How to Make a Bead Board

  • 2-6 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 200-500
What You'll Need
4 1/2 inch x 3/4 inch board
Electric wood saw
Router table

A perfect way to dress up a dull room is with bead board. Bead board is a decorative wall feature that is usually fitted around the bottom of all the walls in a room to chair rail height. Its main feature is the distinctive vertical channels on the boards. Traditionally, bead board is made with each board having two channels or ‘Vs’ which makes it look like two boards. If you want your boards to look 2 inches wide, you need a 4 1/2 inch board—4 inches for the ‘bead boards’ and 1/2-inch for the tongue.

This tutorial is for thin bead board, but you can make the boards as wide as you like by following the same principles.

Step 1 - Cut the Boards to the Right Length

Wainscoting is usually around 36 to 44 inches high to keep the wall from being damaged by chairs. Cut the boards to the height you prefer.

Step 2 - Cut the Tongue

Mark the boards with a mark at 2 inches from the edge and 1/2-inch from the other edge (for the tongue). Use the router to cut a vertical groove using a 1/2-inch slot cutting bit. Lower the bit and cut a tongue on the other edge.

Step 3 - Cut the Middle Groove

Cut the middle groove in the middle of the board, not counting the tongue, but setting the fence 2 inches away from the center of the bit. Make the depth of the cut about 1/4-inch and run with it with the groove towards the fence. Set up a second fence so the boards don’t move and give a crooked groove.

Step 4 - Cut the V Grooves

On the groove side, center the bit on the edge of the groove side so 1/2 of the bit is hidden by the fence.
You will be cutting the halves of the V separately so when the tongue and groove comes together, they make a V.

Step 5 - Finish the Cut

Move the fence back 1/2-inch to account for the tongue and run with the tongue facing the fence. This is cutting the tongue side 1/2 groove.

Make two boards first so you are sure that your measurements will work, then, when the boards are right and slot together properly, cut the rest, making sure to cut quite a bit more than you need, so you are not stuck setting up your measurements again to make just a few more to finish the wall.

Wider bead boards can be made with wider boards. Just measure in 1/2-inch for the tongue and then another mark in the middle not counting the tongue

You can use 1/4-inch MDF board to make a beadboard look by using a router to cut vertical strips or V channels every 1 1/2-inches. This is an easy and fast way to make ‘bead board’ wainscoting. You just need to glue backing boards to the wall, then nail the 'beadboard' to them.