Building a Modern Headboard with Stopped Dados

By Shane Mitchell
Timber Biscuit Woodworks

For this project, I built a modern headboard from walnut and walnut plywood. I used stopped dados and walnut hardwood to create a seamless 3D wave design. The organic feel in the wooden waves was achieved by using a combination of a bandsaw, spokeshave, and some other hand tools. While stressful at points, this was a very rewarding project, and I love how the headboard turned out. See below, where I talk about some techniques I used to achieve this design!

If you’re interested in building this modern headboard, make sure you watch the full build video below!

Making Curves Using a Bandsaw

For this headboard, I used a bandsaw to make the waved pieces. Bandsaws can be used to make a variety of different cuts, including curves. When cutting curves with a bandsaw, it is important to use a blade that is the appropriate size for the job. For this project, I used a 1/8” blade. The blade should also be sharpened regularly to ensure clean, precise cuts.

In addition, it is important to use a steady hand when operating the bandsaw. Curves should be cut slowly and deliberately to avoid mistakes.

With a little practice, you can learn to cut curves quickly with a bandsaw. This technique can be used for a variety of different projects, such as creating decorative pieces or cutting intricate shapes out of wood. Check out the full video to see how I made the curves for this piece.

Hand Tools

The next technique I used to create the waves on the headboard was hand tools like the spokeshave. Traditional woodworking is a process that involves the use of hand tools and traditional methods to create furniture or other wooden objects. The main benefit of traditional woodworking is that it allows you to create a piece of furniture with a high level of precision and detail.

Traditional woodworking also has the advantage of being able to create a piece of furniture that is unique and has a more personal touch. So no wave on this headboard is exactly the same. This is also why I don’t have plans for this piece – because each wave (and even the spacing of the waves) is customizable.

Stopped Dados

Now I needed to attach the waves to the walnut plywood. This is where the stopped dados come into play. Stopped dados are simply shallow grooves that are cut into the face of a piece of wood that stops in the center of the board. They can be used to create all sorts of different furniture, including tables, chairs, shelves, and much more. The best part about using stopped dados is that they are extremely versatile. You can use them to create just about any type of furniture you can imagine.

For the headboard, I used these stopped dados to join the waves to the walnut plywood. With a bit of math, some measuring, and a bit more measuring, I was able to knock out these stopped dados.

If you are interested in learning how to use stopped dados in your woodworking projects, there are a few things you need to know. First, you need to cut the stopped dado using a router, table saw, or another cutting tool. Here are some quick steps for making them:

1. Set up your table saw with a dado stack installed.

2. Measure the width of the stopped dado you need to cut, and mark this measurement on a piece of scrap wood.

3. Set the fence on your table saw so the blade will cut to the position you need for your stopped dado.

4. Cut a groove in the scrap wood piece you marked in step 2, making sure to stop before you get to your end line. This will be your setup block.

5. Set the set-up block on your table saw so that the blade will only cut as deep as the groove you just cut, and mark your fence where the cut ended. I like to use a piece of tape.

6. Next, make one more test cut in a piece of scrap wood to make sure your settings are correct.

7. Once you have verified that your settings are correct, make the cuts for your stopped dados in your workpiece.

Once you have cut the stopped dado, you can then begin assembling your piece of furniture. Depending on the type of furniture you are making, you may need to use clamps, screws, nails, or other fasteners to hold the workpiece in the joint. For this headboard, there was no good way for me to use clamps, so the waves for the headboard are held in place using CA glue alongside my wood glue. 

Follow along with the headboard build video to see how I made my stopped dados with a table saw and dado stack.

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