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I've assembled this bed frame and am not sure how to make it sturdy enough for use.

I have this 100+ year-old Italian bed frame that I've inherited from my parents. They used it for decades and it felt safe and sturdy growing up. Unfortunately they can't remember much about how it was assembled and I haven't been able to find any other info about the bed.

The construction is straightforward: the left/right sides have notches that fit into recesses in the posters flanking the front and rear sides of the frame; each notch is paired with a metal bolt that pushes into a hole next to the notched recess; the top is a single piece with holes at each corner which the four posters slot into.

I can get the notches to fit flush with the posters if I push hard enough, but the whole bed is shaky and comes loose easily when moved. There's nothing holding the pieces together besides the slightly loose notches and bolts. I was hoping the top piece would stabilize it but it did not help much. The remaining parts are particle boards and slats that sit along the shelves on the left/right sides – could placing these and adding the mattress make the difference somehow with the downwards force?

Besides specific solutions, I'm also interested in knowing how to seek expert help on safely assembling this (I live in Toronto if that's relevant). I also wonder if there are ways to reinforce it – like adding ratchet straps around the circumference until I can get it sturdy enough through other means.

Bed frame Bed frame Bed frame Bed frame Bed frame

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  • My guess is that the sides are swapped, but at any rate it will get much studier once you put in the ribs. – dandavis Nov 17 '20 at 3:30
  • @dandavis I’ve confirmed that I have the two sides set the way my parents did when it was sturdy for them. Good guess. Thanks for confirming that the ribs will actually help (can you elaborate on why? does the weight of them and the mattress help? I just don’t understand well how it becomes sturdy when there’s nothing really holding the pieces together, they’re sort of resting on each other even with notches and bolts.) – aehlke Nov 18 '20 at 0:23
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    you can think of it like a tent with/without poles. Ever try to stand on an empty wine box? you can. Ever stand on an empty apple box? you can't. I once had a super cheap bookcase that worked well until i removed the thin cardboard from the back so i could plug stuff in; it got super wobbly. The ribs should be tight though, use shims and wood glue if needed. To that end, taught ropes instead of ribs would also stiffen it compared to an empty frame. – dandavis Nov 18 '20 at 0:56
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3rd pic down, that gap proves it is not assembled correctly. Clamp it to get rid of the gap and then tighten the bolt.

A spanish windlass would work for this. A long rope goes round the bed frame 4 times then a bar is used to twist the 4 strands and tighten.

Protect the wood as the rope can cause a huge load and damage it.

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    Double check all the other joints to ensure that they're properly tightened, as well. As an option to the windlass (not everyone has that much rope handy), brace one end against the wall (a 2x4 with a towel between the 2x4 & wall and between the 2x4 and bed frame), then with another towel & 2x4, whack at the other end of the frame to get the joint seated. The 2x4s & towels will protect the nice old wood of the frame while still transmitting the hammer blows. – FreeMan Nov 17 '20 at 17:36
  • The 3rd pic shows the construction – I’m able to close it there, but it pops out again like this easily when moving. Thanks for the ideas on securing it. And thanks @FreeMan for suggesting I verify that hammering them more firmly could be the fix... – aehlke Nov 18 '20 at 0:25

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