Years ago Kim's uncle, a woodworker, gave us three large flitches of willow. Back in 2009, we built a table out of one of them. It currently lives outside on our deck. The second was split down the middle to make two benches, for said table, but I have never completed that project. Perhaps "someday." The third I thought I might turn into the top for a sideboard, but a suitable design for that never materialized and we do not really have the space for such a piece anyway. We ultimately decided to use it for a headboard and probably about a year ago--I do not remember quite when--I started sanding it.
The piece was rough-cut from a sawmill and had a lot of parallel saw markings transverse to the length of the flitch. It took a lot of sanding with 40 grit sandpaper on a belt sander just to get some of the darkest and deepest marks out of the wood. I had anticipated sanding all of the marks out, but after multiple days of work and learning a bit more about some of the soft spots and other "character" the flitch had to offer after working with it, I decided to leave it a bit rough. (OK, so I'm not gonna lie--part of me was just tired of sanding!) Many of the prominent marks have been diminished, but it still features some sawmill marks and the rough scars of the coarse sandpaper.
I followed up the coarse sanding with 100, 220, and ultimately 400 grit sandpaper to get the piece baby's-bottom smooth. Because willow is such a light wood and our bedroom has predominantly darker furniture (a walnut dresser I refinished a few years ago and our Paul McCobb Planner Group side tables, which, contrary to what this listing may suggest, only cost us $17 for the pair at Goodwill--no Kim, you may not sell them!), I stained the flitch a dark walnut.
After the stain dried, Kim and I rubbed it down with steel wool and then waxed and buffed the surface for a smooth, matte finish. We then mounted it to the wall with a french cleat, which stands it off a bit from the wall so that it appears to float at the head of the bed.
Except for the still-diminishing (though not completely unpleasant) scent of stain and wax, the finished headboard has been a welcome addition to our bedroom!