Thursday, February 12, 2009

Our Rope Bed - Part 1

Until recently, our bed was a full sized bed that had belonged to my great-grandmother. It is still in great condition. The mattress and box springs on the other hand had been my parents when they got married thirty years ago. The sides of the mattress were beginning to sag, and we knew that it was time for the mattress to go into at least partial retirement as a guest bed.

Our rope bed

We wanted our new bed to be larger, long lasting, and a good price. Buying new can be pricey even if you get a great deal, and it will only last ten years according to most manufacturers. Buying used may be a better price but probably will not last as long as a brand new bed. I eventually found a website talking about how to make your own mattress, but the materials were all pretty expensive and would not save us that much money. Finally, I remembered as a child seeing some old fashioned beds in museums called rope beds. I started looking up information on rope beds online, but there was not much information available. Another problem I ran into was that the largest one I found was full sized and did not seem like it would hold up under day-to-day wear and tear. I told my husband that I thought we could get the biggest bang for our buck if he could figure out how to build one.

My husband, David, likes a challenge and managed to design/engineer a California King sized rope bed using southern yellow pine, half-inch nylon ropes, and half-inch steel bolts for $150. He chose to use southern yellow pine because it is very strong but also cheaper than a hard wood like oak or cherry. He completed the bed in a couple evenings after getting home from work. Once the bed was completed, my mother gave us an old full sized futon mattress to try it out. It worked out great. Usually I do not like futon mattresses because they are so hard, but between the give in the ropes and the feather topper from our old bed it was very comfortable. You do have to tighten the bed periodically by pulling on the ropes and retying them. As the ropes get older, they do not have to be tightened as often. Also as long as the ropes have been tightened sufficiently the bed does not hardly dip in the middle like most rope beds in museums.

Our rope bed with the temporary full sized mattress

Probably one of the best things about our rope bed is that it could last the rest of our lives because as one part wears out we can replace it. We can also upgrade it as we have the resources to do so. We have already planned our first upgrade for this summer: making a California King sized mattress, feather topper, sheets, quilt, and down comforter. We planned this upgrade for summer because it will be hot outside so I will be able to take my time making the quilt and down comforter. Eventually David plans to build head and footboards for the bed and possibly veneer over the southern yellow pine to match the head and footboards. We have several different ideas of decorative woodworking we would like to try on those pieces but have not decided on anything for certain yet.


  1. That's really neat! I've been planning on building a new bed for myself... but I'm thinking along the lines of a platform bed. I need something really firm for my back. I have a daybed now, with a good mattress... the new mattress helped some, but the daybed springs just make it too soft for me... As cool as I think rope beds are, I think it'd be too soft for me too.

  2. They can be very firm, if you choose a firm mattress or build one yourself. The nice thing about this frame is that it will convert into a regular frame for a regular mattress. So if at some point we want to use a regular mattress we can! All you have to do is take off the ropes and put down a piece or plywood or some slats. The mattress I just finished making us is incredibly firm. I am actually having to revamp it a little because it is hurting David's back. I think the key to making a super firm mattress is using cotton batting instead of cotton stuffing in the mattress!