This project is a meld of form, function, economy, necessity, learning, dreaming, engineering, and creating. my goal was to turn an ordinary bedroll in to a comfy, relaxing, functional, and aesthetically pleasing bed.
I really like hammocks, but as anyone who has ever used one knows, they are not the best option for sleeping. In my opinion they work best for relaxing or napping. Therefore I decided to try to combine a frame style bed with a hammock style, and this is how I did it.
I've included a sketchup file of my original concept. You will notice that it changed somewhat on it's way to the final result.
Step 1: What You Will Need
PPE (Personal Protective Equipment):
- safety glasses
- hearing protection
- welder's mask
- welder's gloves
- long sleeves
- non-polyester clothing (it will melt onto your skin)
- disposable respirator (dust mask)
- fire extinguisher
- latex gloves
- not following my example
- lots of steel tubing (+/- 60'). I estimated high when I went to get mine because I got it from a scrap yard. I used 2" x 2" because it was readily available. If you are going to buy your stock you could use whatever you want. 2x2 is probably overkill but I like it that way.
- used/retired climbing rope (+/- 135') i found mine on eBay it was surprisingly hard to come by. Try a local climbing facility.
- 2" x 4" x 8' lumber (5x) i would steer clear of pressure treated
- hardware: 2 anchor points and their fasteners, and 5 long bolts and nuts for holding the hammock frame together
- a lightweight mattress that will fit both the bed and hammock frame
- linens/blankets (optional)
- oil based paint and primer for the hammock frame (i bought a quart of each and it was easily 5x what I needed)
- mineral spirits
- bristle and foam brushes
- water based interior wall paint of the color of your choice
- wood screws
- 7" grinder (with grinding wheel and sanding wheel)
- steel chop saw (one could also use a plasma cutter, horizontal bandsaw, or ideally a cold cut saw)
- bench grinder
- drill press
- cordless drill
- drill bits (up to 1/2" or 13mm)
- sander (pneumatic or electric. a planer would also be helpful)
- tape measure
- 4' level
- speed square
- framing square
- wood saw
- wood chisel
- wood rasp
Step 2: The Hammock Frame
I wanted to make it very stable and strong. But I also didn't want it to take two people to move and setup. It is 4 parts that bolt together and can fit into most largish cars ( it was supposed to fit in my compact car too but somewhere that plan derailed). I also wanted to minimize it's footprint so that it would fit in my apartment bedroom and I could walk around it (and not stub my toe on solid steel, ouch!)
BE SURE TO LOOK AT ALL PICTURES I PUT A LOT OF USEFUL and not so useful INFORMATION IN PICTURE ANNOTATIONS.
Step 3: Making the Steel Managable
Junkyards have a tendency to mangle their scrap. So although I was able to find material, it was often less than perfectly straight. Be mindful of this when you are searching. I ended up with a lot of roughly 4 foot pieces.
Cut off any unwanted appendages.I used a shop saw for this. I tried to keep the pieces as long as I could so I found which would be shortest when done and then cut all the rest to match. Be sure to set up your saw so that it make nice square cuts.
Step 4: Layout, Marking, Measuring
Set out your pieces in the orientation that you want them to eventually be. Be sure to check for square on joints and find center at the tee. Then, mark your angled cuts with a sharpie. This is a good time to consider placement of parts that might be slightly deformed from the scrap yard so that they will be less noticeable in the finished project.
Step 5: Cutting Angles, Drill Holes, Cleaning Up Edges, Checking Fit
Next, use an appropriate tool to cut your mitered ends. My chop saw was not able to cut the shallow angles so I freehanded them with a ziz-wheel in a vise.
Then grind the edges to a slight 45 degree bevel to remove burs and facilitate a deep penetrating weld.
As you do the above, check for fit and adjust as necessary. Leave a small (<1/8th") gap between pieces to make a good strong weld. If you make the gap too large welding will be much more tedious and difficult. It will also probably end up looking like poop on a stick, especially if you are still learning to weld like me.
Finally measure where the cross braces will attach and drill holes for the bolts with a drill press, if you skip this you will have to attempt it by hand once welded together and your results will be more likely to be undesirable.
Step 6: Sandblasting
If you buy stock you can probably skip this step. I had to remove rust and paint for my material. If there is another method that works even remotely as well let me know, but as far as I can see using a sandblaster is a necessity to be thorough and still be able complete this project within the duration of an average human lifespan. The videos show just how effective it is.
If the piece is too big to fit in the cabinet just leave it hanging out and close the door as much as you can. Or alternatively, get a bigger sandblaster. (when using the open cabinet method be sure to wear a disposable respirator so as to prevent contracting Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis)
Step 7: Welding It Together
Weld your tee pieces together first and use magnet squares to hold things in place. Just a few tacks will do. Then add the angled supports. Once it's all tacked together start welding beads all the way around. You can use a wire brush to clean up spatter and slag and wire and other nastiness right away to lessen some later grinding. I used a MIG welder but this could be done with TIG, stick, flux wire, whatever you like.
