I’m in absolute chalkboard heaven.
About a month ago, I stumbled upon Martha Stewart’s recipe for custom chalkboard paint. I’d seen black and green chalkboard spray paint at the craft store, but chalkboard paint in any color of the rainbow? O, could it be true?! Martha generally tells the truth, except for when she’s trying to convince us that gold leaf-brushed cookies are both edible and delicious. Anyway, I wanted it to be true, so I scribbled a quick list, flew to Home Depot and Michael’s, and have been cranking out chalkboards in spare moments ever since.
Something about chalkboards just makes me happy. I think it goes back to the year I was ten, and living in Heavener, Oklahoma. My father — at my request — had made a sort of schoolhouse out of a shed in our backyard, complete with antique desks and a real slate chalkboard. I used to
demand nicely ask my sisters, then three and seven, to come out and play school with me. Oh, they’ll tell you they were bored to death and afraid to tell me no, but I think they really loved sitting quietly and watching while I wrote cursive letters and did math problems on the chalkboard. One summer day, in a dramatic, “I can’t take it anymore” display of desperation, my sister, Megan, made a bolt for freedom. In the ensuing chaos, she managed to break the chalkboard slate and slice her finger. But maybe that’s not a story I should be telling you in the same post where I’m encouraging you to make a chalkboard for your loved ones.
Back to the directions for a nice, non-slate, non-finger-slicing chalkboard …
Make Your Own Chalkboard
- paint, any kind (if you’re painting on glass, you’ll need enamel paint)
- NON-sanded grout, any color (2 TBSP per cup of paint)
- sandpaper, 220 grit
- sponge roller (preferred) or sponge brush (meh. Not great, but it will work if it’s all you have)
- wood, glass, porcelain, or masonite
The first chalkboard I made was for my daughter-in-law, Brittney (who is a crazy-good photographer, btw). She called on a Thursday to tell me she had a photo shoot on Friday, and did I have a chalkboard she could borrow? Did I have a chalkboard? No, but give me a few hours.
I had the ingredients for the paint, but needed something to actually paint on, so Dave and I went to the thrift store and poked around. I knew I’d found Brittney’s chalkboard when I spotted this frame:
I liked that frame just the way it was, but Britt wanted it white and distressed, so I did that after making the chalkboard itself.
After removing the cardboard, picture, mat and glass, I washed the glass and set it on a piece of newspaper. While it dried, I mixed up the grout and paint.
Martha tells you to just add the grout to the paint (at a ratio of 2 TBSP grout to one cup of paint), but it made more sense to me to add a little water to the grout and get it nice and smooth before adding it to the paint.
Start with just a dribble or two and go from there.
Now add your paint. Because I was painting on glass, I used gloss enamel paint. Two bottles of this only gave me 1/2 a cup, so I only needed 1 TBSP of grout.
For this first project, I used a sponge brush, but I got over that in a hurry. The brush leaves too many streaks. Here’s what the glass looked like after the first coat had dried. I hadn’t realized how thin it was on top until I held it up to the light:
I figured out that it’s best to brush one coat in one direction and the next coat in the opposite direction. To be safe, I painted four coats.
The instructions on the enamel paint say to let dry between coats, then let dry another 48 hours before baking. I … uh … didn’t catch that last part until after I’d already baked it, but it didn’t seem to matter. Set the glass in a cold oven, turn to 325, and set the timer for 30 minutes. At the end of that time, turn the oven off, open the door a crack, and leave the glass inside until it is cool.
BIG BIG, VERY BIG, ATTENTION-GRABBING NOTE: The ONLY time you have to bake your chalkboard is when you’re using enamel paint with glass or porcelain. Please do not put your wood chalkboards in the oven. I sure hope you caught that. END OF BIG NOTE.
Now it’s time to sand. The first sandpaper I bought was 320 grit (extra, extra fine), but that too for-eh-eh-eh-ver. Figuring I’d like to resume my normal life again at some point, instead of spending the rest of it working on that one chalkboard, I dashed back to Home Depot and bought 220 grit. Better.
You want to sand lightly. Otherwise you’re going to end up patching holes, muttering under your breath, and hating me. Once it has a nice, smooth surface, you’ll need to remove all that paint dust. Martha says to use a tack cloth, but I have no idea what she’s talking about. I used a damp paper towel, which worked fine.
Now, here’s where everyone under the sun will tell you to take a piece of chalk and rub it all over the surface to condition your chalkboard. I don’t know what magic this is supposed to impart, but having made seven of these now, both with the “supernatural chalkboard conditioning” method and without, I’m no longer a believer. I just take a very damp cloth and wipe the surface clean, and I’m good to go. But if you’re fond of fairy tales, you just grab yourself a piece of chalk and go for it. I suggest ruby red slippers for clicking while you’re at it. Maybe that’s where it all fell apart for me …
Here’s the picture I sent to Britt to let her know I was finished. The frame looks a lot more distressed in person. (Cell phone camera fail.)
After making Brittney’s chalkboard, I got busy making some with wood. The drawback to wood is that you’re probably going to need to sand it first so you can get the smoothest surface possible. The upside is that you don’t need special (enamel) paint. Any old paint will do.
We have a forest full of chalkboard material behind our house, but sadly, I could not wait for my lumberjack to fire up his chainsaw. Not when CraftMart had these in stock:
My thought had been to scatter these little chalkboards all over the house so I could leave love notes and little reminders for everyone …
… but then I got an idea. It occurred to me that I could do this on a bigger scale. So I went back to Home Depot (yes … AGAIN), had them cut a piece of masonite to size, picked up some heavy duty velcro, and made this brown chalkboard for Gage:
It’s in the perfect spot. He can draw pictures for me while I bake goodies for me. 🙂 HIM! I … Wow. I totally meant to say “bake goodies for HIM.” Him, him, him.
Wait, wait … he’s trying to say something. I can’t quite make out the words, but it sounds like, “Has anyone seen my other sock?”
Oh, I am just CRAZY about those little feet … and their owner. 🙂
I love chalkboards! You will really enjoy for many years to come the one you put in your kitchen allowing Gage to share his inner Picasso. I have one in my kitchen and am continually blessed by a little note or drawing one of the girls will leave as a surprise for me. It is a window to their thoughts and I am honored to view them. ~ Oh and as a side note, I love the one sock on one sock off. It made me chuckle : )
Pam! I hadn’t thought that far ahead, but now you have me excited! I was pretty thrilled with his first scribbles. I can’t wait for that first little note! 🙂
And yes … when we CAN keep socks on those feet, it’s usually just one. Lol. 🙂