Back when I thought I would have access to an adequate machine shop with my TechShop membership, I decided to build bed and cabinets from 80-20 T-strut extrusions. I’ve never used aluminum extrusions before - most of my experience is with wood, so this would let me learn something new.

Unfortunately with TechShop closed, I need to fall back onto my own tools. I have a miter saw, so I added non-ferrous blade and clamps, but found that hand drilling the extrusions was not workable. Once upon a time I had a home workshop with a decent drill press, but I have nowhere to set one up here, so I settled for a cheap Ryobi benchtop drill press. Overall, I’m not impressed, the 2” throw is annoying, and it’s not very solid/stable, but it gets the job done.

We decided on a lateral bed to conserve space, tall enough to fit mountain bikes and other gear below. We sleep comfortably on a Queen bed at home, and uncomfortably in a double, so decided on a 60” width. The height was based on location of the existing holes for rivnuts.

I had some 38” aluminum plate from a local metal shop, which I was originally planning to cut L-brackets from. With no CNC milling machine and no waterjet, I fell back on miter saw and drill press, but that worked well enough.

simple bracket. bracket in place

I used 15-series 80-20 clone extrusions picked up locally from Norcal Systems, and attached to the van frame with 4 hex rivnuts on each side and M8 bolts. In order to take advantage of the last 4” to the doors, I built a small extension from 80-20.

small extension

Using only 3 15-series beams, I got about 12” deflection at the mid-point of the bed, which didn’t cause any structural problems, but was a bit disconcerting (especially for my wife). Eventually I’ll add more structure below the bed for batteries, water, etc. so this won’t be a problem, but for now I added a temporary support in the middle (visible in the previous photo).

I’m viewing this as a temporary bed anyway, since I’m not certain a 29” mountain bike will fit below the current height. Since I don’t have the mountain bike yet, it’s a bit hard to say, but my current road bike won’t fit, even with the seat removed, so I’ll probably end up raising the bed later, which will require a change to the design.