Things You Do With a Six Foot Chalkboard: #1 Frame it with Barn Wood

Here’s the litmus test for whether or not you’ve completed a successful “old barn wood” project:

Are you still picking splinters out of your hands two days later and happy about it?

This was a four-splinter project for me, one of which is still embedded deep in my right palm, but I grin like an idiot every time I see it because I’m so damn thrilled with how this project turned out.


This hallway used to contain a cabinet that was awkwardly taking up space in the corner:


When I removed the cabinet I had a couple of different ideas about how I could better utilize this space…  I didn’t actually think I’d settled on what to do with it, but in the midst of a bad period of insomnia apparently I bought this 18×72″ chalkboard, which showed up–quite unexpectedly–on my doorstep last week.


Insomnia sucks for not looking like a zombie, but apparently it’s awesome for making decisions about accessorizing hallways. Now, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say something that might be unpopular (I know, shocking) but… I really don’t like chalkboard paint. I know it’s been all the rage for a few years, and I used it myself on this Pottery Barn inspired pinboard, and these tin containers, but as far as things I like to write on with chalk? I’m really not thrilled with the stuff.

So I did a couple of google searches to see if it was possible to get a custom cut piece of actual slate chalkboard. Either I didn’t find a place where I could procure that, or the cost was astronomical, because instead I (apparently) settled for a faux slate laminate version from billyBoards. If I had been fully conscious at the time I may have actually sprung for the magnetic porcelain version (I’m actually a little pissed I didn’t do that) but sleep and learn, I guess.

Still, this was a perfect excuse to use some of my tools that have been neglected for far, far too long…

There was about a 2 minute span of time where I thought about going to get some 1-by pine from Lowe’s to build a frame, and then I was like, um, hello, did you or did you not clean up an entire barn’s worth of old wood with your bare hands this summer? Right. So instead of going to Lowe’s I went to my very own lumber pile, complete with neatly stacked barn wood.


After hunting around for a bit I found a 2×6 (which is actually dimensionally 2″ by 6″… god, I love old building materials) that I thought would be perfect for the job.


Ideally I would have ripped this down with a table saw, but that is the one tool currently missing from my workshop so I made do with the handheld. Not as easy as the table saw, but it did the job.


Once I got the pieces ripped down, I cut the corners at a 45 and then used my palm router to create a nice little space for the chalkboard to sit in…


Have I ever mentioned how much I love having a palm router? I probably don’t sing the praises of this tool as much as I should, but it is so much easier to use for these little jobs than the big ol’ full sized router in the router table.

Anyway, once I had my notch, I dry fit everything…


(Yes, that’s the inside of my future basement door sitting there as well. It was a two-projects-at-once kind of weekend.)

Because I tend to fly by the seat of my pants when I’m building stuff like this, I usually have to make some adjustment cuts at this stage, but once I got everything snug, I used the cordless 18ga finish nailer to tack it all together.


I was debating about adding some luan to the back of the chalkboard (which is only 1/8″ thick) for stability, but I tacked it in every 4″ with the nailer first, and it’s actually pretty stable as is.


It was a pretty quick project–I think the hardest part about the whole thing was carrying it into the house without getting yet another splinter– but a lot of that has to do with having the right tools. Without the miter saw, palm router, or nailer? This whole thing would have been much more difficult. So basically what I’m saying is… go buy yourself more tools.


Right now I’m just planning to leave the board leaning up against the wall right here, where it conveniently hides the missing floor tiles from where the cabinet was, but I may attach a chain to the top and hang it from the wall eventually.


Score one for insomnia.


26 Responses

  1. When you used your palm router, did you clamp a straight edge to your border to get the space straight?

    I’ve had limited success with that. I suspect i am putting too much pressure on the router and it’s flexing the straight edge, but it seems like when I don’t apply a lot of pressure it gets away from me.

