A headboard is in almost every bedroom, so why not make a unique and bold statement with it? We’ve designed a modern DIY headboard with floating nightstands to be a functional yet beautiful wall feature. This post will cover how to make the DIY headboard, including the plans, tools and materials necessary.
We had a designer friend come to us wanting to make a beautiful headboard feature. He knows us well that we would totally be up for designing and DIYing what is a normally very expensive piece of bought furniture. The best part about doing DIY is it allows for the exact design aesthetic you want, allows you to use the materials and products you want, and can be more budget-friendly. Also, you learn so much through the process typically and you get a sense of accomplishment after completing a DIY project.
This headboard design creates a paneled wood look with chamfered edges between panels to create shadow lines. The floating nightstands are asymmetrical for a high-quality look and use chamfered edges on the drawers for handles instead of hardware. Everyone was absolutely in love with final outcome, and so of course, we have to share how you can make it too!
Fair warning, this is an extensive post to help understand the build process as well as our tips and tricks. You can skip around if needed! We also designed a DIY platform bed frame to go with it, but you can use any bed frame you like. So now, here are the tools, materials, plans, and instructions for building your own modern DIY headboard with floating nightstands.
Tools & Materials For Modern Headboard with Floating Nightstands
- Tape Measure
- Framing Square
- Table Saw
- Circular Saw OR Jig Saw
- Random Orbital Sander
- 3M Xtract Cubritron II Sandpaper
- Digital Angle Finder
- Digital Angle Measuring Block
- Bandy Clamps (Or DIY with Clamps and Tube)
- Ratchet Straps, Long Bar Clamps, OR Strap Clamps
- Router with Chamfer Bit and Flush Trim Bit
- (4) – ¾”x4’x8’ Sheet of Plywood, A1 Grade
- (1) – 1x8x8 Board to Trim Plywood Edges
- Need a minimum of 7.25” width, but more is preferred to ensure you have enough material. Make sure to match the plywood.
- (5) – 2x4x8 Pine/Polar cheap wood
- Titebond Original Wood Glue
- 2” Screws
- 1”- 1.25” Screws
- 12” Long x ½” Wide Soft Close Drawer Slides – ones we used
- Preferred Finish
- We used Black Rubio Monocoat Oil Plus 2C (highly recommended!)
DIY Modern Headboard with Floating Nightstands – Build Process
Step 1: Get Your Plans and Materials
First and foremost, you will need the DIY drawing plans. This post shows the Cali King/King size modern DIY headboard with floating nightstands, but you can find the DIY plans for all standard-sized beds in our Site Shop or Etsy Shop.
If you’d like to build this headboard with floating nightstands in other sizes, please email us at Amanda@biglivinglittlefootprint.com. We would be happy to put together a custom-sized set of plans for you!
Selecting Wood Materials
Alright! Now with design plans in hand, it’s time to acquire your materials. For this build, the DIY headboard with floating nightstands is expected to be indoors with a finish that really highlights the grain of the wood. For that purpose, you’ll want to buy top-quality plywood and lumber for the trim. Pay attention to the look of the boards since the grain and any defects will be visible.
For a quality piece like this, I recommend looking to your local hardwood dealer as they will likely have the best options for quality hardwood along with a large enough selection to choose the color and grain that you want. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions. It’s their job to sell wood, and they’ll generally be more than happy to help you.
If you don’t have a hardwood dealer nearby, I generally find that Menards has better plywood selection than other big box stores with the option to order other top-grade boards on their website for delivery.
Choosing & Buying Wood Materials
When buying plywood, look for a plywood grade that starts with an A. This is the top grade and it means that the front side is an A grade. Generally, the back side will be a number 1-4 with 1 being the best for a backside. Occasionally you will see plywood that has front-side grade veneer on both sides so this would be an AA or an AB.
Another thing to consider is the cut of the veneer. Most construction plywood is rotary cut which produces one large section with circular grain patterns. We chose to use plain sawn, which uses straight-cut pieces of wood as the veneer to produce what looks like planks of wood side by side.
Also, pick a trim board that is free of knots and has similar coloring and grain to your plywood. You want it to blend in as it’s used on the edges of the plywood. It’s also critical that this board be straight or you’re going to be fighting any twists or warps when you use it later.
The appearance isn’t as important on the 2×4’s since they are only used on the back side for mounting the boards. Just be sure to look out for twisting, splitting, bowing, or massive knots. It might pay to get the premium studs as they usually are less likely to have these defects. Another option would be to buy Poplar from your hardwood dealer and cut it down to size.
Alder Wood Used For This Build
For this project, we had originally intended to use White Oak and keep the piece a light color. But then changed direction and decided to go with a slightly darker tone Alder. We didn’t want to go too dark and use Walnut, because this headboard would be against a black wall, but we didn’t want too light since the client uses white bedding.
Alder was a good medium tone with beautiful grain patterns as long as you can avoid any knots. The key is to think of the space and then pick a wood that fits the color naturally. You can shift the color slightly with your finish, but if you try to change it too much it will be obvious that something isn’t right.
Step 2: Plan The Cuts
Now with all of the lumber acquired, it’s time to begin laying out the cuts. If you flip through your plans, then you will find a few guides with suggestions on how to maximize your material usage. Mark out some guidelines on all of your plywood boards to match the layout provided in the guides.
The 1×8 trim board will be cut down into several strips, but we’ll get to that in the next steps. For now, focus on laying out your plywood and don’t forget to take into account the ⅛” loss due to blade Kerf (aka thickness). It’s also likely that the sawmill edges will be a little rough or have paint on them. If this is the case, be sure to leave some room so that they can be trimmed off later.
