Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. -- Carl Sandburg
There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

May 18, 2014

The Bed – Redux

Former Use:
My van has the old style benches that form a really big bed in the back like a set of legos. There are 8 cushions that fit over the benches and on top of two 3’ long particle board slabs that sit on the ledges affixed to the sides of benches. There is only me and 2 cats that sleep on the bed. The dog gets the floor on rugs. I refuse to struggle for space with a 60# dog.

I slept crosswise across the back of the van for a couple of years which worked ok but my feet can't stretch out unless I sleep catty-corner. Last year, I tried making my bed lengthwise on the passenger side with one 3’ slab in the middle section at the head of the bed. That worked reasonably well but I would like more room for my feet and legs at the end. At least they can stretch out in the full 6’ length (I'm 5'7"). I found that it was better to fold the length of memory foam topper one third down at the top to make the head a bit elevated. I have to have my head raised above my feet to let my sinuses drain because of my allergies.

One of the nuisances with this design is the 3’ particle board slabs are cheesy and heavy and awkward to store and handle. Aside from that, I really like the benches because of their versatility. I got the idea to make lighter and smaller racks to lay across the aisle for the center cushions to lay on. After putting up knotty pine wainscot in my house powder room, I had a big pile of 19” long slats leftover.

The Make:

I thought that the 20.5” span would be sufficient for them to hold my weight if there were a lot of them even tho they are only 1/4” thick. I got some 1/2” x 1.5” boards and cut them into 18” lengths. That makes the rack match the 3/4” thickness of the particle board slabs. 4 of the wainscot slats fit with a little over an inch in between them. I split a couple of them finding a screw that would go in without splitting the pine. A pan-head metal screw worked because it doesn't flare at the top. Two screws in each side of each slat secured it well. I tested the first rack and it was solid. So much lighter than the particle board! That makes my bed 42” wide. A 2’ wide bed is very cramped, especially to sleep on my side, but 42” is comfortable.

I made 2 more of the racks, then sanded them well enuf to prevent splinters and put varnish on them. They aren't going to be visible when in use, so all I need is just to protect the wood from moisture.

The next thing to solve is the rails on which the racks lie on each of the benches. Currently, they are wood rails screwed into the benches. I want to have the cushion and rack on the galley end of the bed easily removable and stowed handy so I can use that end as a desk and sitting area. I figured out that a U shaped aluminum rail would be strong enough for the weight and allow me to slide the end rack under the other racks to the back of the van. Right at hand when I need it, out of the way when I don’t. When I looked for the rail, the U shaped ones were too small for my purpose. I need it to be an inch between the bars for the racks to slide in. I settled on getting 2 L rails to form the U.

I took a metal file and filed the ends to round them so I don’t slice a finger on them. Cleaned them off and spray painted them with the copper and bronze metal paint so they would match the galley back splash and be inconspicuous, at least compared to the bright silver of the aluminum. I finished that up with a coating of varnish so they will stand up to the use of sliding the racks on them. Once dried and cured, I just drilled holes in them and using flat head screws, affixed them in the same spot as the old wood rails.

The final problem is how to support the last rack to hold the cushion. Because I built a drawer for my desk instead of the bench, I can’t have a support rail on that last 2’. I got some furring strips I have laying about and cut them long enough to fit into the end of the new rails. A 1/4” slat holds the end firmly into the slot. I then cut a leg for the galley end for a firm support and another for the other side. The slat fits well on the support rails and they are easily moved for during the day. That way, my desk area is open for daytime and the bed is a little wider for night.
Bed slats in place

Cushions in place for bed

Seat with bedding rolled back and wedge cushion for back

In Use:

I spent 3 nights with the new bed arrangement and it was very comfortable. Easy to take down the last rack and fold back the covers for a seat and easy to put back in place for night.  The extra room at the foot made for a much more comfortable sleep and the cats weren't right on top of me like they were last year. I think this one is a win.  The only thing that would be better is if the cushions had a couple inches of memory foam right in them instead of me putting a pad on top as the foam they are made of is hard. Wonder how expensive it would be to get a 4" thick half sturdy foam, half memory foam pieces to replace?

A bonus I found is that the single rack makes for a nice lap desk for my computer. The molded surface holds a pencil nicely and the computer has plenty of air circulation.  My attempt at remaking my swivel table failed miserably so I resorted to the rack as a desk. Multi-use and light weight for the win!

I get a bed always at the ready and I still have a seat and desk for daytime. I don't want the bother of having to make up my bed each night but I need to have a workspace as well. This gives me the dual purpose of the tiny space with very little bother. If I am really exhausted, I can still take a nap without the foot width-extension in place. The seat raised to the same height as the bed gives me extra storage space and it is comfortable as I fit under the overhead cabinets and my feet can rest on the drawer on the opposite side. Plus, I can put the rack on it for extra room when working in the galley.

I built an opening on the bench extension for a drawer at some point. Turned out the evil extra cat preferred to hop into that and camp out under the bench as a good hidey hole - revealed only by his tell tale red leash. With my on-going litter box issues, I decided the litter box would best be placed at the back of the aisle. During the short trip, my old girl used it (yay!!). The extra cat, Syl, used the kennel box a couple of times. Previously, my old girl used the kennel box and was afraid of getting trapped in the under bench box. Go figure.
These 2 hate each other in real life. But in the van, it is different.

Bench Top

I also built a top for the bench across from my bed to better utilize the space. Instead of taking up 4” of vertical space with the cushions that I’m not using, I used the same wainscot panel boards to make a large shelf in 2 pieces so I can access underneath half of it at a time. For this purpose, I snugged the boards together using their tongue and groves to fit them together and tied them all together with a 1/4” slat underneath and the #4 screws. I sized and positioned the slat to fit just inside the bench edges so it will hold the shelf in place. And another shelf to sit on top of the kennel I carry for the cats. Might as well. I like being able to put scraps to good use.

Across a fairly small distance, less that 2’, the ¼” thick panel boards are plenty strong. Not for sitting on, but plenty strong for the things I need to put there. The decorative shape is actually rather handy in the van as it can hold small things in place on uneven ground. The knotty pine is pretty when varnished.

On our little trip, I put a towel on the top on the kennel and it quickly became a favorite cat perch. Nothing like being up high for a cat.


Oh, how I hate carpeting. Carpeting is the worst idea in an RV. I guess there is some sound deadening from it but it is hard to clean and quickly gets nasty. An uncleanable surface is a bad idea, especially one that is subject to the law of gravity. My carpet had gotten quite dirty, even in the under-bench areas. I used mostly Citrusolve to clean it as that also does a decent job of deodorizing it. It looks better except for the areas that got bleached. At some point, I want to take it out and put in a cleanable surface, but that point is not now.

I got some carpet protector lengths of plastic with spikes in it to grip the carpet to line the aisle and keep it cleaner. I got 2 more 6’ lengths and lined the under-bench storage areas. It took some cutting to fit it around the wheel hubs and when I need to get to the battery boxes, I’ll have to lift it but it should keep things a bit cleaner there now.

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