The nail head trim upholstered headboard… My wife longed for one. She showed me pictures, and I said “Oh, that’s nice” with a smile on my face. The answer to the following question made me cry a little inside… I asked “How much? I wouldn’t mind getting a new headboard.” I went through the 3 stages of grief… Denial that it cost so much for non custom furniture. Anger that I had so much to do before we could begin building our own and wondering if it’d be worth it. Acceptance that the only solution was to build it and build it right!
Maybe that was a little mellow dramatic but anyways… Let’s build a nail head trimmed linen headboard and stick it to Crate and Barrel prices!
Before this project got underway, there was lots of discussion and planning. We had originally thought of making a platform bed. However, we eventually opted for just a headboard that would attach to our current bed frame, with the option of adding a platform later on if we got the urge to make one. Here is the bed from Crate & Barrel that most of our inspiration was pulled from.
More or less, this project was deligated into two halves. Yours truly was tasked with building the frame, and my lovely wife would be in charge of upholstery! Luckily, I was able to steal some help from her with the woodworking part too!
First things first, gotta get supplies, guys (and gals). We ran over to Home Depot for the lumber and plywood. I used 2×4’s that are kiln dried. (These are stamped with KD on the boards.) You want kiln dried lumber if you’re going to be making anything other than a wall. Also, don’t just grab the boards you need and leave. Make sure you get the ones that aren’t trying to imitate pretzels. We also picked up a sheet of 1/4 luan to adhere the foam to.
Back at the shop and it’s time to get started! I created a cut list for the lady and got her started at the chop saw! Come on guys, you know it’s fun seein’ your lady in the shop!
Meanwhile, I started working on the template for the top profile of our headboard. I printed out the profile after designing it in CAD, spray mounted it to a scrap of luan, cut out the template, and of course sanded it! BTW, I usualy use super 77 spray adhesive, but this can was the first one I grabbed. It works just fine for temporary tasks like this.
With the template all sanded up and pretty, I transfer its profile to the sheet of luan that will cover the headboard’s framework. Since I made the template only half of the headboard’s width, I have to flip it around and trace the opposite side as well. Next is to cut and sand the sheet of luan. Now, just a little tip: This thing is going to be covered in batting, muslin, and eventually linen. You don’t have to go all nuts on making the lines absolutely perfect. In fact I don’t think I even sanded the sheet of luan at this point.
By now the shop assistant is all finished up with cutter her boards to length and it’s time to start ripping some of these 2x4s into 2x2s with my trusty Walker Turner 1180b. These will add ridgidity to the center section of the headboard. It also prevents the luan from flexing once it’s attached to the front of the headboard. So you’re wondering why I didn’t just buy 2x2s? They all looked like fully cooked spaghetti thrown against a kitchen cabinet.
Now it’s time to make some pocket holes on these 2x2s so we can tie the frame together. Pocket hole joinery may be cheating to traditional woodworkers, but I like the solution that is fitting for the task at hand. I’m rarely ever going to see the back of this headboard and pocket hold joinery is very sturdy and fast. Win, win!
So, grab a freshly milled 2×2 and clamp the pocket hole jig in place. I simply centered the jig on the piece and made the end of the jig flush with the end of the 2×2. Of course I’ve already done a test drill to make sure the depth collar is set to the correct spot. Now repeat on the other end. One down, 5 to go in addition to the 2x4s that make up the frame!
Oh, you wanna know how to make your own pocket hole jig? Then check out my diy Pocket Hole Jig post and get to it!
Before we assemble the headboard frame, we’ll need to make some mortises for the legs of the headboard. If you’ll be mounting your headboard to the wall, you can skip this step.
The first step here is to know what size the tennon is going to be on the headboard legs (we’ll get to that in a bit) and layout a mortise that will interface with it. I used a sliding t square to lay this out.
