Steps // How to Build a Rustic Headboard
1 ×

Overview

 
Step One // How to Build a Rustic Headboard

Overview

rough sawn headboard overview illustration
Illustration by Doug Adams

Tom and Kevin take you step-by-step through the entire building process. If you like what you see, consider giving it a shot. You may soon find yourself dozing off beneath your own handmade headboard.

 
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Paint and Cut the Back

 
Step Two // How to Build a Rustic Headboard

Paint and Cut the Back

Tom Silva trims a headboard back to rough size with a track saw
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Roll flat black paint on one side of the plywood panel. When dry, trim it to rough size with a track saw (shown) or a circular saw and guide. The headboard’s final size is up to you, but the back’s rough width has to be about 10 inches wider than its final width.

 
3 ×

Add Structure

 
Step Three // How to Build a Rustic Headboard

Add Structure

Kevin O'Connor and Tom Silva adds a 2x4 structural brace to the center the headboard back
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Cut three 2x4s 1 inches short of the headboard’s final width. Center one along the back’s top edge and one along its bottom. Glue and screw them edgewise to the back’s unpainted side using 1 1⁄4  inch screws. Repeat with a 2x set between the first two, as shown.

 
4 ×

Lay the First Course

 
Step Four // How to Build a Rustic Headboard

Lay the First Course

Tom Silva adds the first course of rough sawn boards for a headboard
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Put adhesive on a board, lay it along the back’s top edge, and let one end hang ½ inch over
the side. Secure with 1-inch brads. Cut a second board to overhang the other side when butted to the first. Adhere it to the back, but before nailing, use a third board to align it with the first one.

 
5 ×

Finish All the Courses

 
Step Five // How to Build a Rustic Headboard

Finish All the Courses

Tom Silva continues to add rough sawn boards to the headboard course
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Start the second course with the offcut from the first one. As you continue gluing and nailing, make sure to stagger the joints between courses, randomly mix the different shades of wood, and leave ½-inch overhangs at the ends, until the back is completely covered with boards.

 
6 ×

Cut the Returns

 
Step Six // How to Build a Rustic Headboard

Cut the Returns

Tom Silva cuts away the headboard edges to create the rough sawn headboard sides
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Using a track saw or a circular saw with a guide, trim off the boards’ ends. Now tilt the saw 45 degrees toward the headboard, as shown, and cut a 4 3⁄4-inch-wide strip off both sides. Make another miter cut on both sides with the saw tilted the opposite way and aligned so its blade kisses the upper corner of each 2x4.

 
7 ×

Attach the Mitered Returns

 
Step Seven // How to Build a Rustic Headboard

Attach the Mitered Returns

attaching the mitered returns for a rough saw headboard and disguising the miter joint
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Squeeze construction adhesive onto the ends of the 2x4s, and apply glue on the strip’s mitered edge. To make the return, place the strip, mitered side up, against the 2x4s and the miter on the headboard, as shown. A helper will come in handy during this step and the next one.

Tip:  Disguise the miter joint

  • One appealing feature of this headboard is the way it appears to be made of solid pieces of lumber stacked on top of one another. That illusion requires the outside miter joints between the headboard’s face and the returns on either side to be tight and nearly invisible.
  • Tight joints require accurate cuts, wood glue, and pin nails to hold them together.
  • Invisible joints require a hammer. Before the glue dried, Tom used his to gently tap on the point of the joint (shown) and slightly crush together the wood fibers. That made the joint disappear.
 
8 ×

Fasten the Sides

 
Step Eight // How to Build a Rustic Headboard

Fasten the Sides

Tom Silva attaches the mitered returns of the rough sawn headboard with a pin nailer
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Align the boards on the mitered return with the ones on the headboard. Hold the joint together and shoot three pins into the ends of each piece. Use 2-inch brads to nail the return to the 2x4s’ ends. Repeat Steps 7 and 8 on the opposite side.

 
9 ×

Prep the Headboard’s Cap

 
Step Nine // How to Build a Rustic Headboard

Prep the Headboard’s Cap

Kevin O'Connor applies wood accelerator to the rough sawn headboard cap
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Cut a piece of 5⁄4x8 pine so it hangs over each side by 2 ½ inches. Round its edges with a block plane. Here, Kevin gives the pine a gray, aged look by applying Varathane Weathered Wood Accelerator.

 
10 ×

Fasten the Cap

 
Step Ten // How to Build a Rustic Headboard

Fasten the Cap

Tom Silva and Kevin O'Connor attach the headboard cap to a rough sawn headboard
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Drill four pairs of pilot holes, evenly spaced, through the headboard’s top 2x4. Center the cap from side to side and line up its back edge with the back of the return. Drive 2-inch deck screws through the pilot holes and into the cap, as shown.

 
11 ×

Finished Headboard

 
Step Eleven // How to Build a Rustic Headboard

Finished Headboard

Tom Silva shows off his and Kevin’s rough sawn headboard
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Tom Silva shows off his and Kevin’s handiwork, with a bed attached. Once the headboard was built, Tom sanded it with 80-grit paper to remove any splinters, then applied two coats of an oil-based, wipe-on polyurethane with a satin sheen. The finish protects the wood, deepens its color, and gives it a slight luster.

 

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