How to Build a Rustic, Wooden Headboard. My Bigger Boy Room Headboard Tutorial

Hi there, friends!  I’m finally going to share how we made my son’s “Bigger Boy” bedroom headboard.  Bigger boy meaning that he’s not a tween but he’s also not a little guy moving out of his crib into a traditional “big boy” room.  This is one of my most favorite pieces that we’ve ever made.  It turned out exactly how I wanted, which doesn’t always happen in the world of DIY. 
How to Build a Rustic, Wooden Headboard with an attached light fixture. Headboard Tutorial by Chic on a Shoestring Decorating.

I found some pics of beds I liked and then Mr. Chic and I came up with a plan to make a pallet-inspired headboard. I’m sure you’ve seen all kinds of pallet wood projects all over blogland.  I like the industrial, rustic and weathered look of pallet wood and I especially like the price.  (FREE!)  But, I was worried about what was in that free wood.  Some are chemically treated and some aren’t.  But if I find one that isn’t chemically treated how can I confirm what it has been used for?  I can’t?  Ok, then forget it.  My kiddo has allergies and I’m not going to stick his head next to a suspect pieces of wood that could’ve been carrying bags of fertilizer or cow manure.   Ok, I might be exaggerating but I ddn’t want to take any chances with my boy. If you want to use pallet wood just make sure you do your homework first. 

We splurged on new wood: 


·         2 untreated 4x4 posts
·         1 untreated 2x4 top support
·        10 untreated 1x6 face boards
·         1½” finish nails
·         4 4” bolt, lock washers, washer, nuts (to attach headboard to bed frame)
·         If including a light fixture
o   light
o   extension cord
o   light switch
o   wire nuts and electrical tape

Tools I used:

·         Mitre saw
·         Hammer
·         Tape measure
·         Electric sander
·         Glue
·         Speed square (important!)
·         If including a light:
o   Extension cord
o   Wire strippers / cutters
o   1½” spade bit for drill

To start we built an upside down U that would give us the legs and a frame to nail the face boards to.  For some reason we didn't get a pic of this but you can see the U shape in the pic below.
                                                                       
 I wanted the headboard to be tall and bold, so we cut the 4x4 at about 60 inches.

We cut the 2x4 top support to be as long as a twin bed is wide, 40 inches. That make sense?

Then we cut the 1x6 face boards so that about 3” of each 1x6 extends beyond each 4x4 post.  You can see how the face boards stick out past the posts in the pic below.

How to Build a Rustic, Wooden Headboard with an attached light fixture. Headboard Tutorial by Chic on a Shoestring Decorating.

We sanded it all and followed with a mix of stains we’d used on other projects and really like. It’s quick and gives the wood a nice and rustic color.

How to Build a Rustic, Wooden Headboard with an attached light fixture. Headboard Tutorial by Chic on a Shoestring Decorating.


First, we apply Minwax wood stain in Ebony, then quickly wipe it off.  
How to Build a Rustic, Wooden Headboard with an attached light fixture. Headboard Tutorial by Chic on a Shoestring Decorating.

The same board gets Rustoleum wood stain in Sunbleached, and then quickly wiped off. This coat creates a grayish undertone making the darker stains appear less harsh.  
How to Build a Rustic, Wooden Headboard with an attached light fixture. Headboard Tutorial by Chic on a Shoestring Decorating.

The final coat is Minwax wood stain English Chestnut, wipe it off and let it dry.

How to Build a Rustic, Wooden Headboard with an attached light fixture. Headboard Tutorial by Chic on a Shoestring Decorating.

Working on the floor so it didn’t move a lot, we attached the 2x4 top support to each 4x4 post.  We used some blobs of glue, then drilled three pilot holes through the 2x4 and into the top of the 4x4 to prevent splitting. (We did this after we stained it but we had laid them all out first to see how they fit)

How to Build a Rustic, Wooden Headboard with an attached light fixture. Headboard Tutorial by Chic on a Shoestring Decorating.

This gave us the upside down U the width of the twin bed. Being square isn’t critical at this point and it will be flimsy.

The next steps are where it’s hip to be square. (Those of you old enough to know Huey Lewis, I’m sorry – that song’s stuck in my head now too. Those of you too young to know Huey Lewis can Google it!).


Starting at the top of the upside down U, we ran a bead of glue along the 2x4. Using my speed square, I put finish nails in the first 1x6 face board, making sure there were three inches of face board extending beyond each post. I used the speed square to make sure it was square to EACH of the 4x4 posts.
How to Build a Rustic, Wooden Headboard with an attached light fixture. Headboard Tutorial by Chic on a Shoestring Decorating.
that there is a speed square :)

Then, I glued and nailed the rest of the face boards to the frame using the speed square to attach each face board to each post.

It might seem like since we squared up the first board, we can just butt each new face board to that one and be square all the way down.

But remember, the leg posts aren’t square on the upside down U – so don’t forget it, or you’ll regret it.

Next, we let it air out for a couple days to let the stain smell go away. Then, we drilled through the 4x4 posts and attached the headboard to the bedframe with the nuts, washers and bolts.

Ours isn’t attached to the wall, but it’s heavy, so if your kids (or you) like to jump on the bed, you might want to use some L brackets to attach to the studs.

Here’s how we did the light.  We got this little beauty at Lowe's, this particular one is discontinued so I don't have a link for you.


Ours is an outdoor light meant to connect to an outdoor electrical box – so it didn’t have a way to be plugged in or anything to attach it indoors.

Here’s how we solved that:

I bought a lamp cord at Lowe’s – which is a cord with a plug on one end, and bare wires on the other.


I connected the cord to the light using wire nuts and wrapping the connections with electrical tape.

I drilled through the top of the headboard, and since there was no way to connect the light to the headboard (it’s designed to connect to an electrical box), I drilled a hole in the middle of a scrap piece of 1x4 and attached it to the back of the headboard with a couple of screws.

It looks janky, but who’s gonna see it, right?

How to Build a Rustic, Wooden Headboard with an attached light fixture. Headboard Tutorial by Chic on a Shoestring Decorating.

Then, I drilled a hole at the bottom of the headboard for the cord to run back through the front – where little chic could easily turn the light on and off when he wanted. (As you can see it got scraped up a little bit but this part is hidden by the mattress so I haven't gotten around to touching it up yet.)

How to Build a Rustic, Wooden Headboard with an attached light fixture. Headboard Tutorial by Chic on a Shoestring Decorating.

I attached an in-line light switch following instructions on the Family Handyman website.

How to Build a Rustic, Wooden Headboard with an attached light fixture. Headboard Tutorial by Chic on a Shoestring Decorating.

And that was it. We got a simple, industrial, non-chemically treated headboard that our son can use to read by before he goes to bed each night. Let us know if you build something similar! 

How to Build a Rustic, Wooden Headboard with an attached light fixture. Headboard Tutorial by Chic on a Shoestring Decorating.

I'm linking up to East Coast Creative "Creating with the Stars" contest. #CWTS2014

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8 comments :

  1. Test comment... my comments disappeared today. :(

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  2. Great project and it really doesn't look too complicated! Awesome job and looks great!

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  3. Looks great, I know your son is enjoying his new digs. ginger

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  4. I love how this turned out! It looks great with the yellow and grey bedding!

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  5. I love your headboard, the light is awesome too!

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  6. Love this and how smart adding that light.

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  7. I love this! Adding the light was brilliant! Great tutorial!
    Amanda @Cultivate Create

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  8. Hi! Do you stain all three colors at the same time, or let the first layers dry completely? Thank you!

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