The Ultimate Headboard



Introduction: The Ultimate Headboard

About: I got an old sewing machine when I was just a kid, and I've been hooked on making stuff ever since. My name is Sam and I'm a community manager here at Instructables.

This headboard was made for my wife as a Christmas gift. We had wanted a nice headboard for years, and this design incorporates several ideas we thought would be really cool to have.

The headboard is basically a narrow cabinet with wooden front panels, with the following features:

  • The two side panels are actually doors that open outward to reveal some shelf space.
  • The middle panel is excellent for leaning against while watching tv or reading in bed.
  • There is built-in adjustable mood lighting.
  • There are three secret compartments built in as well!

Read on to see how you can make your own ultimate headboard!

Step 1: Secret Compartments

There are three secret compartments built into the bottom section of the headboard (one behind each of the two doors, and one larger compartment in the middle).

Step 2: Mood Lighting

Mood lighting is provided by a dimmable RGB LED strip. It's a plug-and-play strip, so no soldering required.

Alright, let's build this thing!

Step 3: Lay Out Sides of Case

This design of the case begins with the layout of the side pieces.

These began as two 48" by 8" pieces of 5/8" (about 16 mm) thick Baltic birch plywood, which were cut with a table saw.

These were cut down according to the measurements in the second photo on a band saw. They were then clamped together and sanded to remove any noticeable irregularities.

All of the dimensions for this headboard case were chosen to match the height of our queen mattress, which sits on a frame I made previously. The bed frame is a basic platform frame similar to the dozens found online (including several right here on instructables), but with a surrounding skirt made of birch plywood.

Various design and measurement considerations were made to accommodate the inclusion of an old mirror we had, which is 36" by 30". I worked around these dimensions so I wouldn't have to worry about cutting the mirror down at all.

If you like this headboard design and plan to create something similar, you will obviously need to create your own layout and measurements based on your specific needs. However I will provide as many of the dimensions I used as possible, as they may be beneficial to someone.

Step 4: Prepare All the Pieces That Will Make Up the Case

Various rails that stretch between the side boards from the last step were prepared, some from 5/8" plywood, and others from 3/8" (about 10 mm) plywood, depending on how strong I felt the pieces needed to be. All of the rails are 60" long, which is the width of our mattress.

This works out great, as the birch plywood I generally buy comes in 60" by 60" sheets. At about $50 to $60 a board, it's certainly not cheap . . . but quality-wise it beats big box store plywood hands down.

Various rabbet cuts were made on the rails and side pieces with a table router to accommodate the mirror and back panel pieces. Where necessary, the ends of these rabbets were squared up with a sharp chisel.

I routed all the desired edges with a round-over bit on my router table, and then lightly sanded all the pieces to prepare for assembly.

As you can see in the second photo, I try not to waste any good plywood. So occasionally pieces that are just a bit too small for what I need get a little bit added back on with glue and clamps. Waste not your dollars, I say!

This step in the process took a lot of careful planning, measuring, and cutting to ensure I was creating pieces that would all come together as desired.

Step 5: Assemble the Case Framework

I was tempted to use pocket screws for this, but in this instance I didn't feel they were precise or secure enough for what I wanted. Plus I thought it would be fun to have plugs showing on the side of the case.

All of the rails were glued and screwed to the side boards through pre-drilled and countersunk holes. These holes were then plugged with bits of glued-in dowel. See photo notes for dimensions of the various rails.

Step 6: Add Bottom

A 3/8" thick bottom panel was glued and nailed in place to create the bottom of the case.

Step 7: Assemble and Install Shelves

The shelves and vertical supports were partially assembled outside of the case, using glue and nail gun brads.

These were then glued and nailed in place inside the case. Clamps were used to ensure a nice tight fit while nailing the shelf assemblies in place.

Step 8: Build the Secret Compartments

The secret compartments are 6 inches deep.

The tops of these are level with the top of the mattress and have no visible handles or hinges. There are no visible cues to their existence (especially if the cabinet-style front panel doors are closed and the removable panel is in place.)

They are opened by simply pressing the back inch or so of the lids, and they flip right open.

I'll be honest . . . I'm super proud of how these turned out! The following steps show how these were made.

Step 9: Make the Compartment Lids

The lids are made from 3/8" thick plywood pieces.

Two 1 1/2" square blocks made from 5/8" thick plywood were glued and nailed precisely 1 1/4" up from the back edge of each panel, flush with the sides. The lids are about 7" from front to back.

Before attaching the blocks to the boards, they were each drilled through the center with a 9/64" bit. This was done on a drill press to ensure that the holes were perpendicular to the faces of the blocks.

Simple pin hinges will be created by installing pieces of 1/8" metal rod through these blocks and through the walls of the headboard case.

Step 10: Create Front Support Strips

The front edge of the compartment lids must have a support to rest on. These were made with strips of plywood that were glued and nailed in place with brads.

All the strips were installed at precisely the same height by using the same two scrap blocks to position the strips for nailing.

With the support strips in place, lines were drawn with a square along the sides and vertical shelf support pieces, to be level with the top of the front rail. These lines will act as guides to help position the tops of the lids when laying out and drilling for the hinge pins.

Step 11: Mark and Drill for Hinge Pins

The lids were held in place with the tops lined up with the marks made in the last step.

A piece of 1/8" metal rod was placed in the hinge blocks and tapped with a hammer to make an indentation on the walls where to drill the hinge pin holes.

