Introduction: No-Sew Pet Bed With Cardboard Bolsters

So, I got a puppy a few months ago. After spending a few bucks on store-bought dog beds that the puppy viewed as giant chew toys, it seemed like a cheaper option to put something together myself.

And so the no-sew pet bed was born.

Design features:
  • replaceable fleece cover
  • cardboard bolsters
  • MDF base for some weight
  • no sewing
My puppy is a bulldog, so she's got an evolutionarily disadvantageous body shape. Her head and shoulders are disproportionately bulky, and she likes to rest her chin on available raised surfaces so she can lay down and still look around. The bolsters are great for this, and the cardboard doesn't seem to be too firm for her.

She is also a puppy, so she's still prone to gnawing on the bed if she can't be bothered to seek out a more appropriate chew toy. She's also peed on it a few times. Good thing that fleece cover is replaceable.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

I was able to source everything at the nearby orange big box home improvement store and a craft/fabric store that belongs to a fine woman named Joann. You probably have similar stores somewhere near you.

  • one sheet of 1/8" MDF
  • 3 yards of fleece fabric (this was enough for two bed covers)
  • 4" thick craft foam
  • duct tape
  • cardboard shipping tube
  • staple gun + staples
  • scissors
  • sharp knife

Step 2: Cut the Foam and MDF

Theory: the MDF base and foam comprise the sleeping surface and ought to be approximately the same size. Double the area of the sleeping surface to determine the approximate amount of fabric you'll need because you will be tucking and stapling it underneath. Extra space is not a problem, but too little space makes for an uncomfortable animal.

Cut the MDF:

Cut the MDF board to several inches larger than your pet in repose. Using a sharp knife, you can score along your predrawn cut lines several times to get through the board far enough to snap off the pieces you need. (You can also use a handsaw, tenon saw, jigsaw, circular saw, table saw, or laser cutter.)The MDF just needs to be able to hold the staples, you won't see it after covering the bed in fabric. No need to finish the edges if you don't want to.

I cut my sheet of MDF to about 16"x24". That just so happened to be the size of my foam as well.

Cut the foam:

Maybe you didn't get as lucky as I did when it came to your foam. Not to worry. Foam is not hard to cut, and it's super easy when it doesn't need to look great.

You can use the same sharp knife as before to make a series of shallow cuts until you cut all the way through. Your method will vary based on the type of foam you choose. (I've heard good things about using electric carving knives to cut foam.)

Step 3: Cut and Add Cardboard Bolsters

Cut your cardboard packing tubes to fit along the length of one or more sides of your pet's bed.

Duct tape them to the foam/board combination by running the tape all the way through the cylinder, then stick the ends of the tape to the underside of the MDF. That should help keep the foam and board together, and it keeps the bolsters from moving around too much. (They'll still give a bit, but with an 18lb dog it doesn't make much of a difference.)


If you want to overengineer your pet's bed, you're in good company. I have this notion that it'd be possible to firmly attach everything and still not need to sew by using zip ties and washers. I haven't tested this out, but it'd be a shame not to share what I intend for my second iteration:

Drill a couple of holes about an inch and a half apart in the MDF just beneath each end of the cardboard tube. Drill or punch matching holes in the cardboard tube itself. Use washers as makeshift grommets so the zip ties don't rip through the cardboard.

To really up the build quality, you could tuck a folded edge of the fabric beneath each tube, so that your zip tie runs through the MDF board, the foam, the fabric, and the cardboard. All protected from being torn out through the use of $0.30 worth of washers inside the folded fabric and inside the cardboard tube.

That all assumes that my second iteration wouldn't replace the cardboard tubes with foam rollers that'd been bisected lengthwise. Maybe in version 3.

Step 4: Cut Fabric to Size, Then Staple to the MDF

Now that the base, cushion, and bolsters are attached, it's time to add the fabric.

I simply draped the fabric over the entire bed, ensured that there was enough leftover to bunch and staple it to the MDF, then cut off the remainder.

I started with 3 yards of fabric only to realize I needed half that amount. The other half makes for a nice matching crate liner, and when it comes time to replace the cover, I can use that extra bit of fabric to reupholster the bed.


To staple:

Make sure that your fabric is completely covering the bed and that the only gaps are on the underside. Ensure that the fabric is stretched taut over the foam and cardboard (without creating too much of a tent effect from the cylinders to the foam surface), then start stapling the bunched fabric to the underside of the MDF. Make sure those staples go all the way in, and use as many as you feel necessary.

You may also try to staple the fabric to the undersides of the cardboard bolsters, but those are in constant jeopardy of popping out only to be ingested by your beloved pet later on. Up to you.

Step 5: Gratuitous Puppy Pictures/info

Breed: French Bulldog
Age: ~5 months
Sex: Female
Name: Penelope

Likes: long naps in the sun, long walks anywhere, frolicking in grass, chewing pine lumber
Dislikes: interrupted sun naps, sirens (police not mermaids), cold tile
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