Friday, June 12, 2015

Creating the Front Couch and Bed

Creating all that one needs for full-time travel in a space of 72 square feet presents many challenges, which is why we decided to build something to our own design, rather than buy something factory made...if we could have even found something close to what we needed...which we couldn't.

Add to that, the complications caused by a trailer body that was rounded across the front, and also across the top, and it tends to make for much more work and design problems than simple square sides would present.

If you have read previous posts, you saw what was necessary to build upper cabinets, especially the ones in the front corners. The front couch was no exception. And to fit a window air conditioner under it, with vents down through the floor, added to the complexity.

For a long time, I considered making an "interlocking fingers" type of platform on the couch... one that would be flush when pushed in for couch mode, and remain flush when pulled out into bed mode. I could have done that, but didn't have the proper lumber with which to build it, and also, it takes extra time. Instead I chose to use two layers of plywood decking, with the front "pull-out" section sliding in under the rear stationary part. If I don't like it, we can always change it later, when I have more time.

But no matter which method I used, the front piece was the most critical, as it had to provide for legs which would literally "disappear" when the front was pushed back. I decided to use a nice clear piece of standard 2 x 4, and cut the back side to allow the legs to fold up under it, with a center part uncut to provide a ledge on which to anchor the platform plywood.

In the photo below (I took it sideways) the piece was laying on its back on the saw table, But you are viewing it right side up, from the end opposite the entry door. The legs, made out of red oak stock are folded up behind the bottom of the front piece, so that in couch mode, they won't even be seen. The platform ledge is in the middle part, and with 1/2-inch plywood for a deck, it will leave about a 1/2-inch of lip sticking up on the front, to keep the cushions/mattress from sliding off.

The couch front piece as viewed from the left side.
Behind this piece was also another thinner board which was screwed to the face side of some backing pieces behind the studs in the front wall of the couch. In effect, it is setting on top of the wall studs. It had to be notched to fit over the air conditioner to hold it in place across the top, as well as be dadoed on the front to allow the metal channel on the top of the air conditioner to fit flush with the front. This top piece will not be glued, as it will have to be removable if anything goes wrong with the air conditioner. The unit will lift straight up and out, by removing that top piece and any other straps holding it. The front part of the couch platform won't be attached to anything, so it will simply lift out.

The back of one of the three legs, showing the pivot point.
The back side of the legs were undercut with a hole saw just enough to let the T-nuts fit flush with the surface. We used 5-16ths x 18 T-nuts, which require a 3/8-inch clearance hole in the center. The rest of the hole, and through the front piece on the couch remained at 5/16-inch to accommodate the 5/16 x 1-1/2-inch hex head bolts. Eventually, I would like to find some bolts with some kind of knob on them, so that the bolts can be finger tightened, but those can be easily changed at any later date. Note that the legs are cut to only fold down and back in one direction. Once the couch front is pulled out, the legs can be folded down to their vertical stopping point.

On the rear edge of the platform, on the bottom side of the plywood, there was a board attached to serve as a stop, so that the couch front can only be pulled out until the stop hits the back of the wall studs. When it reaches that point, the rear pieces of the plywood deck will drop down into place flush behind it.

The couch front pulled out, showing the air conditioner under it.
I actually used four pieces of plywood for the entire bed platform, but the front two are joined with a 1 x 3 strip of wood glued and stapled under the center. For strength and centering, it glides across the top of the center divider for support. The two rear pieces of platform were left separate, as one will cover the air conditioner, and shouldn't have to be moved. The left one covers a storage area that we will likely get into quite often.

To lift these rear pieces up to be able to slide the front part back under it, I drilled a finger hole near the front center of each one. I thought about adding hinges to the rear edge, but because of the curvature of the walls, one side or the other is going to hit when lifted. So for now, they are just laying loose. To prevent them from sliding forward and off the supports, I may have to figure out a way to secure them that will also let them lift from the front. Details, details.

