Build a $40 Headboard




About: I enjoy taking a pile of junk and making something unusual out of it. I like wheeled vehicles, and currently own two motorcycles, two electric bikes that I've built, and an electric scooter pushed by a soc...

I don't normally do a lot of woodwork, but my daughter wanted a rustic-looking headboard for a guest bedroom, so I decided to take up the challenge.

I call this a $40 headboard because that's about what it cost in lumber and supplies.


Step 1: Start With a Plan

I never begin a project without a highly detailed, professionally drawn plan.  Well, that's not exactly true......

As you can see from the crude drawing in the photo, my plans didn't require drafting nor computer skills.  I sketched out the measurements for the headboard, which for this particular bed (queen size) turned out to be 64" wide, and the headboard 30" inches tall, and sitting on 25" "legs."  The holes for attaching to the bed frame were 58.5" between the centers of the slots.

I actually made the headboard 31.5" tall, since that's the width of 9 1x4's stacked together, but my daughter still hasn't noticed!

Step 2: Tools & Materials Required

The tools I used were very basic carpenter tools: a tape measure, carpenter's square, drill & bits, screwdriver, a palm sander, and a circular saw.

For materials I used 12 six foot 1x4 pine boards, about a zillion wood screws, sandpaper, stain, polyurethane varnish, and some white glue.

No, I really don't haul the lumber home on my car's roof......

Step 3: Prepare the Lumber for Cutting

The first thing I did was lay 9 of the 1x4 boards out on saw horses, make sure they were packed in edge-to-edge, then temporarily clamped them down so they wouldn't move.  I did this rather than cutting each board to length individually, since I would be using a circular saw.  If you have a powered miter saw, you might want to set a stop on your table and cut them individually. 

Step 4: Trim the Boards to the Correct Width

I used a large carpenter's square and drew a straight line on one end of the boards, then measured off 64" and marked the other end.  Then I used the circular saw to cut all the boards to length, following the lines I had marked.

Step 5: Add Legs to the Back

Next, I measured the legs, cut them to length, then glued and screwed them to both ends of the headboard.  I assembled this entire headboard using screws and glue to ensure it would stay ridged.  I used 1 1/4 inch long screws so I didn't have to worry about the screws penetrating the front of the headboard.

Step 6: Finish Framing the Back

Using the remaining lumber, I finished framing around the perimeter of the headboard, and added a center support.  I used plenty of glue and screws in the frame.

At this point I actually considered making the back become the front, and the front become the back!  My daughter, however, wanted the front to be simply plain, so the back remained the back and the front remained the front.

Step 7: Sand and Stain

I sanded the entire front with a palm sander using 120 grit sandpaper, then sanded with 220 grit. 

After removing all dust, I stained the wood using an oil based stain and let it dry overnight.

Step 8: Apply the Polyurethane

After the stain had dried, I started applying coats of polyurethane.   I used a wiping polyurethane, which goes on very thin and smooth (no runs!).  The downside of using a wiping polyurethane rather than the brush-on variety is that it generally takes more coats to get to a final finish.  All-in-all I applied four coats to the headboard, lightly sanding between each coat.

Step 9: Install

The final step was to load the headboard in the back of my truck and bolt it to the bed frame in my daughter's house. 

This was a very simple project than can be done with very few woodworking tools.  It could actually be done with only hand tools, but the kind you plug into the wall sure makes it easier!



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    9 Discussions


    1 year ago

    what would be the measurements to make a king headboard ? :)


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Just made a headboard directly inspired by your instructable! Thanks for sharing.
    It is covered with a upholstered cushion, inspired here (

    I did use new lumber and spent way more than $40.


    5 years ago on Step 9

    That looks fantastic. We are in need of a headboard and I'm sure my husband and I could tackle this project.

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Step 9

    Thanks for the kind words! This headboard is very simple to build, yet it presents well. Good luck with your project.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Fimally! I have been looking for a simple, yet good looking headboard design for my bed. Took me forever to find this one but I'm glad I found it. Looks great!

    knife141Linda Allen

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    It's a pretty simple, clean design, and relatively easy to build. Thank you for your comment.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you. This was a red oak stain -- I selected it because I thought it would compliment the style of the room. I appreciate your comment!