A headboard can make a huge difference in your bedroom. You can switch out your headboard to quickly go from a classic look to a modern farmhouse feel (or any other style you choose).
For us, it wasn’t a matter of changing our headboard. it was a matter of actually making one.
After we finished our canopy bed (get the plans here!), we vowed to make our DIY headboard the following weekend. Well, 78 weekends later and we finally built and installed our headboard!
Hopefully you haven’t waited 78 weeks to actually get started on yours.
Alright, let’s start DIYing!
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Note: if you don’t have a wood canopy bed, your shopping list should also include 2x4s or 4x4s for the legs.
Note: We did not include the quantity of boards because it will vary based on what size bed you make. We also used scrap wood for this project, so we weren’t keeping track of how many inches of each board we used.
Since we have a canopy bed, we didn’t have to worry about making the headboard able to stand. If you don’t have a canopy bed, don’t worry. You can follow all of the instructions and then add some legs at the end.
If your headboard is not for a California King, your pattern will turn out slightly different. You can still have the same boards and the same angles, but some boards will be shorter/longer or have more/less spacing around them.
First, measure your bed to determine your measurements. We had a 72″ opening from post to post, so we cut two 1x2s to 72″. Then we used the remainder of each board (24″) as the vertical boards. This will make our final headboard dimensions 72 x 27″.
Drill pocket holes on each end of all of your 1x2s.
Attach your 1x2s using glue and screws, making sure that all the pocket holes are on the backside of the headboard. We positioned our vertical 1x2s 1″ in from the edge of the top and bottom 1x2s. The Kreg Multi-Mark tool makes consistent measurements a breeze.
Below is a rendering showing what size boards we used where and how to cut them. It doesn’t include exact measurements because is going to be easier and more accurate to measure and cut as you go along. If you don’t go based on exact measurements, you can adjust the layout to get everything to fit snug, even if you miscut something.
The numbers on the image below indicate the order we recommend cutting down your pieces in.
All of our angles are either 45-degrees or 90-degrees. If you are not making a headboard for a California King, your lengths and the spacing between each board may differ, but you can still use the same general pattern and continue to cut at 45 and 90 degrees.
Start by cutting your first board and any boards that span across your entire headboard. These will be your guides that determine the sizing of everything else.
Then work your way around the pattern, measuring and cutting one piece at a time.
To get a measurement, place the board you’re cutting on top of the existing pattern and mark where it intersects with the current pattern. No need to actually measure!
Pocket holes are the foundation of most DIY furniture. Become a pocket hole pro in less than an hour in Pocket Holes: Explained.
For the next 2 steps, it’s imperative that you work on one piece at a time and put the piece back into position once you’re done. This will help you keep track of which pieces go where so the assembly isn’t a nightmare in the end.
Drill the following number of pocket holes on each board:
Note: there were a few small pieces that I just drill one pocket hole in each direction.
We sanded everything using 80-grit sandpaper, then 120. You can continue with 220 or even 320 if you want an even smoother finish.
We wanted to be able to stain both sides of the boards at once, so we compromised our pattern at this step.
We kept it organized by creating “columns”, with each long full-length board being the separator for a new column. As we stained each board, we stood them up on their sides to dry in order from top to bottom for each column.
P.S. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Staining Wood for tips on getting the best finish!
First, place all of your boards where they belong. Make sure all of the pocket holes are facing the back of the headboard, including the pocket holes on the frame.
Once everything is in place, remove one piece, glue either side and then screw it in. Repeat (glue + screws) until your entire headboard is secured.
If you are not installing your headboard to a canopy bed, you’ll want to attach it to some legs before installing. We recommend 4x4s so that they can stand on their own, but you could also use 2x4s. Once you attach the legs using glue and the pocket holes on your top and bottom boards, you can go ahead and install your headboard to your bed frame.
For extra stability, you can also add a third leg in the middle. This leg will only go from the bottom of the frame to the ground.
If you are installing your headboard to a canopy bed, simply position it at the height you want and then install using the pocket holes you drilled in step 1.
We also added a support board to the middle of ours (it’s hidden by the mattress) that spans from the bottom of the headboard frame to the top of the bed frame.
For reference, we installed our headboard so that the top was 47″ from the ground.
There you have it! You now have a unique and beautiful wooden headboard that you can’t buy in stores.
If you’re eyeing that canopy bed of ours, you can make one yourself! We have the dimensions for twin, double, queen, king, and California king beds all spelled out for you.
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