Have you ever entered someone's home and searched for a place to sit and take your boots off?
Do you have a awkward entryway nook that ends up being a dumping ground for boots, sneakers and jackets?
Well then, its time for a change! Here's a great, creative way to repurpose that old headboard and footboard many of us have in our basement or attics!
I have seen quite a few headboard benches recently and to be honest, some of them make me cringe... while others are simply inspirational! I hope to enlighten you on my methods for creating a one of a kind headboard/footboard bench, from the design, to the construction, to the painting & finishing. Hope you enjoy!
Quite a bit of thought and planning goes into creating a functional, sturdy bench long before the first cut is made. Since I do not necessarily know by whom or where my benches will be used I try to design them to be useful to the vast majority of humans. Typically the bench height off the floor is most comfortable between 16-18", however that could be adjusted if we know more about how it will be used. It could be less for a child's bench, or a few inches higher if it will be primarily used by adults.
The width I usually leave as is, but it certainly can be adjusted to fit a particular space. A twin size headboard is plenty wide enough to accommodate two adults. The dimensions are entirely up to you and what you are looking to achieve with the finished product. The depth of the bench is also to be taken into consideration and anywhere from 14-20" deep is pretty standard. I feel the deeper the seat is, the chunkier and bulkier it makes the bench feel in the end. Once again its entirely up to your creative vision. Since the footboard is used for the sides off the bench this really is your only limitation. With all this in mind its time to start production!
I start by laying out the cuts on the footboard, marking with a pencil and using a jigsaw make it happen. The ideal length of the arm rest is determined by the depth of the bench. The next step is to remove several inches from the center to make the overall depth suitable to the seat.
Always, always remember to measure twice and cut once!
After cutting I take one of the now sides and see where it culminates on the headboard by holding it in place. Does it stop at a logical spot? It usually does not... and this is where a lot of people have problems. The height needs to be adjusted not only to make the bench useful but also make it appealing to the eye. Simply put, it needs to be pretty and if it is not, you need to make it so! Holding the side in place will also give you an idea where the bench height will ultimately be.
As you can tell in this picture, the side does not end in a logical spot when placed against the headboard.
To resolve this issue I cut approximately 3" off the height of the legs (on the footboard only) to get the side closer to where the height works for the bench, and the curves of the footboard end in a logical spot on the headboard.
To make this cut I use a miter saw. I also end up making an adjustment to the curve (by cutting with my Bosch jigsaw and sanding so the end point is where it is most appealing). It's simple little details like this that can be adjusted to create a great looking piece of furniture.
With the curve and height adjusted you can see how it lines up in a more eye pleasing spot in the Before& After photos below.
I liked the bottom detail on these legs so once I cut them shorter I removed it and reattached it to the bottom of the sides. (Here's a little tip: when removing nails with heads be sure to use a hammer to tap them out in the direction the came in. Then you can pull them the rest of the way with a pair of pliers or end nippers. Finish nails can usually be removed by pulling them through the wood in the direction which they were installed.)
Both the headboard and footboard have slots cut in them where the rails of the bed would attach if it where to be used for a bed. You can either choose to leave these as is or address them by filling and sanding to make them disappear. If creating an amazing piece of furniture is what you are shooting for, I would highly recommend filling and sanding! Since my pieces are usually painted I like to fill large gaps or holes with Bondo. We prefer Bondo as it dries very quickly, and very hard which keeps production moving along nicely.
Once I am happy with the way the sides and headboard fit together, they get pre-drilled for screws. I prefer to get the piece assembled & put together nicely, then take it apart, add glue and finish assemble. This allows me to be able to make any last minute changes as needed, without the added pressure of hurrying along because there is glue drying.
Depending on a few factors (whether I am gluing wood to wood or wood to something that has an existing finish on it, or finish to finish) determines what type of adhesive to use. I prefer to use Titebond wood glues, like I used here to reattach the bottom detail, whenever I can.
Now that the sides are attached, we need to come up with an idea for a support on the front of the seat. I typically end up using one of the rails from the bedframe to create this front piece. When repurposing I find it satisfying to creatively use as much of the original material as possible... but I don"t usually do this is with the seat. I will address this further shortly.
The front support for the seat should be in correct proportion to the rest of the bench. A typical bedframe rail is too wide and looks too bulky, so I end up ripping (cutting) them down on the tablesaw. You could also use a jigsaw or skillsaw to do so, whatever you have on hand & are comfortable using.
When I have this sized correctly, I attach to the sides with a Kreg pocket hole jig and screws. The pocket holes screw make quick work of this and are plenty strong enough to hold the rail in place. You could also pre-drill through the sides and attach the front rail that way, but then you end up with additional holes to plug/fill and sand. Additional strips/supports will have to be added to support the seat on the headboard. They can be seen attached in the second to last photo.
You can see in the photo below how I use tape to layout where the seat will be.
In my opinion, the seat of the bench needs to be constructed from a high quality material. I also prefer to repurpose something that I have around the shop or upcycle the material from another piece of furniture. This is a great place to add some more personality to the piece!
I planned on staining the seat from the beginning so material choice is critical... it must stain nicely, but also being strong and durable enough to hold up to being subjected to kids, pets and numerous backsides. For this particular bench I used a few cherry boards that I took from another piece of furniture. Cherry is durable and will stain nicely. The original boards were not wide enough so I jointed, ripped and glued several together to create the correct size seat.
The seat then needs to be fit to the bench, cut to length and notched to fit just right. After being sized to fit, the seat is left detached from the rest of the bench so it can be sanded smooth, stained and topcoated. (Since the seat is not being painted the same as the rest of the bench it is easiest to do all these steps with the seat not attached yet.) Most of my sanding is done with an Bosch orbital sander, which I have attached to a portable dust collector. The dust collector is critical to keeping dust in the shop to a minimum, where it is common that Kelly is painting only feet away from where I am sanding.
Now that the bedframe and seat are built it is time to finish sand, paint, and really make the piece of furniture come to life. For this piece we used General Finishes Milk Paint in Driftwood, glazed with General Finishes Pitch Black to highlight the details and topped with General Finishes High Performance Top Coat in Satin!
We will go further in depth of our finishing techniques using General Finishes in future blog posts. Please stay tuned & let us know what questions you have!
Here are a few other Bedframe Benches we have constructed, it's one of our favorite upcycling projects!