DIY Wood + Nailhead Headboard Tutorial

Wood + Nailhead Headboard Tutorial

Today, I’m going to show you how I made the headboards for the boys’ bedroom with this Wood + Nailhead Headboard Tutorial. This tutorial is for a twin sized headboard as well as a toddler bed size (these are what I made), however the measurements can be modified and the technique can be used for any size bed.

Materials I used:

For Template:

For Headboard:

For this project, I used PurePond Plywood.
PureBond Pledge

PureBond is made from real wood (not particle board) and is eco-friendly and formaldehyde-free. It has the strength, durability and look of hard wood. It is made with non-toxic, soy-based technology, can be stained, and it looks beautiful when finished. PureBond is available at Home Depot and comes in a variety of surface options. I used birch and purchased one 3/4-inch thick 4’x8′ board, and had it cut down to size at Home Depot.

Wood + Nailhead Headboard Tutorial via

I’m going to break this down into steps and then explain each one. This is a very detailed process, so I want to make sure I explain it very clearly and make it easy to understand.

1. Determine the dimensions of the headboard.

Measure the width of your bed and the height that you desire, then cut your wood (or have it cut at Home Depot, they will cut it for you!). For the twin headboard, I had my plywood cut to 48″L x 40″W. (Your length will end up being the height of your headboard.)
For the toddler bed, my dimensions were 42″L x 29″W.

To make life easier, I simply created an entire headboard panel that slides behind the bed and attaches to it. You only see the top half.

2. Design and create a template.

Wood and Nailhead Headboard Tutorial via
Wood and Nailhead Headboard Tutorial via

For this step, I used plain craft paper and cut it to the width necessary. Don’t worry about the height of the paper since you’re only cutting the top part of the headboard and you’ve already had the wood cut down to the proper dimensions. To form the design, use a compass (just like in good ol’ geometry class) or create one by tying a string onto a pencil. I ended up doing both since my compass only allows for a radius of 6 inches, so for the twin headboard I used baker’s twine tied to a pencil. The twine should be the length of the radius you desire. Center it on the craft paper so that the pencil reaches the top of the paper. Hold the twine in place, pull it tight, then draw an arc with your pencil. Use a t-square (or a level) and a yardstick to draw a small line on one side of the arc, parallel with the top edge of the paper. Then, hold your pencil and string in place at the edge of your paper, directly across from the line you just drew, and draw another arc all the way from the end point of your line downward to the edge of the paper.  Fold the template in half to ensure symmetry, cut along the lines you just drew, and voila! You’ve got a template.

Here are my measurements, along with a rough sketch (I’m no artist! Please don’t judge me on my artistic ability… or lack thereof):

Headboard design via

Twin Headboard: 
Radius of middle part = 9″
Lines = 4″
Radius of side arcs = 8″

Toddler Headboard:
Radius of middle part = 6″
Lines = 3″
Radius of side arcs = 6″

3. Cut the wood into the shape you designed.

Wood and Nailhead Headboard Tutorial via

Roll some painters tape up and stick it onto the back of your template, then line it up to the top edge of your wood and stick it on to hold it in place. Stick painter’s tape onto your wood underneath the edge of your template, and then trace with a sharpie directly onto the tape. Use a jig saw to cut the wood, following the sharpie lines that you’ve drawn. Cut directly through the tape – this will help prevent the wood from splintering.

Jig saw

If you are a beginner and have never used power tools before – have no fear! If I can do this, then so can you. Really. A jig saw is the perfect saw to start out with. The blade isn’t huge and intimidating, plus I have a cordless one so it’s very lightweight and easy to maneuver. It also has a laser guide which is very helpful. Mine is RYOBI and I’ve always been very happy with their tools.

4. If you’re using PureBond Plywood, apply Edge Banding (you just iron it on).
This camouflages the raw edge and allows you to stain it. You can purchase a package of this at Home Depot too. Be sure to match your Edge Band to the type of plywood you are using. (I used birch.)

5.  Pre-drill pilot holes for the nail head trim.

Headboard Tutorial via

I’m not a perfectionist, so I mostly just eyeballed where I wanted the nailheads to go and placed them on the wood upside down to position them where I wanted them. Then, I took a tape measure to make sure they were all equally spaced. I spaced them about an inch apart and about 1 1/4″ from the edge. I marked their spots with a pencil, then drilled pilot holes using a 5/64″ drill bit.  I stopped the trim at the point where the headboard meets the bed. Note: Hold your drill perpendicular to the wood, unlike the method you see in the photo above. It’s hard to drill and take a photo at the same time! Also ignore the sharpie mark on my thumb. Ha.

