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A twin-sized bed frame that I assemble on-demand for guests is made of pine. It hasn't seen that much use, and yet one of the two 75" beams has buckled just slightly. There is still plenty of overlap with the slats. The slats do not fall out—yet.

I'd rather not wait until they do, and the wood is otherwise in impeccable condition, plus it's light enough for moving around.

What is a mechanism for pulling the two sides of a bed frame closer? I'd rather not bother with a beam. I only need a cable. Might a cable such as those used for hanging heavier objects on the wall be enough? How might I attach it? Also, I only need just one cable, not two, as the four corner angles seem perfectly square.

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    Pictures would help.
    – Ecnerwal
    Oct 25, 2023 at 17:19
  • Why would a rope not serve? Oct 26, 2023 at 21:57

7 Answers 7

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An easy solution if the slat-to-rail interface allows is to put a pin (or loose fitting nail) into a hole drilled through the end of one slat into the frame, on both ends of that one slat, in the middle. Push the bowed rail in or pull on a rope around the other rail to get the second nail in place.

Those can't be too close to the end or they will want to rip out. Other types of hardware will do the same thing and take more force, while being less simple/easy.

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  • This is roughly what IKEA does, and would be my first idea.
    – NL_Derek
    Oct 25, 2023 at 20:54
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    Could use a piece of flat metal (like a Simpson tie plate e.g. TP15) to reinforce the end. Put screws into the end of the plate that's closest to the middle of the bed tgo anchor the plate to the slat, use one of the holes on the end for your pin hole.
    – Huesmann
    Oct 26, 2023 at 23:13
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We had similar problem. Solved it with two sections of light duty chain, a turnbuckle, and a couple of small eye bolts. Attach the eye bolts to the frame (metal, in our case). Then attach one chain to each eye bolt. Finally attach the turnbuckle to the two chains and tighten until the frame has been pulled back in sufficiently.

This is a light duty application, so don't go overboard, size-wise, with the materials.

Edit 1

Obviously, the details of this fix are dependent on the type of bed frame involved (antique handed down from granny vs something from Ikea; metal vs wood frame, etc). So specifics depend on your particular situation. What I described is what we did with a standard L-shaped metal frame (mattress rail may be a better term) that we bought with the mattress.

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    Tee nuts would clean up the eye bolt connection that I'm imagining.
    – popham
    Oct 26, 2023 at 1:40
  • @popham It's not clear. If the eye bolts are parallel to the slats, the tension would pull the tee nuts straight out of the wood (and so another way to hook the eye bolts to the wood is needed). If the eye bolts are perpendicular to the slats, then they're either below the sides of the bed, where the frame is weaker (and would end up subjected to torsion in the middle), or they're at the top, where they risk interfering with the slats and the mattress. I'm guessing the ideal place for the eye bolts is the center of the two beams, but I'm unsure how they'd be attached.
    – Sam7919
    Oct 26, 2023 at 4:04
  • @Sam7919, SteveSh's rigging runs parallel to the slats. I assumed that these are thin rails, so you would have to bolt through them. The tee nut flange would bear on the outside of the rail, exposing a flat surface to the outside instead of an acorn nut or whatever you would use to avoid snagging clothes, scratching people, etc. The eye bolts would be located as high as they can be without interfering with the slats. I assume that the slats deflect when somebody is on the bed, so you would want enough clearance so that there isn't a knocking noise when somebody sits on the bed.
    – popham
    Oct 26, 2023 at 4:54
  • @Sam7919, locating the eye bolts at center would minimize the torsional stress introduced when the rigging develops tension. That location also allows the top to twist and potentially lose (or gain) bearing area. My instinct is to go high, but there are good arguments for each location.
    – popham
    Oct 26, 2023 at 4:57
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    Wow. To be honest, this sounds like massive overkill, and eliminates the "ease of setup/tear down" that the OP likes for this temporary bed. Plus, with all that hardware sticking through the side rail, "This would look ugly and would be something for bed sheets or shins to get caught on, so I wouldn't recommend it." as I noted in my answer. Obviously, I'm in the minority in my thoughts, though. :shrug:
    – FreeMan
    Oct 26, 2023 at 12:42
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Welcome to wood! Wood is a natural product and it "moves" - it's a feature that can cause failure. Without a picture, it's had to know if it's really "buckled", or if it's just "warped" a bit, but my money is on "warped".

