Ruler-Framed Chalkboard Sign Tutorial

Chalkboard and I go together like Jackson Pollock and splatter paint, like Martha Stewart and apple pie, like Marilyn Monroe and subway grates.  I’m sort of a chalkboard fanatic.  In fact, you’ll find further evidence in my latest chalkboard creation: a vintage ruler-framed chalkboard sign!

This past July, my husband Mark and I got to spend our fourth wedding anniversary with my family in Ocean Grove, NJ.  We’ve done this every summer since we got married on the shore there and always enjoy getting our surf on, devouring ice cream at Day’s, and bike riding on the boardwalk.

During one bike ride through Asbury Park, we stopped at a little shop in The Grand Arcade called Carla Gizzi.  There, we picked up two ruler-framed chalkboards, and within a matter of a few weeks, we found opportunities to give them both away!  (They made great thank you gifts.)

So, naturally, I did what any d.i.y.-lovin’ person would do: I made some of my own.

Ruler Frame Chalkboard Sign Tutorial by The Thinking Closet

Here’s the tutorial, so you can play along at home!  And I’m going to be sure to tell you what not to do…because this project definitely almost became a craft fail!  #crisisaverted


Step 1.  Prep your supplies.  I decided to use leftover fiber-board from our recent IKEA wardrobe hack as the surface of our chalkboard.  A piece of wood would also suffice.  First, we measured out 14.5″ x 9.5″ boards.

Measure twice, cut once!

Then, using our Rigid circular saw, we cut the boards.  I even got in on the cutting action with my new 3M protective eyewear from my SWAG bag at Haven blog conference!  Watch out, now!

Circular Saw and Protective Eyewear in Action

Circular saw for cutting fiber board.

Next, we used our Craftsman miter saw (a.k.a. chop saw) to slice some yardsticks into pieces.  With 4 yardsticks, we had enough wood to frame 3 different signs.  Just do the math so you have 6 pieces at 13″ and 6 pieces at 10″.

Cutting the yardstick pieces with the miter saw.

I even took a hammer and some nails and screws to one surface of each yardstick piece to bang ’em up a bit…make them seem a bit more rustic and weathered as opposed to fresh off the shelf from Hobby Lobby.  If I could do it again, I would go even rougher on them!  Give ’em more “oomph!”

Weathering wood with a hammer, nails, and screws.

Step 2.  Stain your yardstick pieces.  I could have used regular wood stain on these pieces to give them that vintage appearance; however, I was chatting with my new bloggy buddy Candace from Vintage News Junkie at Haven about using tea (yes, tea as in a “spot of tea”) to stain wood…she had great success tea-staining clothespins, so I gave it a try!

I loaded up a pot of water with 15 tea bags and let it come to a rolling boil.  (In fact, so rolling that it overflowed a bit when I wasn’t looking.  Whoopsie-daisy!)

Tea Brewing in preparation of staining!

Then, I split the tea-saturated water between two 9″ x 13″ casserole dishes and placed my yardstick pieces beneath the surface.  They needed some weight to keep them from all floating to the top.

For a natural method of wood staining, try staining with tea!

There they soaked for 11 hours!  After they had soaked up the tea and darkened to the point where I was satisfied, I removed them from the liquid and placed them on a dish-towel to dry overnight.  Meanwhile….

Step 3.  Create your chalkboard surface.  Okay, here’s where I’m going to jump in and tell you what not to do.  If your fiber-board has a rough surface and a shiny smooth surface, don’t think you’re clever and opt for the smooth surface that you think it will be easier to write on.  Even with some spray paint primer, I found that the paint chipped right off when writing with a piece of chalk!  In fact, it gets worse.  I tried to muscle through and have a Tim Gunn “make it work” moment, but the hot glue would not adhere to that smooth surface either, so the frame literally fell apart on me when I was taking photos.  One ruler piece even ended up in the lake!  #craftfail  I gasped, then I laughed, and then I ran back inside to start again.  I certainly couldn’t have these cute signs falling apart on us!

The key for success in round two was using the rougher side of the board.  From there on out, I had no problem with adhesion whatsoever.  Lesson learned.

