Our Mattress Construction
Sorry if this is TMI. If you pull up the cushions on your recliner or couch and feel the support underneath you will find "zigzag spring construction". I copied this method over to the gaucho mattress. The pictures show the various stages of construction. It took about 5 evenings to make one mattress.
Here's the pros and cons for this kind of construction:
Pros: lower cost, light weight, materials are not hard to get, its more comfortable than the original foam on plywood (for my taste, anyway), no foam with petrochemical outgassing, less upholstery skill required.
Cons: takes woodworking skills, frames need to be glued and screwed securely together to accomodate the spring load, dealing with the "hard valley" where the two frames lay flat together, getting the spring tension just right so you don't sit down and feel the cross braces.
There are several sites selling spring material on the net. The vendors gave me good installation tips. I found upholstery books at the library helpful. The spring wire comes in a roll and I had to stretch it across the wood frame with a home made tool. (you can see this in one picture). The frame has to be strong and reinforced with cross pieces to withstand this spring load.
After the frame and springs are assembled, the main tools are a staple gun and scissors. I tied the springs with string so they don't spread apart. I followed up with a row of wire reinforcement just to be sure. Then I stapled on the burlap layer. Next I made a burlap envelope and stitched it into segments. I stuffed the segments with kapok. (this keeps the padding from shifting around when you sit on it). THis pad goes on top of the burlap layer. Then I stretched the heavy organic cotton fabric over the frame and stapled it in place.
There is a hard valley created when you lie the back down to make the bed. I had to plan the back and seat widths so that we don't end up laying on this hard joint. We minimized the joint hardness and the valley effect by laying a long, skinny tubular pillow there (we call it the pillow snake).
Finally, you can see the little removable legs at the edge of the bed. The original wooden gaucho slides were cracked and worn from this unsupported overhang. I made all new ones (not easy!) and the legs will help keep the new slides from breaking. We just toss them in a compartment when we push the bed back into a couch.