Come see my process of refinishing a vintage wooden headboard!
A few months ago, I was perusing Facebook marketplace and I came across a listing for a king size headboard that said ‘free’! The headboard itself needed some work, but for free, I wasn’t going to pass this one by without at least inquiring about it. It’s a hilarious story, so join me as I take you on a journey of refinishing a vintage wooden headboard!
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The Story Of Acquiring The Headboard
As mentioned above, I acquired this piece of furniture for free off of marketplace. Here is what it looked like prior to being refinished. It was covered in white chalk paint that was put on much too thick. However, the curvy lines were so beautiful and are what drew me to it in the first place. I could see it’s potential and wanted to make this piece shine once again. We picked it up at the beginning of March and I knew this would be a project for warmer weather. It gave me something to look forward to!
The kicker is that we had to drive 45 minutes one way to pick it up and then another almost hour drive home due to traffic. Mind you, we didn’t measure the length of the car prior to leaving to make sure that this king size headboard would actually fit. Big mistake. No matter which way we tried to put the headboard in the car, it wouldn’t fit. We must have taken it in and out 4 times, trying all different angles.
But did I mention it was free? I wasn’t leaving there without it…not with driving all that way! So, we resorted to taking the head rest out of the passenger seat and positioned the board straight over my head while I crouched down in my seat. The other end of the headboard was in Mitch’s lap while he was driving. It had to have been the funniest sight and I wish I could have gotten a picture of it. The on the spot maneuvering was a success and we made it home without any other issues. So…don’t be a dummy like me and take measurements before leaving.
Before I started the actual process of stripping the paint, I had to make sure I had all the needed materials. I chatted with my friend Anna from Sky Lark House about the best way to go about this and she recommended using a heat gun and a scraper.
Here are all the supplies I used for refinishing this headboard with links to shop below.
- heat gun
- metal scraper
- work gloves
- a face mask
- electric sander
- 100 grit sandpaper
- Miss Mustard Seeds Clear Milk Wax
- a clean rag
Refinishing A Vintage Wooden Headboard
I’ll admit I was very overwhelmed with the size of this piece. I brought it into the garage so I could work on it on the workbench and I just kind of stood there for a few minutes, wondering where to begin. But the best thing to do is to just start, so I turned on some country music in my headphones, chose a random spot and went to town.
Step 1: Heat Gun
The heat gun was VERY hot and I kept gouging the wood with the scraper at first but then I started getting into a rhythm. Heat an area and scrape. Heat an area and scrape. After I had gotten a layer off as seen above, I wanted to see what was actually underneath the old stain, so I sanded a small area. To my surprise it was exactly what I was hoping for all along… beautiful and rich pine! I was so happy!
You guys, I continued this process over and over for two weeks. Granted I only worked on it during evenings and weekends, but it took me so long to get all of the old paint off!
Step 2: Sand
I had to hand sand many of the parts around the curved areas because it was difficult to get the scraper to do it’s job. The above photo is about as good as I could get it with the heat gun. I had to call in reinforcements to help me with the last bit of sanding and detail work. My arms were so sore from weeks of scraping and I was grateful for the help!
In the scorching sun, my favorite handyman took to sanding the headboard smooth using 100 grit sandpaper. He sanded the whole piece once, wiped it with a dry rag and then sanded it again.
To finish this part of the process, he used the side of the scraper to remove small amounts of white paint that were stuck in the crevices of the curves. Before bringing it inside, I used a damp rag to wipe off any excess dust. There were some bits of white paint that we just couldn’t get out. I’m okay with that because it’s part of the story and adds to the overall charm and character of the headboard.
Here she is in all her glory! I would have left it like this because the wood tone is just stunning but it needed to be sealed to protect the wood. To achieve this, I ordered Miss Mustard Seeds clear milk wax off of Amazon. Because our heads are next to it at night, it was important to me to find a sealer that didn’t contain any harmful chemicals. Anna recommended this sealer due to the natural products in it.
Step 3: Wax
Here I am, waxing away! This product is really amazing. It smells like citrus, is super easy to rub on and doesn’t leave any harmful residue behind. I actually had a blast applying the wax. It took me a few minutes to get the hang of it. I had to find a rhythm for rubbing the rag as to not leave behind any blotches but I figured it out as I went along.
You can tell the difference in this photo as to which part has been waxed and which part hasn’t. I kept applying the wax in a circular motion until the headboard had one full coat. I let that dry completely then went back and filled in any thin areas or spots that looked blotchy. It really was a super easy process!
And that’s it! She’s done and I am beyond thrilled with how this piece turned out. This was my first time taking on such a large piece of furniture and, though daunting at first, slow and steady won the race! Many hours and a lot of sweat went into this project and it feels rewarding to have it turn out so beautifully.
The beauty of this piece is difficult to capture in a photo. It looks stunning against the shiplap wall in the bedroom. When the headboard was white, it got lost on the white shiplap…you didn’t even really notice it. I love the warmth that this wood tone brings to the bedroom. It is such a calming place to sleep! My husband and I both agree that our room feels cozier, like the headboard is embracing us in a warm hug.
I hope this process of refinishing a vintage wooden headboard was an encouragement for you. It was such a pleasure to be able to restore this vintage piece of furniture and help it come alive again. I have experienced immense beauty in my life many times but sometimes that beauty took time to discover. Be encouraged to be patient and wait for beauty to emerge in whatever way that is for you.
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Again, thank you to my friend Anna for the advice on this project! Go check out her blog at Sky Lark House for beautiful home inspiration.