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How to convert “What’s a 1X3?” to a Pottery Barn Headboard

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When I went into Home Depot asking “what does a 1X3 mean?”, It was obvious I had no idea what I was getting into. Not to mention, hanging a picture is about all I’ve ever used a hammer and nail for. I learned many things while building my first piece of furniture from Ana’s plans at Knock-off Wood, but the most important things I learned were:

1. Making a fool of yourself can result in beautiful furniture.


2. Measure twice, cut once.

For the longest time I have been looking at Ana’s website “dreaming” about all the furniture I wanted to build. And I can tell you one thing: dreaming will get you nowhere! I found myself 4 months later, still looking at her plans, nervous I was going to end up with really nice… firewood. It really takes a “leap of faith” but it’s definitely worth it! Print the plans and go for it. The most you have to lose is maybe ~$100 (and a little bit of pride)… but you have so much more to gain!

My biggest dilemma in deciding how to create this piece of furniture was that I love anything rustic. My fiance on the other hand, loves anything contemporary. In order to appease us both, I modified the reclaimed wood headboard plans to look something a little more like this:

Yep, that’s the Pottery Barn farmhouse bed. It only costs $1,200 +tax and shipping. So, if you have extra cash to burn, this would obviously be the easier route. However, for those of us with tight budgets, sweat and bruised fingers are a great alternative. I don’t think Ana can possibly hear “thank you” enough from her followers. She really allows us to create beautiful homes without the price tag.

Now on to the modifications:

Instead of using planks as suggested in the plan, I used one big piece of pine plywood. I felt that this gave the headboard a mix of both contemporary and rustic (dilemma solved)!

The first modification included using 1X4’s instead of 1X3’s for the legs of the headboard. The 1X3’s only came in the highest grade pine (aka: expensive). So by using 1X4’s to building the legs (during step 1 and step 3) I was able to save some money and buy medium grade pine. The second modification was this: The trim pieces (step 4) had to be 2 inches shorter because of the larger 1X4’s I substituted in Step 1 and 3. Therefore, the trim pieces were 56″ instead of 58″. I did splurge and buy the 1X3’s for the legs sides (step 5). They were still a little wider than my sides, but I really like how it looks sticking out a little bit.

Overall, it was very simple. I spent a good hour getting lessons from my step-dad on how to safely use a miter and circle saw (and other tricks of the trade). I then spent about 3 hours building the headboard… all…by… myself. I can’t tell you how proud I was!

A tip on building: Usewood glue… but keep an eye on it. I used a LOT of wood glue. Too much. Any wood glue that gets on visible surfaces will not stain because wood glue “seals” the wood. Even with a lot of sanding, I had some places that would not stain. If you do accidentally get wood glue on your surfaces, wipe it off immediately with a wet cloth. Wait until the glue is dry to sand, because sanding will only spread the glue.

The finished product!

Here are the steps I used to finish my headboard:

Step 1: Sand (electric sander is well worth the purchase) with 100 grit paper on all surfaces

Step 2: Sand with 220 grit paper or higher to give it a smooth surface.

Step 3: Wipe the wood free of dust with “tack cloth” and clean up all dust before staining.

Step 4: Stain! I used Minwax in Red Mahogony to stain (The guy at Lowe’s really liked how I called it: MINIwax. So just fyi to all you newbies… it’s MINwax.). Use a cheap brush (because it WILL get ruined). Leave the stain on for 20 minutes and wipe off. If you prefer it darker, you can do a second coat of stain. I only did one coat.

Step 5: Cover with Polyurethane. I sanded between coats with steel wool. It is like REALLY fine sandpaper and gave it an extremely smooth surface. I did 3 coats of Satin Polyurethane to give it a really nice finish. I just used cheap sponge paint brushes for the coats of poly.

One of the things i was very curious about prior to jumping into building was how much everything was going to cost me. I certainly didn’t want to make it 1/2 way through my project and decide it was too expensive.

So here is my Cost Breakdown:

Stain– Minwax in Red Mahogony-already owned (approx $10)

Polyurethae-already owned (approx $6)

Nails-already owned (?)

Wood– ($78)

Sandpaper– ($6)

Power sander-already owned (approx $30)- you can also sand by hand!

Gorilla Glue – (approx $8)

Paint brushes – (approx $6- buy a cheap one for staining because stain will ruin it no matter what!)

If you had to purchase everything from scratch it would be ~$144. What a deal. That’s a $1,056 savings!!

I hope that encourages all you Knock-off Wood stalkers (like me) to pick up a hammer and saw and do it! Thanks Ana for the wonderful plans!


One response »

  1. Hi Jess,

    Your headboard is beautiful! Great job!

    I love you,


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