Introduction: Reclaimed Wood Head Board/Wall Art

About: I make stuff :)

This, like many projects I have undertaken in my making career, was a spin off of an original larger project. My original project was a bed frame with a mechanically assisted lift system that could lift hidden drawers to the foot of the bed (an intractable for this may be available sometime in the future). While functionality is aways first priority in any project, ascetic appeal is also atop my list of importance, which is how this portion came about. In an attempt to beautify the bed frame I decided to create this reclaimed wood head board. In the title I refer to it as a "head board/wall art" because in my opinion it could work just as well to decorate a blank wall.

I wasn't exactly sure what my method and design would be while getting started but along the way I discovered methods and shortcuts that might help anyone interested in something similar. My result turned out to be a very modern and clean looking piece of "art" that seems to blend well into almost any room in the house. In addition, this project costed next to nothing to build, it was built completely from reclaimed wood from various places along with some scraps from past wood working projects. Like I said, this piece was created to go with a bed frame that holds a king size mattress so this is a very large head board, but this method and design idea can be used for anything big or small. I will get a little more in-depth in the materials in the building materials step.

Thanks for taking a look! Hope my ideas can inspire something even better!

Step 1: Acquiring Building Materials

Like I said before one of my favorite parts of this piece is that it is the culmination of a variety of reclaimed wood from different places and scraps from past projects. When acquiring building materials for this project wood types are not of huge importance. Although, I thought it would be cool to have, not only a variety of sizes and widths of wood, but a variety of types of wood. Just to give some ideas of were to look and how readily available materials for this project could be I will list the pieces included in my project.

Types of wood and previous use:

- White Oak Boards (pieces from an old bunk bed frame)

- Maple Boards (reclaimed from old kitchen cabinets)

- Madrone Boards (these actually came from a madrone tree that was dropped on my parents property, took some time to turn it into clean wood to work with but definitely a great wood to work with)

- Walnut and Cherry Boards (random scraps from previous projects)

Only other materials needed are a variety of stains, colors are really your preference, and fastening materials like wood glue and pin nails.

Step 2: Preparing the Wood

At first glance it looks like the boards are cut to random lengths and random widths and are just thrown together. At a closer look there is a much more detailed pattern and a lot of attention need to be paid to result in a somewhat random looking piece.

All of the wood was either very rough to begin with or was repurposed from something that was previously finished with stains and top coats. Therefor, to be able to apply my own stains and have a balanced piece I ran all pieces through a planer to eliminate imperfections and remove previous stains. Exact thicknesses with the planer are not important although it is important to have a variety of thicknesses but at the same time have many matching lengths in each thickness. I chose to have 4 groups of boards at varying thickness.


The reason it is important to have groups of thicknesses is each layer of the piece has to have boards with matching thicknesses to allow the layers to fit together flush. It could be down with every layer being its own independent thickness but having fewer thicknesses was an attempt to increase workflow.

After preparing the wood with the planer I used a table saw and chop saw to cut lengths and widths for each board in each layer. Once again the attempt to generate organized randomness proved complicated. I tried to create a pattern trying to separate same width/thickness boards as well as same types of wood. Also trying to leave different hang off lengths on each end of each layer.

Another aspect I added on the fly was the very small shallow pieces to add extra depth to the piece. These were just thin scraps of the oak I was using in other areas.

Step 3: Staining and Assembling the Headboard

Now that the pieces are all cut to size and the overall layout is balanced and in the general pattern we want we can move on to adding another dimension which is the color/stain details. Once again this provides another somewhat complex puzzle, trying to keep balance but not have a noticeable pattern.

I spent a lot of time experimenting with different stains on different wood types to settle on a group of complimentary colors with nice contrast. I have the 5 types of wood, 3 of which I applied two different stains to, to total 8 different possibilities for final pieces. This was the wood/stain combos that I found worked well together:

Light Stain

White Oak





Dark Stain

White Oak



This resulted in 8 different shades and colors of wood in the piece. The walnut wood with dark stain provided a nice contrast with very dark pieces, as well as having a light stain on the walnut to have a medium between light and dark pieces.

I also used a white stain on the recesses small pieces to create even more contrast and make them stand out a bit more. Lastly I decided to add select madrone pieces stained with a light stain mixed with grey paint to add a bit more of a modern look.

As far as the layout for painting goes, once again it is somewhat random and planned at the same time (confusing I know). The attempt is to keep a balance in the piece but avoid a noticeable pattern. I worked on one layer at a time but loosely set the pieces in place as I went to get an idea of what colors to use in the next layer to keep a balance. This process talks time and diligence to get through but the balance of the pieces is what I think makes or breaks the overall outcome. This is sort of tough routine to explain in word but the pictures included should help clarify the process.

After the structural and color layout is complete and stain has had plenty of time to soak in and dry, it is time to fasten all the pieces together. I assembled it on a flat surface on the shop floor to make sure the fastened head board would turn out as flat as possible and be able to sit as flush with the wall as possible.

The fastening process includes applying wood glue between pieces in a single layer as well as between a new layer and previous layer, then pin nailing the layers together will the glue is wet to ensure a tight junction between all pieces for structurally sound head board. Work your way fro first layer to last using this method trying to eliminate any gaps and keep the joints as tight as possible. For some layers it help to apply clamps after gluing to hold the pieces tight while shooting with the nail gun.

Step 4: Finishing and Review

Almost there!

The last step is to add a sealer or top coat to the fastened final product. Make sure to give the glue plenty of time to adhere the layers before moving the piece to an area to add the top coat. For this I decided to use a spray on polyurethane top coat. With all the contours of this pieces it would be very difficult to brush on a polyurethane layer to protect it, so the spray can works well. Also, to stick with a modern but natural look I used a low gloss polyurethane finish. Depending on the purpose and area your piece will be displayed you can add hardware to hang it or use a router to make holes to hang it from in the back on one of the thicker pieces. Mine is going to be attached to the bed frame so I don't have any pictures of methods for hanging.

And thats it! It is a time consuming process and a somewhat repetitive project but in my opinion well worth it. You finish with a beautiful piece of art that is worth far more than the material cost to make it. Looking back, most of the pieces of wood that went into this project wood have been tossed, burned or just sat around in my dads shop for years. At the same time its pretty awesome to look at the final product and know the wood was repurposed from old furniture and even grew on my parents property.

I will include my normal disclaimer for my instructables:

My vision for this instructable is not to be a step by step guide to replicating the project I made, but more of a vessel for inspiration to anyone looking to make something similar. I hope the methods I found to work well help out in the building and designing process, but please feel free to innovate on what I've done and create something even better. I would love to hear any input or ideas, and will respond to any questions as promptly as possible.

Thanks for checking this out and until next time!

Never Stop Creating

Reclaimed Wood Contest 2016

Participated in the
Reclaimed Wood Contest 2016