I think it’s safe to say that most people–if they want a forty-eight square foot chalkboard in their mudroom–would go out and buy a couple of quarts of chalkboard paint, roll that shit on, and call it a day.
I, on the other hand, decided to build myself a six foot by eight foot, two hundred pound freestanding chalkboard. Because really, what fun would life be if you weren’t constantly under the threat of being smashed by a very large piece of slate*?
That’s right. I like to keep things exciting on the farm. Also, I hate chalkboard paint.
So let me tell you about this ridiculously large chalkboard that I built. People often ask me how I manage the farm, the house, and the rest of my life (that includes an actual full-time job) without going completely bat-shit crazy. Truth: I don’t. I’m flying by the seat of my pants most of the time. Over the last year I’ve told myself that I’m not going to be able to get everything done if I don’t have a good system for managing things. Chalkboards have been my organizational medium of choice, as evidenced by this tall chalkboard…
And my extra large desk calendar…
But, surprisingly, neither of these things had quite the, ah, width, to handle all of the stuff that goes on my little farm. I’m not sure how the big farms do it, but I decided to manage everything by building a chalkboard that could fall over and turn me into a Kit-pancake.
I’m so full of good ideas.
So here’s how this future-catastrophe went down (or, I guess, up):
I really wanted the chalkboard to be 6×6 to fit the dimensions of the room, but it ended up being significantly cheaper for me to buy two 4×6′ chalkboards. Let’s be honest, it’s just a little large for the space, but I’m not going to argue with twelve more square feet of room to write down stuff I need to do.
In order to frame this beast in, the donkeys helped me select just the right wood from the rubble pile…
And then I laid it out to get a good feel for how big the chalkboard would be.
There was a lot of time spent pulling rusty old nails out of the boards at this point so that I could cut the pieces down to size. Have I mentioned how much I love this miter saw lately?
Also, have I mentioned how hard it is to square a frame that is significantly taller and wider that you are? This is the first time I’ve tried this, and it sucked…
In fact, to this day I remain unconvinced of its squareness.
Anyway, I knew the actual chalkboards (which I purchased) weighed around 150 pounds put together, plus twenty-eight lineal feet of 2×6 barn wood, so I had a good indication that this thing wasn’t going to be light-like-a-feather. I also didn’t really comprehend that it would be over two-hundred pounds. Luckily I decided to fabricate it in the mudroom to minimize transportation.
I joined the pieces with some very large angle brackets. Since I didn’t have clamps big enough to hold this beast together to ensure a tight fit, I decided to let the drill do the work for me. You can see I set the screws towards the “far” end of the bracket holes so that when I tightened it down, it would bring the pieces more closely together.
Worked like a charm.
To set the chalkboard, originally I was planning to cut a notch in the frame pieces so that it would fit inside, but after some consideration I decided that might cost me an eyeball given the number of rusty nails embedded in the old wood of the frame. Instead I decided to rip down some barn wood that was the same thickness as the chalkboard.
I nailed these pieces to the back of the frame to create a “lip” the chalkboard could set in. Then, I attached the chalkboards with some metal straps and shims.
And all of that was easy compared to the singular task of reaching down, picking up this heavy-ass chalkboard, and then lifting it over my head to prop it against the wall.
That shit was crazy. One pound heavier and I’m not sure if I would have been able to get it upright. As it was, I had a moment mid-lift where I thought I wasn’t going to make it, but it’s amazing the kind of strength you can muster when the alternative is being crushed like a tin can on an ugly pink floor.
Once the chalkboard was in place, I used a projector hooked up to my computer to make a first pass at “chalking the field”. (I mean that as literally as possible. I actually chalked the outline of my field on this thing.) My plan was to include an aerial view of the property, and my typical chore lists.
As with many first-drafts, this one left something to be desired.
I ended up going back to chalkboard genius Dana Tanamatchi for some inspiration for the header…
And I’ve been slowly filling the rest of it in over the last week.
I love the center of the chalkboard. The greeting, and the aerial view of about a third of the property…
I’m still working on the lists a bit, but I’ve tried out a few different looks…
The board includes:
- Yearly “calendar” for notes by month
- Garden planning (including quantities and planned rotation of plants)
- Current 5 project list
- Farm chores list
- Notes throughout the site plan of timing to turn compost piles, future structures/landscaping, and property maintenance.
It’s still a (very large) work in progress. The lists and uses may change, and if one day I don’t need forty-eight square feet of chalkboard to manage my life, I can always turn it into a huge piece of art. But since that day is not going to be tomorrow, the next thing I’ll be tackling on this board is “The Back Four” which will include my plan for planting some kind of crop(s) before fall and spring of next year.
And that is what you do with a ridiculously large chalkboard.
*It’s not actually slate. It’s half-inch particle board skinned with a magnetic porcelain surface but that didn’t sound nearly as much fun to be smashed by.