Picture of how to make a book headboard
My apartment doesn't have much on the walls. I've always wanted a headboard. I love books.

Answer? Book headboard.

Step 1: What you'll need.

Picture of What you'll need.
  • a large assortment of book covers, carefully cut from the pages using an exacto knife or something similar. (These can be found at used book stores or thrift shops.)
  • Elmer's Glue-All or something similar - needs to be able to stick to wood and paper and dry strong and clear.
  • polyurethane spray for finishing.
  • pens or pencils for marking
  • something heavy to weigh the books down while they dry
  • 3M picture hanging strips for, well, hanging of course!
  • a large sheet of smooth plywood that's a 1/4 inch thick and as wide as your bed. Mine was 50 inches wide and around 30 tall.

Step 2: Start the first layer.

Picture of Start the first layer.
This works best in layers going from the outside in. I decided to separate my covers by color and work with them that way.

I chose to do purples and blues for the outside layer. My books overlapped the edges of the plywood by about five to six inches in most places in order to fit them nice and snug around the edges.

As you can see in the pictures, I messed with them until I liked where they were, and then used a pen to trace along where their edges were. This way, once I started gluing, I could get them back where they needed to be.

To glue, I'd just lift up a book, apply a glue swirl to the wood inside the lines, and then place the book back where it needed to be. Make sure to apply pressure for 30 seconds to a minute afterward just to make sure it's set. You don't want them moving on you. Try to get the spines as flat as possible, too.

I started with one corner and worked my way around.

Once you have the outside done, you'll need to weigh the books down and let them for the recommended cure time. This will vary from glue to glue, but I watched an episode of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman between layers and it worked just fine. ;)

Step 3: Middle of the first layer.

Picture of Middle of the first layer.
Take two of the larger, uglier books (or ones that don't fit your color scheme as much as you'd hoped) and glue them down in the middle of the outer layer. Try to make sure the amount of space around them is pretty equal.

This will give your top layers something to adhere to and ensure that they'll be nice and level.

When gluing down the middle books, it works best to put the glue on the inside of the covers instead of on the wood. Better coverage, and no glue where you don't need it.

This is also a good time to check the outer layer and make sure all the books are secure and that the spines aren't sticking up. If they are, add more glue and weight! You can see that I had a couple of problem books, but I whipped them into shape.

Go watch another episode of Dr. Quinn and come back.

Step 4: Decide the placement of your top layers.

Picture of Decide the placement of your top layers.
The goal here is to add a bit of depth and cover all of the gaps in the bottom layers.

I chose my prettiest covers for this, as well as the brightest ones.

I just sat down and played with them until I had what I wanted. I took a picture of the finished placement to see where they all went.

Now, start gluing down the bottom layers and working your way up. The more overlapping, the better. Let them cure between layers. (I did the large green, the maroon, and the pink as the bottom layer, then the left yellow and the blue/tan as the next layer, then the large yellow and finally the little green.)

This will require mulitple episodes of Dr. Quinn. Make sure to add weight during the dry time of every layer.

Once you're done, flip the whole thing over and add a ton of weight. Let it sit overnight. Now you're ready to seal it!

Step 5: Seal the headboard.

Picture of Seal the headboard.
This will make it easier to clean, less likely to fade, and waterproof it in just in case.

I took the headboard down to my dungeon (apartment basement, actually.) and gave it a few good coats of polyurethane with proper ventilation and safety measures, of course. Remember to follow directions. Most times you need to let it sit a little bit between coats.

You can see it has a bit of shine to it now!

Let this dry overnight as well. :)

Step 6: Hang it!

Picture of Hang it!
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We used two packages of 3M medium picture hanging strips.

You could screw it into a wall, but my walls are quite crumbly and my boyfriend at the time was worried about putting large holes into them.

