“You’ll Never Know What Your Capable Of Until You Try”
I have a confession to make… I’m in love with the word ‘rustic’.
Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to live in a treehouse. Not a literal treehouse, out in the backyard with one hobbit-sized room and a dangerously precarious, ladder. More like a house made almost entirely from reclaimed wood, surrounded by a forest of trees, far enough out of town that the only traffic you could hear would be the flocks of birds making their daily passings, but not so far out as to be isolated.
There is something about wood itself, something that reminds me of what is important. ‘Realness’ and what could be more real than wood? It’s natural, it’s raw, it’s beautiful, it’s real. But wood can sometimes come across as something it’s not, if it’s milled too much, perfectly cut and polished up (much like a woman with too much makeup) it can come across as ostentatious and anything but ‘real’.
When I think of the word ‘rustic’ I think of wood that has been made beautiful by it’s experience, much like a wise old lady. Wood that is still natural and earthy, raw and real, but damaged, changed by it’s circumstances, full of character and charm. It’s old and used but so full of potential. All it takes is some love and care and it can be brought back to a glorious state, made even more beautiful by it’s brokenness and imperfections.
There is something about the word ‘rustic’ that just makes me feel closer to nature, closer to a more peaceful, tranquil existence, closer to my dream house and dream life. So I decided a while back that I wanted everything in my home to be as ‘rustic’ as possible.
Now ‘rustic charm’ used to be the phrase given to decor that was simply and plainly made, but nowadays it can be quite the opposite. ‘Rustic charm’ as a decor style has become quite popular and stylish and therefore items made with a ‘rustic charm’ now often come with a hefty price tag.
But with a little creativity and determination, you can create your own ‘rustic’ furniture and decor at a fraction of the price. Take this bedhead for example. When I lived in Tassie I made one dream come true and finally purchased myself a king-size bed made from reclaimed wood. Unfortunately, I had to sell it just a few months later to move across the country again. I promised myself I would get my reclaimed wood bed back somehow, but I soon realized the price tag was beyond my reach.
After browsing Pinterest and Instagram and seeing the amazing results people had had with pallet wood, I decided I would try and make one of my own. Now I actually have something better. Something I made myself! At first, I wasn’t sure if I could do it but once I got started, I realized it wasn’t that difficult and all it takes is a little motivation.
I’m going to share with you the step by step process I used to make this rustic pallet bed head.
Now there are many ways to make a bed head and I am in no way a professional so I do not claim this is the best or easiest way to make a bed head, but this is how I did it. I read a few articles on how to do it but in the end, I simply used my head, figured it out and learned a few things along the way.
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Tools and Supplies
Here’s a rough list of the tools and supplies I used (also a few links to where you can purchase these items) but you could also check your local hardware store.
- 1.5 – 2 pallets
- Crow bar
- Circular saw
- Belt sander & orbital sander
- Safety glasses
- Dust Mask (for sanding etc)
- 2 paintbrushes
- Wood Primer
- Wood Stain
- Tung oil
Making a plan
Now I’m not great at creating plans or sticking to those plans, when I sew, I hand-sew and I do not use patterns etc, I just figure it out and wing it. Most of the time it’s successful but other times it ends up in the rubbish bin. If your into drawing up plans, then you’ll have no trouble working out the dimensions you need for your bedhead. One of the mistakes I made with this bedhead was that I originally planned to make an entire bed out of pallets and the pallet base was going to be a little wider than the mattress so you could see the base etc. But later on for various reasons, I decided to just make the bedhead and buy a simple base for the mattress. I forgot to adjust the measurements though so now my bedhead is wider than the frame and I have to place my heavy bedside tables against the posts to keep it up.
So, it’s a really good idea to know exactly what base you are using for your bedhead, then measure the width of your base so you know how wide your bedhead needs to be. Then decide on the height you’d like your bedhead to be. Draw up a plan with the measurements you took and work out what pattern you’d like with your boards. I went with a somewhat orderly pattern of 2,3,2,3,1,2,3,2,3,1.
There are sites on the internet that provide free plans for DIY furniture, you just need to research a little.
Finding the right pallets
If you’ve ever browsed Pinterest or youtube for DIY projects you will see a lot of people using pallets, for a couple of really good reasons.
- They are cheap, usually FREE on sites like Facebook marketplace, gumtree or another online marketplace, etc.
- They are perfect for that reclaimed, rustic look, nail holes and all.
But are all pallets good to use in your DIY project? The answer to that is NO. Some pallets have been chemically treated and are harmful to people, particularly when sanding and cutting etc and should never be used for furniture or decor items. The best pallets to use are those that are heat-treated, you will recognize them by the letters HT on the stamp somewhere on the pallet. Most pallets that have no stamp will be ok to use as well but if you don’t know where those pallets have come from and what they have been used for, it’s a good idea to stay away from them as they may have carried chemicals that could have spilled on the wood. Always avoid pallets with unidentifiable stains on them also.
There’s a really good article I came across while researching this, about how to identify usable pallets by their stamps.
The pallets I used for this project were all heat treated and from a camping and fishing store.
Removing the wood from the pallets.
Now this is probably the hardest part of the job (in my opinion) and the most difficult as you need to be able to remove the boards without cracking the wood. It’s still possible to use the pieces (if the lengths you need are shorter than the planks, just use the uncracked part first and use a strong wood glue to seal a small crack) but of course the ideal is to use boards that don’t have cracks.