Pay particular attention to the grain patterns and adjust the layout as necessary to get the patterns the way you want them. For example, we decided to buy plain sliced plywood for this build instead of rotary cut. We wanted to use the long grain pattern in our build, so we altered our plywood layout 90 degrees on the headboard panels.
It is also good to try to keep the pieces for the nightstands laid out together, so you have a top with a side on either side of it. This way, you ensure you have a continuous grain that wraps around the mitered corners.
Step 3: Rough Cut The Plywood
Once the plywood is laid out, time to begin rough cutting to make it easier to handle. Grab your circular saw or jigsaw and a straightedge and begin breaking down your sheets. Make sure to leave yourself as much extra material as possible. This will help ensure you have room to trim the boards on the table saw to final dimensions.
Break down the panels as much as you can. However, be sure you always have one factory edge to reference with your table saw fence in order to ensure your final pieces stay straight and square.
Step 4: Square Up Table Saw
Ensure your Table Saw Blade is Square and Parallel to your Table and your Fence is Parallel to your Table
I can’t tell you how many years I spent using my table saw and wondering why it never seemed like I could get perfectly parallel cuts before I thought to check the setup. I always assumed my technique was lacking, and I wasn’t doing a good job holding it against the fence.
It turns out that my blade wasn’t square to my table the whole time and that my fence has a tendency to drift out of alignment. I now make it a habit to check my blade before every project and check my fence multiple times during a project to ensure everything is staying true.
It is also important to check your table saw blade with a good square to make sure that it is square to your table. Don’t rely on the angle gauge or stops on your table saw to be accurate.
If you don’t know how to do any of this, then I recommend finding the manual for your table saw or searching Youtube for a video on your specific saw.
Step 5: Cut The Boards Down Into Their Individual Pieces
Now with the panels rough cut and the table saw ready, it is time to cut the plywood to its final individual sizes. You want to ensure everything stays parallel to the factory edge. There are a few ways to do this.
- Cut the line furthest away from your factory edge and then work your way in.
- OR cut the line closest to your factory edge and then reference that against your fence for your next cut.
The first way means you’ll be moving a larger panel more often and moving your fence more. The second way means if you make a bobble with your feeding, or if something is not perfectly square, the error will propagate to each subsequent piece as you are referencing a bad edge.
My preferred method is to batch my pieces out starting with the lines furthest away from the fence so that errors don’t propagate into groups that are the same width. Then I can set my fence once and rip all those strips to the same width so they are consistent.
Do Practice Cuts First
Before you make the first cut, make a practice cut to check and ensure the cut comes out cleanly. If you are getting a lot of fiber tear out, you may need to do a few things.
- Have a sharp, clean blade – it is critical and using a higher tooth count blade can make a big difference when cutting plywood.
- Consider installing/making a zero-clearance insert for your table saw – If you’re still getting tear out, this will help to support the material as it is cut.
- Use painter’s tape or masking tape along the cut line – putting tape on the side that is experiencing tear out will help reduce it. This will help to support all of the wood fibers as they are cut.
I found that I never got tearout when cutting with the grain of the veneer, but occasionally got tear out when cross-cutting the veneer, so we used tape to reinforce the cut.
Group & Organize Pieces As You Break Them Down
As you go about breaking down the pieces, try to process boards together needing to be the same dimension. Set up stops as you need, so the common boards are the same dimension. This is especially critical for the headboard panels as they need to be the same dimension. Set up your fence so you can rip all of the panels to the same width at the same time. Once your fence is set, don’t move it until you are done with these panels.
The same method goes for the nightstand box pieces to ensure they are the same width and matching lengths. This is also true for the drawer pieces. However, it might be beneficial to leave the drawer pieces a little long so you can trim them to their final dimension later to match the nightstand drawer (just in case your measurements get a little off during its construction). You definitely want to leave your Nail Board and your French Cleat board a little long until you have made the mitered boxes and you can size them to fit.
For now, only make your square cuts. You don’t want to change the blade from its 90-degree position until you are done with all of the plywood panels. Set the fence to leave a little extra material in the width of each board. Then be sure to always put your factory edge against the fence first to cut off the rough cut created when breaking down the panels. Do this for all like panels, then move your fence to its final dimension and put your newly cut straight edge against the fence to cut off the factory edge. You now have two straight and parallel lines.
Once you have two straight lines, you can cut the boards to their final length. It is highly beneficial to have a crosscut sled to help you break down panels this large and keep them square. If you don’t have one, I would recommend you take the time to build one or buy one instead of trying to make these cuts with the miter gauge.
Rest your straight edge against the crosscut sled wall or your miter gauge and trim the rough edge off of one side of all the same length boards. Then flip the boards around and set up a stop block so that you keep boards that need to be the same length correct.
I found rounding off the piece of plywood and then clamping that to my table worked great. I could then touch the board to the stop, but then push it away from the stop to make my cut so that it didn’t cause the blade to bind up in case something wasn’t perfectly aligned. For boards needing an end chamfered, it’s a good idea to leave a fraction of an inch at the end to be shaved off later. This way you don’t have to perfectly align your blade with a cut edge.
Step 6: Add Chamfered Edge to Panels
Next up is cutting the chamfer into the Headboards, Front of Nightstands, and the Drawer Fronts. You aren’t going to cut the mitered edges on Nightstand pieces until after gluing trim to it. This way you can cut the Mitered corner into both pieces at the same time. This will ensure the corners line up with no gaps.
