A clear glass whiteboard

This instructable will show how to build a transparent glass whiteboard that will never wear out and never ghost. Glass is a superior surface for writing on with dry erase markers and erases with a tip of the finger. The size I made mine was 28 inches by 54 inches and was NOT made to freestand as it would take up too much room in my sons college apartment. Total cost was a very reasonable $60-65, and took a weekend to build and finish (minus the time going to and from stores!). The glass was from a local IKEA store. It is normally used as a desktop protector and is safety glass weighing about 30 pounds . My son is a Math and Com Sci double major along with being a whiteboard nut and his rooms look a lot like the garage in A Beautiful Mind so a great project for him.
Does it work? Yes. Is it the best whiteboard my son has ever used? No. It's the contrast. A white whiteboard with a black marker is, by far, the easiest to see and use. Unless there is a dark background or a white background, the writing is harder to see on a clear whiteboard. The best is to have a white sheet of material stuck to the other side of the glass but that defeats the whole purpose for a clear whiteboard!
The other question you have to ask yourself is glass the best clear material. I went shopping in Home Depot and bought several types of plastic sheeting. Lexan was the ONLY plastic sheeting worth considering. I found a great place to buy Lexan sheets. Freckleface!:
But in the end, I decided that glass was the best material. A large sheet of Lexan is harder to keep clean, the leading brand of markers (Expo) will ghost after sitting for a week or two, and has a much more shiny surface which makes it even harder to read what is written. But it does not break and would be much easier to build. Next clear board is going to be 3/8 inch 36 by 48 Lexan, just for mobility and safety's sake.
Why a clear whiteboard? In the show "Numb3rs", I was intrigued by the clear whiteboard that Charlie Epps is using.
Could I buy one? Not at THIS price.
So let's build one!
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barry_0155 years ago
I've bought an IKEA desk and that glass top, together they make a good whideboard/desk. I never run out of space for my quick jotting of things, and for the gamer geeks out there, you can place a map between the table and the glass and poof, writable table top... The ideas are endless... Nice frame and mount though. I like the spraypaint and mirror ideas too.
finton barry_0153 months ago
Could you upload some pictures of your desk please barry?
sgbotsford5 months ago
You can get large sheets of glass for cheap or free. Go to a window store and ask them to save you the glass from a patio door. When you get it, you can with patience and a couple of putty knives split the seal into two sheets of glass. (The usual reason for replacment is that the seal has failed, allowing water into the cavity.)

This glass is generally about 3/16" thick and is tempered. DON'T HIT THE EDGE. but for other impacts it's pretty tough otherwise. If it does shatter, it goes all the way into crumbs.

A greenhouse supply store carries a form of white wash used to block 25-75% of the the light passing through the glazing on a greenhouse. Don't know if they sell it in small quantities.

White background:
Ordinary latex white paint may do well. Certainly sticks to windows when I get it on by mistake. May be difficult to apply evenly. Roller?

White may not be the best color. Shadows from the writing may show up and make it harder to read. Light gray may be better.

Note in framing: You need about 1/32" per foot of extra space for expansion of the sheet of glass. Lee Valley Tools sells panel bumpers for cabinet making. Backer rod also works. Make the grooves the thickness of the backer rod EXTRA deep. (If you had grooves of 3/16 and were using 1/8" backer rod, make the grooves 5/16 instead) The backer rod is compressible enough to absorb the expansion of the glass.

Now: How do we do the edge lighting trick?
johnpombrio (author)  sgbotsford5 months ago
Sgbots, thanks for the post. I went an looked at my patio door and that is a LARGE piece of glass! Plus you have to get the very heavy door home, take apart the glass, clean the glass, somehow get rid of the rest of the glass and the door. Whew. Easier just to buy a sheet of Lexan and way safer.
White works extremely well for a backing color and that is what I would stick with. Latex paint is fine and cheap. Takes several layers. I have a frosted glass whiteboard from IKEA and it works fine but a solid color backing would give better contrast.
As for expansion of the glass, I covered that in my post. Read through the whole post and you can see what I used.
johnpombrio (author)  johnpombrio5 months ago
They should allow editing of a post.
As for lighting the glass edges, not doable. I have a fine selection of loose LEDs, LED flashlights, LED rope lights, LED lamps, and more! NONE of them worked except to light the surface of the glass by shining it directly on the surface. No amount of edge lighting worked to make the marker colors "glow" or do any good on reading the glassboard. Amazon managed to light up their glass in the Kindle Paperwhite by using nano sized grooves in the glass to focus the light onto the e-ink display, not something available to me!
The best lighting I have seen is black light and florescent grease markers that is used in restaurants and bars.
finton5 years ago
(removed by author or community request)
finton finton5 years ago
Hmmm: or even one of them (I wrote ' "bracket thing" 'before 'makes a link...')
johnpombrio (author)  finton5 months ago
Did not remove anything, heh. Your Karma must have caught up to you.
finton finton7 months ago
Just as a matter of interest John, what did I say that occasioned removing my comment? I'm pretty sure I didn't write anything untoward, did I?
eokyere8 months ago
John, you are awesome! Thanks for the quick detailed response. I will try this and make sure to post back when I do.

eokyere8 months ago
Dear John, I hope you are still monitoring this thread.