To prevent collapse of the bed while in use, you could drill a hole in each end of the center slat and through into each side rail, then screw it together while in use to prevent the rails from spreading, then unscrew it to disassemble and store away. It doesn't even need to be screwed tightly, so if the screw threads chew up the wood through frequent insertion/removal, it doesn't matter too much. Their purpose isn't to hold the slat tightly to the rail, but to keep the rails from spreading. You could even use a wooden peg instead of a screw.

You could drill a hole for a wire and use a turnbuckle to keep them together, but this strikes me as overkill, and you'd need to put an eye-bolt (or something) through each side rail to connect your cable. This would look ugly and would be something for bed sheets or shins to get caught on, so I wouldn't recommend it.


A note on storage:

Since this seems to be something that you assemble and disassemble as needed, the way you store it when not in use could impact how quickly the wood warps.

If you lean long (even 1-2 feet) pieces of wood vertically against a wall, you will speed up the warping - they'll tend to bow toward the wall/floor intersection. If you lay them flat on the floor, they'll tend to stay straighter longer, but can still bow simply because it's a natural product and that's what it does. Since the longer sides have bowed, you might be able to straighten them a bit by storing it with the bow up and putting some additional weight (like the other side) on top of it.

There are other methods of straightening bowed wood, but I would suggest you head over to the woodworking sister site and peruse the questions there for additional tips. TBH, I doubt you'll need to go to any great extremes for quite some time with this bed frame.

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  • I dunno, @Mazura. I had bunkbeds as a kid - the slats weren't screwed in and the side rails never warped. My FIL built bunk beds for my kids - same thing. I agree, IKEA furniture looks pretty (for some values of "pretty"), but it's mostly over priced, hipster junk...
    – FreeMan
    Oct 26, 2023 at 12:37
  • @FreeMan ...isn't the whole point of IKEA that it's cheap? I'm not sure what it'd be overpriced in comparison to Oct 26, 2023 at 16:43
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You want to convert some subset of the slats into braces. Since this will be frequently disassembled and reassembled, you'll want to install tee nuts into the rails. These will give you bolt threads in the rails for bolting things together. No wood screws.

Tee nut

For just the slats that are to double as braces, set the rail-to-rail dimension at each slat and temporarily screw the slat at its perfect position. The temporary screw needs to be offset away from location of the final fastener. If you want the slat/brace pieces to be interchangeable, then you'll need to be precise with your layout. The distance between the hole centers from each end must be consistent, and the holes must be centered across the slat/brace's edges. Instead of that precision, you can instead mark one end of the slats/braces with 'a', 'b', etc. and mark the corresponding rail with matching identifiers. Drill through each slat and rail with a bit sized for the barrel diameter of the tee nuts--the extra slop in the holes will make it easier to assemble. Tap the tee nuts in from below and fasten into them from above. I'd use a washer under the bolt heads.

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  • Excellent idea.
    – matt.
    Oct 26, 2023 at 2:20
  • @popham My apologies, I conflated two answers and posted a comment for tee-nets being used to attach cables or chain to draw the sides together. So much for my reading while scrolling skills.
    – HABO
    Oct 26, 2023 at 3:37
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In hardware store get threaded rod, matching nuts, and some washers. Drill a hole in the sides of the bed and thread the rod through. Tighten to taste with nuts to prevent bed from buckling.
Use washers or metal plates to prevent the nuts from sinking into the wood.

To disassemble for storage, just unscrew one nut and take the threaded rod out.

