DIY | Chalkboard Sign

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As a team building exercise during a retreat we hosted here at Explorations Early Learning Intergalactic Headquarters for staff of Butterfly Hills Nature Preschool, I supervised construction of three chalkboard signs.

They’ll be used around the center by staff and children to alert others about important stuff: “please don’t knock down my block building”, “mud pies for sale”, “Doctor’s Office”.

Here’s an overview of the project for anyone wanting to give it a try.

Supplies

  • Two Gallon Plastic Bucket
  • Concrete Mix
  • Water
  • Wood Panel
  • 100 grit sandpaper
  • Painting Supplies
  • Primer
  • Chalkboard Paint
  • Log/Branch (Approximately 3 Inches In Diameter)
  • Wood Screws

Pick Your Paint

We used RUST-OLEUM tintable chalkboard paint, I’m sure there are other brands out there. RUST-OLEUM also offers this paint ready mixed in green, black, and a clear finish. The clear stuff would be great for adding a chalk-able surface to an already painted surface.

Prepare Your Panel

We prepped three panels for the Butterfly Hill build. The round panel was purchased pre cut. The other two were sliced from a larger panel I picked up at the lumber yard. The rectangle is about 18 inches by 30 inches. The other was about 18 inches square before I clipped its corners.

Each panel received two coats of oil based primer and then two coats of the chalkboard paint. The smoother the surface, the better it’ll work as a chalkboard. With that in mind, the panels were thoroughly sanded before the first coat of primer and given a light sanding between each coat of paint.

Secure Your Post

The painted panel is supported by a post set in concrete. I used logs about 3 inches in diameter to give the signs a rustic look. A purchased post similar in size would work fine. I sliced a hunk out of each post so that the panels would have a small lip to sit on. This isn’t necessary, but does make the panels more stable. The posts I used ranged in length from about 36 inches to 40 inches.

We drilled a few small holes in the bottoms of the buckets to help drain any moisture that gets into the buckets.

From there, the concrete was mixed in the buckets and then the posts were worked down into the wet mixture. You’ll want a thick mixture so the posts won’t tip before it hardens.

Let the concrete dry over night.

Attach Panel To Post

Now, screw the painted panel to the concreted post and you’re done. Almost. You might need to touch up the paint a bit and there might be a bit of concrete residue to clean off the bucket and post.

It’s also probably best to let your new sign sit–unused– for about a week while the paint and concrete cure.

Variations

Here are a couple variations on this theme you could try:

  • Paint a slab of plywood, as described above, and mount it to a wall. A 4 foot by 8 foot piece mounted low on a preschool classroom wall, or a smaller version in a child’s bedroom, would be great fun.
  • Paint a number of smaller boards (10 inches by 10 inches up to 12 inches by 18 inches) and allow kids to move them around the classroom as needed for dramatic play, block play, and more.
  • Apply the chalkboard paint directly to a wall. I see a couple drawbacks here. One, wall surfaces are not generally as smooth as a wood panel. Two, kids might not know where to stop with their chalk–especially if you apply the clear chalkboard paint to a already painted wall.

On The Road

The signs the Butterfly Hills team built had to head out shortly after the build was complete, but we’ll update this post with additional photos once they get put into action.

Thoughts, Experiences, And Ideas Welcome

If you have experiences with chalkboard paint, if you try this idea, or if you have other ideas for using chalkboard paint, please share in the comments.

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Jeff is an early learning speaker, toymaker, podcaster, content creator, author, and founder of Playvolution HQ who is really bad at getting his picture taken.

After nearly 30 years working in early learning programs, Tasha now devotes her time to making Explorations Early Learning and Playvolution HQ work, quilting, and taking care of her pet duck, Tape.

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