DIY Rustic Wooden Fence Board Headboard

Monday, February 17, 2014

I fell in love with all those reclaimed wood projects on Pinterest -especially the headboards. However, having moved from the land of barns to the land of cacti I no longer have access to any perfectly weathered gray barn boards to make fun projects. So instead, I decided to make our headboard a little more tailored looking, but still retain the rustic feel that you get from the reclaimed wood. Enter the cedar fence slats. They're light, the perfect thickness, and easily cut down to size by your handy Home Depot or Lowe's worker (or yourself if you can work a saw. We don't have one, hence the help from employees). 

Materials for a queen size bed:
6 cedar fence slats from Home Depot - have them cut to 63" long
2 two by fours for the legs - have them cut to 48" long
1 one by four cut to 32 inches for the center brace (or 1 inch shorter than the total height of the boards)
wood glue 
Minwax Water Based Pre Stain Wood Conditioner
Minwax Water Based Stain in Toffee
Ploycrylic Protective Finish
Rags for wiping stain on and off
Paint/foam brushes

 Start with the boards cut to the size you need. For a queen size bed, the length of my boards was 63 inches. We sanded them all down to remove any splinters. This can either take a few hours if you have an electric hand sander, or a few weeks if your husband won't let you buy one and promises to sand them all himself and then keeps forgetting. Ahem. Three weeks later I took a hammer to some of boards to give them that beaten, weathered look that you just don't get from new cuts of lumber.

Note - the boards I used are cedar fence slats. Cedar smells. I happen to love that smell but if you don't, you might want to think about using a different type of wood. It's been in our house for 6 months now and every time you enter the room you can still detect a faint woodsy cedar scent. Like I said, I love it because it makes me think of forests and the outdoors. But it doesn't go away quickly, so make sure you're ok with that!

I used a water based stain for this project since I have a fear of mineral spirits and don't want to use it to clean up regular wood stain. Minwax has a water based stain that comes as a clear tint and you add the color like you would a regular can of paint. I think it worked great and I had no trouble using it. I used the Pre-Stain Wood conditioner on the wood first to give it an even finish. I didn't use this on the headboard legs since they wouldn't be seen, and you can definitely tell the difference between the boards where I used the pre-stain and where I didn't. The boards had a much cleaner and even coloration when I used the conditioner first. 

I used 2 coats front and back of the "Toffee" color. After everything dried I finished it with a topcoat of Ploycrylic to protect and seal everything. Stain the slats and the 2 boards for the legs. I also stained the center brace because why not? This was my first time staining anything and I just followed the instructions on the cans. It worked beautifully.

Once everything dries it's time to assemble. Lay the boards out how you want them to go. Mine didn't line up perfectly, but I liked the warping and thought it added character. If you want yours to lay perfectly, check how the boards fit at the store before you buy them. 

Once everything is lined up, flip each of the boards over so the back of the headboard is facing up. Run a line of wood glue along the center brace and place perpendicular to the slats in the center of the board. Stack something heavy on top to weigh it down until the glue dries. See the photo below? The brace is under the middle bag of charcoal. My husband we have a lot of charcoal. Also, random dumbbells. 

Here's where it gets tricky. I wanted to nail the boards to the legs from the front so I could line up the nail heads. To do that, before I flipped the board back over, I lined up the legs and marked with chalk where I wanted the lowest board to land and made sure everything was level. Then I turned the whole thing over and slid the legs underneath, lining up the lowest board with the chalk marks. 

Note - I measured my bed frame and figured out exactly how far apart the holes were to screw in a headboard. If you don't want to screw the board directly to your frame, it's less important where the legs of the headboard go. 

Once I had the boards lined up, I nailed each of them to both the legs and the center brace. Then all that's left to do is screw it into your bed frame or attach it to the wall!

I absolutely love how it turned out, and I think I'm going to do it all over again to make a headboard for our new bed. It'll probably only take me another year or so.


  1. I love the soft femininity of the awesome duvet you made with the slightly masculine headboard. So lovely! Also Josh also has a TON of charcoal. Like bags in the double digits. Is it a man thing or are the two of them just similarly crazy?

    1. No idea, it could be either. And thanks!

  2. Wesley, the best brand of men keep an abundance of charcoal on hand at all times. This is in preparation of the rare but always anticipated impromptu grill competition; as Gandalf says, "be prepared".

  3. It turned out great, nice job! From sewing to there anything this woman can't do?

  4. P.S. I always felt there was a serious lack of Gandalf quotes in the comments of this blog. Thank-you, Kacey, for remedying this.


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