A Clear Glass Whiteboard





Introduction: 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?
http://www.clearmarkerboard.com/home.html Not at THIS price.
So let's build one!

Step 1: Building a Windowframe.

So I have a large piece of glass that I want to mount to a support. That is,err, let me think, a WINDOW. So how do I build a cheap and strong frame for the glass? Looking around and I see that my windows use WOOD as a frame. Whew, tough decisions are made.
The IKEA glass sheet is 55 1/8 inches by 29 1/2 inches or 140 by 75 cm. I will use stock 1 by 3 inch pine as the frame and use 2 by 4's that I trimmed to 2 1/2 inches wide to match the frame. If you do not have access to a tablesaw, I would recommend using 1 by 4 inch pine.

Step 2: How to Mount the Glass to the Frame.

There are several ways to mount the glass into the wood.
Professional made windows use a special routing (or shaper) bits to create a tongue and groove assembly but that is expensive to buy and time consuming.
I could just build the frame and surface mount the glass using mirror holders (an L shaped piece of plastic that screws into the wood and holds the mirror in place with a tongue that extends over the glass). I Really do not like this one as the edge of the glass is exposed and the frame would be wobbly as the glass is not part of the structure.
Finally, the method I used is simply to rout a 1/4 inch slot into the wood and put the glass in. I used "Space balls" ( I swear that is their name). They are 1/4 inch rubber balls that go into the slot and keep the glass from moving and protects it from shock. rubber washers cut up and inserted into the wood would work just as well.

Step 3: Building the Frame.

I will give precise measurements for the frame but it would be foolish to use them. My slot was 1/2 inch deep and made with the table saw. I could have also used my router in my router table. I leave it to you to learn how to make a slot in wood if you do not already know.
The frame was 28 7/16 by 2 1/2 inches for the sides and 59 1/8 by 2 1/2 inches for the top and bottom. The TOP extended past the glass and the sides attached to the top and bottom.
I made the slot continuous through all pieces and then glued in some wood into the slot where the glass wasn't and the top met the sides. This was to add strength to the butt joint.
Test fit the wood to the glass to make sure your frame will come together and that the glass does not move. You can make the grooves deeper or add larger pieces of rubber washers to make the fit work. Of course, mine came out perfectly the first time (lucky for me!).
Make sure to sand the wood before putting the frame together. I put a bevel on the glass side to make writing easier. I also stained and finished the wood before assembly
Again, your choice and your lessons in staining or painting are necessary. I used Minwax conditioner and a Early American oil stain with a Minwax clear satin water based acrylic finish.
I used a pocket hole joiner to finish the frame. I guess other ways would be to buy loong screws and screw the frame together or possibly just put a piece of wood over the joint and screw it together.

Step 4: The Frame Support to the Wall.

This could not have been easier. The support beams are just leaned into the wall. I left the 2 by 4's at 8 feet ( I would recommend 7 foot now). I took my cut down 2 by 4's and put a block of 1 by 3 wood 6 inches long that one end was 43 inches from the floor. This is to add support to the bottom of the frame. That put the TOP of the frame at 74" from the floor (approximately).
I cut the bottom of the two supports with a 15 degree angle to approximate the lean as it sat against the wall. I screwed 4 rubber feet on the bottom to keep the supports from sliding and put two more at the top to protect the wall.
With the frame clamped on the supports and sitting on the blocks, I drilled 4 1/4 inch holes 1 3/8 from the sides and 1 3/8 from the top and bottom. 1/4 by 3 1/2 inch bolts, 1/4 inch washers and wing nuts holds the frame to the support.

Step 5: To Make a Freestanding Frame. My Thoughts.

