Design/Build Headboard – finding a new use for some old wood shelves

Would it have been easier to just go to IKEA? Maybe, but when the nearest IKEA is 9 hours away, you’re sometimes forced to be a little more creative. This is what happened when the need for a decent looking headboard met up with a pile of used shelves.

It all began when my husband and I attempted to clean out the garage. We don’t toss out lumber of any kind, not even scraps, so the pile tends to accumulate. This certain pile included a number of beat up plywood shelves from my store. I was pondering where to re-locate the pile when it occurred to me we might be able to use some of it for the headboard needed in our guest room. A headboard for a double bed needs to be 54” wide plus a little extra for the sides. The shelves were only 46″ long, so that would have to be the determining measurement for the design. The shelves were a little scratched, had shelving grooves cut in the bottom and water damage from sitting on the floor of our garage. So, knowing the damaged areas would need to be cut off, I came up with a slat design using boards of varying width and an off-center detail maximizing the 46″ length of the shelves.

After finding a Saturday afternoon free on both of our schedules, we got started. First, we cross-cut the short boards and then ripped all the boards to width. We followed the layout of the boards from the design sketch, but ended up having to fudge a little towards the bottom because my measurements were slightly off. (Hey, it happens.)

Once the cutting was finished, we roughed up the old lacquer finish on the shelves to provide a better adhesive surface for the primer. We used an alcohol base primer to prime the wood. Next, I applied a light coating of the finish paint. In our case, we wanted a soft white, not a shiny, high gloss paint, so we chose an acrylic latex enamel.

After drying completely, we used a drill-press to drill countersink holes into the front slat boards. Countersinking the holes allow the screw heads to lie flush with the surface of the boards. The drilled ends were then attached to a center back vertical support board. We laid out the boards according to the sketch and set nails between the slats to keep the spacing consistent. To prevent stripping the screws, my husband hand screwed in each one. This is where we discovered the boards were slightly different sizes, which exposed more of the screw head than we would have liked on a few of the boards. Such is the nature of re-purposing.

We then flipped the headboard over to attach two outer back vertical support boards in alignment with the attachment points of the metal bed frame. We also added 2 horizontal boards across the back of the 3 vertical boards for added structural support. We hauled the headboard upstairs and aligned it with the slotted holes in the metal bed frame and bolted it all together.

The supplies we needed to purchase cost less than $50.00. Here’s what we used:

  •  from our pile of lumber, we used about 6 – 12” x 46” x 3/4″ Baltic birch used wood shelves
  • for the 2 horizontal supports, we had to dig further into our pile to find boards the width of the headboard. We found a couple 1 x 3’s and cut them down to the width of the headboard
  • for the 3 verticals we used the same wood shelves
  • we finished off a box of 1 1 /4 x 12 wood screws – much larger than what the job called for, but we wanted to express the screws in the design
  • we switched to 1 1 /4″ drywall screws for the back boards- because they go in easier than wood screws and aren’t as easy to strip out. (My husbands hands were pretty sore by this point. So for the back boards, he used a screw gun and the drywall screws.)
  • paint brushes, primer and a quart of acrylic paint

So, a big thanks to my hubby for giving up his afternoon to help make a headboard. And another big thanks to M of the blog Redesigned by M – a blog that inspires me to redesign, reorganize and repurpose. A trip to IKEA will just have to wait.

finished headboard


9 thoughts on “Design/Build Headboard – finding a new use for some old wood shelves

  1. Karen,
    The headboard turned out great and is wide enough that you could use it if you went to a queen bed in the future. Good planning. I love the leather bracelets you show too. i need to take your class.

  2. Pingback: Headboard from Scrap Wood – Free Woodworking

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