These things are pretty nifty. I've used them for all the photos in the living room with no problems. I'll keep everyone updated as to if it falls down or not. It seems VERY sturdy at this point. The headboard is about 6 or 7 pounds, I'd say - so I think we'll be fine. :D
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davidbarcomb9 months ago

Simple and cool project. Thank you

Manny B3 years ago
Great idea. I'm always amazed by how beautiful recycling can be.
ttunstall3 years ago
This is utterly amazing. I'm sure your apartment must be beautiful. :) I'm going to have to take a trip to Goodwill and stock up on some old books. I hope it turns out as nice as yours! =)
jessyratfink (author)  ttunstall3 years ago
Awwww thanks! We're trying to make it beautiful again. :D

Good luck with yours! And try flea markets if you have any around too, they tend to have more of the prettier, older books for cheaper!
This is so awesome! It's a pretty big task, but I think I'm gonna have to try it. Will post a photo if I do! ^_^
sunshiine4 years ago
What an awesome idea! thanks for sharing your hard work and great talent!
prixprix4 years ago
This is gorgeous! I am definitely making this, thanks for posting it!
I love your quilt, btw!
I'm going to start on this project tomorrow after I go get some plywood, how many books did you use for this?
jessyratfink (author)  flyinggreenfurby5 years ago
Hmmm... 18? Definitely less than 20. :)
Goodhart5 years ago
I bet binder notebooks could be used for this too, with the rings removed maybe...
lozartist5 years ago
I like how the final piece matches your quilt.
kate-lily5 years ago
i love it. is the lamp on the table handmade?
jessyratfink (author)  kate-lily5 years ago
Nope, got it at Urban Outfitters a while back. :)
k80bakes5 years ago
i cant wait to try this in my room when we redecorate! how unique!
Lady Hanako5 years ago
this is probably the coolest thing ever.
zoozi5 years ago
Beautifully creative and colorful! Love it
Gjdj36 years ago
Very cool! I was just entering my project over at greenwala, and recognized yours from instructables so I voted for it. Nice job.
jessyratfink (author)  Gjdj36 years ago
Thanks for voting for me over there! I ended up in the top ten, but waaaaaay below the vote spammers. ;)
Ouch. (I hope that wasn't directed at me?) I really got a ton of votes on my submission, and I didn't tell anyone, not even my Mom! By the way, I REALLY like this idea. I hadn't looked at in detail till today--very nice!
Looking specifically at this, I just wish to be reassured know what exactly you use that ominous dungeon for, when not making headboards...
jessyratfink (author)  Spl1nt3rC3ll6 years ago
For baking pies!
... But I see no oven, kitchen, or other cooking appliance. >.>

Now you are really getting me worried. O.o

That basement photo is rather eerie, just what is your colorful headboard hiding... :P
jessyratfink (author)  Spl1nt3rC3ll6 years ago
Okay, okay, you got me. I wash clothes down there. Don't look at me like that, It's perfectly normal.
*Backs away very slow like.* :P
noahh6 years ago
Very nice, but it's a bit painful to look at books ripped apart. :P (I'm only sort of kidding. But really, it's very cool.)
jessyratfink (author)  noahh6 years ago
Haha, I've gotten over it after working with used books for so long. Seeing peed on ones still sucks, though. :P
Ermmm. (I don't know how someone could reply to that). :P
jessyratfink (author)  noahh6 years ago
Just stating the facts! :D
Creativeman6 years ago
Very nice project, but then you always do good work! Cman
jessyratfink (author)  Creativeman6 years ago
You're going to make my head big. :P
blackturtle6 years ago
This is stinkin' awesome! I think even my hubby would have this in our room! You're a genius!
jessyratfink (author)  blackturtle6 years ago
Awww geez. :D
Kathybear6 years ago
Check with your local library and see if they have books that they'll be weeding out of the collection. Our recycling will take the pages, but the covers have to be stripped off first. If you volunteer to strip the books and take the covers, you might be in good with the library director, who will save a few library dollars by getting rid of the covers. Just a bit of advice from a public library employee....
jessyratfink (author)  Kathybear6 years ago
That's a really good idea! I know our local libraries and the local colleges always have books they're not using anymore. :)
whiteoakart6 years ago
Nice job. Simple and effective. Every so often I run into books at garage sales that are in bad shape: bindings broken, pages torn. Now I may start collecting them.

Save the pages to start your BBQ fire without lighter fluid by using a little chimney, like this one:
jessyratfink (author)  whiteoakart6 years ago
Oddly enough, I was wondering about making one of those! I want to learn grilling. So thanks for the link! :D
aimeee6 years ago
I love the concept and the colors you used! You totally thought outside of the box. So creative.
jessyratfink (author)  aimeee6 years ago
Thank you very much! :)
sherri2816 years ago
This is so great...I'm going to try this with more earthy tones...but i adore the colours in oyurs....
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