How do Futons work? Futon Mechanisms and How to fix Jammed Futons
Futons are traditional Japanese beds consisting of a foldable mattress that can be stored during the day. Today, the word ‘futon’ covers a range of bed options, all of which can be easily folded and unfolded into different positions. The most common type of futons available in the West are sofa futons. These futons can be used as a bed or folded up and used as a sofa. They are therefore both versatile and space-saving. If you’re unfamiliar with futons, you might be wondering, “how does a futon work?”
Traditional futons work by unfolding into a mattress when in use and being folded into a roll when not in use. Western futons work by being sofas when not in use and behaving like beds when they are unfolded. The mechanism behind how futons work changes depending on bifold or tri fold futons.
There are many different kinds of futons to choose from. This guide will go over each type of futon so you can make the best choice about the futon that’s right for you! We also can provide you with additional information about futon frames, mattresses, and sheet sizes and guide you to the best futon mattresses in these articles.
Types of Futons
There are various types of futons available on the market ranging from the traditional Japanese futon mattresses to the western style futon sofas.
The western style of futon usually consists of a slipcover, a foldable mattress and a platform. The platform is usually made of wood or metal. Sometimes metal rails or rollers are used in futon platforms to make them easy to pull out and push in.
The two most common styles of futon sofas are the bi-fold futon and the tri-fold futon.
The bi-fold futon is the most common type of futon. If you buy a typical Bi-fold futon, you will get a frame made of wood or metal, a futon mattress and a slipcover. The slipcover is used to lay on the frame before placing the mattress to make sure that the mattress stays in place.
To use a bi-fold futon when set in the sofa position, you simply have to grab it from the front of the seat and pull it towards you until the lower part of the bed is horizontal with the upper part. Different parts are joined with each other using hinges which makes them easy to move and pull out or push in.
The mattress of the bi-fold futon comes as a single piece. When the bed is in the sofa position all you have to do is to fold the mattress such that it covers both the backrest of the sofa and its seat.
Sometimes Bi-Fold futons include an adjustable backrest that can be set to recline at different levels. Here’s a great example of a bifold futon from Amazon.
A tri-fold futon is very similar to a bi-fold futon but includes a deck which can be hidden away in the structure of the futon when it is not in use.
To use a tri-fold futon, you can usually pull the deck which is secured under the sofa seat and take it out by lifting the seat up. While the futon is still in sofa position the deck can be used as an ottoman but when the futon is converted to a bed the deck is used to form the lower part of the bed.
Sometimes instead of having a separate deck a tri-fold futon has an extendable part below the seat which remains attached to the rest of the structure but can be pulled out when converting the futon into the bed position.
The mattress of the tri-fold futon is folded twice across the seat when in sofa positions. Alternatively, the mattress may come in two pieces, like in the loveseat variation of a tri-fold Futon. In a loveseat futon, the hidden deck has a separate mattress and the rest of the structure has a separate larger mattress. The two mattresses are joined together when the futon is in bed form. Here’s a highly rated tri-fold futon from Amazon.
How Does the Futon Mechanism Work?
There are many types of futon mechanisms including ladder hinges, bolt hinges, moveable backrests, and newer complex mechanisms using metal sliders.
In the early 1980’s the Brouwer futon bed used ladder hinges to allow the conversion of the frame. The hinge could only operate in one direction and when the bed was pulled to the sleeping position it would mark a stop. The ladder hinge was used as a pivot point and conversion was achieved by cutting a groove in the slat rack.
Later in 1985 Ron Massey designed a futon with a wide 75-inch futon frame. His frame consisted of three slat racks which were joined by a bolt at the hinge point. The slat which formed the backrest was long enough to touch the floor and hence the futon frame was very stable.
Later on Bob Fireman developed a mechanism in which allowed the futon to be converted to a sleeping position without having to be moved away from the wall. In this mechanism, the slats that formed the back rest could be pulled forward and laid down straight.
As the process of furniture making became more sophisticated, the use of metal in furniture became common, and futons had another development in their mechanism. Futon makers began to use metal sliders to aid the conversion of futon from one position to the other. With a complex set of mechanical arms futons could now easily be converted and locked into a number of reclining positions.
Futon mechanisms and designs have evolved ever since and will probably continue to evolve. Some manufacturer’s compromise on quality to produce cheaper options but others are dedicated to offering the finest mechanisms and designs.