Lucky me, I don’t have a mortising machine… Lucky you, I’ll show you how to make a mortise without one! First off, secure the board to be mortised. I have two bench vises on this side of my bench which makes life twice as nice, or just easier. Notice that the area to be worked on is not inside the vise jaws. I don’t want to break through the far side with my forstner bit and ruin the thing! Also, I’d like to avoid damaging my chisels. So, use a twist drill, forstner bit, or spade bit smaller in diameter than the width of your mortise to remove the majority of the wood. This doesn’t have to be beautiful, just keep it in the lines like you did/tried to do in kindergarten.
On a side note, yes, I love my Ridgid drill!
Now chisels, rasps, and sandpaper are all fair game to clean up the mortise. Use a square if you need to check that you’re making everything nice and straight. I’ve moved the piece into the vise a touch for more rigidity, but the mortise still isn’t above any of the guide rods of the vise. Methodically remove the remaining material and make the inside surface of the mortise until it’s nice and smooth.
Now we need to make the legs for our headboard. Since I have a lack of 16/4 (that’s 4″ btw) cherry just laying around, I’ll need to plane some lumber and glue up the material. I need to flatten out my lumber on one surface before I can begin to worry much about how thick it is. You lucky types that have a jointer can laugh at me now, cause I’ll have to use a planer sled to remove the slight twist in most of the boards.
A planer sled is a sheet of plywood or MDF that uses wedges to stabilize the lumber you need to flatten while it is passed through the planer. At one end is a stop of some kind, preferably something that won’t ruin the knives of your planer if you get carried away. The trick is to put little wedges around the underside of the board where it is not flat against the sled. I used hot glue to attach the end stop and two wedges in front of, but to the side of the end stop. The other wedges that are used I just slide into place each time. For added security, put some PSA (pressure sensitive adhesive) backed sandpaper on at least one surface of the non-glued wedges. This will help the lumber and wedge to stay put while they ride through the planer. One final note, the sled needs to be at least as long as the longest board you will use on the sled.
So, after all the boards are planed, it’s time to run them through the drum sander. Sorry y’all, no photos of milling the lumber… Total bummer I know, but you can see lots of video footage of me running this kind of equipment on the Wood Shop Mike YouTube channel.
Now that my boards are all nice and flat, it’s time to glue ’em up! The glued sections are X x X x X and will be milled to X x X x X. Yep, no photos of the glue up either. I was on a roll and forgot about the camera… oops 🙂
Time to make some tennons! Lay out the tennon in a similar but more involved fashion as the mortise and the get cuttin’! Did you double check you know where to cut? Ok, good.
As you can see, the tennon isn’t centered in the leg. What?! If you take a glance up at the mortise in the headboard, you’ll see that it’s inset from the side of the headboard. Also, based on where the bed frame lines up with the headboard, the leg and headboard need to be flush. So, cut away all of the X’d areas and be sure to mirror this pattern for the other leg or you’ll have two right side legs for your headboard and you’ll seriously feel like a smartie pants!
Just pretend you also saw a picture of the tennon cut… Yeah, skipped on that one too!
As you can see, an extra section of 2×4 has been scabbed to the top of the headboard.
Remember the sheet of luan I mentioned earlier? Now’s the time to add it to the frame. My wife quickly fell in love with the brad gun! She was especially happy when I told her that she could put just about as many brads in as she pleased. Smiles like that are priceless!
Lets talk about foam… If you’re going to trim your headboard with nail heads I’d highly suggest not running the foam flush to the edges of your headboard. You’ll actually want to inset it by about an inch. We also cut a hefty chamfer around the edge of the foam that was 2″ x 1.5″.
Here’s a Tip:
When drawing your lines, use a compass to achieve a consistent line. Of course you can use a straight edge, but the compass was much faster! Just drag the pointy leg against the edge of the foam and hold a pen cartridge in place. You could even wrap some tape around the pen cartridge if you wanted. Just pretend you’re using chopsticks!
To cut the chamfer, we tried using a hot knife. This was TERRIBLE! This foam stunk to high heaven and even worse, the knife had to keep reheating… So, we used a long razor blade and my wife stepped in to do this step.
