How to Distress Wood Headboards How to Distress Wood Headboards

What You'll Need
Wood headboard
Rough sandpaper
Utility knife
Wood stain
Paint sponges
Clean rags

Distressing wood headboards turns an unfinished piece of furniture lacking character into a seemingly antique fixture full of rustic charm. People spend a lot of money in antique shops looking for the right combination of old age, quality craftsmanship and time-worn distress in wooden furniture. Newly-built wood furniture may be of the highest quality, but one cannot simply speed up the clock to turn it into an antique. By adding distress, however, you can do the next best thing. Take a new, unfinished wooden headboard or a finished one you find somewhere and turn it into a faux antique by following these steps. If you do it right, people might not be able to tell the difference at first glance. 

Step 1: Stain Unfinished Wood Headboard

Before you can distress your wood headboard, you have to first make it look completely finished. Spend the necessary time staining the wood headboard using the stain of your choice. Always rub the stain in with the grain, doing only small sections at a time. Paint the stain on over an area and rub it in with the clean rag. Do this until the entire board is finished and let dry. 

Step 2: Begin the Distressing

There is a difference between making a new wood headboard resemble an antique and simply beating it up. When distressing the wood, be careful not to be too aggressive. At some point it will look bad. Start with the hammer. Dent the finished wood in random places. Don’t make any enormous dents, and don’t make a pattern out of it. Flatten some sections of the edges. 

Step 3: Make Marks with Sharp Tools

Move onto sharp-edged tools such as the utility knife, awl, rasp and chisel. Run the rasp over some of the edges and faces to roughen them up and splinter them slightly. Drag the awl randomly over a few sections of the headboard to scratch the surface. The chisel is good for carving out small chips from a few places on the wood. The utility knife will make a deeper cut, so be careful not to overdo it. 

Step 4: Go Over Wood with Rough Sandpaper

Take a piece of rough grit sandpaper and sand over all of the marks you made in addition to edges and other finished surfaces. Sand away the finish in some places. This is a finer stage of distress, so tone down the roughing up process. 

Step 5: Reapply Wood Stain

After you have achieved a nice rough look with the hammer, awl, chisel, rasp and sandpaper, reapply a coat of finish to the wood headboard. This time, however, purposely rub the stain in darker in some places. Continue to rub it in with the grain, but don’t be completely uniform with it. This will create a nice blend of lighter and darker areas on the wood. Let it dry. 

Once the second coat is dry, perhaps tap the wood in a few more places with the hammer and add a scratch or a chip or two for good measure. Without making it look like junk, you can purposely distress a new wooden headboard and give it an antique appearance. 

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