Chalk Board, Magnetic Board – A Gift for my Sister

The summer of 2017, and there was a coffee date with my mother and youngest sister.  We went for a walk through local stores while she looked longingly at a framed chalk board with a magnetic side to it.  Such a simple concept, it seemed, using wood that looked a bit aged with some hooks on it.  I said, “I could make that.”

She asked, “Can you?”  I was having my baby girl time with my niece, and thought it looked like an easy project, so, of course, I said this with confidence.

My grandmother had two daughters.  My mother had four daughters.  I had four daughters.  My youngest sister had two sons and a daughter. We have quite an age gap between us.   She’s raising small children while I have two adult children who have moved out and two children in high school.  She’s a busy mom who also works and has her hands full, and it seemed that such a simple longing for a wall hanging that could be a little fun and useful was a small request in comparison to the workload of her days.  I know that kind of workload.  It’s the kind where you look back and ask yourself how you did it later on in life.

After Thanksgiving and much family growth, a new tradition started in our family.  This was to draw a name for Christmas and whoever’s name you drew would get a gift from you.  There’s a limit of $50 for the gift.  Some have given gift cards which may seem redundant, but at the same time, the sister who drew my name this year gave me a gift card, and, after Christmas, I was able to buy a seriously marked down item that I wanted, but wouldn’t have purchased for myself.  In other words, the gift ended up being worth more than $50 because after Christmas sales can be quite the savings (more for less so to speak).  She ended up giving me a gift worth $80 for the gift card price of $50 – not too shabby!!!

I like to make things from the heart.  Sometimes, I get it right.  Sometimes, I try too hard.  Other times, I just don’t have the time and do a gift card.  In this case, I bit off a little more than I should have because that concept for a small chalkboard and magnet board became bigger and bigger in my head.

I started in November finding items.  I had an old frame that someone literally dropped off at my house when I put out a request for some artwork, etc. to stage a home.  What was dropped off while I was out were some old items.  Think of ducks and country decor from the 1980’s, and decor from the ’70’s as well was left in that pile .  All the things you might not want to decorate a house in this decade were dumped in my driveway.  Quite a bit of it was left on the side of the road with a sign that said, “FREE!”  Everything was gone within two hours…except this ugly frame that I kept for no good reason.

Original frame with original molding.  Chipped, ugly, and something someone would have thrown away (and did).

My guess is the frame was circa the 1970’s.  I wanted to do SOMETHING with it for awhile, but it was so ugly. There were wavy cuts on the sides of the frame purposely put there.  I hated it.  I thought the frame was hideous.  It looked bulky, chunky, and overwhelming for anything to be placed in it.  I removed the molding from it, and I cut off the wavy edges all around the sides while white paint started to chip off.  I took a paint scraper to it and scraped off all of the paint because it was a rather easy removal.  Someone had used paint right over polyurethane making it not so rough to remove.

My original idea was to wrap the frame in burlap.  I don’t know why I had that stuck in my head, but I did.  However, I started to sand and thought I should add a little color because I could see this dark, ugly frame through the burlap.  It wasn’t appealing.

Ugly frame after I cut off the sides and prior to sanding.  I flipped it over and used the back.

I had picked up a colored wood stain for $2.00 for an Oops! paint someone ditched.  After sanding down the frame, I stained it.  I was still going to wrap burlap around it and thought, “Wow, this looks really good!”  I bought some molding which was probably the most expensive part of this project due to the size of it.  I could have cut strips to do this part, but the molding was easier for me to maneuver.  I rearranged the molding to have a different effect, yet kind of go along with the same characteristics of the original frame.  I sanded the molding and rounded the edges by hand sanding.  I stained this with the colored stain as well.

MDF board painted with a primer.  I probably could have eliminated this step, but the chalk paint adhered well.


I bought MDF board and painted it with a primer.  Then, I used a sponge brush to apply chalkboard paint.  It dried, and I thought it looked terrible.  I bought a sponge roller, took down some rough spots by sanding (this was not easy), and rolled it out a second time.  I loved how it looked after the sponge roller.

