The Bedsofa

2019-04-21 13:07 - Making

I posted about this project just over two months (!) ago, around when I was getting started in earnest. That was starting the cushions, which were the "scariest" part, where I've got the least relevant experience. Since then in my weekends and evenings (on and off), with some time for shipping delays and generally enjoying myself otherwise, I've completed the rest.

This post is the story version of how that all went! It will be a little bit out of order so that the story goes well. If you're truly curious, look at the un-adjusted file names in all the images, the dates and times are burned in there and generally represent when the pictured step happened.


The very first paper plans for the bedsofa.

I just wanted to call out this original paper sketch that I did at the very beginning of the project. I've changed a few things, and it's not to scale, but most of the idea was there from the very beginning.


The first bit of cushion piping, and the section of fabric they were cut out from. A closer image of the piping. The first assembled zipper panel, uneven stitches and all.

As previously mentioned, I started by experimenting just a bit with the piping. When I was happy that would work, I did them for real: four long single sections to go around the edges. (Here was one of my first big mistakes: they weren't quite long enough. Three of them got extended; one was already stitched in when I realized, so I've got a small gap. Thankfully at the bottom where it doesn't show much.) Next up was the zipper panels. I'm not sure what exactly I did wrong, but they came out very uneven. Not so much of a mistake as an "apprentice mark", here. You can also see the extreme degree of raveling at the edges of the zipper panel, which plagued the sewing part of this project.

Stitching together the first cushion shell.  Plenty of pins to keep things aligned. All four sides stitched to the front, from the wrong side.
More stitches complete, from the right side things are looking great! The first cushion shell is complete, turned right side out.  Some of the issues become visible.

As hinted in the piping failure, the next step was stitching up the shells for the cushions. This went almost completely as intended. A couple pieces were a bit small, not really enough spare material to hem. I think this is because (or, worse because) upholstery fabric is stronger, with thicker threads. Which don't weave so tightly as a result, and unravel easily. The second issue was sewing up the corners: with that quarter-inch-thick piping in the way, those were very difficult stitches to make. More apprentice marks here: a few corners are perfect, but most are uneven in random directions, just a bit.

To insure against raveling, the seams all got binding tape stitched in. Both cushion shells completed.

Due to the unraveling, I took the time to (order, and) sew in binding tape around all the seams inside the cushions. Things would probably be fine without this extra layer, but it adds peace of mind at least. And another mistake: when stitching them in, I got a bit of the side panel across the top of one cushion. So it's a little narrower, and has an extra unnecessary stitch visible. Ah, well.

A hot-wire cutter jig, to get the cushion foam cut exactly right. The hot-wire cutter makes perfectly straight cuts!
The first cushion, stuffed with the just-cut foam and batting (which is visible behind the cushion). While stuffing, one of the cushion

With only spare material for this project and "junk drawer" items, I put together this hot wire cutter jig. You can see the very rough edge that I hacked out of the foam with a knife, just to get close to the proper size -- my wire cutter has only a few inches of throat. Then, the wire-cut edge: perfectly straight and smooth. With the foam cut out to just the right shape and size, stuffing the cushion shells went very well! Except for one ripped seam I had to repair, a raveled edge which caused a weak stitch. This was repaired with some "fusible bonding web" because I didn't want to re-make the whole thing! You can see one piece of binding material in the corner of this picture, where I knew the edge (and thus stitch) was weak. Apparently I needed a bit more! I ripped out most of this seam, bonded the extra material to it, then re-stitched it.


The first pass of structure pieces, cut from two by fours. Since these were cut at the office workshop, I had to get creative to transport them home!

With the cushion shells completed, I was confident that I could make this project really work. So I bought a bunch of two-by-fours. These were cut up at the workshop in the office -- a great perk. And then bunched up to roll home by hand cart. Since they were smaller in their cut-up form, this was easier than rolling the raw stock from the store to the office -- thankfully that was only a few blocks.

Scribe, don

I was overconfident. The complex angled pieces did not come out right in that first batch of cuts, going only by measurements. I got lucky here in that I planned for eight foot boards, but ended up with ten footers. Each had just enough extra slack that I got my four main five-foot-long boards cut out of only two of them. This left an extra unused board, just enough material to re-cut these pieces.

For this second try, instead of cutting the piece to fixed measurements, I clamped up the rest of the pieces in place and scribed out the exact shape I needed, then cut from that template. These didn't end up perfect, but A) good enough and B) that's a small theme of this project.

The first step in assembling the structure was the frame of the very back edge. Second, the front-to-back pieces at the bottom edge are attached.
The rest of the front edge is attached, with some face screws and some pocket screws. Finally the angled uprights span the front to back, and present the recline angle for the seat backs.

