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building a small headboard to fit on a prebuilt wood frame in tight space

Hey guys,

Im looking to build a small headboard to fit in between the legs of my wooden frame and I'd like to make it a certain height so that it does not interfere with the window trim (conveniently right by the bed, rotating bed/rearranging isnt an option due to the positioning of outlets and heating vents in walls.


I have this bed frame



as you can see the legs stick out further than the head and foot railing. the head and foot of the bed are identical (no directional difference) I would like to build a frame that goes in between the 2 legs, starting at the bottom of the headrail and extending up past it.


this second image shows the frame in a rendering.

I would like the headboard to be something like this.



the crappy drawing is pretty much an outline of  the shape and positioning of the bed frame I would like to make. I would like to use oak or pine and stain it in a walnut finish, like the actual bed.

this is a cellphone photo of the "walnut" finished product and shows the amount of space available.



I did take some measurements and the length of the headboard needs to be 51 inches. The height needs to be 16 inches, and the depth needs to be an inch and a half.


I would like to know what your recommendations are for building this, as far  as staining products go, fastening it to the bedframe (nails, wood screws, whatever else, etc), and what actual products (lumber and anything else) to purchase to do this. I am really looking forward to it. I have almost done remodeling this new house and this bedroom has been a challenge the entire time due to the age of the house and horrible condition it was in.


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Posted 2012-01-29T05:25:11+0000  by Aleksander Aleksander

Hello Aleksander seems you have quite a few projects going on right now.  Your headboard shouldn't be any trouble for you at all if you’re in the process of tackling a full remodel.


The simplest way to go about it is to cut a sheet of hardwood plywood (3/4" works well) down to size using some of the excess as a spacer to get the depth you want. There are a number of hardwoods available, so matching the texture of the rest of the frame won't be an issue. The main body of the headboard would be the dimensions you listed whereas the spacer section would keep the width but be the height of the bed frame.




Attaching the spacer section to the main headboard could be done using glue (cleaner final look) or with wood screws (quicker, more secure) adding a bit of wood filler on top prior to painting. Take care of the edging with a veneer application.


To secure the headboard to the frame I would use short carriage bolts, two to each side. A 5/8” bolt will be more than enough, while the length of the bolt would equal the depth of the headboard + depth of the frame + ½” to allow for a washer and nut to lock the whole together. Keep in mind that this is just one way to go about it, even though you're working with limited space feel free to get creative. A framed or slat headboard could look nice, consider even doing a matching footer. I hope this helps and best of luck.




Posted 2012-01-29T21:17:46+0000  by Chris_HD_ATL

   After you have completed building your headboard - you will want to finish the exposed new wood to match the existing finished wood.  You will have to try and get as close to the color as possible..with age and specific custom furniture stains this might have to be a "close as possible" attempt.


Start by looking at the MINWAX stain chart and see if you find one that works.


Here are the steps for staining and finishing the new wood:

  1. Apply pre-stain conditioner for stain consistency.
  2. Apply the stain with a brush or rag. Following the directions.
  3. Apply a coat of sanding sealer.
  4. Lightly sand after the sanding sealer has dried.
  5. Apply a coat of polyurethane with a fine brush.
  6. Lightly sand between coats.
  7. Add as many coats as you would like - with at least two.

*I suggest doing all this before attaching the headboard to the bed.


Hope this helped.


Posted 2012-01-29T21:20:29+0000  by Kevin_HD_ATL
Ill be trying soon and putting up some photos to let you guys see the results
Posted 2012-01-30T19:18:03+0000  by Aleksander


heres an update.


I got some markdown laminated pine.


some prestain,


and some poly.


heres the first round of staining, after cutting it down.


color is minwax "dark walnut" btw. looks fantastic. 


Posted 2012-02-01T06:20:29+0000  by Aleksander

Hey Aleksander that look great! really cool! awesome stain color! 

Is that 24"x60" laminated pine or 24"x48”...??


I was thinking if its 60" long maybe it’s just better to notch the corners so that ends of the headboard are flush with the sides of the frame. See


 bed frame.JPG

Right now they way its designed headboard sides are not going to line up with the sides of the bed- in other words it’s going to be shorter than the width  of the frame.


Unless this is what you want?

PS: I noticed your wardrobe post – I’m going to chime in with some suggestions on that one as well.



Posted 2012-02-07T16:27:07+0000  by George_HD_CHI


thanks for the tips, 

I wish I would have seen that prior to beginning the proejct, I agree the notched Idea would have been easier.


I wanted to do a post-project breakdown for anyone else reading this to sum up a few things Ive learned with the help of everyone involved here.


1: shop your stoors for wood markdowns. I got the laminated pine half off just by browsing the aisles and finding a small section of peices with some splits in the sides.


theres great deals to be had.


2. bring the minwax stainchart home with you or bring a photo.


I eyeballed the stain color.


"dark walnut" stain was identical to the walnut bedside table I just purchased. The bedframe itself is more of the other walnut stain that minwax offers, I think its called special walnut. I can live with this because the heardboard is smaller sized so it will not stick out much, but my girlfriend has already encouraged sanding down the bed and staining it the darker color instead. I think when the weather gets warmer I will most likely do this, then leave it to dry while I go camping for the weekend.


3.I also eyeballed the length of the bolts necessary. I was dead on but very lucky. Measuring would have been smarter.


4. The notched design would have been much easier to get a perfectly level headboard, vs my method of measuring and drawing multiple lines to center holes ( a trick I learned from framing artwork).


5.the wood finishing process takes time, be prepared, work patiently though, the end product is awesome, and ALL the products required to stain should be purchased, the prestain, the stain, the poly, etc. Its the difference between a DIY look and a FINISHED professional look. I like it to look the best it can if I invested my money and also my TIME into it.


6. doing a project like this made me realize the importance of getting better quality tools. My older reliable circular saw made cutting comfortable, however, not easy. Since blade depth was not adjustable, the saw would penetrate 3/4 of the way into the wood. I had to then flip it over and match the cut on the opposite side. 


A saw with adjustable depth, or a table saw, would have made this a lot easier.


I attempted the use of a jigsaw with a cheap blade and it was horrible to say the least. A heavier saw with a much larger cutting surface makes the project a lot smoother, safer, and more comfortable.


7. when planning for cuts, holes, or any modifications, draw your work out and write down measurements to do the math on paper. I wasted half an hour measuring and remeasuring when I couldnt figure out why by my math the spots I marked for the holes were not where they should be until I wrote down both lengths and realized that while doing mental math, I had made a simple subtracting mistake.


Had I not remeasured, and drawn this out, my headboard would have been uncentered and I would not have been a happy camper having to redrill more holes and thus weaken the integrity of the frame as well.


measure twice cut once, very obvious but certainly important.


also, for those of you attempting to do something like this for your first time, I am the same way, take it easy and slow it down and it will come out looking great. The folks here have helped me with the project and it turned out very satisfactory.


heres some photos, demonstrating the tight clearances as well between window and headboard. It was just right :)



Now onto reinforcing that weak slat setup and building myself a wardrobe. cheers


Posted 2012-02-08T16:04:23+0000  by Aleksander

Nicely done!

Posted 2012-02-12T14:31:47+0000  by Chris_HD_ATL
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