I came across some steel at the local hardware store.  It caught my eye because it had a rustic look to it from a distance.  Upon coming closer to it, I noticed someone had returned a piece of steel that was rusted.  Most of the employees at this hardware store know me.  I turned to one and said, “This doesn’t look right.  Is there any way I could get it at a discount?  Apparently, it was returned after being left out.”  Sure enough, I was able to purchase it at 50% off.  I came home and used a rust remover that I already had to clean the rust off.  I was told to use steel wool, but that would have scratched it up.

The rust remover worked well, but I added some baking soda to remove the tough spots.  A little work left it looking rustic still without me having to do anything fancy to achieve that effect.  I cut a piece of thin, light board I had to glue to the back, and laid the steel on a piece of cardboard, glue on the back (I roughed it up with some sand paper), and the thin plywood over it that I cut to size.  I laid mason blocks over the back of it because this thin piece of wood liked to warp.

Prior to sanding the frame and laying down new molding cut to size.

After laying the chalkboard and steel in the frame, I determined where I was placing my molding pieces.  The middle part was a bit tricky as old frames aren’t always square nor the best thing in the world to work out.  I used glue on the edges of the middle piece of molding and stapled it into place on the back to hold it.

Placing together and deciding to use water stain a second time to make the colors of the old wood and new match better.

This glue I had bought was on a recommendation, and  I thoroughly regretted it.  To me, it was like a rubber cement.  However, with the snow storms that kept coming, going back and forth to the store was an issue.  I decided to make do with it, but kept expressing my thorough dislike of the product vocally and loud to anyone within hearing range.  I had to use it to secure the wobbly frames.  Not only that, but a staple gun, small brad nails, etc.  When I was building the frame to fit the chalkboard, I put it together apart from the main frame and secured it with the glue.  When it dried a bit, I turned it over and put brad nails through it so the molding on the front didn’t have visible nails.

I held the back of the chalkboard and steel piece in with nails, but, were I to do it over and not have to fight weather to get to a hardware store when I needed, I would have done it differently by using thin plywood to hold it in or another method.

On the front, I installed hooks that I bought in packs of two.  The basket is for holding chalk, an eraser, or anything else she feels like putting in it.  This is a basket that is sold to attach to your sink to hold sponges.  I had this idea to clamp it on, and I found some tiny clamps that I knew would work in a package that was meant for a hook and clamp.  Due to the basket being made of wire, I could fit a long screwdriver through it to attach it to the frame.

My eldest was visiting for the holidays and lives near my family.  My intent was for her to take this back with her as it was too large and heavy to mail.  I ran out of time before my daughter left to wax the wood.  Yes, I wanted to wax it rather than use polyurethane to give it a rustic feel…but a satin water based poly that brushed on would have worked just fine.  At any rate, the waxing is something anyone can do easily, and I was positive my crafty sister would be able to handle that portion.

As for hanging, not knowing the restrictions she might face, I left that to her as well.

So, the question might be, how much did this actually cost to make?  I could have made it smaller.  I could have left off hooks. I could have left out the little metal basket.  I could have given up the extras – no chalk, no eraser, no magnets, but I WANTED her to have it all..down to me picking up magnets with positive things about life itself.

I went over budget.  So be it.  Giving her something handmade is something you can’t put a price on….but, now, I want one for myself.  My husband refers to our house as the contractor’s house…it’s the one that doesn’t get those cool chalkboard and magnetic boards installed.  Perhaps, that type of specialty item exists for those whose names get drawn.  I did tell her if she didn’t want it that she could send it back to me, but my mother said, “It’s too late.  We already saw it.”  With that, I have doubts that I will get a returned item, but am happy that my sister found joy in it.  I imagine she might find some chalkboard drawings that she didn’t make, but that’s the kind of thing it’s meant for…kids with chalk and moms with magnets.


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