Posted by on Jul 20, 2012 in Carpentry, Decor, DIY | 15 comments

As you’ve already heard from the beautiful one, dismantling pallets without destroying the boards is no joke. You would think a crowbar and a couple of fit human beings would suffice, but alas, we had to pull out the big guns and let technology do its thing. I’m fairly glad we did, though, because it meant that we had the chance to purchase our very first power tool as homeowners, and we definitely chose wisely.

The plan was to buy a reciprocating saw and there was some debate whether we should go for something cheap that we could sell later on when we wanted to upgrade or if we should buy better and more reliable right away. After all of that deliberation Cassie mentioned, we went a little bigger and spent the extra cash on a Dewalt 10 amp saw and it has definitely proven its worth.

Cutting the pallets for this headboard project was a breeze and allowed us to start and finish the project in the same day, which I definitely didn’t expect, but once I got on a roll and everything seemed to be going right, I wasn’t going to let that go to waste.

Initially, I was tackling it by my lonesome while Cassie was inside, hard at work cooking and writing posts for her own beautiful creation so the dismantling, arranging, measuring, cutting, piecing and screwing were all care of yours truly, with the lovely visiting occasionally to provide sustenance, make a few cuts, and snap some blog shots.

To elaborate on the process, after the pallets were apart (of which we used 3 and a half), it was time to do a little arranging. Since the boards were three different sizes, this meant staggering them so that no two rows next to each other were the same width and that no seams matched up. Compositionally, doing so just seems to have a better feel to it.

Once I pieced the puzzle together, I called the busy-bee up at the house to ask her what size we were aiming for. Currently we have a queen size bed, but we’ve wanted a king from a while and after doing some research, we’re going to be dropping some extra dough on an organic mattress once our savings allow us to, because apparently regular mattresses are super bad for you.

Healthy living aside, we’re still going to build it to work on a king, but make it so that it’s fit for a queen as well. The idea was that since a king is 76 inches, we’d build it big enough to have a little bit of an overhang on the edges, so I measured it at 80 inches. With the queen, it’s just going to have more overhang!

The nice thing about this project is that it was going to look rough, no matter what. The appeal of these headboards is that they retain that rustic, aged look, so measurements didn’t need to be exact, nor was there much of a necessity for sketching. All I did was move things around and leave the tape measure on the ground and eyeballed lining it up with where I wanted it. Normally, I would spend a good amount of time sketching different ways to build something and the possible materials to do so before actually getting into it all.

Now, because I wanted to stagger the boards, this meant there was a lot hanging out the edges that needed to be cut off, so I followed that 80 inch measurement all the way up and drew lines on the boards that were sticking out where they needed to be cut.

I then, leaving everything still in its puzzle arrangement, grabbed one board at a time, cut it with a circular saw, and put it back in its place. Once all of the pieces were cut, it was beginning to look like the headboard that we wanted!

With all of the cuts complete, I made sure the edges were close enough to being even before I grabbed my drill and started fastening.

Our first thought was to buy some mending plates for all of the seams, but once we saw the price, we decided against that and figured all of the scrap wood we’d have left over from cutting the boards for the pallets would suffice, and it did! I simply cut 3×3 inch pieces of pallet board, slapped them over a seam, pre-drilled some holes and fastened them down with 1” all-purpose screws. In addition to all of the small pieces for the seams, Cassie took a break from cooking and tried out the recip saw, cutting me off three boards.

I ran these the full height of the headboard, one on each side and one down the middle, allowing for more stability.

The (not so) fluffy one came down to visit too and decided to sit in the rain.

This meant she was missing the next, most exciting part. We got to flip the headboard over and see what it looked like all assembled and upright, and damn were we happy! It’s nice to see something go from being just an idea to a tactile reality right in front of you.

After lifting it up and admiring my handy work, I was reminded that we talked about making it look as if the headboard went all the way to the floor by adding smaller pieces that would stick out the edge of the mattress, so, using a couple more full pallet boards fastened to the bottom, I scavenged and cut some small sections to run down those boards to look like so:

The gap between the two sides should not only be covered by the eventual king size, but for the time being it should be covered by our queen as well!

Now, while it looks usable, we weren’t exactly done. As beautiful as it was, it was naked and filthy, so…

*dramatic pause*

…enter Sandman.

Get it? ‘Cause it’s a headboard? To a bed? Where you sleep?


What I’m really trying to say was that it was time to sand it down, which would have gone fairly smoothly if I had noticed all of the screws sticking out beforehand. Well, I did notice a couple, but not to the extent the finish sander found.

See, apparently the screws were a bit too long, so when I fastened all of the boards to the back, some of them went all the way through because some of the pallet boards were thinner than others. What I had done with the couple I found was I took a hammer and flattened them until they were recessed into the boards, preventing any catching of hairs or fabrics. However, after I tore up one of my sheets of 60 grit sandpaper within seconds of starting to sand, I found a lot more that needed some hammer time. Once I managed to find every last one of them, I strapped on another sheet of 60 grit and went to town, followed by 100 grit to make it a little smoother.

By the time I had finished sanding and sweeping up the dust, Cassie had come back down and jumped up and down a little and said “can we stain it now?!” I didn’t think that was something we were going to do already, but hey, why wait? So, we laid it on top of our two empty electrical wire spools and while she brushed it on, I wiped it down.

The brand we chose to go with was MinWax Wood Finish and the stain colour was Provincial 211.

It actually didn’t end up looking anything like the sample in the store or the image on the can, but we were ecstatic about how it looked. Actually, during this process, Cassie exclaimed no less than 176 times how much she loved it and isn’t that how it should be?

The above is just to give you a close up feel for the stain and the amount it was sanded, which really wasn’t all that much. Like I said, we just wanted to make sure we’re not catching on anything when it’s finally installed and we’re in bed! Ultimately, we’re super happy with the outcome and can’t wait to dive into redoing the master and getting this bad boy in there.

For a rundown of materials and cost, here’s what we can tell you:

  • Pallets – 3.5 – Free
  • Screws – 1″ All-Purpose/Drywall – 1lb. box – $4.19
  • Stain – MinWax Wood Finish Provincial 211 – $3.97
  • Brush x 2 – $.79
  • Reciprocating Saw – DeWalt 10 Amp – $79.98

If you already have a saw and can find the pallets for free, this project would cost you next to nothing, just as projects in the future will cost us much less now that we already own the tool, but regardless, we paid under $90 for what we like to think is one kick-ass headboard. Here’s a shot of it upside down with measurements:

Those stubs sticking out the top (the actual bottom, as this is upside down) will be cut off before we get it into the bedroom. Also, to trip you out, here’s an upside down shot of it right side up (because I couldn’t get it to stand without the wind blowing it over):

If all goes as planned, the installation will be sometime in the next couple weeks and we’ll be able to show you all the actual finished product!

I have to say that our first project was a lot of fun to work on. Had we some more experience, I’m sure we might have done things a little differently, but I feel pretty good about the process and the result. This whole thing is a new and super exciting learning process for us, so you’re more than welcome to lend any sugestions on how we could have done certain things instead!

Also, if I’ve left any steps out or haven’t explained something well enough, let me know!

How do you tackle a project? Do you sketch or just visualize? Do you make shopping lists or just go with the flow?