortable, but I'd like to have one that could double as a chair, so that I could choose which one to sleep on. Also, the futon could go to the bedroom, but the chair could stay in the livingroom. Maybe I'll build two...

ChrisC6 made it!(author)2016-05-16

I was thinking the same thing, if you make the support 'beams' thicker for height th eback loses its support but if you had a large raised frame work, you could put drawers or storage. you could even make the back storage accessable from the top when its folded up or drawers under when sitting. I guess thats not very compact....

foothillbilly made it!(author)2015-12-10

I think I can work out the assembly from the pictures and instructions. I'm in the USA and cannot get metric lumber, as far as I know. I converted some of the sizes to inches and they're pretty close to some common sizes here. Would the assembly work with slightly different sizes?

StephanyM made it!(author)2015-07-30

I want to use this for a full size futon? Would I have to change the angles used if I use different lengths of wood?

varil made it!(author)2015-06-14

Hello, I need your opinions please. My plan was to make a plain bed frame but I came across this project and I would like to make something like this. And the problem is I will not be using a mattress. I'm planning to use a thinner material a blanket or something to put on my bed frame. Planning maybe 5-10mm(1/4inch) gaps between each planks. Would it be ok?

Lu%C3%ADsM17 made it!(author)2015-06-06

Done! Excellent instructable, it was hard to make sometimes, but the frame is simply awesome! I recommend it!

Lu%C3%ADsM17 made it!(author)2015-06-06

Lu%C3%ADsM17 made it!(author)2015-06-06

Vaxinius made it!(author)2015-06-06

Goodness me, this Instructable is perfect for what I need right now. However, living in Canada I've been exposed to both the metric and imperial systems growing up, and it just so happens most if not all of Canada measures lumber in imperial :( (1x4's and 2x6's etc). Metric is a better measurement, but is too uncommon here in the north american lumber world to instantly know what your talking about on paper. Putting these measurements in imperial equivalents as well as metric could increase your Instructables audience. Crazy here, I measure distance in kilometers, shorter distances in feet, weight in kilograms AND pounds...

faralina made it!(author)2015-03-18

Option 1: try your local Craigslist free stuff or for sale sites for a futon mattress
option 2: grab a sowing machine, heavy duty sowing needles, upholstery thread, durable outdoor material, heavy duty Velcro, and enough feather down to fill up mattress. And make to fit your futon frame. Note mattress should be measured to overlap frame 3-5 inches in flat position because when in upright position you want mattress to hang over frame to prevent pinching.

NeodimK made it!(author)2015-01-12

I used 95x25 boards. Great design, simple to make! Took me two days though, I had to use manual screwdriver.

NeodimK made it!(author)2015-01-12

I used 25 mm thickness boards, no problem, I also made it longer by one planc. I only had to find exact locations for hole where middle and short size plancks merge manually, which was OK and straight forward. Very japanese, but no expensive at all! Took me two days in all preparations and manual screw driving:).

johnnyfftt made it!(author)2013-03-16

i just want to tell you that I love this instructable. I consider myself pretty resourceful and mechanically inclined, the simplicity of this design makes it also very compatible with any type of decorating whether it be modern, country, or traditional, etc.

I will be making this within the week and hopefully I will have a good image to post up here as another "idea" for the community to consider.

magnia made it!(author)2012-07-04

Excellent job, really well explained and inspiring for anyone to have a go.

For the mattress, I think there are a number of ways you can go about this and I have some suggestions..

There's always cheap second hand futons forsale on eBay and you can pick up one usually for around £20 and just have the mattress or just the cover delivered if you can't collect the whole ones cost around £55-£80 on eBay.

One idea suggested to me by a futon manufacturer was to find a local foam supplier and get them to cut you a sheet of foam to the right dimensions...then you can buy some fabric off the roll from a local supplier and take it to a local seamstress to turn into a cover for your foam, unless your mrs is handy with a sewing machine ;-) You could cover the foam with a cheap mattress topper or wrap an old duvet over it for extra softness and comfort... perhaps you could even use the duvet cover if you can find one suitable to take the foam and duvet itself.

angelcarnivore made it!(author)2012-02-05

*Very* cool idea, I'm planning to make something similar for stealth-van conversion. I has seen a pull out version, but I think I like this better, or perhaps a combination of the two- where the back piece could double as the headboard of the bed.

As for a mattress- have you considered buying a futon cover, or heavy fabric cover, filling it with one or two breathable laundry bags filled with long-term clothes storage? That's what I'm considering, in order to double up on storage space. Lemme know what you think.

