To kick-off this project with success, make sure you read through ‘Part 1‘ of this tutorial where you will find the estimated cost of the project, a list of tools to have in your arsenal as well as materials needed to complete this look!
Step 1 – Prep the Wood!
Now that you have your materials and tools set aside, now it is time for the fun part! Making your very own headboard! Step 1 is to always prep your wood for construction. It is best to sand your wood before you begin putting it all together, so that is what we’re going to do.
Why do we sand our wood anyway? Check-out my DIY Basics blog post for more information on that. So yeah, technically the sanding is optional, but the stain and finish will look dramatically better if you take the time to prep and treat the wood as recommended. Would you curl your hair without brushing it? I didn’t think so. So believe me when I tell you to prep and treat the wood accordingly. You won’t regret the finished product!
Using your hand sander (or sanding blocks) start with the lowest grit paper (the lower the grit, the more coarse the sandpaper) and sand away! Make sure you get the entire surface of wood that will be showing on your headboard and evenly sand, with the wood grain. Once you have covered the entire surface of all three 1×12 boards with the 80 grit, move up in your sand paper grit and repeat the process with the 120 grit, then the 240.
As you increase in grit, your wood will begin to fill softer and softer! You have earned it! Using your tack cloth (or a towel) begin to wipe down the surface of the wood so all dust particles are removed. Also make sure your hands and clothes are wiped down so you don’t contaminate the stain you’re going to be applying shortly!
Step 2 – Assemble your pieces
My strong preference is to assemble the wood before I condition and stain it so I don’t have to baby it when I am screwing it together. Although, if you prefer otherwise for some reason, by all means, go for it! This is an art, not a science after all.
Now that you have sanded your wood, feel free to apply and wood distressing techniques according to your own preference, now is the time. If you are not going to artificially distress the wood, it is time to put the pieces together.
There is really only one thing you can mess up when putting the wood pieces together and that is the height. Lay the headboard wood on your sawhorses and line up the 2×4’s so you can begin to mark where they’re going to go. See the diagram below and make sure you measure correctly so that your legs ‘stick out’ from the three wood slabs so they are the same height as the heights of your [bed frame + your box spring + your mattress + 1 inch]. Use your wood pencil to measure the appropriate dimensions so you can begin screwing them together!
You will attach the 2×4’s by using about ten wood screws, five on each leg. Now that you have lined up where the legs are supposed to go along the three 1×12’s, it is time to drill them together. I suggest drilling the top screws into the headboard first, and then the bottom screws so you can make sure the wood is lined up and level. Make sure you pre-drill each hole before you screw them together. This prevents the wood from splitting, so do NOT skip this part!
You’re done putting it together! Consider taking it into your space to make sure it fits so you can make any necessary adjustments before applying the stain.
Step 3 – Condition, Stain and Protect!
Condition: It is time to get out those foam brushes and apply your wood conditioner / pre-stain. Note that it is best to use an oil based pre-stain if you’re going to use an oil based wood stain. I suggest the Mix Wax Pre-Stain available at Home Depot. Follow the application directions on the can.
Stain: It is stain time! What is the biggest stain mistake you can make? There are two. 1) Not mixing up the stain can enough with your stir stick. Some of the elements that give the stain color can settle to the bottom and need to be gently mixed before you begin the stain application. 2) Not following the directions to wipe the stain after is has been sitting for 15-20 minutes. If you want more color after letting the stain settle for 15-20 minutes, apply additional coats to get a darker, or richer result. Allowing the stain to dry on the wood without wiping will result in a tacky, or opaque look that is generally not a desirable outcome.
Min Wax Interior Wood Stain has an awesome selection of colors and my two (current) favorites are Provincial and Classic Gray. Most definitely stir the Gray color as it is heavily pigmented with paint and that tends to settle on the bottom!
Protect: Depending on the use of your project the necessity of using a polyurethane protective coat varies. For something like a headboard, I would say you could take it or leave it. If you want a more dry, or rustic look, you could consider a light protective layer with a matte finish. If you want to protect your project from kids, food, make-up, or higher traffic, you definitely want to use a few protective coats of the polyurethane finish of your choice. Generally speaking, the glossier the sheen, the easier it is to keep clean. Follow the directions on the can, applying the polyurethane is self-explanatory.