In terms of paint, I decided to try out Martha Stewart’s brand of chalkboard acrylic paint and used a foam brush to apply it to the boards.  The bottle calls for 2 coats with an hour of dry time in between.  I gave it three to be on the safe side!  Then, I let them dry overnight.

Martha Stewart Chalkboard Paint

Step 4.  Pre-treat the chalkboard with…chalk!  In the morning, I conditioned the chalkboard by running some white chalk lengthwise all over the board in a circular motion.  Then, I used a soft towel to gently rub the chalk away.  (Rumor has it that this step of pre-treatment makes it easier to erase messages on the board in the future!  Whad’ya know?)

Conditioning or pre-treating the chalkboard with chalk!

Step 5.  Tack your twine to the chalkboard surface.  If you want your chalkboard sign to have a twine string to allow it to be hung from a hook, then be sure to tack your twine within 1″ of the top of the chalkboard surface using tape or glue.  This is only a temporary bond.  The twine will be permanently secured in the next step.

Tacking the twine prior to gluing.

Step 6.  Glue down the yardstick pieces to create a frame.  Next, I pulled out the big guns: my hot glue gun!  Although you could use a nail gun or craft glue and clamps for this step, I opted for my adhesive of choice: hot glue.  I pre-set my pieces first, then glued down the top piece, sure to really douse the twine in hot glue to ensure its adhesion.  Then, I built the rest of the frame around it.

The final step!  Hot gluing the pieces of the ruler frame to the board.

And just like that, my vintage ruler-framed chalkboard sign was complete!  And then I made two more!  And had way too much fun writing messages all over them.

I think these signs would make a fun message board…

Ruler Frame Chalkboard Sign - - fun to use as a message board!

…or the perfect hospitality gift…

Ruler Frame Chalkboard Tutorial - - a great hospitality gift!

…or how about a back-to-school teacher gift!

Ruler Frame Chalkboard Tutorial - - perfect "back-to-school" gift for teachers or for a first-day-of-school photo of your child!

I have a hunch these three are going to find new homes pretty soon, but now that I’ve perfected my d.i.y. method, it’ll be no trouble whipping out some more.  I hope you have fun creating yours, too!

Want more chalkboard inspiration?

Feel free to explore my round-up of 20 D.I.Y. Chalkboard Projects!  Some are other chalkboard projects I done and most are gems I’ve found around blogland.  So, if you want even more inspiration, I welcome you to check it out!

And to see this post on Or So She Says where it first appeared in a blog hop with 9 other chalkboard projects, click here!

Happy hump day!  {Linking up here.}


Lovely comments so far...

    • thethinkingcloset says

      You are right, m’dear! Those portrait chalkboards are so hot right now. Oh, and I see you figured out how to hyperlink your blog title. Was there a special trick for working through that glitch?

  1. says

    Oh, Lauren! I love it! I can just picture making this for a (future) child’s teacher as an appreciation gift! But it could work in so many more areas! You, my friend are super-duper talented!

    P.S.- The photos with you using the circular saw = awesome sauce! It makes me want to shout “You go, girl!” :)

    • thethinkingcloset says

      Thanks for the exclamatory shouts for my circular saw action, Audra! I admit, that tool does scare me sometimes, but every time I use it, I feel a boost to the ole confidence and think, “That wasn’t so bad! And I still have all ten fingers!” Ha ha.

      And I’m glad you have visions for how to use the chalkboard sign for the future. I share the same visions!

    • thethinkingcloset says

      You are crazy…crazy cool!!! I, too, love those safety glasses…and my husband thinks they’re the coolest thing since sliced bread! :-)

  2. Mom L says

    Love these Lauren! It gave me an idea that wouldn’t it be so cute to use these when photographing the kids, (have them hold up or set it beside them) a cute little chalk board with their name & age written on it. Helps to have that info. years later when you can’t tell which kid it is nor how old they were!