I used hammered nickel nailheads with 7/16″ head size, found on eBay.

6. Sand and Stain.

Sand the edges to make the Edge Banding look seamless, along with any rough spots you may have created while cutting. Smooth the surface as needed with some sandpaper too. Apply wood conditioner and stain, or paint if desired. I used Minwax Dark Walnut stain to begin with, but I think since my container of stain was a little bit older, it ended up a bit splotchy (I’ve never had problems with it in the past). I finished it off with a couple of coats of Minwax Hickory Gel Stain. Then, I used Minwax Polycrylic as a topcoat. I wanted something that would protect it but would be safer and less fumey than Polyurethane. I highly recommend this stuff! It’s water-based, low odor and safer in general. I wore a respirator mask and didn’t smell a thing while I was applying it. If you’re a beginner, here is a basic tutorial on how to stain furniture.

7. After the stain has dried, hammer the nail heads into the pre-drilled pilot holes.
You can use a hammer or a mallet for this.

8. Attach the headboard to the bed.

Position the headboard behind the bed, then mark holes where you will need to attach the headboard to the bedframe. Drill holes, then use bolts to attach it. For the toddler bed which I built (tutorial on that coming soon), I simply drilled the headboard directly into the legs of the bedframe using wood screws.

Headboard Tutorial via

Be sure to allow the stain and topcoat to dry thoroughly for at least 24 hours before touching it or attaching it to the bed.

I love these headboards and I’m so happy I decided (at the last minute) to make a matching one for our youngest son. His is a mini-version of his big brother’s, but when he gets bigger and is ready to trade his toddler bed for a twin, I’ll make him a new one that’s the same size as big bro’s.

So what do you think – will you make this headboard? Please let me know if you do! I’d love to hear about it. If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I’d be happy to answer.

Update: We’ve moved! Here is the boys’ room at our new house.

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  1. Kelley Wilson says

    Erin, these look so great and wow what a detailed tutorial, I never would have thought of pre-drilling holes, I am sure I would have just taken a hammer to them and dented them all up!

    • Erin Spain says

      Thank you! It cost around $60 total for both headboards. It took me a couple days. The hardest and most time consuming part was designing the template. I would estimate 2 hours total but I had to wait between coats of stain, etc. 

  2. Roeshel says

    Oh, Erin! Those are awesome! I love the shape and nailhead detail. Great job! I’m including a link back in this week’s highlights. Thanks so much for sharing! :)

  3. Bridget F says

    wow this is great! considering this for when I go to update the mb(once we get a king) How much did this project cost you? (if you wouldn’t mind sharing?) Thanks

  4. Cathy says

    This is sooooo inspiring. I have been looking for a way to build a built in daybed in my smallish living room flanked by faux built in bookcases. I need a sleeping space that does not look like a sleeping space because it will be in my living room / home office. I looked at retail sites from Ikea on up as well as Etsy ideas using salvage. This is the best! I would like an under drawer or bins for storage. My house is 1895 so anything too contemporary looks wrong but period pieces tend to be large and chintz. Love it!

    • Erin @ DIY on the Cheap says

      Thanks Cathy! I’d love to see a version of this as a daybed. What a cool idea. Please send photos if you build something similar!

  5. Judy H says

    I love your headboards. I really appreciate the level of detail you gave. It makes me feel like I really could do something like this, and I’m not really a user of power tools. Great write up and photos, thanks!

    • Erin @ DIY on the Cheap says

      Thank you so much! And you totally CAN do it! This was one of my first “power tool” projects and I haven’t looked back since. Now I’m addicted to power tools. :)

  6. Amanda says

    My husband & I have been waiting TWO years to find the perfect headboard for our MB king bed. I’m so glad I found this on Pinterest! Just what I’ve been wanting. Can’t wait to tackle this project! Love your website too. So many great ideas. Thanks again!

    • Erin @ DIY on the Cheap says

      Thanks so much Amanda! I’m so happy that you found me on Pinterest too! I’d love to see pictures if you end up making a headboard! :)

  7. Erin @ DIY on the Cheap says

    Thanks Ariana! To determine the size, I would measure the width of your mattress and add an extra inch on each side. If you’re using plywood you’ll have to turn it horizontally to cover the width, and either add supports/legs, or mount it to the wall behind the bed.


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