How to Open and Close a Futon
Although there can be some variations regarding the opening and closing of futons, the following are some steps that are common to most futon sofas.
To open a futon, follow these steps:
- Remove the mattress
- Grab the front bar of the futon platform
- Lift the bar upwards
- Pull the bar towards yourself until the platform is straight
- Let down the supporting legs if that doesn’t automatically happen (sometimes you may have to open a latch to do so)
- Lay the mattress straight on it
To close a futon, follow these steps:
- Remove the mattress
- Grab the front bar of the futon platform
- Life the bar upwards
- Fold the supportive legs and close the latch if there is any. Sometimes legs are folded back into position without having to use a latch
- Push the part you have grabbed towards the Futon’s platform
- Make sure that the structure is back in the sofa position completely
- Put a mattress on it such that it covers both the seat and the backrest.
In case of a Tri-fold futon, the mattress will have two folds across its width.
How do Japanese Futons Work?
Japanese Futons are the simplest kind of futon and can be used as a minimalistic approach to furnishing your bedroom. The three parts of a Japanese futon include a Shikibuton, a Kakibuton and a Makura. The Kakibuton refers to the comforter and Makura refers to the pillow. The Shikibuton is the actual mattress part of the Futon. Here’s an example of a shikibuton from Amazon.
The Shikibuton is a mattress made up of layers of cotton and it can be easily folded and stored away. Although the mattress can be laid on bare floor, traditionally a Tatami mat is used to lay the mattress on. The tatami mat is a grass or reed woven mat. The mat provides more cushion to the mattress and also enhances its breathability. The great thing about the Tatami mat is that it can also be easily folded and stored away.
As it must be clear by the components of Japanese futons, there are no complications related to how they work. To use Japanese futons all you have to do is lay out the mat and then unfold and lay out the mattress on the top and your futon is ready. You can use comforters and pillows if you want.
A simple japanese futon. Image from Amazon. ALT: Japanese futons work in a very simple way. They only consist of the futon mattress.
How do Easy Open Futons Work?
Easy open futons work by having automatically extensible legs and metal sliders that make the moveable parts of the futon glide more easily.
There are two characteristics usually present in the easy open futons that make them different from the regular Futons. While regular futons often come with latches that you have to open up in order to make the supporting legs of the extended part of the futon to fall down, easy-open futons are made such that the legs automatically come out when you pull the extended part of the futon.
Another factor that distinguishes easy open futons from regular ones is that easy open futons often come with metal rails that make it easy for different parts of the futon to slide over each other and thus it is easier to pull out and push back an easy open futon. All you have to do to open an easy-open futon is to lift the front bar of the platform slightly up and pull it towards you. The structure will easily glide towards you without having to use much force. Here’s an easy open futon on Amazon. Make sure you also follow our step-by-step guide on how to clean a futon mattress to help increase its lifespan.
What to do if a Futon is Jammed?
If your futon is jammed, you need to check if the bedding is trapped, hinge pins are loose or missing, rollers are clear to rotate, and that you are properly pulling your futon open. Make sure you refer to manufacturer instructions.
If you feel like your futon is jammed and you are unable to fold or unfold it, the first thing to do is to remove everything laying on top. Sometimes a comforter or some part of the mattress cover can get stuck in the futon frame causing it to jam. Simply removing all such things can instantly solve the problem.
However, if the futon is still jammed, check the hinge pins that are used to attach different parts of the Futon’s structure together. Make sure that none of the pins are loose, missing or screwed in the wrong way causing the structure to jam. Do the same for all the nuts and bolts as loosened nuts and bolts can hinder smooth movement.
If your futon has rollers, check that there is nothing stuck in the place where rollers are supposed to glide. Sometimes even small debris can become a hindrance and make the futon jam.
If everything else is correct, then the problem may be the way you are pulling the frame. The futon frame needs to be lifted upwards before it can be pulled out. It might feel jammed if you are not lifting it enough and are trying to pull it out too early. Using excessive force to pull out the frame while it is not in a suitable position to be pulled out can also cause damage to it.
The best way to go about using a futon is to follow the instructions that comes with it. With such a large furniture industry and so many innovations in furniture, manufacturers keep on updating their designs and sometimes that can also result in changes to the operating mechanisms of furniture. Therefore, it is best to operate a particular piece of furniture exactly how its own manufacturer has suggested because no one can know it better than the one who made it.