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Reinvent a Room: Budget Decorating Projects

How to Make a Rustic-Style Headboard (page 2 of 2)

Learn how to build this basic tongue-and-groove wooden headboard. We gave it a weathered, barn-wood look, but you can paint or stain it any style or color.

More in Decorating

  • Time

    Two Days

  • Price Range

    $100 - $250

  • Difficulty


Step-by-Step Instructions:

Attach the Slats

Starting at the footer assembly end, begin alternating placing the long slats and short slats (cut from tongue-and-groove pine) as shown in Image 1 and Image 2. Attach the slats to the front rails using glue and 1-1/4-inch wire brads as shown in Image 3.

If you have trouble placing the grooves on the tongues of mating parts, try using a cutoff of the tongue-and-groove pine to use as a guide, as shown in Image 4. Note that the last long slat placed will leave a gap a couple of inches wide near the sub header, as shown in Image 5.

Distress the Project

There are many methods for distressing lumber to give it an aged and "well-loved" appearance. Beyond the step mentioned in the beginning of selecting boards with imperfections, you can essentially "beat up" a project.

Use a scrap length of chain to add dents and nicks. For deeper dents, use a hammer (Images 1 and 2).

To create the look of wormholes, use an awl or ice pick as shown in Image 3. Try creating holes in different angles as well.

Create worn or chipped edges by cutting notches using a pocket knife or utility knife as shown in Image 4.

Wear down random spots using a sander as shown in Image 5.

It's hard to give a weathered appearance to new boards, such as the lumber we use here, but you can cheat that gray patina by diluting dark gray paint and applying it as you would a stain as shown in Image 6. Add water and the paint to a quart-size container and test the finish on pieces of scrap cut from this project until you get the look you desire.

Apply a coat of polyurethane when finished.

Make and Attach the Cleat

Mark a centerline across the end of a 1x6. Mark the center point of this line and draw a 45-degree angle that bisects this center point.

Set the saw blade on your table saw at 45 degrees, then set the fence on your table saw so that the 45-degree mark lines up with the saw blade. Rip the 1x6 to create the headboard cleat and wall cleat, as shown in Image 1.

Use Image 2 as a guide for drilling vertical pocket holes on the widest face of the headboard cleat at 2 inches from each end, 18 inches from each end and centered.

Position the headboard cleat flush against the sub head and the outside edges of the side stiles and clamp in place. Attach the headboard cleat to the sub header using glue and 1-1/4-inch pocket-hole screws as shown in Image 3. Attach the headboard cleat to the side rails using glue and the side stiles using glue and 1-1/4-inch brads.

Apply a finish to the ends of the headboard cleat and wall cleat.

Install the Headboard

Position the headboard assembly in the desired location, flush against the wall to which you plan to install it.

Place the wall cleat flush underneath and against the headboard cleat as shown in Image 1. Mark the position of the wall cleat.

Use a level to square the cleat and attach it to the studs in your wall using 3-1/2-inch screws, as shown in Image 2. (The drywall is transparent to illustrate the position of the studs.)

Image 3 and Image 4 indicate how the headboard cleat (shown here unattached for clarity) will fit on the wall cleat.

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