DIY Rustic Pallet Headboards

DIY Rustic Pallet Headboards

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My sister-in-law recently asked me if I could make her parents some rustic headboards for their cabin up north. One twin and one queen. I had never made a headboard before, but I was really excited to dive into this project. It was a lot of fun creating these and was fairly simple!

Note: I cannot stress enough the importance of being safe when using pallets for your DIY project. Pallets can contain pollutants that can cause harm to you or the recipient of whatever you build. For more information, see the Pallet Safety and More section of our page for a link to some great info on choosing your pallets wisely and my own personal story of how I learned the hard way to be safe when working with pallets.

Tools I used for this project:

Cordless Drill

Miter Saw

Table Saw

18 Gauge Brad Nailer

Orbital Palm Sander

Wood Glue

Sand Paper

2” Brad Nails

2.5” screws

I knew before hand that I wanted the main support posts that would hold the headboard to be big and strong, so I went  to Home Depot and bought two 2 x 6 x 10s. I don’t have a truck, and since I knew my headboards were going to be 52” tall when they were finished, I got the lumber cut in the store. I had them cut into four 50” sections with a couple scrap pieces left over. You could very easily use any size lumber for the posts, and I am sure they would work just fine. The lumber for the posts was the only thing that I purchased for this project. The rest of the material is from disassembled pallets.

I started by building the base structures for the headboards. I wanted to get the most out of my pallet wood, so I ran several pallet brace 2 x 4s over the table saw to cut them roughly in half. I searched the internet, and found that a standard queen mattress is 60″ wide and a twin is roughly 38″-39″. I wanted the headboard to stick out a little bit on either side of the bed, so I cut my horizontal supports to 64′ for the queen and 42” for the twin. I used a generous amount of wood glue and placed the supports where I wanted them. Top one was flush with the top of the post, and the bottom one was about 24” down from the top support. Measure how high the top of your bed will be and put the bottom support a bit below that. I used a brad nailer to hold them in place, and then screwed them down with 2.5” screws.

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The next step was to add a few vertical supports that I could nail the pallet planks to. I didn’t get too exact on where I placed these supports. I just wanted to make sure I had enough to be able to fasten the planks securely. I cut them to 24” in length with the miter saw and screwed them into place with from the top and bottom of the horizontal support beams. I also put a little wood glue on the top and bottom of the supports for safe measure.

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Once I completed both structures, it was time to lay out the pallet planks. I didn’t have a specific design in mind for this step. I just cut a plank to a length that it would cross at least two vertical supports and set it in place. Then, I measured the remaining length to the post and cut another plank to that length. I tried to make sure each row had planks with similar thickness and width, so that it would be pretty flat and not leave big gaps between rows. With the twin headboard, I mixed in planks with different widths to make it a bit more unique. With the queen, I used planks with generally the same width mainly just because its what I had available at the time. I made sure to lay everything out just how I wanted it before attaching anything.

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Once I was happy with the layout, I started at the top row and took the planks of making sure I set them aside in the same configuration. I put wood glue on each support and then used 18 gauge brad nails to nail the planks to the supports. I repeated this one row at a time until the whole thing was covered.

IMG_3353IMG_3354After all the planks were secure, I wanted to put an end cap on to make the posts look more full. I measured the thickness of the post and horizontal support beams and it ended up being 3 inches. I ran a few pallet planks over the table saw and cut them to width. I used my miter saw to cut them to length. I decided on using two different textured planks on each side to give it a bit of variety. I attached them using wood glue and brad nails.

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Next step was to attach the top cap. I cut pallet braces down to a width of 3” on the table saw. Then, I cut them to length on the miter saw. I needed to use two pieces on the top of the queen because it was just too long. I also cut down some wider pallet planks to a width of 4” on the table saw to go on top of the braces. I cut them the length as well. I decided to sand these pieces before attaching them because I new it would be hard to get at them once they were attached. I used my orbital sander and 80 grit sand paper to sand them down till they were smooth.

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I used wood glue and secured the wood to the top using brad nails. For some added stability and strength, I also sunk some 2.5” screws to the top. I realize at this point that I cut the top cap without factoring in the end caps that I attached in the previous steps. I had to cut a little 2 inch end cap to make it flush. I originally wanted to have the top cap go all the way out to the ends, but I think it still turned out alright. I then used my orbital sander to sand all of surfaces down to get any dirt and splinters off. The orbital sander couldn’t get into some of the corners, and I had to use some sand paper to manually do that. In hind sight, I wish I would have sanded all the planks down before attaching them. It may have saved me a headache.

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At this point the headboards were fully constructed and ready to be finished. My sister-in-law’s parents wanted them to be stained a dark brown, but if you like the natural look, you could just put a few coats of poly on and call them done. I had seen a couple of projects online that used Minwax Dark Walnut stain, and I thought it would be a good fit for what they were wanting. The fun part about staining pallet wood is that each plank takes the stain a different way. Some soak it up immediately and get a dark color within seconds. Others I had to let it sit for a couple of minutes to let the stain settle in. A little trial and error on some scraps and I was able to figure it out alright. Make sure that you get all of little cracks between planks so there isn’t light spots poking through.

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After the stain had dried, it was time to finish them with a clear coat. My favorite finish is Minwax Polycrylic water based finish. It dries really fast and has a very light odor. Also, clean up is quick and easy as well. I chose the clear satin finish for this project, as I didn’t want to add much shine.

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I painted on a generous layer of the poly and let it dry for about 2 hours. After it was dry, I sanded each headboard down with a high grit sand paper. I believe I used 220 grit. I added a second layer and let that dry. Once it was done drying, I checked them over and decided I was happy with how they looked and felt. I was able to run my bare had vigorously over all of the surfaces with out any splintering.

That’s a wrap! I loved making these headboards. They are a really cool and simple way to give a rustic feel to any bedroom.

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Leave your comments or questions below!

“Let all you do be done in love.” 1 Cor. 16:14

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