First Look at Minivan Camper Bed Frame!

For all those who have been curious about what this reclining couch/bed is going to look like, I have some preliminary photos of my first attempt to fit the pieces together. Had it not been for a couple of cuts that were not in the right place, it would have all fit as I designed it. The mis-cuts were due to multiple changes and adjustments to where the marks were, and I simply did not cut on the right lines.

I would have posted this yesterday if not for a few complications with setting up the new subscribe system to this blog. And due to the fact that the page link within the header doesn’t really stand out too well, I decided this morning to also add the subscribe widget to the right hand column.  Now that I think I have the bugs worked out of the automatic email notification for new posts (which didn’t work yesterday) I feel confident enough to proceed with new posts!

Minivan Reclining Couch/Bed Frame in Retracted Position

Minivan Reclining Couch/Bed Frame in Retracted Position

The picture above shows the frame in the retracted position. In other words the front slides back when made into a seat so that it provides ten inches more leg room in front of it. All pieces interlock, so that this whole thing can be installed and removed without tools. On the closest side, you’ll see the angle of the seat, but on the other side I set the cut-out from that area on top of the angled portion. That cut-out has to have a section cut out of the middle of it to clear the seat brace. Both pieces of it will then be attached to the bottom of the seat with piano hinges to provide a raised position of support for when the seat lays back into the bed position. They will fold flat to the bottom of the seat when in the sitting position.

Also, notice that the cross-braces are cut out at floor level. This has several purposes… first to reduce the drag on the floor when it is being slid backward or forward. Secondly, it allows room for any table legs you might use. Although my ebook mentions a marine style weatherproof table on a tripod leg, we have not bought that yet. But we do have a couple of those little fold up tables like the “As Seen on TV” stores sell, and you can buy them on eBay. They are adjustable both in height as well as tilt. The legs slide in under a couch or chair, so this cut-out in the cross-brace allows space for that.

Minivan Reclining Couch/Bed in Extended Position

Minivan Reclining Couch/Bed in Extended Position

In this picture above, the front portion of the frame has been extended into its sleeping position. This can be done with the seat in the sitting position, or it can be done after the seat back is laid down. Once the seat back is laid down, the front of the seat is lifted and the cut-out block shown on the far side is swung down to set on top of the seat runner to hold up the seat at bed level.

One of my mis-cuts can be seen in the lower right of the photo above, where I cut the notch for the front runner on the wrong side of the line, and when I recut it in the right place it made the notch double the width it needed to be. I have since recut that piece. Also, after I thought I had all the pieces cut, I discovered I was missing one piece totally right behind the seat back. So that one had to be made from scratch.  There was another mark that somehow got a quarter of an inch off, but I adjusted that and can fill the gap with a piece of wood.

Remember, this is just a prototype so that I can finalize the dimensions for the ebook. Yes, it’s rough… made from two layers of laminated 3/8-inch C-D plywood, which is about as rough as it gets. But it’s what I’ve got on hand, rather than going out and spending money on a temporary protoype. I’m finishing everything with a coat of sanding sealer, which is a type of shellac that binds the surface particles together and reduces splinters as well as making it easier to sand. When I get everything sanded it will get a couple of coats of Hunter Green paint, which I think will look OK with both the van, and the cushions we my wife made.

Minivan Reclining Couch/Bed Frame Extended from Rear

Minivan Reclining Couch/Bed Frame Extended from Rear

In the above picture is the frame from the back. There’s a little over seventeen inches of totally free space about three feet wide. Notice the cut-out area under the lower brace to allow for anything long and thin that may store there, as well as the cut-outs on the outer side to allow for long items like fishing poles or BBQ forks to fit. As a temporary measure for hauling, you could also remove the top rear brace and/or the one under it for even more unobstructed floor space. Also, remember that the entire frame behind the seat back is open, so if you need to put something taller back there just to get it to where you are going, and then can take it out for sleeping, you can do that.

Things like extra clothes in duffel bags can be moved to the front seats for the night. Anything else, such as a screen room, tent, generator or large cooler will probably be set up when you get where you’re going. Everyone’s needs will be different, so you have to think about what you need to take with you for where you are going and how long, and how this might work best for you… if at all.

Also, you’ll notice that the cross-braces extend about six inches beyond the frame on each side. That was designed that way because (1) they need to clear the seat mounting brackets in the floor, (2) those mounting brackets need to be outside the frame so they can be accessed at the front for securing the cabinet that will go there, (3) it keeps the turnbuckle mounts for the seat frame outside the main storage area, (4) it allows for more solid area between notches on cut-outs, to reduce breakage, and (5) it reduces the span for the bed platform to make it strong enough to hold two people without the platform bending. The cross pieces add to that strength, but are mainly to hold the frame in place. That six inches of space on either side is additional storage area also, for smaller items, plus as I said, you can also slide longer things in along the side if you need to.

As you can see, there was a lot of thought went into this, which is why it took so long to come up with a workable design. I knew basically what I wanted, but it’s working out the little details about how it’s going to fit together, that takes the time.

None of this has the metal hardware attached yet. The pivot points for the back of the seat have to be in exact locations, and the hinge pins that will be permanently mounted to the back side of the seat can be inserted into their pivot holes as the frame is assembled. Once the cross-braces are installed it can’t go anywhere except to recline back into a bed or tip forward to seating position. But I will save the details of that for the book. If I tell you everything now, there won’t be any incentive to buy the book, will there?

Minivan Reclining Couch/Bed Platform

"Is this my spot... right here in the middle between you guys?"

Above you can see the 48 x 75-inch platform laying in position, and Angel is all ready to try it out. That’s probably where he will end up… in the middle, between us… as usual…until he gets too hot and then he lays on the floor.

The platform is three pieces held together with a piano hinge (sometimes called a continuous hinge) between sections. The back half will simply hang from the back of the seat-back when not made into a bed. I may have to figure out a way to secure it so it doesn’t swing when going down the road.

Minivan Reclining Couch/Bed Corner Detail

Minivan Reclining Couch/Bed Corner Detail

Another thing I did was to add edging to the outer edges of the platform (but not between the hinge sides). This reduces the chance of the edges developing splinters. These were predilled and 16 penny casing nails held them to the plywood while the clamps held everything in place until the glue set up!

So that is what I have been working on, and you can see that although I had a general idea in mind of what I wanted it to look like, there are a lot of little details to be worked out in many other areas.

I realize that this isn’t going to fit everyone’s needs. Some people that are alone won’t need a bed this wide and may prefer a side gaucho style bed. I have some leftover cushions from a motorhome dinette that I may experiment with later. They would make a great four-cushion couch/bed, but they only open up to 39 inches wide, which would have been too narrow for our use.

After I get this couch/bed finished I will start work on the cabinet that goes behind the driver’s seat, so for those on the ebook list, I will get any notice of modifications or improvements out to you as they happen.

For right now, I’m anxious to just be able to try out this project on a real trip! And when we start traveling again, we’ll be sure to take lots of pictures!

As always, if you have any comments or questions, please post them here where everyone can see them. Oh, and by the way, I have the timer on this thing set to send out the notifications at 4 AM, so you should get this on Wednesday morning! If you happen on it by chance, that’s fine, too!

Travel safe!