    1. Not sure if I fully understand the question, but I think the answer is “no” 😉 The router bit I used had a bearing so the edge of the board was the guide for the cut.

      If I’m just using a straight bit, then I’ll set it up on the router table that has a fence. I’ve never clamped a straight edge to the actual work piece for router work.

  2. Thanks for letting me know I need a palm router. I was thinking how I was going to build my custom bathroom mirrors frames. You solved my design problems and gave my a great reason to buy more tools. You’re amazing.

  3. I (imagine this in like, 1-million font) know I need more tools. Try convincing my husband of that fact! He’s tool-impaired. He calls an adjustable wrench a pipe-wrench, and a clamp is a grabber. Doesn’t know the diff between a mitre-saw, table-saw and a jigsaw, god luv him. Thankfully, only one of us need be handy!

    Chalkboard looks great!

  4. I live in an old farm house and I am constantly exasperating my husband as we search through Home Depot, Lowe’s or Menards looking for boards that actually fit the dimensions that describe them. “Why in the h*ll can’t this board measure an actual inch thick? It should be illegal to call something a 2×4 if it is not literally 2 inches by 4 inches! These people should be shot!!!”

  5. 1. I hate chalkboard paint too.’

    2. I am in love with my palm router. I have the Bosch Colt too and I LUUUURVE it. It fits in my tiny hands perfectly and makes many jobs so. much. easier.

    3. I think I may have to copy you on this one. It’s awesome. Problem: I have no easy access to barn wood. And where to put it? Hmm. . . .

    Thanks for the inspiration. As always.

  6. When doing a project like this, do you have any favorite music you listen to that makes the project turn out better? Also your blog left out some special words… you know the words you used each time you got one of those, awe inspiring, splinters. What are your words of choice when getting a splinter? I’m looking to expand my vocabulary during those awe inspiring moments.

  7. Looks great, the size rocks, slate is the best for writing with chalk…but you knew that already. You inspire me!
    I still want a blood transfusion from you so I can be gutsy, confident and a kick ass D.I.Y. I still have hope but I’m pushing 60…age is just a number, right?

  8. I love how you now have a place to put a list of projects that need completing so that you can always walk by it and ignore the ones on the list in favor of news ones! Score one for project ADD!
    And you have now convinced me I really do need a palm router!

  9. Good job. I made stand alone mirrors from our old closet doors using barn board about eight years ago. I still love them, but I painted them black. My motto is….Those who die with the most tools, wins!!

  10. I was planning to use barn boards to frame a mirror for my front hallway, but now I’m thinking I might go with a 2×6 too (and yes, I just happen to have actual 2x6s lying around too). I like the heavier weight of your frame. And methinks I now need a palm router… and a table saw. Thanks for being my enabler.

    1. The nice thing about ripping the 2×6 down was that I was able to put the cut side on the back, which gave me three sides of weathered wood. I wasn’t sure about the thickness of the frame at first, but it totally works.

  11. oooh, i DO want a router.

    i think there’s a cute little one on clearance at work (i work at home depot)…………..

    (this is bad thinkings ;D )

  12. I have been searching the web for very thin slate to make dollhouse roof tiles. Did the slate used for the blackboard have a wood backing on it or was it just 1/8″ slate?

  13. “..but once I got everything snug, I used the cordless 18ga finish nailer to tack it all together.” Please explain. You have a groove on the back side of the frame that the chaulkboard fits in (so it lies within the thickness dimension of the frame. But how do you ‘tack’ it to make it stay in the frame and not fall out? Do you use those tacks that are on the back of photo frames that you have to bend over or what?? surely you are not tacking (nailing) through the chaulkboard!

    1. That’s exactly what I did, actually. 18 gauge finish nails right through the board an into the frame. The type of chalkboard I used is essentially particle board with a laminate “chalkboard” finish, so that worked perfectly. You could use some thin metal corner braces as well, but this particular type of chalkboard isn’t thick enough for that.

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