I'd like to build a largish (6' x 7' x 4') structure that can be assembled and disassembled on-site with only hand tools. I'm thinking about things like insert nuts, cam lock nuts, mortise/tenon joints locked in by Ikea-style nut sleeves. But generally, I can't tell whether "disassemblable" just means "not sturdy" or "will only last for one or two assemblies."

Is this a realistic goal? Are there fittings that fit this bill, or do I have to choose between permanent and not sturdy?

I mean the question generally, but right now I'm thinking about the various joints needed for the structure below (loft platform for king sized bed, basically slats on joists on 4x4s):

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  • I found this question while puzzling over the design of a bookcase. I want it to look good and be solid in earthquake territory, but still be something that I can haul upstairs when I finish it, and be able to disassemble non-destructively in case I move. These platform bed ideas don't go far for a bookcase though.
    – Steve
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 18:22

3 Answers 3


Last year I built a bed frame similar to this (mine wasn't so tall, and it was only a queen sized bed), and also had the goal of making it easy to disassemble. I achieved my goal, but after moving to a new house realized it wasn't a good choice. While moving, I found it was much easier to simply remove the legs, and carry the "platform" as a single piece.

I also found that the bed will spend more time assembled than disassembled, so it's a better goal to make the bed solid while assembled. Since building my bed frame I've gone back and made it less disassemble-able, in favor of making it more solid.

Final design

No sheathing


Exploded in Color

  • The yellow braces are glued and screwed to the green rails from the inside.
  • The orange end caps are attached to the green rails with screws, using a pocket hole joinery.
  • The blue slats simply slide into the notches in the yellow braces, so no fasteners are used.
  • Finally, the purple legs are attached to the green rails using carriage bolts (the only visible fasteners).

I planned to install skirting around the perimeter, which would hide the carriage bolt heads. Unfortunately, I have yet to do it.

If this was much taller, I probably wouldn't notch the 4x4 legs. I would also add some cross bracing, or banding between the legs.

  • This is a fantastic answer! Thank you! I'm actually worried about getting it in and out of the apartment, but based on your input maybe I'll build it as two pieces plus legs, rather than completely separable.
    – LoftyGoals
    Commented Nov 8, 2013 at 20:50

Before you consider the attachment mechanisms, you need to consider the structural design. There is a problem with the current version if it is intended to be load bearing.

A structure that is basically a vertical parallelogram is inherently unstable. The joints serve as pivot points and the top of the structure can effectively slide sideways and collapse.

A standard approach is to create a triangulation that prevents a sideways shift. This can be done with narrow structural members set on an angle or with a side panel attached at multple points or rigid attachment to at least two walls (or a combination of these items). Any of these techniques can prevents side shift.

In your design, you really need at least two non-opposite sides with this bracing, and preferably all four sides.

Once you do that, there are numerous techniques for attachment. A relatively easy one is the use of t-nuts


Bolt holes are drilled through two members, a t-nut is placed on one side of the hole and a bolt and washer on the other. The t-nut is embedded in the wood and the bolt can be removed with a simple wrench.

  • Hadn't seen T-nuts before. I'm glad to hear that disassembly is possible. Other than apprenticing somewhere, how would you suggest I go about finding these kinds of fasteners? And thank you for the stabilization pointer -- I live in California and had planned to put that in, but I'm still working out the basic structure. I figured I'd leave out the stabilization until I figured out exactly what was going to go underneath (I'll probably put bookcases there, which could serve as part of the structure). Thanks!
    – LoftyGoals
    Commented Nov 8, 2013 at 5:22
  • 2
    In addition to asking questions on this site, a good way to become familiar with fasteners is to get catalogs from woodworking and tool companies like Rockler or Garretts and just perusing the aisles of hardware stores can amaze. On the stabilization, just be sure to include bracing on at least two adjacent sides (not just opposite ones).
    – bib
    Commented Nov 8, 2013 at 14:40
  • It looks like T-nuts might be what I need for my bookcase project. I think I can use dados for primary support, and the T-nuts for the added stability that glue would provide if I was building something that would not have to go up stairs.
    – Steve
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 18:29

Long ago, I built a set of elevated bunk beds. I ran the 4x4 posts up past the outside bed frame and then bolted the bed frame to the 4x4 frame with 3/8" carriage bolts. It was quite strong and easy to assemble and disassemble.

  • I started with a similar 2x4 bomb-proof design, but decided (with guidance from my SO) that this time I was going to build something more elegant. I'm going to try to do all M&T joints and hide all hardware.
    – LoftyGoals
    Commented Nov 8, 2013 at 5:59

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