Be careful, welding is HOT. you can be burned and that includes sunburn. If you weld in short sleeves be prepared to end up with a trucker tan (assuming you're a righty, otherwise i guess it would be a lorry driver's tan haha)
Step 8: Grinding
This is how you determine how good you are at welding. How much time do you have to spend grinding your welds? Needless to say, I devoted quite a large amount of time to grinding so... I'm learning OK!
To save time I ground the welds into a smooth peak or mound rather than completely flat. This also keeps the weld nice and strong. (NASA says to not grind them smooth at all to maintain full strength but this is not aeronautical construction is it?)
Finally, once the the big stuff is gone and the desired contour is there, polish it up with a low grit sanding wheel.
Step 9: Preassembly
There was a certain amount of math, estimating, eyeballing, balancing, wallowing out, hammering, measuring, and head scratching involved in this part.
I marked, punched, and drilled holes for my anchor points, and the three holes on each of the crossbraces at this point.
The anchor points attach with carriage bolts. I had to countersink the holes some to make them sit flush to the frame.
I went to a local hardware store to get all my bolts. However they did not carry a bolt long enough to hold the crossbraces together in the center (needs to be 6"+) so I made my own out of some round bar stock I found laying around by cutting it to length and threading both ends with a die.
For figuring out angles and side lengths in a right triangle remember: Some Old Horse, Caught A Horse, Taking Oats Away. Or Sohcahtoa. Sine(X)=opposite/hypotenuse; Cosine(X)=adjacent/hypotenuse; Tangent(X)=opposite/adjacent
Step 10: Painting the Frame and Final Assembly
Wipe the whole thing down with mineral spirits to clean it. Then grab a chip brush and a can of primer and paint all over.
Once the primer is fully dry and cured (about 24 hours) apply top coat with a nicer quality brush. Be careful not to miss any spots, especially if you are painting black over white, missed spots are quite noticeable.
Much like painting a fence, use long, smooth strokes. Mr. Miyagi will be proud.
Once it's all dry put it together.
Step 11: Building the Bed Frame
I didn't want to use any more fasteners than necessary, and I think that the way I did it is probably stronger and easier anyway. I'm going to call this joint a knife-edge half lap. It is important that the end piece go under the side rails as this will allow gravity to hold the frame together.
Get your five 2x4s from a local supplier and then cut one in half. Sand or plane them smooth (or a reasonably smooth as you can make a 2x4) I recommend if you don't have a planer starting with the lowest grit you can get your hands on to speed the process up. (1 grit is too low though, that would be rubbing the board with a rock) then keep going up in grit until desired smoothness. In my experience in the 200s is OK for stain and 300s for paint.
Next layout the frame, I overlapped the corners 4". Mark the intersections and then cut out a chunk halfway though the board. You may want to mark which end goes where to not get confused. Try not to put the lap joint at a knot in the wood, it will be too difficult to work with.
Once you have the perimeter fitted together use your last two 2x4s and cut them to fit inside the frame. These will be your rope stringers.
Measure the center of the stringers and mark it along its entire length. Then, make a mark every 3". Now drill a hole large enough for your rope to poke through relatively easily at each mark on both stringers. (Note: the spacing of the holes will directly correlate to how much rope you will need to lace the bed, 1 inch difference can be as much as 20' of rope) Finally taper the holes to lessen the abrasion that the rope will experience. I would recommend getting a tool specially made for this job. I tried to improvise and was disappointed with the results. Fortunately, they are mostly concealed in the final project.
Step 12: Staining and Sealing
I like wood grain but I also like color so I combined the two! I cleaned up the wood with a damp cloth. Next, I wiped on my custom stain with a rag. Then once it dried I used a foam brush to apply two coats of water-based flat clear coat to protect it. See the Youtube video for a detailed explanation of the stain.
Step 13: Putting the Whole Shabang Together
Once the clear coat is cured you can assemble the bed frame. I centered the rope stringers on the side rails and then drilled pilot holes and screwed the stringers on from the outside. I put 10 screws in each side spaced evenly apart and located between the rope holes.
Next, comes the workout, pulling approximately 12 billion feet of rope through little holes on an unstable wooden frame. Start by tying one end to the first hole on the stringer and the lace it up like a pair of shoes, or boots, or skates, or sandals, or corset, whatever you can most easily imagine. One could lace in a spiral pattern but I chose to do a figure eight by entering from the top side on both stringers. To each his own.
Once you get to the last hole, go back to the beginning and pull the slack out of the rope, working it all the way to the end. Then go back and do it again (you'll be surprised how much you take out on each pass). This is it's own workout and requires a lot of grip strength and endurance, especially if you do it immediately after lacing the rope like I did. I found out at this point that all that tension stresses the frame significantly and causes it to twist and warp to take up any slack that may have been present in your knife-edge half lap joints ( a key reason to make sure they fit perfectly which I did not do.) Luckily, when you lay on it everything seems to sort itself out.
Step 14: All Done!
Now your hammock bed is complete! You can enjoy relaxation and a good night's sleep, gently rocking yourself to sleep. It takes some getting used to as it feels quite unstable at first but I haven't fallen out yet. The rope sort of corrals you into the middle. As an added bonus the crossbrace is a nice platform to set your smartphone if you want to do some reading or surfing before drifting off.