How to Build a Gaucho for a Travel Trailerby John Cagney Nash
Collapsible travel trailer beds are available in three configurations: a jackknife sofa that simply hinges in the middle from a folded seating position to a flat sleeping position, a sofa sleeper that stores a retractable extension and separate mattress beneath the sofa base, and a gaucho bed. A gaucho pulls outward into the travel trailer's living space from beneath the sofa, just like opening a very large drawer. The configuration of the sofa cushions is altered to create a sleeping surface rather than a separate mattress being used.
Visit a recreational vehicle, or RV, dealership or show and familiarize yourself with the industry's various methods of extending and retracting a gaucho bed. Understanding how the mechanisms function will make it easier to build your own gaucho bed.
Determine what the finished dimensions of the gaucho bed must be. Do this by trying various mattresses in a home furnishings store and establishing the smallest mattress you are comfortable sleeping on, then using a tape measure to determine its size. Make sure the finished dimensions will work with the space available in your travel trailer.
Construct the stationary frame of the gaucho. This must be designed to serve as a comfortable seat, and be strong enough to support both the sleepers and the mechanisms installed in its underside. The frame can be made of 2-inch by 2-inch lumber or metal tubing joined together with welds or pipe fittings. The seating base, and the base of the drawer section, can either be made of solid plywood panels or from a grid of wooden battens or tensioned tow straps woven into a lattice.
Construct the tracks on which the extending portion will slide. These can be as simple as the wooden slides inside old-fashioned chests of draws, or purpose-built steel tracks that are sold as a kit with the runners included.
Cut the cushions to size with a craft knife. Typically the cushion used as a seat when the gaucho is retracted is larger than the cushion used as a back rest, and the back rest is positioned on top of the seat cushion. Large sheets of high-density foam are usually available from fabric stores and department stores. Glue the foam pads to the base panels or lattices, or use adhesive-backed hook-and-eye tape to hold them in place, both in their seating and sleeping configurations.
Construct the extending portion of the gaucho, which can be visualized as a very large, shallow drawer. Typically, the extending portion will be larger than the base of the sofa -- the seat in its retracted configuration -- that remains stationary. Install rubber stops or metal latch bolts, one at each inside corner, to stop the drawer being pulled out too far and collapsing onto the floor. Screw folding legs at the outside corners that can be deployed for sleeping and retracted for storage.
Pull the extending portion outward from under the seat, lower the folding legs and locate the securing devices in their keeps. Pull the seating cushion toward you onto the extended portion, then change the loose cushion back rest from its vertical to its horizontal configuration. The gaucho is now converted; reverse the process to return it to its seating configuration.
- Heavy-duty slides, rated at 500 pounds each, are available from hardware and DIY stores.
- The project is made considerably easier if a used sofa bed can be sourced and cannibalized. The sofa would be complete with components such as cushions, slides, latches and folding legs that could all be reused.
- It is easier and cheaper to fabricate the drawer to the size of a preexisting mattress, rather than to make a mattress to fit the drawer.
Items you will need
- Tape measure
- Carpentry tools
- 2-inch by 2-inch lumber
- Metal tubing (optional)
- Pipe fittings (optional)
- Plywood panels
- Wooden battens (optional)
- Tow straps (optional)
- Wooden slides
- Steel tracking kit (optional)
- Craft knife
- High-density foam
- Hook-and-eye tape (optional)
- Rubber stops
- Latch bolts (optional)
- Folding legs
- coach, trailer image by Greg Pickens from Fotolia.com