How to Make a Rustic Wood Headboard

A rustic wood headboard with white and pink pillows.
What You'll Need
Wood boards or pallets
80-grit sandpaper
Finish nails (roughly 50 nails for twin, 100 nails for kings)
Wood filler
Carpenter's glue
Clear primer
Paint or stain
Paintbrush (3" is best)

Creating a space of tranquility is important in a bedroom. It should have a soothing and relaxing atmosphere to help you get the best sleep possible, so that you can take on each day and reach your full potential. The way you choose to decorate your room plays a big part in that. For many people, this includes adding a headboard that speaks to them. In fact, rustic headboards are becoming more common as they're not only beautiful to look at, but they're also easy and inexpensive to make.

To Get Started

A lot of people choose to follow a pattern, but all you really need to know is how wide to make it according to the size of your bed. For example, a queen size mattress should have a headboard about 65 1/2” wide and 57 1/4” tall, according to this cut list.

Knowing how big your rustic headboard should be in the end will help you determine how much material and supplies you'll need. When making your own, you can purchase lumber at the store, or even try to make your own wood pallet headboard. For this project, ideally the boards should appear rustic in nature with cracks, knots, and imperfections that make it unique. Still, the boards should be straight.

While you can go to a big hardware store to select your wood, it's often easier and cheaper to go to a lumber yard. Simply give them your wood list and they'll pick it out and cut it for you and load it into your vehicle. If you do choose to use wood pallets or some other form of used wood, it's best to sand it smooth before assembly.


Someone hammering nails into rustic wood.

Assembling a rustic headboard is much simpler than you might think. If you're following plans, stick to it and you'll be fine. Most headboard plans are quite easy to follow, as you're just creating a flat board. However, if you're planning on just winging it you'll have to be sure to create your own plan so that the board comes out the right size and shape.

In any case, you'll have to start with the leg pieces and then attach the wood boards to them. The easiest way to do this is to first glue the boards in place, and then hammer them in, likely every 6-8 inches. The length of the nail will be determined by the thickness of the boards. Once the main body of the rustic headboard is in place, you can add anything extra that you want, like trim.

Fill in Nail Holes

Someone sanding down a piece of wood furniture.

With the rustic headboard fully assembled, it's time to add some finishing touches. This includes filling in nail holes with wood filler, if that's the look your going for. Once the filler is dry, you can sand it down with 80-grit sandpaper. You might have to fill it in twice, since filler often shrinks when it dries.

Stain or Paint

The next thing you have to do is add either stain or paint to the headboard. For most rustic headboards, it's usually a wood stained finish, although some people prefer to create a weathered wood look using paint. But before you do, you should vacuum the headboard with a soft-bristled brush to help remove all sanding residue. Then, wipe it down with a damp rag.

Add a light coat of primer before using stain or paint. If you're planning on using a wood stain, you will most likely need at least two coats of stain, topped with a coat of satin oil-based polyurethane. This will keep it shiny and clean-looking.

Or, if you want to complete a weathered paint look, it's pretty simple, too. Once you've selected a color (usually white) add a light coat and allow it to dry, adding a second layer or even a second color on top. Once it's fully dried, use a sander with 80-grit sandpaper and sand until you're happy with the results.