52 Create – my weekly creative output for 2011. I made some chalkboards for my own wedding last summer, and I was recently commissioned to make a bunch of them for another wedding this summer. These were to be decidedly more “rustic” in appearance and also cost was a factor for the client. They are made from 1/4″ douglas fir plywood with a 1/4″ dowel out the back to support them. They will be used for table numbers for the dinner. It was a fairly quick job and made me realize some of the benefits of organization when doing larger production runs (ie. 20 chalkboards – 2 didn’t work out…).
For the upcoming wedding we needed some way to tell everyone what the various hors-d’oeuvres and desserts were. We thought about printing them on tent cards using InDesign however this seemed a bit wasteful and only a one time use. So with our love for Chalk boards we decided we’d just make a few mini chalk boards that we could use for the various wedding events and then we’d have them for future projects (might look nice in a bakery?).
I grabbed a sheet of Baltic Birch (1/2″) and cut out some 12×14″ rectangles with rounded corners. Took the router and rounded all the edges (this helps to stop the plywood from splintering). A quick hinge on the back helped them stand upright, all that was left was a quick coat of chalk board paint. I’ve always used roll-on paint, however the local hardware store was out and only had spray. I thought this might give a really nice smooth finish, but after 3 coats it was not thick enough and you could even see the wood grain through it. So I drove around town till I found a can of the roll on stuff. Two coats later and they were ready to go! One of the nice things is they fold flat (ie flat pack), so they are easy to transport (and would be easy to make on a CNC…)
I was in the market for a dresser for the upcoming baby, but nothing was a nice as I’d like. I’m a fan of repurposing old things and I hate to throw perfectly useable things away, so I went to Salvation Army and picked myself up a very beat-up wooden dresser for the lowly sum of $25 (the wood alone would cost me more).
Next it was off to the store to buy some paint, new wooden knobs, and of course a ton of wood filler. I decided to paint it blue all over, while on the sides I painted some lady bugs with little dashed lines behind them. The new wooden knobs I purchased were turned into lady bugs as well. Finally, I put a strip of chalkboard paint on the front of each drawer so as to label what is inside. As it’s done with chalk, the labels can easily be changed over the years. I purposely made the chalkboard paint fairly rough looking. Besides all of this cosmetic work, all the drawers needed the bottoms reattached, and many nicks and scratches had to be filled in the dresser.
I was almost done when I got the idea of doubling this as a change table. The height was too much, so I cut off the bottom drawer – lowering the height by 6 inches. This worked well as the bottom of dresser was very beat up and as much as I used the wood filler, it still didn’t look perfect. The two knobs from the extra drawer were used on the side as hooks. As I assembled the final project, I realized that the paint on the drawers had made them slightly too big to fit in the dresser, so back to thetable saw and I trimed them all down 2-3mm.
I’m very happy with the final project, my only regrets are that I didn’t prime the wood first as some slight staining is coming through the paint. It is a little annoying that this project (not including tools) cost me far more than the dresser, and quite close to the price of a new one at Ikea. I wouldn’t have had the enjoyment and the knowledge of all the hard work I put into it, but it still frustrates me that objects these days can be so cheap, yet repairs are incredibly expensive. If we want to keep our landfills from over-flowing, we need to value repurposing old furniture and other objects!
I could hear my overly practical father as I put the finishing touches on my latest project, “a chalkboard? why don’t you just do some paintings on your cave walls…”. Why a chalkboard indeed? Why not I say. Chalkboards have a certain appeal, that retro look, a certain je ne sais quoi to them. Besides, chalk doesn’t dry up like pens, as far as I can tell it’s environmentally friendly (I actually have nothing to back this up), and they smell better than dry erase pens.
How did I do it? Actually it’s a very simple project, simply a piece of MDF 16″x24″ that was painted with…. you guessed it, chalkboard paint. A small can costs lest than $10, and I hardly used any to cover this board. I cut the bottom edge of the board at an angle and used some MDF screws to attach a 3″ wide piece of aluminum to use as the rail to hold the chalk. Finally, to give it a bit of an industrial feel (and because I have several hundred 1/4″ washers I need to use (open to ideas here, anyone?) I bolted the board onto two wooden 2″x2″ which helped to hang it and give it a floating look.
I love how it looks and it fits well with my very modern looking kitchen. The whole project only took a couple of hours (I spent longer trying to find chalk…) and best of all, a pack of chalk only costs $0.93…