Create a unique headboard using an unexpected material: wood shims. This step-by-step tutorial shows you how.

June 09, 2015

The right headboard can transform the look of a bedroom with hardly any effort. And this DIY project is no exception. Standard craft store supplies—like fiberboard, trim, and shims—are the key to a rustic-chic headboard. 

Make one this weekend for your dorm room, apartment, or guest bedroom. It's an easy, versatile project that can be customized to fit your needs. Our measurements are for a full-size headboard, but you can adjust according to your bed size. The headboard can also be left its natural shade, or it can be stained or painted—the choice is up to you!

What You Need

  • Tape measure
  • Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) or plywood (our piece is 56x49 inches for a full-size bed)
  • Two 49-inch pieces of 1x1 trim with mitered corners
  • Two 56-inch pieces of 1x1 trim with mitered corners
  • Finishing nails
  • Hammer
  • Shims (we used 216)
  • Hot-glue gun and glue sticks

Editor's Tip: Shims are somewhat irregular in size. Buy a few extra packs so you can avoid using damaged or short shims.

Step 1: Cut Wood

Gather materials. Then cut the MDF and the trim to size. The length and width of your headboard depends on personal preference and the size of your bed. A twin-size headboard will be much smaller than a queen. 

Step 2: Create Frame

Secure the trim to the outside of the MDF, using the hammer and finishing nails to create a frame.

Editor's Tip: If desired, you can paint the trim at this point. Or, for a more rustic look, leave the wood its natural shade. 

Step 3: Lay Out Shims

Lay out the design of the shims, starting in one corner and working down one side at a time. Use six shims per block to create the design shown here. For each block, try to use shims from the same package so they are similar in wood tone and length. Shims can vary by 1/4 to 1/2 inch in length from one package to another. Continue laying out the entire design. Make sure you like the pattern and that you account for any irregularities in the shims. Add an extra layer of shims along the bottom if you need to fill in.

Step 4: Attach Shims

Glue each shim to the MDF using the hot-glue gun. Take your time so you can adjust for any gaps or irregularities. Continue gluing until you complete the headboard. Lean it against the wall behind your bed, or screw it directly to wall studs, reinforcing with anchors and screws in each corner.


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