Build a Stunningly Clever Chalkboard Easel from 3 Boards


Oh, how I love Craftsman architecture.  The simplicity, the raw wood.  The exposed construction.  The Frank Lloyd Wright.  There is just something about the style that sits well with me - it looks good, it feels comfortable and solid.  Having that on my mind when I set out to draw up plans for a simple chalkboard easel I've been coveting, it's no surprise I went that direction with the details.

Aside from the lovely Craftsman styling, this easel has another redeeming feature - down-to-the-wire materials efficiency.  I can't stand over-buying wood for a project and even worse, getting to the end of a project with a pile of perfectly good,  almost-long-enough scraps of wood.  So, this sweet little easel uses almost every inch of exactly 3 boards, no more.  Three!

Only simple woodworking tools are required.  I've designed the chalkboard surface to be made entirely of a cut 1x6 board, rather than a sheet of plywood.  Why?  Well, plywood comes in huge 4' x 8' sheets and it's expensive.  Way more than we need, way more than any of us wants to haul around needlessly.  Plus, cutting plywood nicely is not my favorite task.  So, you get to come along on my ride instead! 

Now, if you happen to have a scrap of plywood, a scrap of any wood really, or boards of any size or shape, you can cobble the back together however you'd like (pallet people, I'm looking at you)... it will be great no matter what!

 

Materials

2 - 1x3 boards @ 8' long

1 - 1x6 board @ 8' long

Simple spruce / pine / fir lumber is all you need

1 hinge - 1" x 2"  (anything that isn't larger than 2.5" wide will work)

Tools

Saw - a miter saw is nice but a hacksaw, jig saw or even a hand saw will work

Drill, drill bit & driving bit (looks like a screwdriver end)

Screws - 1 1/4" wood screws (these have a square head and fit a #8 Robertson screwdriver bit... this is the most common size) and a few 3/4" or 1/2" screws for attaching the hinge

Hammer & a few finishing nails

Wood glue

Optional - sander or even just a piece of sandpaper or sanding block to smooth the splinters off the cut edges

Ignore that extra 1x3 - I grabbed an extra but it's not needed!

Ignore that extra 1x3 - I grabbed an extra but it's not needed!

 

Step One

Cut all wood to size.

Cutting list:

5 - 1x6 @ 19"

2 - 1x3 @ 40"

2 - 1x3 @ 25"

1 - 1x3 @ 26"

1 - Remaining 1x3 scrap (save it!)

Optional - 4 - 1x3 @ 1/2" (these make the decorative shelf gables)

Some tips:  When you are cutting multiples of the same size, measure and cut one board, then mark it to use as your pattern (I use a 'P').  Mark all the rest of the boards with this one piece.  This saves time from remeasuring every board and also prevents each board getting progressively longer if you measure each board with the last one cut.  Also, if you can do it, stacking wood on top of each other and cutting 2 at once both saves time and ensure they are both exactly the same length.

Mark the first 19" board

Mark the first 19" board

Use a square to mark the entire line

Use a square to mark the entire line

Line up your saw blade teeth just on the outside of the line. A small 'x' on the wrong side of the line can help you remember which side to cut off.

Line up your saw blade teeth just on the outside of the line. A small 'x' on the wrong side of the line can help you remember which side to cut off.

Mark your first piece so you know it is your pattern

Mark your first piece so you know it is your pattern

Use it to mark all of the other boards.  Mark each board before cutting, don't mark them all at once (your saw blade will take off a bit of wood and by the end your last board will be much shorter than the first)

Use it to mark all of the other boards.  Mark each board before cutting, don't mark them all at once (your saw blade will take off a bit of wood and by the end your last board will be much shorter than the first)

All the 1x6s stacked and ready.  See the small scrap left over?

All the 1x6s stacked and ready.  See the small scrap left over?

Mark one 40" board.  Stack and cut them both at once.

Mark one 40" board.  Stack and cut them both at once.

Slide the boards down and mark them at 25"; cut together.

Slide the boards down and mark them at 25"; cut together.

Cut ONE board at 26' and set the other aside for your leg.

Cut ONE board at 26' and set the other aside for your leg.