    • thethinkingcloset says

      Brilliant! Yes, it would not only be cute, but oh so practical. Perfect for a first day of school photo shoot. Come to think of it, just because we are all no longer school aged doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get annual portraits, too! Hmmm…I think I know what we’ll be doing at our next family get-together! I’ll bring the chalkboard sign. :-)

  3. says

    ADORABLE! I have always wanted a chalkboard wall. Doesn’t that sound magical? A chalkboard wall…yep, that is going to happen. What a smart way to stain the rulers. In my longboard designing I have used watercolor to stain the wood and it has worked really well. obviously i couldn’t fit a longboard inside a pan or pot. So now i am not sure why i brought this up… BUT what a good idea!

    • thethinkingcloset says

      Ummmm…yes! That does sound magical, Dusty! I do hope you can make that happen. And I love that you’re a longboard designer…it only adds to your cool factor. And that’s brilliant to use watercolor to “stain” the wood. Do you seal it to set the color in the wood for the long haul? I’d love to be your apprentice for a day and see your entire process in person. That’d be awesome! (Hmmm…vlogging idea for you, perhaps? Wink wink.)

  4. says

    Great and entertaining tute! I love chalkboards too. You might remember my blackboard is a constant companion because it is THE best for math and all ideas, big and small. I really love the ruler touch. It looks great. :)

    • thethinkingcloset says

      Oh yes siree-Bob, I do remember your awesome-blossom blackboard laptop. Now THAT is genius, Sharon. Truly unforgettable!

  5. Jessica says

    It looks great! I like yours even better than the one you purchased….no lie! I’m also impressed that you single handedly wielded a power saw. My husband won’t let me touch his as he expresses some random concern over clumsiness and his fear of me missing fingers. Unfortunately whenever I protest he cites the one time I got a quilting needle stuck in and broken off in my knee and had to go to urgent care to have it removed under x-ray. Man, 12 years of sewing and only one time a needle gets stuck in your leg, and that’s what he remembers. So, power tools are currently off limits to me.

    On a second random side note, I love your use of both “a spot of tea” and “whoopsie-daisy”. Brought me instant smiles. Hope you and many of your loved ones are enjoying new chalkboards!

    • thethinkingcloset says

      Aw, thanks for the high praise! And I was a bit fearful myself of missing fingers (I’ve been known to be a clumsy one, too…always bumping into things that “jump” out at me)…but I’m also stubborn, and felt like it was high time I got more comfortable with our power tools…saws included! Thankfully, I came out unscathed. If only they had safety gloves for your hands! (Ha ha. Knowing the internet, they probably do.)

      And ouchie! The thought of a quilting needle in your knee makes me cringe; reminds me of some of Mark’s stories from the E.R. that make my stomach flip. Anyway, glad they got it out…and that Ryan is a cautious and protective man!

      Ha ha. It delights me that you picked out my playful word choices; you always do! Perhaps it’s why I keep ’em coming. 😉 (You and my sister would get along swimmingly with your vintage vocabularies alone!) Hope you’re having a fantastic week, friend.

  6. Marmie says

    Related to Mom L’s comment, how about making this with the top ruler-edge flexible (attached with a screw?) so someone could hold it in front of a photo shoot like a Take One, Take Two…etc. :-)

    • thethinkingcloset says

      Ha ha. I love that you can see my “thumbprint” on this project! That’s always reassuring to hear. Guess I gave it away with the ‘holla! 😉 Thanks for stopping by to check it out, friend!

  7. says

    I need to make one of these for my classroom asap! :) Thanks for linking up to the “Get Your DIY On” link up party! Hope to see you back tomorrow night at 7 PM with your Halloween projects!

    • thethinkingcloset says

      It’d be tons of fun for a classroom! Especially as an homage to the chalkboards of our youth. “Step aside, whiteboards. Chalkboards are making a comeback!”

      And thanks for the invitation, April! I have a few Halloween projects in draft mode, getting ready to be published this week! (It’s almost like you guys read my calendar or something…lol.) Can’t wait to share!

  8. says

    This such and adorable craft. I might have to make a class set (I’m an in-home preschool teacher) so that each of my kiddos can have one. We could take them outside too. They love working with chalk but they get tired of drawing on the driveway. We also find it a bit difficult to share the chalk board easel from time to time. :) Thank you for this adorable idea!


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