December 26, 2019

TUTORIAL: How To Make Your Own Headboard (out of scraps!)

Since I've been doing a lot of DIY projects (my new favorite hobby!) and several people expressed interest in seeing posts that describe the process of my projects, I thought it'd be fun to highlight my projects step-by-step when I do something like this.

Jerry and I got rid of our headboard and footboard a couple of years ago because they were large and bulky, and I just felt like they were very outdated (even though I'd spent a ton of time painting them when I was in a hypomanic state).

When we got rid of those, we ordered a bed frame from Amazon, which I was very happy with... but it didn't have a headboard and I had no idea just how much I'd miss not having one. There was a gap between the mattress and the wall, so our pillows would wedge down in there. And if we wanted to sit up in bed, it was nearly impossible without piling a ton of pillows on top of each other.

I'd been wanting to make a headboard for a long time, and I had an idea in mind of what I wanted to do, but I just never got around to making it. Finally, I was feeling energetic a few days ago and decided to see if I could build a headboard entirely from scraps in the garage.

And I did! I didn't spend a single cent on this, because I already had everything.

Here are the materials I used:

  • 3/4-inch particle board (enough for 10 pieces that are 12" x 12")
  • An old fleece blanket
  • A large piece of canvas fabric that I'd bought when I was going to try my hand at reupholstery (I have a HUGE roll of dark gray that I'll never be able to use in a single lifetime)
  • One 2x4x8 board
  • Two 1x2x8 boards
  • Upholstery staples
  • Screws (#8 1-1/2 inch and #8 2-inch)

Tools used:
  • measuring tape
  • pencil
  • level
  • straight edge
  • circular saw
  • Kreg rip cut guide
  • drill/driver
  • staple gun for upholstery
  • Kreg pockethole jig

First, I measured the area above my bed where I wanted the headboard to be. I wanted it 60 inches wide and about 24 inches tall. That worked out perfectly, because I could easily divide that into two rows of five 12"x12" squares.

I measured and marked the wall with pencil (using the level and straight edge) so I knew exactly where the studs were and where the center of the wall was (to center the headboard). I also wanted to make sure I placed it the correct distance from the ground, so that it rested just an inch or so below the mattress.

In the garage, I found a few large pieces of particle board that I had leftover from when I made the kitchen countertops.

I cut them with a circular saw using a Kreg rip cut guide. Using the guide helped it go much faster than if I had to carefully cut freehand for each piece. When I was done, I had 10 squares that were perfectly even.

I knew I wanted a little padding between the particle board and the fabric on top, and I happened to have an old fleece blanket in the garage that I didn't mind cutting up. So, I laid the canvas fabric down first, the blanket on top of that, and then all of the squares on the blanket. I spread them out on the living room floor a few inches apart for cutting, to allow room to fold the fabric around to the back of the square.

Then, I cut out the squares (just freehand--they didn't have to be perfect).

After that, I used the staple gun to secure the fabric to the squares (holy hell, that was hard on my hands! It's a manual one, so you just have to squeeze really hard--I wound up with blisters and my carpal tunnel flared up that night.)

I laid the canvas down first, then the fleece, and then I placed the particle board on top of that. Then I pulled the sides of the fabric up and around to the back of the particle board, where I started stapling the edges.

It was kind of hard to get the corners to lay nicely, and after the first square, I started working corners first. I trimmed off some of the fleece to make it less bulky where I was stapling, too.

The stapling was the most painstaking part of the whole thing. But when I was done, I had 10 squares that were covered with gray canvas fabric, with a light padding underneath. And of course, they were covered with stray fibers of fleece (and dog hair--let's not forget that).

Next, I had to decide how to piece them all together. I didn't have a solid sheet of wood that was big enough to attach them all to, so I decided to make a frame out of a couple of 1x2x8 boards. I cut two pieces that were about 59 inches (just short of the length that I wanted the headboard to be) and some smaller 10-inch pieces to connect them.

In retrospect, I wish I'd built the frame first. It would have been easier and faster. But as it was, I placed five of the squares facedown as tightly as I could next to each other. Then I laid one of the long 1x2 boards across the center of them, and I screwed that into the squares (squeezing the squares tightly together with each screw).

Then I repeated this with the other five squares, so I had two sets of five squares that were linked together with a 1x2 across the back.

I laid the two pieces facedown on the floor and butted them right up against each other (so that there were five squares across and two down). Then, using my Kreg pockethole jig, I connected the long 1x2's with shorter 1x2's (again, squeezing the frame together as I went).

I know that the boards aren't spaced evenly, which will drive some of you crazy, but because the boards were slightly warped, I had to place the cross pieces in the spots where they needed to be pulled in the tightest.

When I was done, I was pretty impressed with how good it looked!

However, I had no idea how I was going to hang it on the wall. After some research on the web, I found a solution that worked perfectly for me (because I already had the materials).

Basically, you rip a 2x4 at a 45 degree angle right down the center. Then you'll have two long pieces of 2x4 that each have a 45-degree angle on one edge and that fit together perfectly. The idea is to screw one of them into the wall, and the other onto the headboard, and then you hang the headboard by placing the 2x4 back together. (The photo shows it better than my explanation).

The headboard is HEAVY because of the use of the 3/4" particle board (1/4" would have been much easier, but I had so much extra particle board that I wanted to use up scraps).

I wanted to make sure the 2x4 was super secure on the wall, so I screwed the 2x4 into two studs and three anchors in the drywall.

I placed the other half of the 2x4 on the back of the headboard and screwed it into several places to make sure it was good and snug.

I didn't want the headboard to wind up angled down at the bottom (with a 2x4 at the top, the top of it would be farther from the wall than the bottom). So, I used a scrap piece of 2x4 to place along the bottom, just to keep it the same distance from the wall. (I plan to either paint the 2x4's or put a trim along the sides to hide it. But for now, it just looks like this when you look closely. It's not as noticeable as the photo makes it look.

Jerry came in to help me hang it, and it was perfect! I love it. It makes such a big difference in the room. I'd still like to get a painting or photo or clock or something over the headboard to fill that space, but this headboard made a huge improvement. (The bed is against a different wall in this photo than it was in the "before" photo, but typical me--I forgot to take a proper "before" photo when I started working on this.)

Again, here is the before and after. A headboard isn't just practical, but it really makes a difference in how the room looks!

And now...

Pretty fun, right? I love making things out of scraps!

I asked recently on Facebook if anyone has suggestions for topics for me to blog about next year. One of my goals is going to be to blog daily, even if it's super short. But it's nice to get input, so if you have suggestions, please let me know!


  1. I love how it turned out! Thanks for sharing all of your steps, and I love that you used a french cleat to hang it! (the 2x4 cut at an angle) I've been wanting to make a headboard, too...but planning to make mine out of reclaimed wood.


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