Setting The Blade Angle
Set your table saw blade to 45 degrees. If you have a digital angle gauge, then it is extremely helpful to use it here. I have always set my blade with my square before, but I have found my eye is not very good at judging if the blade is perfectly aligned with the angled side of my square or not.
To alleviate this, it’s best to use a tool that is more accurate than you are. I recommend purchasing a digital angle block. They are magnetic so you stick them to your table surface and zero them out, then raise up your blade and stick it to the side of your blade. Adjust your blade until the angle gauge says it’s at 45 degrees. Keep in mind that these angle blocks typically have an accuracy of ±0.2°. However, my eye and a square seem to have an accuracy 10x worse than that, so this block will get you pretty close to perfect.
Once you have your angle set and locked, it is always a good idea to make a few test cuts. Set up your fence or a stop block and cut out four mitered pieces. These should fit together into a nice little box with no gaps in the angles. Adjust your blade as necessary and repeat until you achieve good results.
Now the blade is set true, it’s time to cut all the angled pieces of plywood. For the long side of the Left and Right Headboard Panel, you will need to place them against your fence and rip the long edge off. For the rest of the cuts, I recommend placing your boards in a crosscut sled and cutting them. I only put one guide rail on the bottom of my sled so I could move my rail over to the other side of my blade and have that side set to be a dedicated miter side. Clamp your boards down so they don’t move during the cut and take it slow. Be sure to set up your stop block on any like-sized pieces so their lengths are repeatable.
Step 7: Cut ¼” Trim Strips
Now all of the panels are cut to their final dimensions, it is time to add some trim. Since you’ll be ripping boards, you need to set the table saw blade back to 90° and swap the blade out from the cross-cut blade to a ripping blade.
If you bought a 1×8 board from a big box store then chances are that it is already ¾” thick. If so, then all you need to do is set your fence to ¼” thick and rip 3 strips from the 8-foot length. Depending on the quality, you may want to start by ripping off the outer factory edge and then cutting your strips from that side.
If you bought a 4/4 board from a hardwood dealer, then you have a little more breaking down to do. Keeping their straight edge against your fence, rip the board at its full width to true up the rough side. Then move your fence in 1.125”, so you can rip the board again and remove a 1” thick strip. Set your fence to about a 1/16” over ¾”, rotate your strip, and rip it so you now have a block that is 1” thick by over ¾” wide. Now set your fence to ¼” and rip three ¼” thick by over ¾” wide strips. Ensure you are using a sacrificial push block when you do this. Let your blade cut through your block and push the piece all the way through the cut.
You want to leave the strips a little wide so they are the perfect size when you glue them to the panels and trim them with a flush trim bit on the router. Set these strips aside for now. You will come back and cut them to length for our draw boxes later.
Step 8: Cut Triangular Trim Strips
Next, cut the long triangular strips while you still have the ripping blade installed. You’ll need to start by breaking down the board some more. You can do this two ways.
- Easiest way – cut out 8 pieces just over ¾” x ¾” squares and then set the blade to 45° to trim the squares into triangles.
- Slightly more challenging way – cut out 4 pieces just over ¾” x 1.25” rectangles and then set your blade to 45°. Cut the rectangle into two separate triangles. The rectangles method wastes less wood, but you have to be more careful with your setup and it almost guarantees you will need to use a flush trim bit later.
Since we were already planning to trim later, we elected to go with the rectangles route. We started by breaking down the board just like in step 7 to achieve the rectangles needed. Then set the blade to 45° using an angle block. We then tested the setup by starting a cut and pulling it back out. We adjusted our fence slightly and then tried again to ensure we kept a little extra material on both of our triangles. Lastly, we ripped the piece down, keeping it tight against the fence, and used our sacrificial push block to push the piece all the way through the cut.
Remember when you get to the end, you’ll want to ensure you are only pushing forward and not downward. You don’t want to be pressing down on the blade with your push block. A good idea here is to rest your hand on your fence and ride that edge through the cut, which also helps your hands stay well away from the blade. It is also a good idea to have a helper on the other side of the saw. They can pull that lower strip away from the blade once it is cut, keeping it from potentially kicking back while sitting under the blade.
Step 9: Cut Triangular Trim Strips to Length
Now with all of the Trim Strips cut, it is time to start breaking them down into usable sections. If you check your plans, we have provided a recommended layout to help. However, if you have any bad sections in your strips or spots where you wobbled in your saw cut, try to rearrange the layout to avoid those.
Start by cutting the triangular strips down to roughly ½” to 1” longer than they need to be. You will trim the strips to their final dimension once glued on to ensure they are flush. Leave as much extra material on the strips for the Left and Right Headboard Panels as possible.
Once all are cut to their rough length, you are going to prepare the strips for glue up. Use a sanding block to sand the long side of the triangle to remove any imperfections left by the saw blade.
Step 10: Add Compound Angle to Headboard Corner Strips
The last thing you need to do is cut the compound angle on the strips for the Left and Right Headboard Panels. Since these strips go on an outside angle, we can’t glue them and then cut them to length like the strips for the inside corner of the miter boxes. Grab your plans to confirm the two angles you need then set your table saw blade to the first angle and either your miter gauge or your cross-cut sled to hold the piece at the second angle.
Once this is all set up, carefully cut the strip ensuring it can’t walk away from the blade during the cut. Cut as many pieces as you can without changing your angles by changing how you have them positioned. Once they are all cut, check that the strips fit together cleanly on your headboard panel. If there is a very small gap, you can always fill it with sawdust and glue. However, it will be hard to make the glue and sawdust match with the stain, so try to make the angles as clean and precise as possible. We left extra length on these strips so that we had enough material to adjust the saw setup and try again. Repeat the process until you are happy with the results.
