ReadyMade Magazine Dec/Jan 2011

At Home: Hands On with Amy Devers

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Hands On: Wooden-cha Know It

Reuse an old wooden futon frame.

Written by Amy Devers

Illustrations by Kate Sutton

RM futon bench“I would love some ideas for what to make with an old futon frame thats been taken apart. The wood is great solid maple, but so far all I’ve been able to think to do with it is to make a room divider. I’m willing to use power tools!” —Karol Massey, Eugene, Oregon

Hi Karol,

You’re sitting on a little jackpot of hardwood there! Cheers to you for saving it and being game to use power tools to transform it into something else. There are about 1.6 million things you could do with it. (How about using it to make a nifty futon frame? Just kidding!) There is a reason that the futon frame was made out of solid hardwood to begin with: Structurally, its great for furniture. So while you could use the wood for picture frames, doorstops, trivets, or kindling, I’m going to suggest that you stick (ha, ha, woodshop humor) with furniture. I’m assuming, like most futon frames, its made of slats, yes? Those slats are already milled to the appropriate thickness and scale for furniture, so why not take advantage? With some super simple crate-building techniques and a few hours, you can make seating or storage thats both sturdy and handsome (just like the dude on paper towel packaging). Look around your house. What do you need?

Idea #1:

A bench or pair of benches. I really love the idea of bench seating at the dining table—its so approachable, communal, and visually minimal. Plus, a little bench tucked in just the right spot is the perfect place to prop yourself during shoes on/off procedures. Or you can make one to fit perfectly under your favorite window, and you’ve got the ideal spot for daydreaming, neighbor-gazing, brainstorming, pantomiming…whatevers your thing. Add a cushion and it gets that much closer to being a couch. You could even change the proportions a bit and make a table instead.

RM futon open credenza

Use salvaged wood to make an open-backed box credenza. Illustration by Kate Sutton.

Idea #2:

An open-backed box on ready-made furniture feet or legs that could serve just about any purpose you want depending on the size you make it. I bet you need a nightstand that holds your reading material. Or maybe you want a petite credenza to house your turn-table and beloved vinyl collection? Perhaps you could use an end table that doubles as a magazine rack? (I dont know anyone who doesnt need one of those.) I personally am in the market for a narrow hall table with a place for stashing mail, handbags, and umbrellas. The options are endless.

Get your futon on


Wood (if you dont have an old futon frame to cannibalize, you can use 1x4s from your local home warehouse or lumberyard)

Measuring tape

Random orbital sander or palm sander (you can also sand by hand, but you might hate me after an hour or two)

120 and 220 grit sandpaper

*Chop saw

Elmers Carpenters Wood Glue

Wet rag

*16-gauge finish nailer and safety glasses (you can tap in brad nails by hand with a hammer but, trust me, nail guns have so much more going for them in the immediate-gratification department)

16-gauge finish nails slightly shorter than twice the thickness of your slats (so nails dont poke through the other side)

Furniture feet or legs and mounting hardware (for credenza)


Paint or stain (like Bartley Gel Stains) Wood filler or putty

*Check with your local home improvement center or tool lending library for rental options.

The Process:

It will be pretty much the same cakewalk for both projects.

1. Determine the end use and location for the piece, then decide on the dimensions. (The easiest route is to plan on using full widths of your maple slats.)

2. Generate your cut list (a cut list is a list of all the parts you’ll need and at what sizes) and verify that you have enough material. You’ll need to plug in your own numbers based on the size of your materials and the dimensions of your piece, but you can use the cut lists at right as your guide.

3. Buy furniture feet or legs if you plan to use them. (HÄFELE is a great source for furniture feet and table legs.)

4. Sand off the existing finish from your maple slats. (Leftover finish will prevent the glue from bonding, plus this gives you the opportunity to clean up any dings or scratches. It’ll be easier to do this before you cut the wood up into pieces.) Start with 120 grit sandpaper, then finish with 220 grit to get the wood nice and smooth.

5. Cut.

6. Assemble.

7. Finish. If painting, fill and sand holes first, then paint. If staining, stain and seal first then fill holes with tinted putty.

8. Toast yourself with a Manhattan (or a martini if you’re the gin type).

Make it! Hardwood Bench

This will make a 16 x 46 x 15 1/2 -inch bench (using a 3/4-inch-thick x 3 1/2-inch-wide slat).

Cut List:

8 pieces at 15¼ inches (4 legs)

2 pieces at 40 inches (apron)

2 pieces at 11½ inches (apron)

4 pieces at 46 inches (bench top)

1. Bring your list to the hardware store and have pieces cut on site if you dont have a chop saw at home.

2. Assemble the 4 legs by butting 2 leg slats lengthwise at a right angle. Glue (cleaning up any squeeze-out ASAP with a wet rag) and nail along the joint.

3. Build the apron by gluing and nailing a box frame together. Let the long pieces cap off the short side pieces.

4. Glue and nail one leg into each of the four corners of the box frame. Make sure the top of each leg is flush with the top of the box frame.

5. Glue and nail your bench top slats into place, making sure they have even ½-inch spaces between them. Slats should overhang by 3 inches on each side and by 1¼ inches on both the front and back.

Make it! Open-Backed Box Credenza

This will make a 14 1/2 x 32 x 15 1/2 -inch credenza (using a 3 1/2 -inch-thick x 3 1/2 -inch -wide slat).

Cut List:

8 pieces at 15½ inches (4 corner braces)

8 pieces at 13 inches (sides)

8 pieces at 32 inches (top and bottom)

1. Bring your list to the hardware store and have pieces cut on site if you dont have a chop saw at home.

2. Assemble the four corner braces by gluing and nailing two slats together lengthwise at a right angle.

3. Assemble the sides by lining 4 of the side slats up with ½ inch in between. Glue and nail corner braces even with the top and bottom edges. Nail through the face of the brace (not the outside of the piece) so it looks cleaner. Repeat for the other side.

4. Glue and nail the top and bottom slats in place. Line up each slat with the corresponding side slat and make sure it is flush with the outside edge. Nail from the outside through each slat and into the end grain of the corresponding side slat as well as through the face of the brace.

5. Finish by painting or staining (see Step 7 under “The Process”) as desired, then mount furniture feet or legs.

Have a home problem that needs fixing? Email us at articles@readymade and we’ll get Amy Devers on the case. And stay tuned to ready for her weekly home solutions.

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