I want to build this board one of these weekends; I was wondering if the board described here [1] can be used. Thanks.

johnpombrio (author)  eokyere8 months ago
Not only can it be used, this is exactly what I now recommend! My son has been using smaller sheets of Lexan for years and it works great. It will be a bit wobbly because the stuff Home Depot sells is about 1/8 inch in thickness so mounting against a wall is probably best. has thicker stuff but is expensive and uses motor freight (whatever that costs).
By using Lexan, you open up a lot of methods in which to use the board. Drill 4 holes in the corners and mount directly on a wall. You can slide various papers behind it for background or study aids. You can easily build a frame just by making the frame and screwing the plastic onto one of its faces. You may need to run an extra stile down the middle of the frame in order to prevent the board from wobbling when writing on it.
Use the Quartet Enduraglide markers at Amazon or any local store that sells them. Black is best.
Good luck on the project and post back how you mounted it.
Mizchief1008 months ago
sweeeet. I always loved in movies like Social Network when they would write on the glass. Hah your sons college room sounds alot like mine... Great work!
Melanie G2 years ago
This instructable has been very helpful, thank you for putting this together. I am currently trying to find the right process for applying the frosted background to the glass and have yet to find any solid advice. Any tips on this part of the process? Obviously I don't want any bubbling between the surface of glass and the frosted material. I'd like to be able to find the right material so I can try some different colors like I saw here:
johnpombrio (author)  Melanie G2 years ago
Any film that sticks to glass would be your best bet. There are several places that sell a film the gives a frosted glass look. For instance, Home Depot has window privacy films that you just stick on and peel off and one of them is frosted glass. Obviously the Stained Glass one would be a hard to write over, heh.
My son's final solution was to paint over the back with ordinary Latex white paint, several coats of it. It worked a lot better as a whiteboard with the white reflective, highly contrasted background.
Oh perfect. I was originally thinking frosted, but solid white sounds more practical and easier to work with. I'm better with paint, and not sure if I'd be able to cut the privacy film with the precision needed to be flush with the sides. Thanks for the quick response John!
I bought a bottle of "frosting paint" at the hobby store. They sell it instead of glass etching materials.
johnpombrio (author)  Melanie G2 years ago
Welcome! It takes a lot of coats (5 or 6 if I recall) and it CAN be scraped off with enough hard labor. Painting it turned out to be the best solution to my son.

While I was writing this, I just thought of Rubbermaid contact paper for shelving. It comes in white, it would come off and you don't have to worry about trimming it as you could just overlap the stuff, and it would be fast. Dang, I wish I thought of that before we started painting. Anyways, the paint worked fine...
HelmutHound9 months ago
There are a LOT of posts here! So please forgive me if someone has asked this and I missed it. But how many layers could you stack before their becomes distortion of one of the rear glass panes(if there is, if not never mind)?

I really like the idea of this and want to build a board where 2-3 independent screens can be moved back and forth. And since they are see through, it would be PERFECT for showing graphs and the plotting of overlapping vectors or plot points!
johnpombrio (author)  HelmutHound9 months ago
Helmut, that would be something to see but aligning the graphs be hard unless there were registration pins in place on the sheets. Learning how to write on the OTHER side would be a better idea or perhaps just a sheet of paper taped to the back side.
Forget about glass in multiple layers. Glass is HEAVY, my biggest complaint with this whiteboard. Trying to shuffle two or three sheets of the stuff would be extremely difficult. Glass also would cause a lot of reflections and a kind of underwater effect of that greenish color that comes with many layers of glass. With Lexan, pretty much all of these issues (except reflections) would go away. Go to a home improvement store (like Home Depot if you are in the US) and buy a few small squares of Lexan and try it out before scaling up to the expensive stuff.
thuynh1110 months ago
Your son is a lucky guy.
AC360CNN2 years ago
I was just inspired by this, got an idea, and signed up to make this comment...

Here's a plan for an 18" by 36" glass whiteboard for under $20!