At home, the structure is all screwed together. Pocket holes are used liberally where possible, and some simple butt joints as well. The back was assembled first, then pieces were screwed into that. Then the shorter front section onto that. This was the main shape that was templated above, so the angled sections, support for the back rest, were added and the main structure was complete!

The first seat back is clamped into place, to scribe exactly where it needs to be cut to match the structure. With both seat backs cut to fit, they The extra batting material covers the (now completed) structure.  This adds a little strength to the open sections and a little softness to the hard edges..

With the main structure complete, the next task was to attach the seat backs. These were rough cut from plywood, then marked and clamped in place. The cuts were scribed to the actual structure: nothing came out perfectly square or perfectly to plan, but this let me get the pieces cut to match! The top and bottom cut are angled to match the recline, so they end up with "flat" edges relative to everything else, which is nice.

On recommendation of a coworker that I've been chatting with about the project, especially the sewing bits, I got some batting to wrap the cushion foam in. The smallest unit was quite large. I had been considering some sort of foam layer to soften the edges of the structure with. All that spare batting took the role! In hindsight, I should have chamfered a few of the wooden corners before this, but it's worked out well enough overall.


The bottom was upholstered first.

The upholstery step was also a new skill to execute. It's done with the same exact fabric as the cushions. My original idea was a solid color, to make both the cushions and the upholstery easier: no opportunity for mistakes laying out the pattern. I ended up with a pattern. It went almost completely fine. The entire lower section, beneath the seats, is one wide piece. This went well, except that the sides stretched a bit unevenly, leaving some warp to the pattern there. There's also a little spare material wrapped around the spots I expected to be tricky: in case I completely miss something, this lower layer (rather than the white batting) is what will peek through.

A cardboard strip ensures a crisp upholstered edge at the bottom of the seat back. A metal tack strip helps bridge the otherwise empty gap between wooden structure, when crossing from front to back.

Next was the seat backs. They went quite well overall, except due to the recline angle, the pattern is angled next to them. That's fine. The bottom edge is tacked in with a cardboard strip which keeps that edge nice and straight. Some metal tack strips bridge the empty space front to back over a gap where there's no wood structure, holding a clean edge. The material is folded up over that, then wrapped around the structure and stapled from the back, leaving a nice surface on the front and sides.

The bulk of the upholstery is complete, and looks snazzy! Upholstery complete, side view.

Clean. The last piece to upholster is the bridge across the top. I took two tries at this, not pictured. The first was only tacked at the bottom and wrapped around, a bit too loose. So I took the folding metal clamps from my upholstery tack set: with the inside tacked across the bottom, this holds the left and right edges in place by being tacked in underneath, folding the material over, then bending the metal down to hold it all in place. With the remaining edge tacked again from the bottom.

Preparing to upholster the back (and bottom) with dust cover material. One side and the middle back is now upholstered. Dust cover upholstery completed.

The back will be slightly visible, as the wall it will be resting against is only partial, with the sleeping loft looking out from above on both sides. So the back (and bottom) is being covered in a black cambric dust cover fabric. It's got a small corner folded back, for the electrical cord (read ahead!) to stick out of. Like the rest of this project, it's got small issues. Not very visible in the far side of this low-lighting picture is a fair deal of bunching (at the left side when looking at the back). Which of course ended up being the more visible side. I might go back and re-touch that.


Fitting the lower shelf on its supports, not yet finished.

With the main upholstery done, the shelves were the only significant remaining piece. Like with the seat backs, nothing is perfectly square here. I used "story sticks" to measure the front and back widths, they were a sixteenth to an eighth of an inch different. Then I cut out blanks, with the front edge angled again to match the recline, too deep on purpose. Once they generally fit, with the front edge lined up nicely, the back edge was marked to match the structure and cut square.

Installing the upper shelf, with plenty of clamps and wedges.

Both shelves are held in place with half-wide two by four pieces screwed into the main structure, which they're also screwed into from below. The top shelf was cut a little wide, so I used some scraps of wood to stretch the opening a bit. This made it easier to insert the shelf without stretching the fabric too much. For the bottom and top, it was a tricky operation of putting the shelf in the right place, so the support pieces could be clamped in place. With those clamps holding, verify the placement is good with a level. Then screw in the support pieces, and screw the shelf to the supports from underneath.

The lower shelf is flush with the main structure so its bottom side and supports are invisible. The upper shelf of course is visible from all sides, as are its support pieces. So when finishing, the top shelf was finished on all sides, as were its support pieces to match. Both the two by fours and the plywood were near paper white, which didn't look super nice next to the relatively dark blue fabric. I used some Minwax "Polyshades" which I already had from a project a few years ago. This is a stain and (polyurethane) finish in one. I probably would have done separate if I was buying specific for this project, but this worked out pretty well. I couldn't choose the color, because I was using the spare I already had: "Mission Oak", which is quite dark.

