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DIY Dowel Headboard

Updated: Apr 9

Make your own DIY dowel headboard - the perfect statement piece for your bedroom.

I was on the hunt for the perfect headboard to go with my recently reupholstered bed frame, but none of the store-bought options ticked all my boxes. It needed to be light timber and usable as a shelf (as well as matching my bedroom decor). I loved the dowel look I had seen on Pinterest, but I didn't like how flat and flimsy all the store-bought options looked, I wanted a more solid frame for a bigger impact that could also double as a shelf, so I decided to make it. Note: this wasn't a cheap project but it still worked out cheaper than buying something I wouldn't have been 100% happy with. I have included tips on how to save a few bucks in the instructions.

What I used:

- Porta 30 x 12mm 2.4m Tasmanian Oak Moulding Half Round Dowels (I used 40)

- Plywood (I used Project Panel 1200 x 810 x 3mm Premium BC Plywood - I bought 3 of these and cut one of them down to get to the 1950mm width all up)

- Mitre saw

- Wood glue

- 135 x 19mm x 2.4m Tasmanian Oak Dressed All Round DAR Select Grade (x2 for the bottom and the sides)

- 160 x 19mm x 2.4m Tasmanian Oak Dressed All Round DAR Select Grade (for the top as I wanted it to overhang, but you can use the 135mm width if you don't want this look)

- 2x posts (you can use any width and depth that fits inside the frame - this is a good opportunity to save some $ and buy whichever is cheapest as this wont be visible).

- Small nails for the dowels and plywood

- Long screws for the posts

- Long nails for the framing

- Varnish

1. Measure your bed and adjust the project accordingly. My bed is king sized and I wanted the headboard to be a bit oversize so the final product is 1950mm wide. Tip: Make sure whatever size you go for is divisible by the size of your dowels. For example, my dowels were 30mm wide so I went with a 1950mm width as it was perfectly divisible by 30mm. For the height, I went for 1.2m (again, to make it easier as each of the dowels was 2.4m).

2. The first step is to build the frame. You should have 2x of the DAR timber boards. One will make up the base and the other will be cut in half to make up the two sides. As I was going for a 1.2m height, it made sense to buy the 2.4m length for both. Cut the timber to size and nail them together.

3. Depending on the size of the ply you've got, you'll need supporting posts in the middle. Again, be guided by the size of the frame and ply you've bought. Mine was a bit awkward as I was building this during lockdown and couldn't get the ply cut to size in-store so I wanted to only have to cut one of the boards rather than all 3, to make less work for myself. This meant I had two large ply boards and one skinny one, which meant the support posts had to be close together in the middle to accommodate the skinny piece of ply. In an ideal world, you'd get your ply either in the perfect size, or cut in-store so they're equal and then your posts can be equally spaced across the width. This helps make the board more sturdy, especially if you're using a thin plywood like I did. Nail/screw your posts into the base.

4. For the top, I wanted my top board to be deeper than the base and sides so that the top looked tidier (as the ends of the dowels would be covered) and it gives the option to add strip lighting too. For this reason, I went with the 160mm timber (I wanted to go bigger but that would have been more expensive). Cut the top board to size (in my case, 1950mm) and attach to the sides and posts using nails or screws. For the posts, you can use any timber type and size that will fit inside the framing. To save money, I used pine for this as it isn't visible, and I opted for a smaller size than the full 135mm depth - all you need to do is make sure the posts line up to the front of the frame to support the ply that will be nailed on - they don't need to reach the back of the frame as we won't be putting any backing on it.

5. The next step is to nail your ply onto the frame. You don't need large nails for this, especially if your plywood is thin like mine, (bear in mind, if you go for a thicker ply, you'll need to get a deeper top panel as the ply will take up more depth) but you will need a lot of them, I used about 30 nails per ply board to secure it on there nicely.

6. Now for the dowels. To save money, I didn't put dowels on the bottom section of the middle of the headboard (the bit where the mattress and bed will cover). This meant I could cut each of the dowels into 3 pieces instead of 2 and save about $100. I cut 8 of my dowels in half (to cover the sides of the headboard and the outer edges of the front) and the rest were cut into three. Once you have cut them, you can start gluing them on to the plywood using wood glue. I chose to use fine nails on the outer ones in particular, but would recommend doing this on any that have the frame behind them (i.e. something to nail them into other than the plyboard). This isn't necessary but will help keep them in place. You can choose to use clamps to hold the dowels down once glued, but I used books and magazines and that worked perfectly. Leave overnight for the glue to set.

7. Once the glue has dried, remove the weights and using putty, fill in any of the nail/screw holes. Leave to dry again and then sand it down. The dowels themselves shouldn't need much sanding but I gave them a light sand with extra fine sandpaper as well, just to get rid of any rough bits.

8. Now for the final step - varnish. You can skip this step if you prefer, but I wanted to get my timber a little bit darker so it would be a closer match to my bedside tables, as well as protect the wood.

9. And you're done! The hardest part is waiting for the varnish to dry. I eagerly dragged the headboard into the bedroom hours after varnishing as I was so keen to see how it looked in the room, but it took about a week for the varnish fumes to disappear, so I wouldn't recommend doing this unless you have a spare bedroom to sleep in while you wait. If you like, you can add an LED strip to the overhang of the top board - these are about $30.

I am so happy with the final product, it turned out so much better than expected. It's not a cheap project if you use Tasmanian Oak, but still less than if you were to buy something similar. If you wanted a more affordable option, you could use pine timber instead.

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