1. Purchase piece of glass at Home Depot for $10:

2. Purchase double sided outdoor mounting tape:

3. Find a white wall and mount the class to the wall. No frame required.

What do you think?

johnpombrio (author)  AC360CNN2 years ago
NO! Nix, nein, negative. DO NOT USE a piece of NON SAFETY GLASS without a frame! That is just a ticking time bomb sitting on your wall. I still have scars from broken window glass. Hanging a naked sheet of glass without a frame is even worse. I also do not like picture frames with glass in the front for the same reason. Kids and dogs, elbows, and Wii remotes, and moving furniture are their nature enemies. Naked sharp glass edges are not meant to ever be exposed.
The link to Home depot is broke, but I am assuming your priced out a glass window replacement sheet. For a little more money, a cheap glass picture frame would work just as well but would be a little more protected.
My advice? Look at the priciest piece of plastic sheeting LEXAN (I think it has GE on the sticky label in Home Depot). You will have to double your budget or shrink your size but it has all the advantages of glass without all of the dangers. 2 screw holes into the top would hold it to the wall.
Sticky tape and rental walls are also made to cost you your rental damage deposit. If it sticks well enough to hold something heavy, it will also peel paint and gypsum board paper. Not worth the risk.
good call

Thanks for the warnings about the non safety glass, but this ship has already left the dock!. I'm working on the project right now in my back yard. I spray painted the back of the glass white and I'm going to add a few more coats to even it out.

The glass will be mounted 4-5 feet above the floor, above a wide filing cabinet in an office where no children go. I would definitely not hang this above my bed.

Perhaps before mounting it, I can (neatly) put two layers of heavy duty clear packing tape around the edges, and two layers of duct tape covering the entire back of the glass. The duct tape will make it somewhat shatter resistant. Do you think that would help?

I've decided to use "mirror clips" instead of the heavy duty mounting tape. I uploaded a picture, but its my first time using this forum so hopefully its visible. The uploaded picture shows the glass in my backyard, a screenshot of the home depot glass for $10, and a screen shot of the mirror clips I'm going to use.

Thanks for the warnings. I'm still excited about the project! So inexpensive, yet will hopefully outperform any retail dry erase board 3X its price.
johnpombrio (author)  AC360CNN2 years ago
Heh, notice the big warning sign on the packaging about sharp edges. I donno if I should flag this as I have to be responsible for others doing the same and the glass sheet causing someone to get hurt. That said, having the glass this close to the wall should prevent anyone from easily contacting the edges so no real need for tape. It also looks like it is behind a desk to prevent accidental contact.

Note that an 18 by 24 inch sheet of Polycarbonate (Lexan) at Home Depot is only $20 and the back can be covered by contact paper ($7.00) or just use it on a white wall. It would need only two screws to hold it. For $70, 36 by 48 inch, just the right size.

Yep, pictures work fine. Good idea about the mirror clips instead of double sided tape. I like how the clips are screwed into the wall (don't want this to fall). HOWEVER, the tops of the screws are contacting the glass directly and will act like a glass breaker tool under any sort of impact. I suggest you cover them with duct tape then slide the glass into place. Remember, mirrors are rarely ever touched.
You're very right! I have several issues at hand:
(a) the screw heads are contacting the glass working as glass breakers.
(b) the mirror mounting clips hold the glass in a wobbly manner as they do not hold the glass flush to the wall firmly and snugly and
(c) the edges of the glass are sharp to touch and present a hazard.

I am in the process of doing a any of the following, possibly in combination:
-changing the type of mounting clip used,
-adding the double sided mounting tape to offer snugness to the wall and
-having the glass professionally framed, or doing it myself.

I updated my blog with the problems you pointed out and clearly labeled it as a "WORK IN PROGRESS." Thanks for the ongoing tips.

I've attached an image of the mounting clip I plan to get to replace the dangerous ones I have now.

johnpombrio (author)  AC360CNN2 years ago
Good reply. I have been thinking about things that compress and protect the edge of the glass. Look around in the window and pipe insulation section at Home Depot for ideas. For instance, pipe insulators (foam about 3 foot long) can be slit and slid over the edges. That would let you do two things 1. protect the edges and 2. compress the glass against the wall making it snugger. There are also foam strips that are peel and stick that might work with your present clips (the clips might have to be bent out some.)
As for the clips you are showing me here, think about rubber washers to wedge into the top that touches the glass so as to snug it down to the wall and prevent the glass from moving and protect the glass. Pieces of the washers could also be used as a wedge (either clip) to hold the glass firmly in place.
I finished my project. I documented it in a blog. This post inspired me to make a blog. Here's the link:

If the link doesn't let you click it, just type it into your browser. I took pictures of the finished product. I didnt put duct tape on the back or anything, but hopefully its fairly safe.
Toga_Dan1 year ago
Looks like a good solid frame you made. I certainly appreciate going to lexan, especially if you have to move much. Did you say it's easier to clean, too?

