I had a request to make a sandwich board for a friend's wedding reception. I wanted to make something relatively cheap that still looked good and would be functional.
The final size of this is 30" x 42", with a writing space of 22.5" x 29.5". You can buy sandwich boards that are a smaller than this one for around $60 online. That's way too expensive! I went with pallet wood because it is free, and Home Depot sells sheets of MDF with chalkboard paint on it already for $10/sheet. The overall cost on this build was around $30.
(2) Black hinges
(1) 3' black chain (strictly for aesthetics)
(2) Black nails
Step 1: Prepping Wood
I found free pallets at a business complex that allowed me to take whatever I wanted. I had to look at the pallets closely because there were termites in a few piles I came across. The pallet I used could have been of better quality. It was pretty dirty and some of the boards were chipped/broken. That being said, sandpaper and elbow grease can fix about anything.
After finding a decent pallet, I carefully removed the cross boards with a tire iron and hammer. I then de-nailed each piece by clamping them to my workbench and carefully hitting the nails from the backside of each board with a hammer. After all the pieces were separated and de-nailed, I sanded each down to clean wood with coarse sandpaper.
Step 2: Cutting Chalkboard and Assembling Frame
I was happy with the full length of the boards defining the height of the finished piece, so I cut the chalkboard to a size that would allow for the legs to extend a bit past the board (~23"x30", but I was winging all this, so it was basically eyeballed.)
I built the frame with mitered cuts on the top sections and a flush piece at the base. (rough illustration attached.) I don't have a miter saw, so I had to use a triangle and hand-cut the mitered edges. Not perfect, but they're pretty close!
I assembled the frame by using clamps and gorilla glue, then putting wood screws into the top mitered sections. I attached the bottom flush piece with gorilla glue and pocket holes. I couldn't find my kreg jig, so I made the pocket holes on the bottom of the piece by hand with a drill using this technique: http://mominmusiccity.com/how-to-make-pocket-holes-without-a-kreg-jig/ . That worked pretty well, but a kreg jig would have been cleaner.
Step 3: Routing Channel for Chalkboard and Staining
I used a 2x4 clamped to the frame as a guide and used a plunge router to create a channel for the chalkboard to sit in from behind. This worked really well, but I made the channel a little larger than it needed to be. Not a huge issue, as the screws used to attache the board hold it in place without issue.
After the channels were routed I filled in the front-facing existing nail holes with stainable wood filler. I would skip this step if I made this again. No wood filler, even if advertised as stainable, will ever match the color of the wood around it. I think the existing holes would have looked just fine and probably added to the aesthetic of the piece. Oh well...
I did one more round of sanding to the full frames with 150 grit sandpaper, then used an English Chestnut stain. I wanted it dark to cover some of the imperfections of the wood. After drying I used a 60/40 mix of polyurethane/paint thinner and a rag to get a light coat of sealant over the top of the wood.
Step 4: Attaching the Chalkboard
After the polyurethane was dry, I attached the chalkboard pieces into the frames. As I said, the channels I routed out were a bit larger than the chalkboard, but I centered the board and it had enough of a lip to hold without issue.
Countersinking the screws helped a lot with aesthetics (even though no one will see them after completion) and with getting the smaller screws deeper into the frame.
Step 5: Attaching Hardware
I laid both frames out next to each other as if the finished board was wide open. I measured the distance from the edge of the frame to each hinge to make sure they were equally spaced. Always screw in hardware screws by hand!
I liked the black chain I found, and the idea of black nails holding it in place, but the links were too wide to let the nail hold the chain in place without going through the holes. I took a pair of pliers and crimped the last link in each section of chain. That worked great!
With the hinges on and the chains crimped, I stood the board up and measured ~10" from the top. I drilled starting holes for the nails to keep them straight.
Done and done!
Step 6: Conclusion
Overall I'm pretty happy with the piece! As always, there are a few things I would do different if I were to make another one, but for winging this without a plan of any kind I think it came out great.
Things that could have been better:
- No wood filler in existing nail holes
- Cleaner mitered cuts
- More precise routed channels
- Nicer pallet wood