SIRJAMES09 made it!(author)2011-12-21


TY for sharing. B0)

SIRJAMES09 made it!(author)2011-12-21

Here in America, at the lumber yards, you can buy ready made legs for different projects & they(usually) Come in a wide variety of sizes...both length & thicknesses. Some even have a notch cut in them when you buy them to make it easier to attach to your project. Never been to GB so I have no idea what's available.

SIRJAMES09 made it!(author)2011-12-21

I agree totally!

No project, no matter how important it may be, no project is worth getting injured/killed over.

SIRJAMES09 made it!(author)2011-12-21

now, I'm no tailor by ANY stretch of the imagination, but I would think that a mattress could be made with about 3 or 4 pieces of fabric.

As I said, I am not a tailor by ANY stretch of the imagination.

The type of material needs to be something that will last many years; something that will NOT get snagged on the wood(or anything else) very easily; yet be comfortable to the touch.

Have 2 pieces about 6-8 CM wider than the frame & about 6 - 8 CM longer than the frame.

1 piece that is about 5 - 6 CM wide & long enough to go all the way around the first 2 pieces(picture a mattress in your head).

The extra 6 CM or so of fabric is what you will need to sew all the material together....

Make certain you leave an opening so that you can fill the mattress with whatever kind of stuffing you decide(be it polyester, down or some other feather, etc)
Make sure you over stuff it otherwise you will have a flat & very uncomfortable mattress in a very short time.

This is but 1 way to make a mattress, & it will be a whole lot cheaper making one than buying one.

zipzapper859 made it!(author)2011-11-03

I haven't had the time to read all the comments so i don't know if this was already posted, but maybe a big rectangular bean bag would work as a mattress. they are many instructables on making big bean bags

vijaynaru made it!(author)2011-08-30

Is there any possiblity if you can provide the photo or video of assembled frame in showing working before putting 12 Longest Planks on it. This part is missing from your tutorial.

bkuchars made it!(author)2011-05-27

Have you thought of adding feet to this to raise it off the ground a little bit. That seems to be the only thing different on store bought frames. Just wondering how the height off the floor is.

VVBoredGuy made it!(author)2011-06-07

also, check out celticcrush97's comments, they're along a similar line

VVBoredGuy made it!(author)2011-06-07

well it is slightly raised because of the thickness of the planks, it's about 9cm without a mattress but with my mattress on it, it ends up at about almost a foot off the ground. i'm not sure how you would go about adding feet because it would affect the folding mechanism, but there is probably a way around it, i'll have a think.

oolala170 made it!(author)2011-04-24


kraggle made it!(author)2011-03-22

I've checked out some easy ways to make the futon cushion but the best way seems to be too close to a price of what a pre-made cushion would cost, might just as well buy one.... and I also have a question and comment.... Comment: I love this instructable, this is what I've been trying to find for over a year.... Question: Can you put this into the standard measuring system and not metric, I'm American and we haven't converted over to metric like the rest of the world....that wasn't supposed to be read as insulting.... sorry if it did...

VVBoredGuy made it!(author)2011-03-30

as soon as i have time i will, but i have a lot of work going on at the moment, sorry. also, where would you buy a pre made cushion? are there places that sell just cushions?

kraggle made it!(author)2011-03-30

If it is too much work to switch the measurements, which I believe it will be off by a bit because of all the decimals, don't worry about it, I don't mind using the metric system. As for the cushions, you can either just google futon mattress, use, walmart, or several other online shopping sites. If you live in a country other then the USA, which I am guessing you do (not trying to be rude here) then I am not sure if these sites will work, they should though so give it a shot. All you have to do is just type what you want into the search bar and just wander around the interwebs to figure it out... I will post another comment if I found a futon mattress/cushion but if you find one just make sure you look at the details on the page and make sure it is the write size, I'm pretty sure you already knew that...

kraggle made it!(author)2011-03-30 or are two good options, you'd be looking for a "full size" mattress, that might go a little over the width of the frame but it doesn't seem too bad for the dimensions, you could always cut them down if you wished...

kraggle made it!(author)2011-03-30

I'll do some extensive searching to find the best price for both you and me, it does take a while because a lot of the prices are a bit high since they use some expensive materials.

celticrush97 made it!(author)2011-01-13

Also in couch form as well

VVBoredGuy made it!(author)2011-01-13

the same distance, about 9cm. although with my mattress it is about half a foot

celticrush97 made it!(author)2011-01-14

Thats pretty low to the ground. Any ideas to make it taller?

VVBoredGuy made it!(author)2011-01-16

short of redesigning the folding mechanism, no, although it may be possible to create some sort of extendable platform for the futon to rest on, perhaops with rails or rollers

celticrush97 made it!(author)2011-01-13

About how high is the bed from the ground when in bed form?

Andrey5678 made it!(author)2011-01-13

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