Given a choice, I would have built the frame into a T shaped frame with wheels so It could be moved around and have both surfaces usable. Just no room in the apartment for that though.
I would have built like this. Keep the 7 foot supports but skip the bevel and the rubber feet. Again using cut down 2 by 4's, make two base supports about 3 feet long each. Add wheels to the bottom (2 1/2 inch rubber with the flat plate design). Make a triangular brace for support 2 1/2 foot on a side out of plywood and screw everything together.
Should be stable enough not to tip over! If tippy, make the feet longer. If wobbly, use 45 degree cut 2 by 4's to add as a brace just screwed in. I would make them about 3 feet or so long.

Step 6: Final Thoughts.

This was an easy project and it was nice to work with my son on it. The glass whiteboard is being used and may end up as a winner. All in all though, the IDEA sounded a lot better than the actual thing.
I think that Numb3ers uses the clear whiteboards so that they can film the actor's face rather than the back of his head while he is writing! It also lets there be more variety in the background than a huge white board.
I would love to hear about someone making a Lexan whiteboard so I could hear how well it works.
There are many other ways that I can think of using a clear whiteboard. I would love to hear some of yours.



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    186 Discussions

    Update on using chalk markers on Lexan. The markers wipe off completely even after sitting for a week. If anything, they work better on Lexan than glass.

    One of the more interesting tests my son and I are doing is using the chalk markers on our flat LCD monitors. So far, the results are extremely good as the marker comes off easily and without any sign of ghosting. I have tried on several monitors, all anti glare, and it works for us. I am not recommending this as perhaps gloss screens act differently or some monitors may not have a glass surface. Do a dot test in the extreme corner as a test. Let me know if you have any issues.

    Tried it on my gorilla glass phone tho and it failed miserably as the marker would not "stick", just kind of makes blobs of the chalk, heh.

    The Liquid chalk markers (of any color) work just as well on Lexan as they do on glass! Bold, bright, and easily read across the room. See below for the link to the chalk markers.

    Note that the chalk markers like to be store with the cap down to keep
    the wick moist. If they do "dry out, just press down on the marker tip
    to re-prime them.

    Good question about the chalk markers on Lexan. I tried the black and yellow on Lexan and they both work extremely well, MUCH better than dry erase markers. Strong dark lines with the black, and a deep color that pop out with the yellow. I wiped them off immediately and they cleaned up completely. I will let it sit for a week to see if there is any stubborn staining but I doubt it. I will reply next week if I DO have issues, if there is NO reply, assume that they are safe for Lexan!

    1 reply

    I love the white marker on the transparent board. Does the white grease pencil come off easily from the Lexan board? I'm having a hard time locating White Quartet markers to use on Lexan.

    so all in all, which markers are the best for the Lexan clear boards??


    I've done something similar to this using an old (big) picture frame. My only gripe is that many of the colors look very faint (black and blue are the only ones that seem to stick). Do you experience this as well?

    When I first saw an episode of that show, the thing that caught my eyes was the glass whiteboard that they had. It was really interesting to see them use that thing for many good purposes. I wonder though, how much would one of those cost now days?http://www.vistavisuals.com.au/index.php/products/whiteboards/glass-whiteboards.html

    Just a thought. Maybe some of that frosted window tint would make it more visible while still being cool and see through

    Nice, although the clear glass seems like it would be hard to read off of. These are my favorite glass boards, http://www.monomachines.com/sh... , I LOVE all the bright colors!

    I've recently found some instructables and YouTube videos where they painted the back of the glass and then added contact paper to keep it from getting knicked or scratched. I know there is glass specific paint, but I've only found it in small quantities (8oz) so far. They just used cheap spray paint and it seemed to work just fine, so it wouldn't add too much cost to this project. Maybe another $15 for spray paint and contact paper.

    Wow this sounds really interesting. I have only seen glass whiteboards on television where the camera would be shooting the actors from the back and they pretend it is a normal opaque whiteboard from the front. I think even though this glass whiteboard would make it hard for the person to read from, it would still be functional and serves the main purpose. Furthermore, it would be easy moving it around the room if it is fixed with wheels.

    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.

    1 reply

    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?

    2 replies

    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.

    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.

    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?