Fear, Loathing, & DIY

Adapting an Antique Bed for a Modern Mattress

August 8, 2016 by Kirby | 0 comments


Standard sized mattresses and box springs wont fit on antique bed frames, but with a little adapting you can forgo the box spring and slap a mattress right on top of the frame. The process is relatively painless, and you don’t need any tools other than a drill, hammer, and a few clamps.


  • A drill bit that will go through cast iron (they can help you at the hardware store)
  • Cutting oil
  • One 2×6 (cut to the measurements of your bed)
  • Bed slats (cut to the measurements of your bed) / (you decide how many) / (I chose 1×3’s)
  • Four 3-inch long 1/2 size bolts with corresponding washers and nuts
  • Nails to tack in the slats, whatever size


  1. Get your measurements. Measure the inside of the bed frame from the head to the foot. This will be the length for the 1×4 center bar that will support the bed slats. In my particular frame, the cast iron formed an L-shaped lip that was open toward the floor, and I fit the 1×4 inside of it. Lowe’s and Home Depot will both cut the piece down for you. I’ve had other frames that had the same L-shape but that opened up-ward and created a shelf for the center bar. If your frame can support the center piece without bolts and will allow the slats to rest flush with the side bars, then you’re lucky and don’t need to bolt the center slat in. (However, if you still may want to bolt it in to prevent sliding).
  2. Measure the width of the bed for your bed slats. Home Depot or Lowe’s will also cut these, but if you decide to get a lot, they will at best be annoyed or at worst, hate you. You should probably be a good person and tip whom ever does all the cuts for you. I went for ten slats for a full(ish) sized bed and the bed feels plenty supported.
  3. Find your center, then drill your holes. Drilling is easier, for some reason, when you do so with the wood already in place. We clamped the center piece to one side, then I held up the opposite end, while K drilled the holes. The cutting oil may be needed if the bit is having a difficult time going through. In the case of this bed, we had no issues. Once one side was drilled, we bolted it in, then clamped the other side, and drilled those holes. img_3969
  4. Space and nail your slats to the center bar. We used a nail gun, but old shoolin’ it works, too.
  5. Put your mattress on. The end.img_3968
  6.  A note about mattresses: Any modern mattress is going to be a bit too big. I purchased a super cheap memory foam from Amazon and had considered taking it out of it’s casing and cutting it down, but chickened out. Since the mattress is against the wall, I figure you can’t tell the mattress hangs off a bit if it’s on the wall-side.

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