Both shelves, after finishing, are installed.

I'd change one thing if I could go back, though: I did the smaller top shelf first, and I brushed on the finish (like the instructions said to!). This gave a very thick and dark coat. For the second shelf, I wiped the finish on on with a rag. This gave much thinner and finer coats, and a lighter color I would have likely preferred. It took eight hours for each coat to dry, but I ended up putting four coats on the lower shelf, to get it to a depth of color to match the already finished top shelf. I'd have done only two or three wiped-on coats on both, if I knew how that would end up ahead of time.


The kitchen hutch which inspired the electrical outlet. Notice the electrical outlet at the back corner of this hutch.

This is going up in my sleeping loft. There's only two sides of this loft which have walls this can rest against (for support), and both of them have electrical outlets. Whichever one this goes in front of I'd like to use: I plug in various eBook readers, tablets, game systems, etc. to charge. In my first apartment, I had a nice table/hutch in the kitchen: It had a small shelf above and more importantly an electrical outlet built into the surface, with a cord to plug into the wall. It made a convenient place to plug in a mixer or other appliance, while cooking. Above you can see a crowded/messy picture from when I was near packed up to move out, and a closer in picture of the outlet in the surface. I decided to do something similar to that for this project.

Wiring up the electrical outlets and switch. The outlets are installed in the junction box, with a matching hole cut in the shelf.

The bedsofa will block my outlet, but it will have its own replacement outlet built in. I splurged here and I got an outlet with USB ports also built-in, and a switch to control things. The electrical box I got was designed (as far as I can tell) to fit through half inch drywall, but I'm putting it through three quarter inch plywood, so I made up some shims from some old quarter inch wood stock to fill the gap, which helped everything screw down tightly and line up nicely.

I made a small accident here: I've got a two-gang box. The first gang is a switch/single outlet, while the second gang is two outlets plus two USB charging ports. I wired it up with the intention to have the switch disable everything (and any possible vampire power). But what I actually did is just switch the second outlet. The single outlet with the switch is permanently on. It wasn't intentional, but this is nice and flexible, so I'm keeping it.

The Glamour

Completed, close up. Installed! Installed, as viewed from the stairs when approaching.

Here it is, completely in place. When it was being assembled on my coffee table, bench, I realized it wasn't quite square, it would wobble a bit. I got adjustable screw in feet, to make it possible to leave it perfectly stable and flat. In addition, there's two of these feet sticking out the back of the top. These rest against the wall, so that it remains stable and upright when I sit back on it.


Look at this as either a passion project or explanation of why furniture is expensive. Or both. Some of this, especially the wood, is down to Manhattan prices. I've rounded things to the nearest dollar after tax, just to make the accounting easier. Either way, I spent:

Item Cost Where
Two by fours (six, 10 foot each) $58 Prince Lumber (Local)
Baltic birch plywood (3/4 inch, 5 by 5 foot) $57 Prince Lumber (Local)
Stain/Finish $0 the "junk" pile
Subtotal $115
Upholstery and Cushions
Fabric (55" by 7 yards) $56 eBay
Zipper $13 Jet
Cambric (dust cover) $12 Jet
Welt cord (too big, too short) $7 eBay
Welt cord (3mm x 50yd) $9 Jet
Cushion foam (3x24x72") $40 Amazon
Dacron Batting (48" x 5yd) $24 Amazon
Binding Tape $10 Amazon
Tack Strip Bundle $25 Amazon
Subtotal $196
Furniture levelers $11 Amazon
Screws $9 Home Depot
#000 Steel Wool $5 Home Depot
Subtotal $25
Power strip (for cord only) $5 Home Depot
Electrical box $7 Home Depot
Face plate $3 Home Depot
Switch/outlet $13 Home Depot
Outlet w/ USB $25 Home Depot
Wire nuts $0 the "junk" pile
Electrical cable $0 the "junk" pile
Subtotal $53
Countersink bits $12 Jet
Bar Clamp Set $22 Home Depot
Subtotal $34

For a grand total of $389, $423 if you include the tools that I bought specifically for this project. Phew.

I did a lot more impulse buying and splurging than I normally would, while working on this. But not only is it a useful durable piece of furniture that I'll keep, it was also essentially entertainment budget: I got to flex several old and new making skills.

I used most of the screws. Several of the upholstery pieces were mostly used. The zipper was just barely, as was the welt cord. In both cases, these were the most economical choices, anyway. I used only a tiny bit of the batting (around the foam, in the cushions). I've also got almost half of the baltic birch plywood left, which should easily turn into some new project in the future!


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