Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Murphy Bed Equals Murphy's Law

A little more than a hundred years ago a young fellow in San Francisco had a dilemma: he was wooing a young lady and living in a single-room apartment. Not a big deal now, but back then proper young ladies did not enter a gentleman’s bedroom. End of discussion. To get around that problem William Murphy designed a bed that could be hidden by folding into a wall, turning his bedroom apartment into a socially acceptable parlor.

This shows three things. First, love conquers all obstacles. Second, moral codes have changed dramatically. Third, while moral codes have changed in San Francisco over the past 115 years, affordable housing for singles has not. 

While being far from a single room apartment, sleeping arrangements get a little tight at our house when the kids and grandkids visit. Mrs. Poynor’s sewing room has a hide-a-bed couch for half the problem. My much smaller office has… well… a good floor. It does not, however, offer enough space to permanently park another hide-a-bed. We’ve made due with inflatable mattresses for the past three years.

Inflatable mattresses are great until they come into contact with rambunctious boys, or a galloping cat. From that point on, things get a little flat. 

Mine will NOT look this good. Guarantee it.
A Murphy bed solution seemed just the ticket. Then we looked at the prices. The kindest evaluation was, “That’s just nuts,”  for the cheapest, no-frills model we could find (sans mattress and with shipping extra - provided they even shipped to Alaska). Most prices generated reactions that were touch-and-go for CPR.

Finally, we came upon a website that sold Murphy bed kits. Create-a-Bed company sells mechanisms that allow anybody to build their own Murphy bed. Heck, they even provide detailed plans and a DVD with step-by-step instructions. (Watching the DVD one would be led to believe the bed could be constructed in roughly a little over an hour.) 

Everything you need, minus the wood and a few screws.

After reading the instructions and watching the DVD several times I was eager to jump into the project, and that’s when Murphy’s Law first appeared. There seemed to be a local shortage of reasonably priced building materials. I needed four sheets of three-quarters inch oak plywood.

We live in a community with two lumber sources: Home Depot and a smaller chain. I’d seen the plywood at Home Depot, so went there first. They had a spot for the oak ply,  the price sign for the ply, but no plywood. So I inquired about stock. 

“We don’t have anybody to get it down from the shelves,” the lumber guy replied, “but we do have some nice birch ply.”

“No, I need the oak. I’m matching oak furniture.” 

“You know, the birch can always be stained to look like oak.”

“You know, there’s that little problem of mismatched wood grain. When will whoever moves stuff be back?” 

“I’m not sure.”

I left to check out the competition. You bet they had oak ply, I was assured, and for only slightly more than twice the price. (They must have someone tracking stock at Home Depot.) I guess I’m a patience whore because mine can be bought. 

A few days later, the guy who moves stuff at Home Depot apparently sobered up, got back from lunch, or whatever, and was available to put a new pallet of oak ply out. Euphoric, I dashed home with the plywood to dive into the project.

Fake a table saw, yes. Drill press, no.

The instructions suggest the use of a table saw to cut the plywood to the proper dimensions, but over the years I’ve become adept at making do with a lack of expensive tools. Table saw? I don’t need no stinking table saw! I’ve got a circular saw, a piece of plywood on two saw horses, a length of angle iron and a couple of clamps. I also needed to be accurate to within an eighth of an inch. It took two days to rip all the plywood into the correct dimensions. 

To cover up all those nasty plywood edges a glued veneer tape is applied to them. The veneer comes in a rolled strip seven-eighths of an inch wide. The glue is heat activated. It’s a simple matter of holding onto the wood, rolling out the right length of veneer, lining it up on center and then using your wife’s iron to melt everything together. If done correctly - and all you math geniuses can verify this - one will be left with an overhang on each side of the board. It is nominally one-sixteenth of an inch, not counting the glue that squished out to be scorched onto your wife’s (formerly) pristine iron. The DVD provides painfully long and graphic shots of trimming off the veneer overhangs with a razor knife. It then casually mentions there is a tool that will do the job faster and with better results.

Okay. This ain't gonna cut it.

After trimming one side of veneer on the first of twelve panels with the razor knife, the DVD was repeatedly scrutinized for any hint of a brand name for the trimming tool. No such luck. However, mining the internet provided that little nugget of information, along with a link to purchase one. It should be here in seven to ten working days.

And on a personal note: Dear Kids - Maybe we’d best plan on doing Thanksgiving at your place this year.


  1. LOL!!! When you perfect your technique...I will need one in a few years!

    1. At the rate I'm going, it WILL be a few years! Just got the trimmer this afternoon. We'll see...

  2. Wonderful furniture designs, in search of transferable furniture we came to your blog for ideas I loved the design especially the transformable bed. I am going to get clei furniture beds once in my life! I’ll use your styling ideas as we are also planning to shift in our new house which is under construction in Miami.

    1. Glad you liked it. Thanks for checking out the blog. Be sure and go to Create A Bed's website for much nicer ideas than what I made. If you don't want to build the bed yourself, any competent finishing carpenter could build it for you.

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