The front couch in "bed mode".
When the front is pulled out into bed mode, the rear plywood drops flush behind it, and keeps it from going back, the stops under it keep it from coming any farther forward, the guide on the center support keeps it from shifting sideways, and the three legs drop straight down. Nothing can shift during the night or go anywhere.

Notice that at the entry door, I made an offset in the platform. I did this because we will have some kind of screen going on the door, which may end up attaching to the inside of the aluminum frame, and I wanted to leave enough space to work with it. Also, the end of the couch is untrimmed in the photo above, and I plan to make an end cap for it.

The front bed in "couch mode".
There will be a slight difference of 1/2-inch in the plywood deck when in couch mode, but with four inches of multi-density foam cushion on top of it, I doubt it will be a noticeable problem. If it is, I will deal with it later. If nothing else, I could drop a narrow piece of plywood in there, which would not only build up the front of the cushion, but keep the rear plywood from sliding off the rear supports. For bed mode, it could set on the floor behind the legs.

At this point, I still have to install the finish paneling on the front of the couch and around the corner by the entry door. The 1/8-inch finish paneling is too thin to use by itself, especially where it may get kicked into by feet, so I added some 3/8-inch plywood behind it. That was also inserted between the wall studs, rather than over them, so as not to take away anything from what foot space I had left between the couch and kitchen cabinet. My goal was to maintain at least 13 inches there (I have big feet), and by the time I add some thin trim across the bottom of both units, that is about what I will have for foot space. The paneling will also cover the expansion wings on the air conditioner, and fit tight against the box itself.

There will be a 13 x 24 lift-up counter extension attached to the end of the kitchen cabinet, only at 30 inches high, rather than match with the 36-inch high kitchen counter. The reason for this is because that extension can also serve as a table while sitting at the couch on that end. It will likely be used more as a computer desk than anything else, as our power regulator and printer will go into the wall cabinet directly above. When folded down, the bottom edge will be just above the level of the couch front, so as not to interfere with it.

We will also have a movable table on tripod legs which can be used in front of the couch. It will likely be about 20 x 30 inches...just enough for two people to eat at...and still be able to get up and get around it. When not being used, it will store along the side of the wardrobe closet. We don't plan on having guests,but in the rare case we do, we can pull the piano bench out and use it to seat two more people on the other side of the table. Yes, it will be tight, but what isn't on a RV this small?

As soon as I can get back out there to cut the finish paneling and add an end cap, I will add a photo to show the completely finished couch. Keep in mind that all unfinished and exposed wood will get primed and painted in a color complimentary to the colors in the paneling. But the painting may not get done until after we leave here.

The next project (already finished) is the rear bed platform, which also serves as the top for the rear storage compartment. I'm taking a break and writing about the couch and the rear bed today, because we have had a heat index nearing 100 degrees for the last few days, and since it is supposed to cool off tomorrow, I just decided to wait it out until better weather. Even though the air conditioning in the trailer is now functional, I still have to run in and out to do the cutting.

Also, my drill got away from me while doing the angle iron for the rear platform and sprained the ring finger on my right hand. It's a little sore and swollen yet, but I'm managing with it.

So I'll schedule that post for publication the day after this one, and then it may be a few days again before I post about the final work on the kitchen cabinet and countertop.

This marks 45 days yet, for our deadline of getting out of here. We're getting close on the trailer, but we still have a lot of sorting to do inside the house yet, and in the storage shed, before we can have our big moving sale. In reality, we may not meet our deadline of 7/28, but that isn't a big deal. We DO want to hit the road by the middle of August at the latest, simply because we have a lot to do yet in heading north, clear up to South Dakota to establish residency, before the cold weather sets in up there. Then we have to head back south and try to make it to our home resort at Gunnison, Colorado before they get too cold and close for the winter.

And we discovered we have to put the van in the shop again this Wednesday (17th and maybe 18th) because it appears we have a front right brake pad failing to retract. And we still have to get the new hitch and trailer brake/charging wiring installed. So I'd better get that next post written today, and then get back to work!

Thanks for following, and let me know if you have any questions.

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