Nov 8, 2010

Tutorial: Making a Headboard from a Door

My how time flies! It's been almost two weeks since I posted last, eek! I've been busy filling orders for Etsy and making new prints, as well as listing items on Ebay (did you know it's free to list 100 auction style listings a month now through January 7th? It's also free for BuyItNow listings for 2 more days). I've also helped to launch a new Etsy shop with a great friend of mine, I'll be sharing it with you sometime next week!

And now for some DIY. This was a project that I started over a year ago (speaking of time flying) and ended up finishing it only recently. I started with an old door that I found in a barn at my parent's house, as well as some wood beams.

I hauled them over to my grandpa's wood shop, where we cut them down to size. The door had about 5 layers of paint on it. I bought some Jasco paint/stain stripper and a plastic palette knife and got to work.

 It worked so well! Too well perhaps, since it "stripped" my foam brush. I'll go the cheap paint brush route next time. Oh and a word to the wise, DO NOT let this stuff touch you! I accidentally leaned up against the the door while I was working and got some on my jeans. I wiped it off thinking nothing of it and within seconds my leg burst into flames. Ok I'm kidding, but that's pretty much what it felt like. Thankfully there happened to be a garden hose nearby, so I aimed it at my leg and turned it on full blast.

{Did anyone catch that Jerry Seinfeld reference? Skip to 1:38}


After getting the door down the last layer of paint, the stripper stopped working. Not exactly what I was hoping for! I bought another can and kept at it, but the paint would not come out. That's when I did a bit of research online and found out I had a door painted with milk paint. Normal paint strippers can't get milk paint out. Ack! If you're ever stuck with this problem, supposedly ammonia will get milk paint out, or there's a product called PDE Paint Remover that's made for removing it. 

While mulling over what option I was going to go with, I flipped the door over and randomly tested a spot with the paint stripper. As luck would have it, the paint came right off. Strange that a door would only be painted on one side with milk paint, but I was jumping for joy. The rest was a breeze and after letting it dry overnight, I got to work assembling all the pieces of the headboard. 

To attach the legs I used wood glue and nails and for the top piece I used a few screws (square head screws to be exact, I was amazed at how wonderful they were! I'm no carpenter but I'd definitely try those again). I made sure to fill in all the holes with stainable wood filler and to sand them before staining. I wasn't too worried about the hole in the door where the knob used to be as it would be covered by my mattress, but because I had some wood pieces that fit perfectly, I ended up plugging it and filling in the cracks with wood filler.

At this point I used a scrap piece of wood and tested out the stain. I had purchased wood conditioner and tung oil and gave those a try as well, but I ended up liking the raw stain as it was.


I really liked all the dinged up spots in the tester piece and how the stain puddled and turned black, giving it a rustic feel. I noticed a few pre-existing dings  in the headboard...

 ...and decided it could use a few more. I used a paint can opener to give it a few small nicks and a hammer for larger ones.


I also grabbed a nail and hammer and made "worm holes."

Once I was finished beating up the headboard, I stained it a dark color - Jacobean by Minwax. I accidentally left the last coat of stain on too long so the headboard looks black in a lot of lighting conditions, but I don't mind it actually. For protection I also used a spray on polyurethane finish in satin.

So what was the total cost for doing all this? Well, since it's been about a year I don't have all my receipts but here's a pretty good guess:

Door - free from parents barn
Jasco stripper - $13 (x2)
Foam brush - $1
Plastic palette knives - $2 (x2)
Face mask - $3 ish?
Rubber gloves - already had
Wood conditioner - $4 ish? (didn't use)
Tung oil - $7 (didn't use)
Minwax Jacobean stain - $5 (x2)
Wood filler - $4
Spray-on Poly - $7
Sandpaper - $1 for several sheets
Nails/Screws/Glue/Tools - already had

Total = $67

I plan on re-designing my bedroom in the near future too, I've already started collecting a few new items and I'm excited to share the results with you over the next two months!

Linking up to:

Miss Mustard Seed 

Funky Junk Interiors 


  1. It definitely doesn't look the same door! and looks wonderful as a headboard. Great tutorial too.

  2. This looks awesome! I totally want to do it. What size of wood did you use on the top and sides of the door?

  3. Very clever and resourceful, the end product is gorgeous and original. Well done. Very inspirational.

  4. This is a great tutorial. I started my bedhead this weekend just passed. I ran into the same issue with milk paint and had success with the other side too! Just one thing I have found is that I tried paint stripper, but then tried a heat gun and the heat gun was much more efficient at removing the paint.

    Thanks for the inspiration.


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