Here's my version:
Check the 1:50 and 8:10 marks.

An unmodified glass door secured in the middle of the room.
I have more footage somewhere of the math behind this experiment.

Do any of you know where to find white markers like they used in "num3ers" ? Are they easily erased? or did they have to really work to clean the glass on that show?

Also I was wondering if the transparent smartboard in the vid of the opening page of facebook is real tech. It seems to be transmitting the writing to monitors above the lecture hall.
0:45 second mark (for about 2 seconds)
johnpombrio (author)  Toga_Dan1 year ago
Thanks for the comment. Numb3rs uses Lexan, not glass on the show. The reason why they are using white (grease) markers is because of the way the show is lit with the wall behind the board really dark.
Both Lexan and glass wipe off the recommended black Quartet dry erase marker easily without ghosting.

A transparent clear smartboard would only be useful in classroom or lecture hall environments.
johnpombrio (author) 1 year ago
Been a while, old friend. My son has long ago turned to Lexan as the clear choice. Also, after seeing these clear whiteboards on Eureka, CSI, and Fringe (as well as Numb3rs), I am certain that their boards are made of Lexan (by the way it bends when written on). Not too thick either. 1/4 inch? 3/8 inch?
The glass tabletop is no longer available at IKEA and was too heavy for its intended purpose as a whiteboard. If I needed to to do this over, I would have chosen Lexan.
i noticed that you still havent found a good marker to write on your glass with. try using a window/glass marker. you can get a cheap version from somewhere like crayola. they r meant for glass surfaces and come off easily with a wet towel.

hope this helps
johnpombrio (author) 1 year ago
Been a while, old friend. These damn clear whiteboards are on every TV show that has nerds on them. Fringe and CSI are the latest two I have spotted them on. And they are definitely Lexan just by the way that they bend when being written on. Not too thick either, I would say 1/4 inch? 3/8 inch?
StevenHoong2 years ago
Hey I just signed up so I can comment. What's the name of the IKEA glass sheet? IKEA always name them differently so I cannot find glass sheets/windows, but things made from glass (like doors and shelves).
johnpombrio (author)  StevenHoong2 years ago
I wrote this article 6 years ago so all bets are off to find the glass tabletop protector all available at IKEA. There is one close to what we used by the name of Billsta Glass Desk Top but it is unavailable in any of the stores that I checked on the website nor can you order it online. I am afraid that IKEA no longer is selling these glass table top protectors.
A quick search of rectangular glass table top with Goddess Google (and her earthly angel Siri ) show that they are available but at a $200 price range rather than the $40 for the Billsta top.
It looks like this project is dead as far as the cheap material costs go. At this price, Lexan would be my first choice.
ZJ-Weaver2 years ago
Haven't read all the comments but I'm a whiteboard addict as well and have found the cleaning product "Simple Green" to both remove "ghost" images and it also leaves a very thin film which keeps the board like-new-slick. FYI whiteboard nuts.
No. I don't work for or own stock in Simple Green. It just works.
johnpombrio (author)  ZJ-Weaver2 years ago
Heh, I'm a fan of Simple Green too. Use it on a bunch of stuff and I too have great success in using it on classic whiteboards. BUT no matter how good the cleaning material, my son has managed over the years to just plain wear out fiberboard whiteboards! It was having to replace them every other year or so that got me thinking about glass. Now THAT is a lot of whiteboard usage!
tyao2 years ago
I am very interested in building one of these but I have one question.
Does Lexan get scratched easily?
I heard that Acrylic, while not as durable, doesn't get scratched as easily as Lexan.
So should I get the cheaper acrylic or the regular Lexan?
THank you
johnpombrio (author)  tyao2 years ago
Read though the myriad of posts to see what folks think of clear plastic whiteboards. Lexan does not scratch easily, in fact it is damn tough stuff. For any reasonably sized board though, it will be expensive. Check out the other posts that mentions Frekleface to see the prices.

For $60 you can get a good sized piece at Home Depot to try it out first or even a paper sized one for a few bucks. Get the Quartet markers as they work a treat.
As for Acrylic, if is a lot more wobbly-er the same thickness, is kind of milky in color and definitely not in the same class as Lexan. Either way, thickness matters if you are supporting a wide piece only by its edges (3/8 inch would be good)
Either way, you will not be scratching the board with dry erase markers not matter what!


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