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Build A Murphy Bed (2): Story Poles

March 29, 2017

Condense all of the critical measurements of a room onto the sides of one stick

This video is part of a series on Making a Murphy bed. the series landing page is here.

Official Transcript:

Pretty well, every project that I've ever done starts with a story pole. A story pole is just a stick that I put measurements on so I can see the relationship between all the parts I need to build. It also gives me a way to take measurements and think my way through the process.

This is the story pole for my wall bed. The first thing that you have to determine before you can even begin the story pole though, is the size of your mattress. When you're building a wall bed, it all starts with a mattress and goes out and up from there.

Determine the critical dimensions

So, according to my phone, a double mattress is 53 inches wide by 75 inches tall.

Now, you have to leave a little bit of room for bedding to tuck in around the mattress. I have at times used a little as a half inch, but I like to leave an inch so the inside of the platform that I want to build for the bed, which is kinda like a box spring, is 54 inches, 1-inch wider than the mattress.

On the length of the bed, or height of the cabinet, I added 2-inches; so the inside of the platform is 77 inches tall.

As far as the ultimate size of the cabinet that this platform's going to fit in, I made it a little taller than what the instructions recommend. For me, that's because it's about the scale of the cabinet in the room. I've got 9-foot ceilings in this house, so I want my cabinet to be 7-foot 6-inches, and I'll just add a filler piece above the top of the platform when it's all said and done.

I like that scale in the room, so I made the cabinet a little bit taller. If you want to hit the absolute minimum, those instructions do give you that information about the minimum height that you can work with.

Transfer the dimensions to various sides of the story pole

I added the horizontal measurements first on my story pole. I just came out towards the middle and put a pencil mark. I took the 53-in width of the mattress, and add one more, so that's 54, which is 27 inches each direction. This mark represents 27 inches.

Next, I laid out the thickness of a piece of 3/4-inch plywood, and I put an X in it to show it was plywood. That is the side of the platform that I'm going to build that the mattress is going to sit in.

And then I marked out the width of the hardware. Now, the instructions tell you that it's right around an 1-1/8 inches. Again, you kind of get a little bit crossed up on that metric-to-inches thing. But I've found that I can actually go about an inch and three-sixteenths and get myself just a little more room for play. I haven't ever gotten in trouble by having a little extra width, but I think you can get in trouble if you make it too tight.

So I've marked where the box is going to be, and I've marked the width of the hardware. And then I added, this other piece of plywood, the outside wall of the cabinet. Go back the other way, and I've got exactly the same measurements going back to my left.

That's the horizontal layout and pretty much everything I need to know to build my wall bed horizontally is right here on this story pole.

On another edge, I marked the vertical layout, which is pretty simple.

Finally, I took one other edge and made a list of the parts. This is just a list of the parts that I actually have to cut.

So, this is a great deal... Almost all the information I need to build my wall bed is going to be right here on this story pole.

Previous segment: 1/ Murphy Bed Hardware

Next Segment: 3/ Building the Platform Bottom: The Face of the Cabinet

See the whole series here: A Wall Bed That Even Murphy Can Make

—A recovering production trim carpenter, Gary Streigler is a partner in Craftsman Builders in Northwest Arkansas.

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