Introduction: Simple Tri-fold Futon Frame

****DISCLAIMER**** I built this in approximately 4 hours so this caused for it to be a quite improvised. Some of the measurements I made were not perfect, however, I made it work in the end. Also apologies for all the different units utilized in this project. If you follow these instructions, you may have to adjust some of the measurements I made. The beauty of rapid prototyping and creativity! :)

These instructions are for a full size mattress which I already have. I do not have instructions on the mattress, just the frame.

To begin, I would like to give credit to VVboredguy for giving me and idea on how to put this together and do some of the measuring. Check out his page, he has a very well explained instructable on a trifold futon frame. Also thanks to Lifecycle Building Center of Greater Atlanta for supplying the materials through sustainable practices while giving me a great price for all the wood used for this frame.

****If you are interested in my purpose for this project continue reading, if you want instructions skip ahead.

This past Friday August 25th, 2017, I had my first hackathon of the year at Berry College. In case you were wondering a hackathon is a competition in which people gather together for a 4 hour period of time and rapidly prototype whatever they think they can build in 4 hours. The goal of them is to not only build your prototype, but to learn, fail, and have fun hanging out with people who all have a similar goal in mind.

(Back story) Since mid summer, I had been trying to buy a futon frame as my original one broke since it was bought from a previous user who just so happened to manipulate it in a way to get it into a dorm. The problem with what they did was that it weakened the middle support and broke the entire frame. Not only was that a problem, but I realized that futon frames just happened to be kind of expensive. Since they were expensive, I figured the cheapest way to get around this price was to make my own. I bought all the wood from a place in Atlanta that sells used building materials for cheaper prices and took them to school with me.

In total, the project only costed me about $25-$30 which consisted of $10 for all the wood, and about $15 on the bolts and wing nuts. The tools I used were at my college so that could end up costing extra.

Step 1: Materials

For this project you will need:

  • 1x4 pine wood planks- approximately 96 feet. This did leave about an extra 12 feet however, it's always good to have extra in case a mistake occurs. (you can use which ever wood type you would prefer, pine is cheap and easy to find.)
  • 2x4 pine wood planks- approximately 8 feet.
  • 3/8 1/2" bolts- quantity of 4 (use the size you think would work best)
  • 3/8 Wing nuts- quantity of 4.
  • 3/8 Flat Washers
  • 2" wood screws- I bought a box, but only needed about 48 screws.
  • Drill bit- This came with the screws I bought, but find one that matches with the screws you buy.
  • 3/8 Drill bit
  • Drill Press or Drill
  • Miter Saw
  • Sander
  • Measuring Tape
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

Step 2: Cleaning Up and Finishing Wood

Since the wood that I used for this project was from a material reuse store, I had to clean up the used wood that I purchased. I considered planing; however I found it cut the 1x4s a bit too thin so I put in a lot of time and sanded down the planks of wood until they looked refurbished and new. (While I got the wood for cheap, they needed a little TLC to get them to look new again.)

With this process, I was also cutting the wood with a miter saw to prepare them for the hackathon. Since the mattress that I already possessed was a full sized mattress, I decided to cut the wood accordingly. Below are the quantity and sizes I cut.

**Always remember measure twice, cut once.

  • 12- 6' 1x4
  • 2- 30" 1x4
  • 4- 27" 1x4
  • 3- 14.2" or 36 cm 2x4

Once they were cut to their specific sizes, I sanded the ends.

*** Something I ended up improvising was cutting some of the corners at the pivots so they would sit flat on the ground. See picture of my terribly sawed edges that I had to do rather quickly in step 3.

Step 3: Measuring and Drilling Holes for the Bolts

Now that the wood was in the correct sizes, I had to start measuring and marking. I started by laying out the smaller wood planks I cut. I put 2- 27" 1x4 and 1- 30" 1x4 on the ground and lined them up. My next task was to find where I wanted to bold them so that they spread out to be approximately 72" or 6'. I ended up with it measuring to be about 77" with my design. To try and paint a picture for you since I was rapid improvising and did not think to take pictures constantly (sorry) so instead I made a diagram. I put the one 27" plank first followed by the 30" plank I put them in a line next to each other so it was about 72" or in this case 77". The two shorter 27" pieces were on the outside overlapping the 30" piece. I overlapped them by 8.5".

To drill the holes for the bolts to be placed. I found the middle of the 8.5cm and the 9cm wide piece of wood. The problem you may encounter is that wood is typically cut differently so make sure to measure the width of the wood and find the middle point of that section of wood. Check the diagram if you are baffled by what I just said.

After marking out the where the bolts will be placed, use a drill press or a drill with the 3/8 drill bit to make holes for the bolts to fit. Once they are drilled put the bolts in with the washers in place and then put on the wing nuts so the folding pieces are together.

Step 4: Marking Where to Put the 6' Planks Should Be Screwed in on the Side Pieces

On each piece, I measured from the the folds to the ends. I measured they were about 60cm. I divided this by 5 so I could make 4 marks that are about 12cm apart in which I would put the wood planks for the bench. Once I found the middle points for each of the planks to go, I measured the width (9cm) of the 6 foot planks so I could mark where they needed to be put down. See picture. I did this for both sides. In other words, I would mark 12cm apart, then I would hold a ruler up to the 12cm marks. I would hold up 4.5cm at the 12cm mark and mark at the 0cm and the 9cm marks on the wood. This makes the place where the plank needs to lay.

Step 5: Building the Benches

Now that there are measurements made, I set the two side pieces approximately 6' apart (you may need some help with this part). I then began placing the 6' 1x4 planks in the marked spots and used the 2 inch wood screws to put them into place. I used two on each side of the plank. Carefully, screw the pieces together making sure that the screws go straight in. See picture.

Continue this for every segment of the futon frame.

Now since the the 1x4 planks probably can't handle more than one person's weight, I decided to add some supports to the center of the bench. This is where to 2x4 planks come in handy. Place the cut pieces, in the middle of the bench so at about 3' in the middle. Then screw them into place. Do this for every segment.

Once, you have completed this, you should be done. I had to make a few adjustments, but it came out pretty great for a 4 hour project.

Step 6: Final Thoughts

The completed product looks great in my room. I am very happy with how it came out. If I could go back and make a few improvements, I would definitely add and extra bench piece in the wide cracks when the futon frame is laid out so the mattress will be a bit more comfortable. I would also clean up the edges and cut them more neatly instead of last second cutting them.

Check out the final pictures of it in my dorm.