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My hobby is using low-cost or, preferably, FREE materials to build cool stuff. It's been said that some people can take $200 worth of materials and make it look like a $20 project. Others can take $20 worth of materials and make it look like a $200 project. That latter group has my undying allegiance and the difference is what I call workmanship. Details to come but I only spent about $30 to build this project . . . well within anyone's price range, eh? So I hope you'll take this journey with me and see how simple it is to build some furniture you can be proud of from now on.
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The 2nd image shows the solar-powered post cap lights purchased many months ago and finally put to good use.
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Step 1: Let's Get Started

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The only materials I bought new for this project were two 8' 4x4 Douglas Fir posts (I only used 56" of each of them), two 8' 2x4s, and two black knobs for the drawer pulls. Total cost was about $30. I didn't include the cost of any paint or clearcoat as I had access to some already-opened containers of it, didn't use any appreciable amount and, therefore, it didn't cost me anything. If you have to purchase your finish materials, then your costs will be a little more.
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Because this thing would be awkward, if not impossible, to move in one piece, and because my bedroom is upstairs with a 90-degree turn at the top of the stairs, it seemed prudent to build it as components which could be taken apart and reassembled inside the room. I built the whole thing first in the shop and then took it apart to paint the posts plus those little horizontal blocks you see. The small blocks were "half lapped" onto the back side of the posts which is to say 3/4" by 3-1/2" was removed from each block so their inside faces would line up with the upper rail. Then they were attached to the back side of the posts with Titebond II wood glue and screws. Both the upper and lower rails are "let into" the posts in grooves 3/4" deep which I cut with two passes of my router -- removing 3/8" with the first pass and another 3/8" with the second pass. Then I used a jig block to locate 5/16" holes for the 5/16" carriage bolts which secure the rails to the posts. On the back side of the rails, I used a spade bit to create a recess for the flat washer, lock washer, and nut for each of the eight bolts. Then I used an offset grinder/cutter/sander to trim the ends of the bolts flush with the back sides of the rails.
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Mostly I just didn't want to cut those nice 8' rails. They were sticking out about 14" on each side, so I thought why not continue the fence board theme on down to the ends of the rails . . . to tie it all together . . . and build on some cute little nightstands to go with the headboard?
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In the 2nd image, you can see that I added that third short rail to position the height of the nightstands. The top of my mattress is about 24" off the floor so I positioned the bottom edge of this third rail at 22-1/2" off the floor. Then I added the two vertical 2x2s to define the rear corners of the nightstands. All screws in this project are used by first pre-drilling the piece to be attached with a 3/16" bit and then using a steel burr-removal bit to cut a countersink for the screw head. This technique pulls the pieces together nicely and all one needs to do is snug 'em up just enough -- without stripping the screw trying to bring the screw head flush.
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In the 3rd image, you can see where I also screwed through that 2x2 into the post to hold everything nice and tight.
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In the 4th image, you can see what happens when you forget the brackets for the hollywood-style bed frame are between six and 10" off the floor. Somehow that got the bottom edge of the lower rail located 10" off the floor which is too high! If you remember to locate the lower rail at the right height, you won't have to add this goofy little block like I did.
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In the 5th image, you can see that the added-on block is completely hidden and the view of all these extra screws is blocked by the mattress and box springs anyway. [NOTE: If you ever plan on using that outlet, NOW is a good time to plug in your whatever.]
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In the 6th image, you'll notice I added a horizontal 2x2 block which gives the soon-to-be-added short fence boards something to slide down against. The little Formica nightstand top sits on this block as well. I tend to design things as I go and this is how this one went.
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In the last image of this step, you can see how things are starting to come together. If you build this AND take the time to paint the ends of your upper and lower rails to match (black satin in this case), you'll be glad you did as the ends remain visible in the finished product.
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Step 2: Finish the Headboard Part

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This is an easy step = just finish screwing on the fence boards for the larger part of the headboard. In this case, there were 17 of these boards, only one in the center and each board on either side is one inch shorter. I tried cutting each board an inch and a half shorter but the angle was going down too quickly -- didn't think they would be tall enough to cover the upper rail above the nightstands. After taking the whole thing apart to move it, I painted the posts in a black satin and gave each used fence board (front face and edges only) a coat of latex-based clear satin. I had some clear gloss too but it was too shiny and the satin revealed more of the true character and natural color of the old fence boards. My posts were cut at 56" so I made the tallest fence board 56" as well. The scrap pieces I cut off were cut for length, dog-eared to match the original boards and used above the nightstands. The slope continues as if the post was a fence board too . . . which is to say the tallest board above the nightstands is TWO inches shorter than the shortest boards on the headboard itself. That way the line of sight continues right on past the two posts.
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Step 3: Build the Nightstands

