Antique Rope Bed with Sacking Bottom

After dropping off some stuff at the Erie City Mission, Melanie and I walked through the display floor to see what was available. We've gotten some good things there in the past, including a Queen Anne chair and a china hutch. We've been looking for a used, full-size bed for the spare bedroom to replace the twin bed that used to be our daughter's. Fortunately, the Erie City Mission had recently acquired a turn-of-the-20th-century rope bed that, according to lore, used to belong to the owner of a defunct local brewery (Kohler?). Heavy pine is used for the entire framework. It was in fair shape, with expected dings and scratches from 100+ years of use. Rather than undertake a total restoration project at this time, I decided to just do what was needed to make it serviceable. A few of the rope pegs were missing, and the sacking bottom was missing. Pieces of plywood had been attached across the frame rails, with a cotton-stuffed mattress on top.

Completed Rope Bed - Airplanes and Rockets

A replacement sacking bottom and the missing pegs were ordered from Weaving Haus Antiques in Zoar, Ohio. You give them the inside dimensions of the frame rails and the number of pegs on each side, then they make the sacking bottom out of sail canvas and mail it, along with enough rope to do the job, to you. The side rails have tenons that insert into mortises in the headboard and footboard, then lag screws tighten from the outside of the headboard and footboard. The holes for the screws in the ends of the side rails were totally stripped out, so I used Gorilla glue to hold in concrete lag anchors for the 5/16" lag bolts. It made for a very robust screw receptacle that could be torqued down securely. I should have taken a picture of them.

Bare Rope Bed Frame - Airplanes and Rockets

The sacking bottom installed without incident, while working to keep it centered between the frame rails while tightening the rope. It will need to be re-tightened in a couple weeks after giving the rope and canvas time to stretch to its new shape.

5" high density foam + 2.5" memory foam mattress - Airplanes and Rockets

We pulled all the old cotton out of the canvas mattress and had a piece of high density, 5" thick foam cut at House of Foam and Fabric here in Erie at a staggering cost of $162.

A standard full-size bed mattress is about 2 inches too long to fit between the headboard and footboard, but the width is just right. The top of the frame rails are at 19 inches, so if you put even a minimal box spring and mattress on it, you'd need a step stool or trampoline to get into bed! The 5 inch thick foam mattress puts the top surface at 24 inches as it is. Our total investment for the bed, sacking bottom, 5"nthick foam mattress, 2½" thick Memory Foam, and miscellaneous hardware and pegs was about $800. Ouch!

Sacking Bottom with Rope Strung - Airplanes and Rockets

Sacking BOttom for Rope Bed - Airplanes and Rockets

Rope Bed Frame & Sacking Bottom

Even with the sacking bottom rope pulled as tight as I dare, the center still sagged fairly substantially with two people on it. So, I cut a piece of 1/2" thick plywood that was about 12" narrower than the measurement around the inside edge of the bed frame, then ran a mesh of 1/4" sisal rope under it as shown in the picture below. The rope was wrapped around the same frame pegs as the sacking bottom rope (also 1/4" sisal). The result is a moderately firm surface that no longer sags in the center. It is very comfortable with a 5" thick foam mattress on the bottom and a 2" Memory Foam layer on top.

Plywood Support Under Sacking Bottom - Airplanes & Rockets

1/2" Plywood Support Under Sacking Bottom



Posted March 5, 2012

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