As part of our master bedroom makeover, the Texan and I decided that it was way past due that we have an actual headboard. Our guest bedroom bed has a darned headboard; shouldn’t we? How fancy of us! That being said, we aren’t quite fancy enough yet that we want to spend much money on it (ie: any money, at all). So we turned, yet again, to our scrap wood pile for a few leftover 2×4’s and some dinged-up pine boards (all of which can be acquired for a nominal fee at your local home improvement store).
We started by building the frame; this took a bit of baffled staring at the wall where the headboard was going to figure out the exact dimensions. We’ve got light switches and window frames to factor in, but really, it boiled down to a personal preference on how we wanted it to look. We figured out roughly where we wanted the peak of the arch to be, and roughly where we wanted the edges of the arch to be, height-wise.
Our professionally-drawn plans. Hey, it isn’t on a napkin!
Once we had decided on all that, it was time to build the frame.
We cut the four pieces according to our height (42 1/2″) and width (72″) requirements, then screwed them together with metal straps from the home improvement center.
Next, we cut our 6″ wide pine planks all to length (29″, which is the length from the bottom cross piece of the headboard to the highest point of the arch). Here’s a little tip: before you assemble these, use an electric sander or even just sandpaper (I used a Dremel) to knock down the corners along the lengths of the boards–even though they sit side-by-side, those edges still tend to be rather sharp….if there is one thing you don’t want your headboard to be, it’s sharp.
Line your boards side-by-side and face-down, and place the frame on top of them. Screw through the frame and into the boards, one screw in each top and bottom. We used 1-5/8″ length screws–long enough to go through the 2×4 and into the boards, but not long enough to go all the way through the boards.
Millie monitors the Texan’s progress.
At this point, the basic headboard is assembled. But we wanted to get crazy with the top edge and do an arch. Which is a little tricky. This, I’m sure, could be done by one person, but it is a lot easier with two, trust me.
You want to start with the headboard laying flat, face up. You also need a pencil and a long length of twine.
Find the midpoint of the top edge of the headboard (which is where the highest point of the arch will be), then measure straight back a ways (we used an extra board as a straight reference, because the eventual point you are looking for will fall somewhere below the headboard). The farther back you go, the more gradual of an arch you will wind up making–you’ll have to fiddle with it a bit and figure out what shape arch looks best for what you are doing. But basically, you just need to have one person pin one end of the string down (this effectively, is the center of the circle that your arch is a part of), and then tie or hold the other end of the string to a pencil, carefully drawing your line by moving the pencil along in an arc at the end of that string. You’ll have to practice a few times without making a mark to really figure out what works best. I am sure there is a more precise way of doing this, but I was never any good at math, so this is quite mathy enough, thank you!
You’ll wind up with a pretty legit arch:
You can see I screwed up a few times. (meh.)
It was time for my favorite tool: the Dremel Trio, which is a handy-dandy little multi-function router-thingy (it routs, it sands, it cuts, it slices, it dices! JK on the last two–I got carried away). Carefully, I cut along my not-so-painstakingly-done guidelines. You can see I didn’t make the cleanest cut….
The arch I wound up cutting was wobbly, at best. But I figured that because I wanted this headboard to be pretty weathered and beat-up looking, having a wobbly top edge wasn’t the worst thing in the world. I did sand the living daylights out of the top, which took the wobbliness down quite a bit.
Next, it was time to beat the wood up. I wanted some glaring imperfections, so I gathered a few weapons and took my aggressions out on this poor, innocent headboard.
Some of my favorite distressing techniques/tools include: tapping a nail in little clusters to emulate worm holes, letting a grinder skip across, repeatedly hitting with both ends of a hammer, etc. Distressing wood is fun.
If there are any splintered wood bits from all your abuse, be sure to give those a quick sand.
Time for stain! I began with a layer of grey stain (Varathane Weathered Grey).
Next, I layered on a basic brown stain (what we had sitting around: Minwax Early American):
I hate the smell of stain. I cannot think of anything worse than that smell, right next to my head, soaking into my sheets, as I try to sleep. Ugh. So, at this point, we left the headboard outside for several days to air out. I’ve also read that if you scrub white vinegar on it, it helps to neutralize the smell. So I did this….a few times. I like to believe it helped. Honestly, I think it did.
As is typical of most of our projects, there was no rain in the forecast, yet it began to rain, so we had to move the operation into the garage (which ain’t great for photos). The next step was to do a white-washed effect over the top of the stain. I used some semi-gloss Behr Swiss Coffee white paint that we had sitting around. Using a cheap wooden brush (I like the effect the coarse bristles create), I would load it up with paint and then brush most of the paint off into a rag before rubbing and brushing it onto the headboard.
This is what a ‘drybrush’ looks like. You can brush this on for a streaky, wood-grained effect, and you can also use it to smudge areas and create a sort of color haze. You don’t want there to be any areas of thick paint–if you accidentally get some, use a dry rag to rub it off as much as possible.
Again, we let this sucker sit in the garage for a few days to air out (also, before I started painting, I mixed a tablespoon of vanilla into the gallon of paint, which helps neutralize the paint fumes without affecting the color).
The final embellishment came in the form of metal star ‘nailhead’-looking trim.
My source for these little pretties is one of my best. kept. secrets. And I’m gonna go ahead and reveal it to you….deep breath: King Architectural Metals (www.kingmetals.com). This is where I acquire all sorts of metal bits and bobs (wrought iron fence pieces, cast iron star washers, barn stars, etc.) It is pretty much my most favorite, random, wonderful place to shop.
I went ahead and drilled a center hole in each little star (taking care to remove or sand off any resulting sharp spurs). I then pre-drilled a hole into the headboard where I wanted each star, and then nailed them each into place with a little furniture tack (acquired from the home improvement store).
We finally placed the headboard and secured it to the wall with a couple of screws in the legs.
There you have it! A nice little addition to our nice little bedroom, if I do say so myself.