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Refinishing A Vintage Wooden Headboard

By Rachel
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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.

Materials Used

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

starting to scrape paint off of a vintage wooden headboard

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!

scraping paint off of a vintage wooden headboard

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!

removing old paint off of a vintage wooden headboard

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!

sanding a vintage wooden headboard

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.

sanding the top of a vintage wooden headboard

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.

a sanded, unwaxed vintage wooden 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.

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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

waxing a vintage wooden headboard

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.

clear wax being applied to seal a vintage wooden headboard

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!

a vintage wooden headboard that has been refinished

Finished Product

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.

a refinished vintage wooden headboard against a shiplap wall

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.

a vintage wooden headboard that has been refinished down to the maple wood

Closing Tidbits

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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Leave me a comment! Have you ever done anything like this before? How did it turn out? I love hearing from you!

an image for pinning

a before and after of a vintage wooden headboard that has been refinished down to the maple wood

If you are new here, I’m Rachel, the blogger and content creator here at The Antiqued Journey. I’m so happy to have you! I invite you to stop by the ‘about me’ page to get to know me a little more.

Here on the blog, you will find loads of inspiration for decorating with vintage and antique decor, simple DIY crafts and many thrifting adventures. If that interests you, I invite you to sign up for my e-mail. You will receive a free digital download as a thank you!

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19 Comments. Leave new

  • This is such a beautiful headboard, Rachel. I can’t believe it’s even the same piece! I love how you brought it back to its natural wood state. I know it was so much work to get home and refinish but it was totally worth it. You nailed it! Big hugs, CoCo

    Reply
    • Rachel Granholm
      July 8, 2022 9:16 am

      Hi CoCo!
      Thank you SO much! It was such a lot of work but SO worth all the effort. It even smells like that sweet wood smell still and I think that is so cozy…smells like I’m sleeping in a cabin 🙂 Hope you have a great weekend!

      Reply
  • Cindy@CountyRoad407
    July 8, 2022 10:31 am

    I’ve had to remove the headrests in our car a few times and still haven’t learned my lesson. LOL! And I don’t blame you. The free headboard is quite the treasure and I bet it looks better than it ever has. Thank you for sharing it with us on Farmhouse Friday. Enjoy!

    Reply
    • Rachel Granholm
      July 8, 2022 10:36 am

      I laugh out loud at your hilarious comments every time!! Hahahaha! You are just a hoot, Cindy! Thank you for reading today…I do appreciate your support!! Have a great weekend!

      Reply
  • Shelley Humpal
    July 8, 2022 4:06 pm

    Hi Rachel: Love the story and great job. You mentioned the wood as being maple but just an FYI it is actually pine. Maple would never have that many large knots. The way to tell the difference is of course the knots but pine is very light weight and maple is very heavy. I don’t think your husband could have stood it in his lap for the full drive if it had been maple. Also maple is a very hard wood it won’t gouge easily where as pine is much softer and mars easier. For me I prefer the pines character. I hope this was helpful to you. Keep up the good work and you may enjoy my blog too. I also love antiques. https.//fortheloveofold.net

    Reply
    • Rachel Granholm
      July 8, 2022 4:57 pm

      Hi Shelley!
      Thanks so much for stopping by today!! And thanks for the reminder…I actually KNEW it was pine I guess I just wrote maple in my post. Oops!! I fixed it. Thanks again!!

      Reply
  • Hi 👋 Rachel ! This was such a great post. I love that you removed the head rest in your car to get the headboard to fit in your vehicle! 🙌🙌🙌 You did an AWESOME job transforming this piece and gave it a new life. Thank you also for the shout out. I’m so glad the heat gun worked well. Also I use MMS milk paint products all the time because they are nontoxic and environmentally friendly. Congratulations on your new beautiful headboard. 💕 Pinned!

    Reply
  • Hi Rachel, I hopped over from Cindy’s page and Farmhouse Friday. I love the transformation you did with the headboard. It’s beautiful and I LOVE the natural wood look. I am going to share a link to your project with my readers in my weekly recap post tomorrow.

    Thanks again for sharing!

    ~Jen @ Midwest Life and Style

    Reply
    • Rachel Granholm
      July 9, 2022 6:19 pm

      Hi Jen!
      Thanks so very much for popping over and reading! I appreciate the support and thank you for such a lovely comment!

      Reply
  • meagan trento
    July 9, 2022 5:11 pm

    Love how your vintage head board came out!! Looks stunning. What a great transformation. You did such a great job.

    Reply
  • HI Rachel! What a find!!! Worth the drive! Pinned too! Hapy Sunday
    laura in colorado

    Reply
    • Rachel Granholm
      July 10, 2022 8:29 am

      Hi Laura!
      Thank you!! Thanks for reading and commenting and pinning! Hope you have a lovely day!

      Reply
  • […] Refinishing A Vintage Headboard […]

    Reply
  • Beth Anderson
    July 17, 2022 5:02 pm

    What a picture of you guys driving home with that thing! Lucky you didn’t get a ticket😂

    Reply
  • Melissa Fraser
    March 19, 2023 6:59 am

    Great job! I know how much work that can be. Love the rich look of the wood!

    Reply
  • […] Refinishing a Vintage Wooden Headboard […]

    Reply

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Hello I’m Rachel.

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