The finished result looks great. Almost too good to cover up with fabric…
Next on the list is to adhere our high density foam. We used Super 77 to adhere this to the headboard because… it’s super! In all seriousness, I’d use this spray adhesive over any other because it works great. A quick note about spray adhesives though: Use them outside or in very well ventilated areas. Using a respirator is a really good idea when working with spray adhesives too. Think about it. The stuff you would inhale is adhesive… In your lungs… Um, not good.
Give each surface to be joined a good spray of adhesive and wait a bit for it to develop a surface tack. Then lay the foam down. Hopefully you get it in the right spot on the first go around… No, the foam doesn’t look perfect, but remember, it’s going to be covered with lots of fabric. The tiny discrepancies that you see will be seriously masked once the upholstering is completed.
Now we move inside for the upholstery to a room that is a far away from the air compressor as possible… Of course. First lay out you fabric on the floor. First down is the muslin, followed by batting material.
We… I mean Kathleen, first upholstered the batting, which was then trimmed back.
After the batting went on, we just had to take a look and see how things looked. I think we’re on to something!
She repeated the process for the muslin, but stapled it a little farther in to avoid hitting the staples holding the batting in place. Kathleen trimmed back the extra muslin so the back is nice and tidy for adding the linen.
The third verse is the same as the previous two. Lay out the material, headboard on top…staple, trim, & done!
Looking good! Lets get the nail head trim on there. We can see the end in sight. Well, I can because Kathleen is going to be doing the trim work! Meanwhile, I’m busy staining the legs for the headboard with one coat of Minwax Chestnut Gel Stain followed by a coat of Minwax Mahogany Gel Stain.
“Honey, can you…. Yes dear.” I made this handy little gauge in just a few minutes to draw a guide line for the nail head trim.
Using a piece of scrap and knowing how far inset we wanted the line of nail heads to be, I made this gauge. The distance from the pencil tip to the surface that rides against the headboard is the same as where the nail head trim will be.
We took this short video to show you Kathleen’s process for installing the nail head trim. I think she could go pro!
Once the trim work was completed, we cut open that areas that are mortised on the bottom of the headboard. Be sure to staple the fabric in place around the mortise before cutting the fabric. We also added a product called Fray Check to the cut edges of fabric to keep them from unraveling. I’d say we have a nice lookin’ head board! All that’s left is to drill for the bed frame hardware.
My method for determining the hole location for this step was very scientific. We put the headboard against the bed frame and marked the corresponding hole locations… Drill the counter bore first (big hole), then drill the through hole (little hole). Working in this order is much more accurate. With the legs in place, I ran two screws through the headboard and into the tennon. They don’t move 🙂
Here’s a shot of the side that will rarely been seen. It’s just so clean though, I had to show it off!
So what does all our hard work look like? Well I suppose it looks like a slammin’ awesome headboard!
You may have noticed that I gave very few if any dimensions in this tutorial… The headboard fits a queen bed. The overall thickness of the headboard is 4″ comprised of 2″ of foam and 2″ of framing. From there, we made it tall enough so that we could lean against the headboard to read. If you’re just dying to know how tall it is just comment below and I’ll end the misery. 🙂
Linen, batting, and muslin- Jo-Ann’s Fabrics
High Density Foam- Online retailer
Brushed nickel nail heads (approximately 315)- eBay
2x4s, plywood, Super 77, Minwax Stain- Home Depot
Cherry- Cherry Tree… or lumber yard 🙂
The total for this project was under $200. Thanks to my wife’s price sniping skills, we were able to buy the linen upholstery fabric for 40% off it’s normal price!
A bit of inspiration and push for doing this project was from the blog View Along the Way. The inspiration mainly came from my lovely wife because she’s wanted a linen covered headboard for ages. The push came from View Along the Way and the price tag from Crate & Barrel.
Please feel free to leave questions or comments below. Thanks for reading and have a great day!