measuring wood on a workbench under a desk lamp shining on hands

How To Make A Headboard

Originally contributed by Brandi Radulovich • last updated 3/30/2021

IntermediateDifficulty
3 hrsTime
$135Cost
IntermediateDifficulty
3 hrsTime
$135Cost

Headboards are wonderful focal points in any great bedroom design, so why not put your own stamp on them by making a headboard unique to you? 

DIY wood headboards are a budget-friendly way to personalize your space, and rustic wood headboards are the cream of the crop, giving your room that extra little bit of oomph it deserves.

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The design I’ll be walking you through has two beautiful sconce lights built into the top of it, but if you’d rather keep your headboard nice and simple, no problem! When you get to Step 1, follow the directions for "simple headboard posts" and simply skip the "optional lighting" section that follows.

Let's Make It

Equipment

  • Table Saw/Miter Saw
  • Pocket Hole Jig System
  • Cordless Drill
  • Pin Nailer
  • Orbital Sander

Materials

  • Eight - 1” x 6” pine board
  • Two - 4” x 4” timber studs
  • Four - 2” x 4” framing studs
  • Four - 1” x 2” furring strips
  • Two - 2” x 3” framing studs
  • Wood Glue
  • Wood Stain
  • Paste Finishing Wax
  • Spray Paint/Primer
  • Pin Nails
  • Pocket Hole Screws
  • Paint Scraper
  • 120 Grit Sandpaper
  • Bar Clamps
  • Tape Measure
  • Speed Square
  • Paint Scraper
  • Cloth/Rag
  • Disposable Gloves
  • Face Mask
01/12

Cut Headboard Posts

Simple Headboard Posts

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If you’d rather go without the built-in lighting, building the two headboard posts is as simple as cutting two 4” x 4” timber studs to the height you want your DIY wood headboard to be!

I cut mine to be five feet long, but be sure to measure the height of your bed before you determine what size is right for you.

Optional Lighting Channel

If you want to try adding built-in lights to your rustic headboard but want to avoid a bunch of ugly, loose wires dangling down behind it, try building a hidden wire channel inside your headboard posts!

  1. First, start by cutting four 2” x 4” framing studs to the height you want your headboard to be. I cut mine to be 2” x 4” x 6’ long, but be sure to measure your bed before you determine what size is right for you!
  2. Lay one of your 2” x 4” studs down onto your work surface. Place a 1” x 2” furring strip cut to the same length on top of it, lining it up so that it’s flush to the right side of the stud.
  3. Now lay two pieces of six-inch-long 1” x 2” furring strip down onto the left side of the wood stud, one flush to the top left corner, the other flush to the bottom left corner. 
  4. Glue down all three pieces of 1” x 2” furring strip with wood glue, then secure with a pin nailer.
  5. Now, place a second 2” x 4” framing stud down on top, sandwiching the 1” x 2” furring strip between the other 2” x 4” stud. Once you’re sure it’s lined up, use glue and a pin nailer to secure the stud to the other boards. Allow the glue to dry.
  6. Repeat the exact same process to create the second headboard post.
02/12

Add Cap To Headboard Posts

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Measure a piece of 1” x 6” pine board to the same length as your two headboard posts and cut it to size.

Glue the 1” x 6” board to your post, making sure the top, bottom, and left sides are flush to the sides of the post, with a few extra inches of wood extending over the right side. 

Repeat the same process with the second post, then use your pin nailer or bar clamps to hold the wood together while it dries.

03/12

Add Support Beams

Spread out your two headboard posts the width you want your DIY wood headboard to be, with the 1” x 6” pine board side up. 

Measure the distance between them, then cut two 2” x 3” framing studs to span the gap. 

Drill two pocket holes into each end of the 2” x 3” studs with a pocket hole jig system, then line them up near the top and middle of your posts.

Apply wood glue to each end of the 2” x 3” framing studs, then drill through the pocket holes into the post using pocket hole screws. 

Allow the glue to dry.

04/12

Attach The Cross Pieces

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Now that the frame of your rustic headboard is assembled, let’s attach the cross pieces to complete the look!

Lay all but one of your remaining 1” x 6” pine board pieces across your headboard posts.

Line up the first cross piece so that it’s flush with the top, left, and right sides of your two posts, then clamp it in place while you’re doing the rest of your measurements.

Use a 1” x 2” wood spacer turned on its side to make a gap between the top cross piece and the next, then apply glue to the headboard posts and place down the second cross piece.

Working from the top down, continue to use 1” x 2” wood spacers to help position the rest of your cross pieces, gluing and pin-nailing as you go. 

Once all pieces are in position, remove the clamps from the top cross piece and glue it down as well, using a pin nailer for extra security.

Allow the glue to dry.

05/12

Add A Headboard Cap

Measure the distance between the front of the headboard to the back, then cut your last 1” x 6” pine board down to the full length and width of your rustic headboard. 

If you're attaching built-in lighting later, you're going to want to put this piece aside for now, otherwise use wood glue and a pin nailer to attach the cap to the top of the headboard, making sure each side is completely flush to the sides of the posts.

06/12

Sanding

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And now it's time for the finishing process!

Sand the entire headboard down with 120 grit sandpaper, using an orbital sander if you have one.

07/12

Stain

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Using your favorite stain color, use a small cloth or rag to apply stain along the edges of every wood piece (including the headboard cap) as well as over any knots in the wood. 

I’m using the color Smoke Gray by Varathane which is a lovely dark ash color that will contrast nicely with the white paint we’ll be applying later. 

When deciding on the color for your DIY wood headboard, consider the overall color tones of your room and your chosen paint color. If the paint color you chose is on the cooler side, consider matching it with a stain that has more of a grey undertone. If the paint color you chose is nice and warm, consider a stain that has more of a reddy-yellow cast to it. 

Allow the stain to dry.

08/12

Apply Wax

Apply paste finishing wax to the stained sections of wood by scraping the wax over the wood with a paint scraper.

The purpose of the wax is to act as a buffer between the stain and the paint, meaning that anywhere you place the wax now will be where the stain shows through later on when we scrape the wax away. This also means that the more wax you apply, the more distressed the wood will look.

For a more detailed demonstration of this technique, view my lesson How To Distress Furniture: DIY Complete Guide.

09/12

Paint

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Holding the spray can approximately a foot away from the surface, cover the entire headboard (and the headboard cap) with your chosen paint color, using multiple coats as needed. 

My client wanted her rustic headboard to be bright and white, so I’m using Satin White by Krylon, which is an all-in-one paint and primer mix.

Allow the paint to dry completely.

10/12

Scrape Away The Wax

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Now, this part is one of my personal favorites. Using a paint scraper, scrape over all the areas where the wax was applied earlier. 

Removing all of the wax, you should be left with a lovely distressed wood effect, with stained wood peeking through the paint in a number of different areas.

11/12

Install Optional Lighting

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Finally, your DIY wood headboard is complete!

If you’re installing built-in lighting to the top of the headboard like I am, simply screw your lights into place, then run the wiring through the wonderful hidden wiring channel we made in the posts earlier! 

Once your lighting is secure and the wiring is sitting happily inside the post, glue on your headboard cap and allow it to dry.

12/12

Success

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And that's it, we’re all done! Set your brand new, one-of-a-kind, rustic headboard behind your bed and be on your way to happy sleep-town ASAP!

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