Tip: You can screw 2 nuts against each other on one side to 'lock' them. You can then use single nut on the other side of the rod to tighten the assembly as necessary.

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  • As I stated in my answer, "This would look ugly and would be something for bed sheets or shins to get caught on, so I wouldn't recommend it." It is, however, an option.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 26, 2023 at 12:39
  • I think this plus the Tee nuts from popham's answer make for a decent solution that's easy to get right. My immediate thought was to get some turnbuckle rods that they sell for preventing screen doors from sagging. I've used them to keep a (raised garden) bed from transforming from a rectangle to a hexagon.
    – JimmyJames
    Oct 26, 2023 at 21:50
  • @FreeMan Just do it on the height of slates or below, no interference with mattress needed.
    – Thomas
    Oct 27, 2023 at 7:19
  • @JimmyJames While turnbuckle rods would work, they are kind of pointless in this setup. You still need to fasten the ends and most obvious way for that is hole + nut. And when you already have a nut, you can use that to adjust. It would be hard to access the turnbuckle inside the bed frame, I prefer sitting by the side and turning a wrench instead. Tee nuts are not necessary and might be problematic in softer wood - you most likely want a washer or plate and tee nuts wont work with that. depending how much the bed buckles you may need to put some force into it.
    – Thomas
    Oct 27, 2023 at 7:24
  • @Thomas Tee nut's kind of work as their own washer, though. I'm not sure why a tee nut with the same radius as a given washer would be any more problematic. As far as ease goes, I don't see any difficulty in tightening the turnbuckle when setting up the frame. Just stand inside it or lean over it if that doesn't work.
    – JimmyJames
    Oct 27, 2023 at 15:17
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A simple ratchet strap around the frame should be sufficient.

Without pictures, it will be difficult to give alternatives, or answer your question of if the bed frame should be replaced.

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    In my mind, a ratchet strap would interfere with where the mattress is supposed to go. Of course, with no pics from the OP, we're both just guessing on our answers.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 25, 2023 at 16:12
  • With a mattress on slats? The mattress will just distort around the strap. A box spring might be a problem.
    – longneck
    Oct 26, 2023 at 0:22
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    Transfers the "warped side rail" problem to a "destroyed mattress" problem.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 26, 2023 at 12:38
  • It would be reasonable to affix a D-ring or similar hardware to the two sides of the frame so that the ratchet strap makes only a single crossing and lies at nearly the same elevation as the slats, minimizing or avoiding mattress interference. For that matter, the hooks of the ratchet strap could be cut off and the two pieces of nylon webbing strap screwed directly to the bottom edge of a wooden side rail. Also, a cam-buckle strap may be good enough (possibly no need for the ratchet).
    – Greg Hill
    Oct 26, 2023 at 12:54
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There is still plenty of overlap with the slats. The slats do not fall out—yet.

I would just put screws through a few of the slats, on either end, to secure them to the bed frame.

It makes the bed slightly more of a hassle to disassemble; you have to remove screws.

A solution with metal pins is possible. Drill holes in the frame and matching holes in the slats (a paper template helps here), where metal dowel pins go to hold them together. You can get free pins from IKEA, like the type for "Ivar" shelving.

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  • While this will work, it may be hard or inconvenient in some frame types. If frame has a rail for slats instead of them lying on top for example. It will also require working under tension (pulling frame together) if the frame is already distorted.
    – Thomas
    Oct 27, 2023 at 7:27
  • This is the simplest solution, and it should work perfectly well for a slightly bent softwood beam. I'm not sure how a paper template would work; so far I'm thinking I'd drill in each beam and position the metal dowel, hammer the slat over it gently to identify where to drill the slat, and then drill the slat where the metal dowel left a mark. After assembly I'll look into whether the inside of the beam, next to the metal dowel pin, would need reinforcing.
    – Sam7919
    Oct 27, 2023 at 13:13
  • A bit of ink or paint on the head of the dowel will leave an impression.
    – Kaz
    Oct 27, 2023 at 15:11

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