Step 11: Attach Triangular Trim Strips
Now with all the strips cut, it is time to glue them to the panels. When gluing them, I highly recommend using bandy clamps. Bandy clamps are essentially just spring clamps with a piece of rubber attached to them. You can buy them online, but they are a little pricey. A much more economical option is to buy the cheap 2” opening clamps from Home Depot and then buy a bicycle inner tube. You cut the innertube into several pieces, remove half of the middle section so there is only one tube wall flexing, and then fit the two ends over the ends of your clamps. You may need to add a little glue if the fit isn’t perfect.
Now you have to decide how we want the triangular strips to look. If you cut your strips out of 1×8 board, then the strips are likely the same thickness as your plywood. Then all you need to do is spread the glue on the back side of one of the boards, press it into place, and press your bandy clamp onto it to stretch the rubber strap as much as it can go.
If you cut your triangles out of 4/4 board and you left a little extra material to trim off later, then you have two options.
If you just glue and clamp your triangle straight to your board, then it will overhang slightly on both sides of the board. This means you will see a small band of trim on the front face of your panels where it extends past the edge of the board. Then you’ll have to flush trim on both sides. If you are okay with this, then that is definitely the easier option.
If you don’t want to see extra material and want a sharp corner, then you’re going to have a little extra work.
First, you need a way to keep the triangle from sliding up past the face of the board. To do this, I cut out a quick jig from an extra piece of plywood. And by jig, I really mean I simply made some cutouts in the board. This way I could have a flat surface hanging out over the edge of my board, but still have spots to put my clamps. This overhang will give the triangles something to push up against keeping their sharp corner ends flush with the front face of the panel. Since you don’t want to accidentally glue the jig to the panel, I recommend running a strip of tape down the surface that may come into contact with glue.
Next, since our clamps are small, they don’t quite reach far enough in to grab the panel on the bottom side past the edge of our triangle. To fix this, we added a ¼” strip of extra trim to the bottom of the panels. We placed it right against the edge of the triangle and our clamp can press down on it. This also means this strip may get exposed to glue, so we protected it with another piece of tape.
With that all sorted, we clamped our fixtures to the panels, spread glue on the boards, and then carefully install it. Adjusted it as necessary to get a nice clean corner. Take your time here and it will save you a lot of work later trying to clean it up. This setup can be a bit complicated and finicky the first few times you do it, so I recommend doing a dry run or two without any glue to make sure everything is set up accurately and your clamps work as they should.
Step 12: Trim Triangular Strips to Flush, if Necessary
Once we have all of our triangle trim strips installed, it is time to flush trim everything. If you cut your triangles to the same thickness as your board already, then you can skip this step.
Get out your router and your flush trim bit. Set the depth so that the bearing is riding on your panel surface, and then run the router around your piece. Do your best to keep your router flat on the edge of your panel and don’t let it rock. There isn’t a lot of material here so it may be helpful to screw a clear sheet of plastic to the bottom of your router to give you extra stability. Or place two panels next to each other with a 2×4 clamped between them to better support the edge of the router.
This is definitely one of the trickier steps so it may be a good idea to glue up an extra piece of scrap and test your technique on that piece first. A handheld trim router may also be a lot easier to work with here than a regular router is.
You may also find it easier to keep everything square by using a router table and feeding the board instead of the other way around. Do what works best for you and take your time. If using a router table, you can try to set your fence up so that if you do bobble at all, you can only bobble the top of your board towards your bit. This way the board pivots on the bearing and pulls the bottom edge away from your bit so you don’t accidentally cut into your veneered surface. Or have a friend help you keep the boards square.
If you do happen to bobble and cut through your veneer, we will show you how to fix it in a little bit, so don’t stress. Just do your best here and try to keep a steady hand. It is also important to try to avoid tear out. Because of the way the trim is cut, you may find that some of your pieces are splintering as the router bit hits them. If you find this happening, you may actually be better off by climb cutting and feeding the board the opposite direction. Just take several shallow passes and be extra careful as the piece will want to jump while climb cutting.
Once the trim has been cut flush, you may need to come back with a sanding block, chisel, or sharp blade and finish flushing up any remaining material. Be extra careful here around the edge. The last thing you want to do is sand or cut through your veneer.
Step 13: Add Chamfered Edge To Trim On Panels
With our trim flush, it’s time to add our decorative chamfer. With our blade still set at 45° and our ripping blade installed, we are going to cut a new chamfer into each of our trim pieces. In effect, we are just cutting off the corner of the triangle. To do this we will repeat the processes we did to add the chamfer to the panels in the first place, but this time we will stay about ¼” from cutting all the wall through the trim. This will leave us 3 sides on our trim while achieving a beautiful look.
For the long boards like the shelves, drawer fronts, and the long edge of the Left and Right Headboard Panels, we will set our fence, hold our square side against the fence, and rip the chamfer into the trim. Keep your fence locked in place while cutting all the nightstand shelf boards so that their chamfers all cut in the same location. This way they will all fit together perfectly when you fold up your mitered box.
For the rest of the pieces, use your cross-cut sled or miter gauge to make the required cuts. Again, set up a stop block so that similar pieces end up the same length. Take extra time with your headboard panels. You’ll want to do the left or right panel first and then try to set the position so that the chamfer on the short side lines up with the chamfer on the long side. Don’t be afraid to sneak up on the proper cut. Once you have it, set up your stop block and cut the rest of the panels to match.
