Projects: Woodworking / Rope Bed Project

Pictures and measured drawings will be posted as soon as they are prepared. Please check back for updates, or send an email for further details.

After the great floods of Estrella War XIX (February of 2003), Aylwin and myself decided that we needed to make some rope beds to keep ourselves up off the ground in case we were ever in a camp that flooded again. Amphelisia (my wonderful wife) also agreed with this, and felt that this project was definitly worth our time to pursue.

Our searching lead us to many various plans, but none of them satisfied our requirments for ease of assembly, and look nice. The plans for a Transportable Rope Bed (as found on the Greydragon website looked like a good starting point. The problem was that all the pictures we had seen of existing rope beds in museums showed a much more substantial leg than what most people were putting into their plans. So we replaced the 2x6 legs from Master Terafan Greydragon's design with 4x4's, and hid the joint inside the 4x4. The design of the rails kept with the same concept as the Greydragon design, except that the the ends were turned into 1” thick tenons that would fit into the blind mortis of the legs. The legs at the head of the bed were extended to 3', and the headboard was made out of 1x12 pine that was taperd to 9” on the ends to fit the mortise in the legs. All edges of the legs were given a nice 1/2” chamfer so we would be less likely to hurt ourselves with sharp corners.

plans and pictures for the main bed go here

After much research on how to tighten a rope bed, we found information on this wonderful tool known as a bed wrench (also refered to as a straining wrench, bed key, or many other names). An explaination on how to use one can be found on this page, and a picture of one can be seen on this page if you scroll down to the bedroom. This wrench is basically a giant clothspin with a T handle. After consulting with the employees at Woodworkers Source, we decided to make ours out of 8/4 hard maple and we used a good 3/4” hardwood dowel for the T handle. Your choice of wood here is VERY important. The wrench will be taking a lot of strain while tightening the ropes. Aylwin has put together a short bed wrench demo.

pictures of bed wrench go here

Estrella War XX (February 2004) proved to be rather dry and cold, but the rope beds did their job! The only problem was that my bed had a seriously warped side rail (mental note: cheap pine boards will eventually remind you why they are cheap) and one of the legs at the foot of the bed couldn't take the pressure. We had a very spectacular sounding POP come from the foot of the bed in the middle of the night. Inspection of the bed the next morning showed a nice crack from the mortises all the way through the top of the leg. we figured that future designs may need to be modified to account for this. The cold weather also prompted Amphelisia to request a canopy for the rope bed.

In January of 2005 I finally started work on building 2 new legs, and start work on the canopy. In order to make everything as simple as possible, the new legs were made 3' long to match the legs at the head of the bed. This allowed me to make all the posts for the canopy frame be the same size. I used a couple 8' 2x2's and cut the corners off to make four 4' octagonal posts. I then built a spring board lathe in my backyard out of scraps (if you can call a 12' 2x6 sitting in your garage scrap) and turned the bottom 2” of each post to approximately 1 3/8”. I then drilled a matching hole into the top of each of the legs. A 5/16” dowel was added to the top of each post to support the frame. The advantage of this design is that simple finials can be made to fill the holes if the canopy isn't to be used. The frame was made out of 1x2 appearance grade pine with half lap joints on the corners, with a hole to fit over the dowel. The only part left to do is sew together some material to cover the frame.

plans and pictures for the canopy go here

Estrella War XXI (February 2005) proved successful for the canopy! Amphelisia managed to show off the bed to everyone in camp, and anyone else who happend to stop by camp. I even heard of some people taking pictures, so who knows where this design is going to turn up. The next modification that I plan to make are a cross support or two for the canopy since after a few VERY damp days, the material started to sag quite a bit in the middle. Even though I havn't replaced the warped side rail, the bed held up wonderfully!

Later in 2005 we purchased a period round pavilion and the canopy just wouldn't fit, so I made some bed knobs that could be fit into the holes normally used by the canopy. I still need to make a new side rail to replace the warped rail. Once the rope is tightend, it doesn't make a difference, but the warp makes is challenging during the initial setup.

pictures of the bed knobs go here