How to Build a Japanese Bed Frame

What You'll Need
2 pieces timber 4 inches by 4 inches by 7 feet
3 pieces timber 4 inches by 4 inches by 3 feet 4 inches
Board 7 feet by 4 feet by 1 inch
12 pieces half inch dowel each 8 inches long
2 5 foot sash clamps
Wood glue and brush

A traditional Japanese bed is a futon. These were originally quilted bed rolls that were stored during the daytime and simply rolled onto the floor at night. Modern futons are more like large mattresses with multiple layers of cotton held within a cover. In keeping with tradition, a futon frame should be a simple platform.

Step 1 – Measure the Futon

Futons are often of varying sizes. To accommodate this, many Japanese bed platforms are larger than the futon they were built for. This gives rise to the number of futons that sit centrally on the platform. For this exercise the futon measures as 4 feet by 7 feet

Step 2 – Choose the Depth

Japanese beds are still used at floor level so most futon platforms are very low. Four inches is not unusual.

Step 3 – Design the Platform

The platform design will be very basic, reflecting the style of Japanese homes. For this frame/platform the needs are as listed above. It is important to recognise that this platform could be used for other purposes with the futon removed.

Step 4 – Make the Frame

A large area of floor is needed for the frame to be laid out on. Lay the two 7 foot lengths of timber about 40 inches apart and parallel to each other. Lay the three shorter lengths between the 7 foot lengths and at right angles to them. Two of the shorter lengths will be flush with the ends and the third will be around the half way mark.

Step 5 – Square and Clamp the Frame

Get the frame perfectly square and then lay the clamps over top close to each end and tighten them. When the clamps are fully tightened check that the frame is still perfectly square

Step 6 – Drill for the Dowel

Drill two half inch holes through the ends of the long side pieces into the ends of the short cross pieces. These holes should be eight inches deep. While you are drilling be careful that the sash clamps do not get loosened. Space the holes half an inch apart and drill them on a diagonal.

Step 7 – Score the Dowel

Score each of the pieces of dowel along its length. One piece at a time, paint the dowel with wood glue and insert into one of the drilled holes. Tap the dowel home with a mallet. Wipe away surplus glue as you do this.

Step 8 – Fit the Bed Board

When the glue on the dowel has been allowed to dry, remove the sash clamps and leave the frame on the floor. Paint a line of wood glue at least an inch thick down the middle of each length of timber in the frame. Lay the board over the frame and wipe of any surplus glue. Place some heavy weights on the board, making sure it is positioned correctly and leave the assembly to dry.