Step 14: Add Shadow Line to Headboard Panels
Chances are that during this whole process, you have one or two panels that have a small bobble in their cut. To help hide these defects and to add visual interest to the piece in general, we are going to add a small shadow line to each of the headboard panels. To do this, we will use a chamfer bit and set it to cut 1/16”-⅛” deep. Run this chamfer along each of the long edges of your panels where they contact the other panels. Again, it can be helpful here to practice on a scrap piece and ensure you like the look before proceeding to add it to your other panels.
Step 15: Consider Alignment Features In The Headboard Panels
Our headboard panels are going to be secured to two rails using French cleats. This should hold your panels together at two points. However, if your panels have any bow to them, then they will not sit flat together. If this is the case, you may want to consider adding some dowels, biscuits, or dominos to the edges of the panels where they connect in order to ensure good alignment. We used a biscuit joiner and it worked perfectly!
Step 16: Cut Miter Edges In Nightstand Boards
With your trim chamfered and flush we can cut our mitered corners into our Nightstand pieces so they can be formed up to make a box.
Swap your table saw blade back out for the crosscut blade and set your angle to 45°. Once again, you’ll want to cut a few test pieces so that you can ensure that your mitered box will fit together properly with no gaps in the outside corners.
If this causes you difficulty, try setting your blade just past 45°. If you are using a square placed against the blade, you should see a sliver of light by the corner of the triangle while the top of the blade should touch your square. If you are using a digital angle block, zero it out on your table and then place it on the blade. It should read 90° if the blade is vertical so we want to rotate our blade to just under 45°. Let’s say 44.9° This makes it so that your outside corners (the most visible ones) will always be touching and any gap will be in the inside corners.
With that done, place your panels on your cross-cut sled or miter gauge, set up your stop block, and make your cut as close to the edge as possible. Sneak up on it if you need to. You want to remove as little material as possible in order to preserve the waterfall grain pattern. Repeat this step for like-sized pieces first and then move on to the next set of panels. If there is any bow in your pieces, you may want to use clamps or weights to hold the pieces flat while you cut to ensure you get good results.
Step 17: Sand All The Pieces
Before we get into making our boxes, now is an excellent time to sand all of our pieces. It will be much easier to sand now when we have flat panels than afterward when they are glued together.
If you have any knots in your veneer you want filled, now is the time to fix these as well. Start by chiseling out material in the knots to create a cavity for your filler. Collect some sawdust from the solid wood used for your trim, and mix it with your preferred finish to create a tinted mixture that is uniform in color. Then mix this putty with some wood glue to create a sticky putty. Carefully press this putty into the knots you need to fill. A little painter’s tape will help limit the sanding cleanup later. Once this putty is dry, leave your painter’s tape in place and sand carefully until the filler is nearly flush before finishing with 180 grit.
You may need to hit the trim with 80 or 120 grit at first to remove any saw marks, but be very careful that you don’t sand through the veneer on your plywood. Set up a piece of scrap as a guide rail or use some painter’s tape to keep you from sanding your plywood with any coarse grits.
Once the trim is cleaned up, throw some 180 grit on your random orbit sander and sand all of the panels front and back. Use a very light touch and don’t stay in one place too long. Be extra careful around the edges to keep your sander flat.
If you accidentally sand through your veneer, the next step describes how to touch it up.
STEP 18: Need to Fix Some Veneer
Oooooops…so you sanded through some veneer or accidentally cut it earlier during the trim process. You’re frustrated. I know. Believe me…. I know…
First things first, take a deep breath. The last thing you want to do is work on delicate work while you are frustrated. Mistakes happen during DIY projects, but wood is very forgiving and we can fix it. Besides, if you wanted perfection you would be buying a piece from a professional shop. This is handmade and handmade pieces have character and flaws. That’s part of what makes them beautiful.
Fixing Damaged Veneer
If the damage is near an edge, then this repair can be pretty easy. The first thing we will want to do is to cut off the damaged veneer. Set up a straight edge and use a sharp knife to cut through the veneer. Then come back in with a chisel and remove the veneer. If you start at the edge and get below the veneer, you can usually peel it up pretty cleanly. Once the veneer is gone, remove a little bit of extra material from the next layer down to give yourself more leeway for clean up sanding.
Next, cut a piece of veneer from any off-cut board we might have. Set your table saw so that you can rip a piece that is 1/16” or so thick from the length of a board. Use painter’s tape to tape all the way around the piece where you are going to be gluing so that any glue squeeze out is on the tape. This way we don’t end up having to sand the veneer in this area more and recreate the problem. Glue your new strip of veneer onto where the old strip came from and use some clamps to clamp it in place.
Once the glue has dried, come back with a sharp knife and remove any overhanging parts of the veneer. While the painter’s tape is still in place, sand or plane the veneer down until it is flush with the tape. Then remove the tape and very carefully finish sanding the veneer down until it is flush with the rest of the plywood.
Unfortunately, if you sanded through a large portion of veneer right in the middle of your piece, a repair can be more difficult or impossible. If your veneer is plain sawn then you can try to replace a strip or two, but that can be tricky to match seamlessly. If you can buy veneer sheets of your wood, then you can replace the entire surface. Otherwise, you may just need to remake the panel. I know that sounds dreadful, but consider this a chance to perfect your skills!
Step 19: Glue Up Nightstand Boxes
Now the miters are cut, you can finally move on to gluing up the mitered boxes. Arrange all of your pieces with the outer face facing upward and aligned for their continuous grain pattern. Place painter’s tape along the edge of each panel to protect them from glue squeeze out. Place the edges of the miter cuts against each other and then use a piece of painter’s tape to tape the pieces together. Once done, flip the pieces over and place the painter’s tape along the edge of the inside corner. This will make cleaning up the joint significantly easier later.