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Once the larger part of the headboard was done, it was a matter of figuring out what size to build the nightstands. I had already determined that the surface of *my* mattress was 24 inches off the floor and I didn't want the nightstands much taller than that, so I just decided to make the cabinets 24" tall as well. I started out with a 2x4 on edge base which is 13-1/2" wide and 11-1/2" front to back. To create a toe kick under the front of the cabinet, I installed some 3/4" white melamine scrap I had -- cutting it to 13-1/2" x 13-1/2" -- letting it overhang the base frame 2" in the front. Then I cut two pieces of 1/4" plywood for the sides. One is the same measure (13-1/2") front to back; the other is deeper/wider to reach on back and cover the ends of the lower rail AND that added-on third rail. Then I cut another piece of the melamine (same size) for the upper "shelf" and it was time to build some support for it.
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I have a ton of used Pine 1x12s that I got for my favorite price = FREE. So it's no big deal to rip up one of those shorter boards into 3/4" wide strips I call "glue blocks." I cut four of these strips just the right length to support the upper shelf and glued and stapled (1/4" crown air-powered stapler) them into place. As the only weight this shelf will ever support is its own and what little might be in that small drawer, supporting it at the four corners with the skinny glue blocks is plenty adequate. Then I glued the two side edges of the upper shelf and stapled through the 1/4" plywood sides into the shelf as well. (A pencil line measured and drawn on the sides shows right where the center of the shelf is for more accurate stapling.) Then I added four short glue blocks to support the cabinet top and two horizontal glue blocks above the upper shelf on the sides to keep the little drawer centered above the shelf.
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The pre-finished scrap of 1/4" I used for the back of this cabinet was a bit the afterthought. The cabinet was in position and the two vertical glue blocks were already there, it seemed a shame not to add two more horizontal glue blocks and a back panel so that's what I did. The panel is secured with Titebond II wood glue and some skinny little staples from an air-powered stapler I don't use for much else. This will keep the cats from always trying to get back in there . . . maybe . . . just realized I got a sneak shot of Inyo (as "in yo face" 'cuz he forever is) -- great helper too as you can see.
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The 2nd image just shows a little better detail about the horizontal glue blocks added to keep the drawer headed in the right direction. It's important to orient your glue blocks so those inside surfaces all line up . . . the glue blocks are never perfectly square. On the first cabinet, the drawer was a little too tight, so I made the drawer for this one slightly narrower . . . and then it was TOO narrow(!) . . . so I added that little sliver of wood (visible on the right) with glue and brads to take up the slack.
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With the 3rd image we jump ahead a bit. I wanted the little nightstands to visually tie in with the headboard so I ripped little strips of the used cedar fence boards, glued and brad-nailed them (air-powered 18 gauge brad nailer) to cover the glue blocks and the front edges of the plywood sides. Then I added two horizontal pieces of cedar to cover the front edges of the melamine shelves as well -- installing them flush with the top surface of the shelves and too low (!) on the bottom shelf for the already-installed side pieces as you can see. (The other one turned out better -- smiles).
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I didn't want to paint over the melamine but I did use an oil-base primer and some blue-gray latex we had on hand for the interior. Then the cracks looked bad so I carefully caulked all the visible ones and touched up the paint in the back vertical corners. I also caulked as needed between the glue blocks and the front frame -- carefully painting over all the exposed new wood but leaving the fresh caulking around the melamine.
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Image #4 ~ I primed and painted the cabinet sides in black satin as well -- carefully avoiding the cedar front frame to preserve the reveal -- not bad for cheap shop grade plywood, eh?
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In the final image, I built a little drawer -- using scraps of 5/16" (or was it 3/8"?) for the sides and 1/4" ply for the bottom. It was sized to leave room for a matching cedar drawer front (attached with glue and brads) which was then drilled through to install the knob. Another piece of cedar was cut to fit the matching toe kick down next to the floor.
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Step 4: Attach the Nightstands