A scrap block was drilled through with the drill press to use as a guide to ensure that the hinge holes would be drilled as close to perpendicular to the adjacent wood faces as possible.

The indentations were punched additionally with a nail set to aid in drilling, and 1/8" holes were drilled with the help of the guide block.

The hinge pin holes in the sides of the headboard case were carefully drilled to a measured depth so they didn't punch through the outer walls, while the holes in the vertical shelf support pieces were drilled straight through.

Step 12: Install Hinge Pins

Additional pieces of 1/8" rod were cut and installed through the hinge blocks and walls of the headboard case.

Step 13: Some Adjustments

The back edges of the lids needed to be trimmed just a bit so they wouldn't bind with the back panels of the case once those were installed. The lids were removed and trimmed on the table saw.

The front edges of each lid were a little tight, so they had a hairs-worth of material removed as well.

Step 14: Additions to the Longer Middle Lid

An angled strip of wood was glued and nailed along the front edge of the middle lid piece to act as support for the bottom edge of the removable front panel that will be made later on.

I also added another wooden strip across the bottom back edge of this lid to remove a bit of sag/bowing that was in the board.

Step 15: Completed Case, Unfinished

Here is the completed case, ready to be finished.

Step 16: Finish Case

The case was finished with an oil-based stain.

This was followed by two coats of shellac with a light sanding with 220 sandpaper between coats, and after the final coat. Everything was then polished with furniture paste wax.

Step 17: Add Back Panels to Case

Two panels were made and finished in the same manner as the rest of the case to fit on either side of the mirror.

To hold the mirror in place, additional strips of thin material were glued onto the sides of the wooden panels (see photo 3.) The panels were then screwed to the back of the case with small screws into pre-drilled and countersunk holes.

Step 18: Final Assembly of Case

Small, thin washers were glued in place with contact cement to the outsides of the hinge blocks to keep the edges of the lids from rubbing against the walls of the case. The lids were then re-installed over the secret compartments.

I added some simple bumpers to the lids of the secret compartments made of small pieces of black sticky-backed craft foam, so the lids close quietly.

Some stoppers were also installed to keep the lids from smacking the back panels or mirror when opened. In the middle section, these were made from small blocks of wood with rubber glued to the faces, which were screwed in place. On the side sections, I simply used small screws with heat shrink tubing shrunken over the heads which were screwed in place.

Step 19: Lay Out and Cut Boards for Front Panels

I bought a bunch of knotty alder boards to make the front panels of the headboard.

After some thought, I decided to run the boards horizontally, with the grain matching up through all three panels.

The boards were laid out and cut accordingly to create the two side doors and the removable middle panel. The boards were oriented so any cupping inclination was offset between each board.

These panels were made to extend 2 inches beyond the top and sides of the headboard case.

While an upholstered headboard would have been nice (as we sit and lean against it on an almost daily basis while watching tv and movies in bed), we ultimately opted for bare wood simply because we like the look. We throw a couple of pillows behind us, and it's plenty comfortable. If we ever change our minds and want an upholstered headboard on the case, it would be a fairly simple upgrade to make.

Step 20: Glue Up Panels

The boards for the panels were glued up using lots of clamps.

When the boards were dry, excess glue was scraped away and all the panels were sanded through multiple grits until they were smooth enough for my liking.

Step 21: Lay Out and Route for Recessed Hinges

I used basic utility hinges to hold the doors to the headboard case.

For the positioning and functionality I wanted, I had to route out an area for the hinges to sit recessed into the back of the wooden doors. This was done with small palm router after precisely laying out the location for the hinges.

For the next few steps, you'll note that the doors and middle panel were fully installed and test-fit to the case, adjusted, and then removed again, all prior to finishing and final assembly.

Step 22: Install Hinges to Doors

The location for the screws were marked, punched with a nail set, and pre-drilled. Then the hinges were fastened to the doors.

Step 23: Install Doors to Case

The doors were positioned on the case, and the position for the hinge screws were punched and pre-drilled. The screws had to be shortened just a bit, and then they were installed.

See photo notes for lots of little tricks I used for installing the doors.

Step 24: Add Magnets to Middle Panel and Case

The top and bottom of the middle panel and adjacent locations on the case have several neodymium magnets installed to hold the panel in place. Locations were carefully marked, drilled with a forstner bit, and the magnets epoxied in place.

If you do this, be sure the magnets are glued in position so they attract and not repel each other. Very important!

Step 25: Finish Front Doors and Middle Panel

The doors and middle panel were removed from the case and finished with several coats of shellac. They were lightly sanded between coats, and after the final coat. They were then polished with some furniture paste wax.

I decided to go with shellac so the front panels would be warm, simple, and natural-looking.

Step 26: Add Braces and Bumper Pads

I added some braces to the middle panel to keep it square and flat. These pieces were installed with screws only (no glue) through holes that were drilled over-sized to allow the panel a little acclimation movement if needed.

Bumper pads made from sticky-back craft foam were added to the middle panel, as well as the back of the headboard case.

Step 27: Install LED Strip

A strip of dimmable RGB LEDs was installed along the top and sides of the headboard. The cords were tucked under the bed, and the IR sensor was positioned to be accessible but out of the way.

This was the easiest step of the entire project!

Step 28: All Done

That's it. Thanks for taking a look!

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