Now spread your glue along the mitered edges and then proceed to fold up your box. The tape should easily bend allowing you to fold it up and make alignment a breeze. With that done, it is time to apply clamping pressure. If you have several extra long clamps, congratulations, this step will be a little more straightforward for you. If you don’t, I recommend using some small clamping triangles to clamp your inside corners square. Then use a strap clamp or ratchet strap with square corner blocks to apply clamping pressure around the perimeter.
Once your glue is dried, you’ll need to very carefully sand or scrape to remove any glue that made it past your tape. Be extra careful with your prep work so that you can avoid this risky activity later.
Step 20: Attach French Cleat and Nail Boards
With the miter boxes glued up, you can remove our painter’s tape and clean up any glue squeeze out that may have occurred. It’s now time to add the french cleat and nail boards to the boxes. Place these strips against your mitered boxes and mark them, then cut them to this dimension in order to achieve a perfect fit. Then simply glue them in place and use some clamps to apply pressure. With the french cleat, we cut a few flats that we can easily clamp onto. Make sure the pieces are either flush with your back wall or slightly set into your box to ensure that you won’t end up with a gap between your nightstand and your headboard.
Once the glue is dry, remove your clamps and put a few screws into the flat of the french cleat to give it some extra strength. Be sure to size your screws to ensure they can’t puncture through the top surface of your nightstand.
Step 21: Cut Drawer Box Trim To Size
Take the long ¼” thick strips of trim you made earlier and the plans’ recommended layout sheet, then cut out the trim for your drawer boxes. Be sure to oversize it a little bit so you have room to play with and avoid any knots or other undesirable areas.
Step 22: Attach Trim To Drawer Box Sides
Using your bandy clamps, glue the trim to the sides of the plywood. Since these pieces are rectangular, they should be a lot more straightforward than the triangular pieces from earlier. Simply glue and clamp and then make sure that the edges of the plywood are covered.
Step 23: Flush Trim, If Necessary
If you oversized your trim earlier, then now repeat the process to flush trim it down to match the thickness of the plywood. Set your router bit so the bearing is just above the trim and then trim up all your boards.
Step 24: Cut Drawer Boxes Sides To Size, If Necessary
With the trim attached and flush, it’s time to start forming the drawers. The first thing you want to do is cut the drawer box length to size. The drawer box length will be the length of the inside of your miter box, minus ½” for each drawer slide. To achieve this, place a 1” block on the inside of your miter box and then place the long drawer side against the block and mark the opposite end of the miter box. Then take both pieces over to your table saw and trim them to the appropriate size so that you have a perfect fit. You want it to be snug but able to slide in by hand. If it is too tight, then shave a little more material off of your boards.
Step 25: Cut Rabbets and Dado Grooves In Drawer Box Sides
With our drawer sides cut to length, it’s time to start cutting our joinery features. We’ll start with the rabbets. Change over to a combination or flat tooth blade in order to get better results if you have one. To set our blade height we want to dial it to exactly ½ of the material thickness. Grab a scrap of wood and raise the blade height to just short of ½ the material thickness. Cut through the end and then flip the pieces over and cut it again. This should leave a small sliver of material at the center of the board. Raise the blade slightly and then repeat until the blade just barely skims off the material on your second cut. This will mean that your blade is now perfectly half a material thickness high.
Next, we need to set our fence distance. Cut through the end of your scrap piece again to only cut halfway into it. Then place that cut face against the edge of a secondary scrap piece and use a sharp knife or pencil to mark the edge of your first scrap piece onto the face of your 2nd scrap piece. Align this mark with your saw blade and then move your fence up to the edge of your piece and make a cut. Sneak up on this fit if you need to. Then test that your two pieces fit together properly.
Now the fence and blade height are set, we can take our drawer pieces, place them against the fence and then make a cut, then pull your piece away from the fence and make cut after cut to whittle away a square section of material. Keep your fence and blade set in these same locations and repeat this process for the rest of the drawer pieces to cut all of your rabbets.
Cutting Dado Groves
Next up is the Dado. Thankfully, the blade height is already set. You will set the fence to cut one edge of the dado with a rip cut. Repeat this cut for all of the drawer pieces. Then shift your fence just under ⅛” and make your next rip cut. Keep shifting and making cuts until you sneak up on a perfect dado fit for your drawer bottom.
The final thing you may want to do is take a chisel and remove any high points left in your grooves from the saw teeth if they are pointed instead of flat. This isn’t critical on the dado since it is completely hidden, but it is important on the rabbets as those groves will be visible.
Step 26: Assemble Drawer Boxes
With all the joinery prepared, it is time to glue up the drawer boxes. Although before you do that, you’ll want to quickly sand these pieces to 180 grit while they are still flat. Test fit everything to ensure it goes together as expected. You may need to trim down your drawer bottom to fit properly and it’s best to discover that now rather than in the middle of your glue up.
Once again, painter’s tape protects your corners and edges from glue squeeze out, so consider using it. Apply your glue to your joints and then use your clamps and triangles to keep everything square and apply clamping pressure.
Step 27: Add Thin Veneer to the Drawer Front, If Desired
With the drawer boxes glued up, there are going to be a few edges of exposed plywood. If you don’t want to see these edges when the drawer is open, you can trim off a small amount of material from these edges and then glue on a thin strip of veneer to cover them.