For this job I enlisted the help of my two 16-year-olds, as my muscles aren’t as strong as I’d like them to be. We used a crowbar to lift the ends off. You need to use a bit of technique here to wiggle the wood and nails out of the supporting piece. If you use too much force, the boards will crack, so go easy. We cracked a few, glued a few and put a few aside for projects that required shorter pieces.
Removing the nails
So of course your going to want to remove the nails from your wood before you start working with it and the easiest way to do this is to hammer them out from underneath then use the back of the hammer to lever them out the rest of the way.
This is easier said than done and some of the nails we came across were embedded pretty far into the wood. For those, I used a small chisel to dig away a little of the wood from around the nail heads so I could get the hammer end under the nail head enough to lever it out. Sometimes I needed to use pliers to finish off the job.
Cutting & Sanding
Next you’ll need to cut the wood to the right size. We used a circular saw to do this, but of course any electrical saw could do the job. It’s always a good idea to use safety glasses when cutting and sanding to prevent damage to your eyes should any wood chips fly up.
Once you’ve cut your pieces, give them a good sanding. You’ll need some clamps to clamp down your wood to a workbench or table. We alternated between a belt sander and a orbital sander. I didn’t know a lot about grit numbers when it came to sandpaper so it took me a while to do the sanding. I would now suggest using a coarse sand paper of maybe 80 – 100 grit to begin with and smoothing it off with a 120 – 240 grit. You can get finer grits than this that will give your wood a smoother finish but I think the rougher finish is in keeping with the ‘rustic’ look.
Building the frame
Now since I didn’t use a wood board backing, the frame is the first part that needed to be made. I didn’t have boards that were wide enough or straight enough for a solid frame so I bought some pieces of wood from Bunnings so that I would have a strong and straight frame. It was quicker and easier than hunting for more pallets with appropriately sized wood (without any bends). The only problem was that of course this wood did not look like reclaimed wood as it was brand-spanking new!
So I set to work with my chisel and sander to give it a used, rustic look. Chipping away edges, creating fake nail holes, scratching it hear and there and roughly sanding. The end result was quite authentic looking.
Now of course I would recommend using as much reclaimed wood as possible, but sometimes you have to cut corners and improvise to get the job done.
So we then set about nailing our top piece (which was exactly half the width of the side pieces) to the top of the side pieces (or legs) with a slight overhang on each end for creative styling.
Then we laid the frame down on the ground to get started with the pallet boards.
Building the headboard
So some of my pallet boards where less than perfect, in fact some of them had corners or edges missing so they were not complete pieces. I liked this as I felt it gave them an even greater ‘rustic’ look. I wanted the gaps to show, so having a backing board wouldn’t work for this project, but I needed something to nail my pallet boards into, especially since there would be 4 rows of 3 boards. So I had to cut and sand 3 more pieces of wood to go on the back for my boards to attach too.
I decided to make the bedhead from the back, so in other words I attached the supporting boards to the feature boards from behind rather than attaching the feature boards to the supporting boards from the front (so you can’t see any nails or screws on the front of the bedhead). I decided to use screws also instead of nails because it made for a quicker assembly and a stronger one I believe. I placed some loose wood boards under each supporting board to support the feature boards while I drove the screws in. They helped stabilize the bedhead on my uneven driveway as well.
This is what it looked like from the back, halfway through assembly.
and this is what it looked like from the back once completed.
The second mistake I made with this project was cutting my support boards too short, this meant that the bottom board was not attached to the supporting boards and the whole middle section kind of wobbled back and forth a little. I solved this problem by nailing the top part of the frame into the first row in two places where there were no gaps.
With the construction side of the project finished, it was time for staining and finishing off. Now this was the first DIY project I had done so I knew very little about stains, varnishes, oils and waxes etc so I read the back of the tins to get the info I needed.
The stain I had bought was called ‘black Japan’, in the store it looked like the closest match to the stain on the bedside tables I already had. I would later discover that it wasn’t the same stain and that ‘walnut’ would have been more accurate, but it still came out looking awesome, so no big deal. I would suggest getting some sample cards to take home if your trying to match any furniture to a project, so you can get a more accurate match.
From reading the tins, I discovered that I would need to prime the wood first, given that pine is a porous wood. Primer can be applied directly to the wood or mixed with the stain for a one step primer and stain application, which is what I did.
One coat of primer and stain to both sides then let it dry for 24 hours. It looked like it needed a second coat of stain but I didn’t want to do another coat of primer so I mixed some more stain with some tung oil to seal the wood.
You can use varnish if your after a smooth glossy look but I decided I’d prefer a matte finish so the tung oil was perfect for this. I did one coat of oil & stain, then wiped off the excess 60 minutes later, then let it dry for 24 hours. Then I applied another coat (just to the front) and followed the same process.
After the tung oil had dried, I rubbed beeswax into the front of the bedhead to give it a little bit of a sheen and to seal the wood further and protect it from mold and warping. The wax conditions the wood, making it resistant to water and other fluids.
So that’s how I made my very own rustic bedhead from wood pallets. I learnt a few lessons along the way and discovered that I quite enjoy making things out of recycled wood.
Now that I have the bug, I have a few more DIY projects up my sleeve that I’ll be tackling over the next few months and blogging about. If you’d like to keep up-to-date with my latest DIY projects, simply sign up to my mailing list below. You’ll also receive all the latest news, stories and competitions (including giveaways and writing competitions) Plus a FREE ebook exclusive to email subscribers.
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