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The idea was for this to be a self-supporting, free-standing thing which doesn't have to be attached to the hollywood-style bed frame. The wall keeps it from leaning back. And the nightstands keep it from leaning forward. As a practical matter, I kept checking as I was building the nightstands to make sure they would fit like I wanted them to. As the various pieces are just held together with screws, this is fairly simple to do.
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To make the cabinet tops, I measured to leave about a 1" overlap on the sides and front and cut two 3/4" pieces of plywood scrap to that dimension. Then I ripped some strips of pine which were 1/4" thick by 3/4". Using Titebond II wood glue and 18 gauge brads (air-powered brad nailer) I attached them to the edges of the plywood after carefully mitering the front corners to fit. It's important the top edges of these strips be flush with the top surface of the plywood. If the bottom edges extend down below the bottom face of the plywood, that's okay -- doesn't matter. Then I cut two Formica scraps making sure they cover the plywood on all four sides. (The Formica can extend out over the glued-on solid wood edges . . . doesn't hurt a thing.) The back edge (next to the wall) needs to be flush so I usually tape that edge down and use the tape like a hinge to lay the Formica back and (using a disposable chip brush) cover the bottom and the surface of the plywood with Original recipe contact cement. (You can use the latex-base, low odor stuff but one coat will need to dry and then a 2nd coat applied unless you use a small disposable roller to apply the adhesive.) After the contact cement is completely dry, use a roller or a firm hand to make sure the Formica is firmly bonded to the plywood top.
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There are different ways to do edges and trim the Formica at the same time, but *this* way is my favorite. Use a 1/4" or 3/8" roundover bit WITH a guide bearing. Adjust the router so the bit cuts a tiny vertical section and then does the roundover. The vertical section will trim the Formica wonderfully though there is usually a bit of a burr on it when the router work is done. I take a foam sanding block and sand that sharp corner just enough to remove the burr without sanding on the Formica surface. When done properly, this leaves a nice clean edge which is perfectly parallel to the perimeter but spaced 1/4" or 3/8" inside of it. Then your brad holes can be filled, sanded smooth, primed and painted OR stained and lacquered = builder's choice. For this project I primed the edges and then painted them with latex-based black satin. After each coat is dry, one can use lacquer thinner on a clean rag to clean any oops off the Formica top leaving a nice and perfectly clean edge -- looks very sharp.
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Step 5: The Finishing Touch

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I don't remember how much the solar-powered post lights cost, and they're purely optional anyway, so I didn't include their cost in the summary either. Feel free to paint the top ends of the posts or decorate them to suit your own taste. A queen-size bed is five feet or 60 inches wide. The used cedar boards I used are about 3-1/2 inches wide and 17 of them came out to about 61 inches. This keeps all the boards full width with their 'natural' weathered edges for a more consistent look.
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In the remaining pics, you can see how it all comes together. The post cap lights were removed in the one shot so I could place them outside in the sun for another shot taken after dark and then I forgot! In the real world, and atop my headboard in its current location, they won't get enough light during the day to charge their batteries but it's still fun and I can always set them outside to charge for nights when I'm showing off the house or other special occassions. Then again, these lights have tiny little on/off switches, so it's possible to turn them on while getting ready for bed and then turn them off. One day's solar charge might then last for a while?
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So there ya' go! Hopefully this will inspire you to build your own headboard/nightstands, save some dough, and have some fun while you're at it. Everyone seems to love the finished project and my 4yo grandson gives it TWO thumbs up!
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I like it
========== <br>Thanks for your comment. Now I just have to figure out what to build next . . . after finishing the small coop for my little Bantie hens, that is. It has a vinyl floor and a little custom nest box. They're gonna' have it good whether they know it or not! <br>==========
drool... gorgeous
========== <br>Thanks for your comment. Everyone who sees it in person really likes it too -- very satisfying for me knowing how little it cost to build it. And the way it so easily comes apart makes moving it a breeze. <br>==========
That's clever, I like it :)
========== <br>Okay -- I'm confused -- do you &quot;like&quot; it or do you &quot;love&quot; it? Either way I'm encouraged and delighted. Thanks for your commment. <br>==========
That's clever, I love it :)
========== <br>THANKS for your comment. I usually just kinda' start in on any given project and let the materials tell me which way to go. For a queen-size bed, the 8' 2x4s for the rails are w-a-y too long but I didn't want to cut them, so it's like, &quot;What to do? What can I do?&quot; And then the built-in and attached nighstands started to take shape. I'm lucky to work in a shop where there are lots of scraps so it doesn't cost much to give something a go and see what happens. <br>==========
love the project and the foncepts behind it. BTW - rewiring/relocating the solar panels so that they are closer to a light source is a fairly straightforward project - i believe there are a few 'ables around here with good instructions for this.
========== <br>Thanks for your comment -- moving the panels could work. On these lights there are two screws each which can be used to secure them to the post. I didn't use the screws so it's pretty easy -- really -- to just move the lights to the window sill for recharging. If one wanted to leave 'em on all night, that's what I'd do -- just move 'em to the window sill each morning and move 'em back to the posts at night. They do look VERY cool (when lit) at night and they don't come on until it's dark in the room . . . very romantic (smiles). <br>JIM <br>==========
I just love, love, love this! That is just an awesome rustic design and I love the solar light addition!
========== <br>I'm glad you like it! One can get used cedar fence boards for FREE just about anywhere. I already have a big stack of 'em so I just went through and picked out the ones I liked the best. I love working with used wood as the price is right and any scraps can be burned in the stove or campfire = no waste. <br>JIM :o) <br>==========

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