Step 28: Cut Drawer Fronts To Final Dimension
With the Headboard Panels, Miter boxes, and Drawer boxes all made, the only thing left to cut before finishing is the drawer fronts and our 2×4 French cleats. Place your drawer front against your miter box and then mark the length. Then cut ⅛” in from this line to leave a 1/16” gap on either side of your drawer front. If you want to veneer the edges of your plywood, then cut this final length slightly narrower and add a strip of veneer to the end of each board.
Step 29: Finish The Boxes and Panels
With the completion of the last step, you now have all the quality pieces constructed and ready for finishing. It’s best to do this now rather than after assembly as it will be impossible to finish the inside when it is all put together. You don’t want your wood to warp because it wasn’t finished properly.
Cleaning Prior To Applying Finish
The first thing to do is finish cleaning up your pieces. Carefully remove any glue squeeze out and sand any final areas that need sanding or that got glue onto them. Be extremely careful not to go through the veneer here. Since we did most of our sanding earlier and we used painter’s tape to protect our joints from glue, we should have very little clean up work to do here.
Once the sanding is complete, it is time to apply the finish. We highly recommend Rubio Monocoat or other hard wax finishes. They are extremely easy to apply, very forgiving of dusty environments, and they are absolutely beautiful and bring out the natural beauty of the wood. We used Castle Brown on Alder wood for this project.
For Rubio, simply mix up your color and hardener. You will need all of one can for this project as each can covers about 180 sq ft of hardwood surface area. The exact math for the application is as follows:
Rubio Needed Per Piece
|Piece||Rubio Needed Per Face (mL)||Number of Faces||Total Rubio Needed (mL)|
|Headboard Panel Face||8 sq.ft. = 15.5 mL||16||248|
|Long Miter Panel Face||5.4 sq.ft. = 10.5 mL||4||42|
|Short Miter Panel Face||3.3 sq.ft. = 6.5 mL||4||26|
|Miter Side Panels Face||0.8 sq.ft. = 1.6 mL||8||12.8|
|Short Drawer Front Face||1.3 sq.ft. = 2.6 mL||2||5.2|
|Long Drawer Front Face||2.2 sq.ft. = 4.2 mL||2||8.4|
|Long Drawer Long Side Face||1.4 sq.ft = 2.7 mL||4||10.8|
|Short Drawer Long Side Face||0.8 sq.ft. = 1.6 mL||4||6.4|
|Drawer Short Side Face||0.36 sq.ft. = 0.7 mL||8||5.6|
|Long Drawer Bottom||4.5 sq.ft. = 8.75 mL||2||17.5|
|Short Drawer Bottom||2.6 sq ft. = 5.1 mL||2||10.2|
Total for Headboard and Miter boxes = 342.4 mL
Total for Drawer boxes = 50.5 mL
Since we needed more than a single can anyway, we elected to do the drawer boxes with Rubio Monocoat’s Natural color to provide a little contrast. If you are going to do the drawers with the same color, then mix your two colors together at the same time to ensure you correct for any possible color difference. Rubio does sell smaller bottles of finish as well so keep that in mind when ordering your finish. Keep in mind that once the hardener is mixed with the color, you only have 5-6 hours to apply it so you will have to work quickly if you mix it all at once. It is better to mix it in smaller batches as you go.
Application Method For Rubio
Put the above measurements on the surface of your pieces and then quickly trowel it around to spread it. Using a syringe is a great way to make sure you are applying the right amount of finish to each part. Just make sure that when you are squirting the finish on, you apply it in the direction of the grain and then start troweling immediately so that you don’t end up with streaks that absorb more than other areas. Finish by buffing it in with either a soft cloth or a buffing wheel. Make sure to remove any extra finish. You really can’t remove too much. Whatever is left soaked into the wood will then harden up in the next few days and these pieces will be ready to assemble.
The edges of the plywood will likely be very thirsty and will soak up a lot of your Rubio. Since the edges aren’t seen and we didn’t want to use up expensive products on them, we cheated a bit here. If you wait for the Rubio to harden up fully, then you can come back with some cheaper stain and wipe down the edges, then immediately wipe any of the stain that got on your Rubio surfaces off with a clean rag or paper towel.
Step 30: Cut The 2×4’s Into French Cleats
With our rip blade back on our table saw set to 45 degrees, cut your 2×4 boards in half to create out two halves of each french cleat. These don’t have to be exactly in half but try to keep each of the 2×4’s pressed against the fence so that all of the pieces fit together the same way. This will help make it easier if you accidentally mix up pieces or decide to swap the panels around later.
Once they are cut lengthwise, we are going to take the top half of the French Cleats into smaller sections to be mounted on the panels. Give these pieces a light sanding and a quick coat of stain just to help keep them from warping over time. They will be completely hidden so there is no need for anything fancy here.
Step 31: Install Drawer Slides
To make installing the drawer slides easier, we are going to cut a strip of material to make a spacer block that will raise the lower edge of your drawer slide up to the desired height. 1.5” – 2” x 12” long will probably be about right. Aim to have the drawer slide approximately centered on your boxes, but don’t be too critical.
Place your spacer block in your NightStand and then position the drawer slide in front of it. Set the drawer slide so that the front edge is ¾” back from the inside corner of the chamfered edge of your Nightstand. This way, the drawer front will sit inside your chamfered edge.
Screw your drawer slide in place and then repeat this process for the other side. Now place a spacer block on the bottom surface, inside your nightstand, and set your drawer on it. This spacer will leave your drawer up slightly so that it is not dragging on your Nightstand when you pull it out. A ¼” thick piece will be plenty here. It just needs to be more than ⅛” thick so that your drawer front can cover the bottom of your box.