All the cut wood ready to go

All the cut wood ready to go

Step Two

Cut the top frame corners.

Mark and cut the corners off of one 25" piece.  You can either mark both points and draw a line between, lining up your saw blade to match, or you can mark the side point and set your saw blade to about 20 degrees.  Either will work, it doesn't have to be an exact angle, just has to be the same on both sides.  Flip your board over to cut the second side - it's a good idea to mark the corners you want to cut off with a little X on both the front and back before you start cutting.

The exact angle really doesn't matter here, as long as both sides are the same.

The exact angle really doesn't matter here, as long as both sides are the same.

Flip the board to cut the other corner.  It can help to mark both lower edges, on both front and back, with small 'x's before you start cutting.

Flip the board to cut the other corner.  It can help to mark both lower edges, on both front and back, with small 'x's before you start cutting.

Step Three

Build the frame.

Mark each of the 40" pieces at 10" from the bottom.

Mark each of the 25" pieces at 1.5" from each end.

Lay the longer pieces on the ground or a large table. 

Lay one 25" piece across at the top (the piece with the corner cuts), lining up the 1.5" overhang on each side.

Lay the other 25" piece across at the 10" mark, again lining up the 1.5" overhang.

Making sure that everything is about square, glue all intersections and fasten with one screw (pre-drill a hole so that the wood doesn't split).

Check for square by measuring corner to corner and adjusting as needed. (Press the corners of the longer measurement together.)  Act quickly before the glue dries.

Step Four

Add the chalkboard pieces.

On the top of each 40' side board, mark a line 1.5" from the top edge.

Line up the 1x6 pieces along the back using your marks as a guide for the top edge and center them side to side (there should be 1" overlapping on each side edge).

Once they are all in place, lift them one by one, starting at the top, and glue & screw them down.  Pre-drill each screw hole to ensure the wood doesn't split.  One screw on each side will be enough to hold them together.  Be careful to not screw too close to the edge of side board below.

Step Five

Add the back leg.

With the back side still facing up, center the last scrap of 1x3 left over from all the cuts.  It doesn't matter exactly how long it is but it should be about 30" long.  Line up the bottom with the bottom of the legs (a little shorter is ok, but not longer or it will be wobbly when folded up).  Mark the top edge with a pencil

Line up your hinge with the hinged edge above your pencil line.  Mark the holes, pre-drill and then screw it on with the smaller screws.

Now hold the 1x3 at 90 degrees on the the backing and centered on the hinge.  Mark the holes and pre-drill.  Set it back up and screw the hinge on.  (You may need a helper for the part or get creative and hold the board up with something heavy on the other side so you can get the screws started.)

When folded down, make sure the easel can rest on the front legs without the back leg making it tippy... you may need to trim a little off of the back leg to get it up and out of the way (this happened to a 'friend', not me).

With the leg folded down, drill a hole through the leg and the last horizontal piece of chalkboard (but not through the front horizontal frame piece).

Step Six

Add the top board

Stand the easel up (being careful the leg doesn't slide out).  Line up the 26" board centered side to side on the top, with the back flush with the backside of the legs.  There will be overhang on the front edge.  Attach with a thin line of glue and finishing nails. 

Step Seven

Finishing

Sand off any rough cut edges and finish as you like.  I did a few light coats of chalkboard paint (I used some from the dollar store since I'm not worried about it holding up outside or long term (I just need it for an event and then holiday decorating inside) but there are a million recipes out there as well as spray paints, use whatever suits you) and then a quick layer of gel stain.  I didn't mask off anything, just was careful edging in the chalkboard paint, but you could use painter's tape if you would rather (or if a smudge would bother you - my stain was dark enough that I didn't care about a few stray marks).

Use a small rope, twine or ribbon to connect the leg to the frame.  I used a rope I made from fabric scraps.  Tie a knot in one end and fish the other end through the hole in the frame.  Pass it through the leg and tie a second knot to hold the frame open at the angle you would like.

You might want to condition your chalkboard with chalk if you will be using it (Layer it on with a sideways piece of chalk, then wipe off).  I'm planning on using a waxy chalkboard crayon so I didn't do that.

Stand back and admire your work!


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