Set your box on top of your spacer and pull it out slightly. Add some counterweight to the back side if you need to keep it from tipping. Pull out each drawer slide and align its front edge with the edge of your drawer box, then screw in the first screw. Pull the box out further and screw in each of the next screws while ensuring that the drawer stays on the spacer to keep it level.
If you find that your box is slightly undersized and that assembly is difficult, you can add a shim between the drawer slide and the nightstand box where no one will ever see it. If you are only off by a tiny amount, use a few layers of painter’s tape to build up the backside of the drawer slide. If you are off by more than that, consider cutting a strip of wood to use as a shim.
If you find that your box is slightly oversized, then unfortunately there is no easy solution. You can try to heat up the glue in your box and then break it apart so that you can trim it down, or you can chisel away material in your nightstand where the drawer slide mounts. Neither option is ideal, so your better option might be to look for different drawer slides with a narrower profile or ones that are under-mounted instead.
Step 32: Attach Drawer Front
With our drawer boxes installed, it’s time to install the drawer front. We want to center this front from the left to right and then create the same gap down below. A good way to do this is with playing cards. Push the drawer all the way to one side and then put playing cards into the gap on the other side until no more fit. Then remove the cards and divide them up between the left and right sides. For example, if you had 8 cards in your stack, you would put 4 on each side. This will center the drawer front left to right. Then we will take the same number of cards (4 in our example) and place them under the drawer at each end to lift it up.
With the drawer positioned, you have a few different options to attach it. You can come around the back and reach through the box to insert two screws. You can use wood glue and some clamping force to glue in place while it is positioned. You can use double-sided tape or super glue to temporarily hold it together and then push the drawer out and put screws through the drawer box and into the drawer front. Since this is getting tugged on, I highly recommend using some screws. Just make sure that whatever method you use is invisible from the front side. We don’t want to ruin our clean lines.
Step 33: Attach French Cleats
Next up, we will want to attach our French cleats. Arrange the panels side by side with the good side facing out. For the Nightstand cleats, measure up from the bottom surface to the height that you need to match your bed frame and space them off from the center so that you have room for your bed frame. Use a long level to make sure that the cleats for each nightstand are aligned and level and then predrill some holes and screw the french cleats into place. You’ll want to use screws that are about 1.25” long so they don’t pop through the back but still get a lot of engagement.
Now flip all of your panels over. Again, measuring up from the bottom, mark where your french cleats for the wall mounting need to go. Ensure that all of these are aligned and level. A good option here may be to lay them down on the floor (on carpet or cardboard), measure up from the floor at both ends, and then pull a string from mark to mark and clamp it in place. Then align the edge of each french cleat with the string. Again, screw these to the panels. Since these screws will have to go through 2×4’s, you will want a screw that is about 2” long.
Step 34: Install Receiving Cleats On The Wall
Place your long wall cleats into position on the back of the panels and then measure up from the bottom of the panel to the bottom edge of your wall cleats. Now take these cleats to your wall and measure up from the ground to the dimension you found earlier plus a little. You want your panels hanging from the wall instead of sitting on the floor. If you have a hard surface floor, add ⅛”-¼”. If you have carpet, use ¼”-⅜” or so. Put a nail in the wall at the mark on either end and pull a string between them or use tape to hold the string to the wall. Go down the line and mark your stud locations. You’ll then want to align your french cleats to the string and drive a screw through the cleat and into at least 3 studs. You’ll want to use longer screws here. 2.5”-3” will work great.
Step 35: Hang Panels
With our French cleats installed, hang your panels up on the cleats and slide them together. If you are noticing the bowing of the panels is causing misalignment, pull them back down and add an alignment feature. A dowel or biscuit in the side of the panels is the cleanest, but you could also attach an overlapping piece of wood to the backside of the panel that is sticking out from the wall so that the flatter panel next to it helps retain it. This doesn’t look as clean, but it will be hidden behind the wall.
Step 36: Run Power Cords
As you are hanging the panels, take note of where your wall outlet is. You have two options here. You can simply drill out a hole in front of the outlet and stick a power cord right through. This is the easiest method, but it isn’t as pretty. This results in exposed cords and an open hole. If the hole is behind the bed frame then maybe nobody will ever see it, but you still have the cords to deal with.
The better method is to drill a hole just beneath or between the french cleats that will hang the nightstands. You can then run a power cord through this hole and back to where the outlet is. Since we are using the french cleats on the wall, you will have plenty of room to run this cord, but I recommend using a right-angle plug to make things easier. This way your power outlet ends up sitting in your drawer and you’ll keep all of those cords hidden.
For cutting a clean hole, I recommend either using a large Forstner bit or using a jigsaw or an oscillating multitool. Trace out the shape of the plug on your board and make your hole to match.
Step 37: Hang Nightstands
All that’s left now is to hang your nightstands. First, we want to remove the drawer if possible. Most drawer slides have a release mechanism so that you can detach them. This will make the next step a lot easier.
Bring them in and drop them onto their french cleats. If you have a power cord here, feed it through the backside of your nightstand as you position it. Once you’ve pulled the power cord through, you’ll want to secure it to the top surface inside your box. This will help make sure that the cord doesn’t drag on the back edge of your drawer when you open and close it. A few adhesive backed zip tie holders work well here. Leave enough slack that the splitter on the end of your cord and move in and out with the drawer.
Finally, we need to secure our nightstand by putting a screw or two through the nail board and into the panel behind it. This will keep the nightstand from lifting up off of the french cleat and fall if it is bumped. With that done, reinstall your drawer box to your drawer slides and slide it into place. Bring in your bed frame and then take a step back to marvel at the beautiful piece you just created!
Final DIY Modern Headboard With Floating Nightstands
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