DIY Giant Chalkboard with a Vintage Schoolroom Look

Learn how to make a DIY giant chalkboard with a vintage, schoolroom vibe… For under $20!


step by step tutorial for how to make a giant chalkboard with a vintage schoolroom look... for cheap!

I’m not proud of it, but I’ve always been a bit of a teacher’s pet.

You know the kind…  Straight A’s, obnoxiously perfect behavior (at least when the teacher was looking 😉 ), and first to volunteer to beat the erasers when she asked.

And yes, I’m totally serious.  My “old school” school growing up had giant chalkboards in each classroom and plenty of chalk erasers.  I imagine that inhaling all that chalk when beating the erasers each week was probably not very good for me, but it definitely helped prepare me for messy DIY projects to come. :)

learn how to build a huge chalkboard like this for less than $20!

And, of course, now that I’m a vintage-loving homeschooling mom, I couldn’t resist the addition of a giant chalkboard in our space.  You can get a fuller tour of our schoolroom (and organization tips!) here if you’re interested.  Now without further ado, here’s the promised tutorial for a giant DIY vintage chalkboard!

How to make a cheap giant chalkboard with a vintage look:

Materials needed:

  • 1 – 4×4′ sheet of 1/4″ plywood (I had mine cut to 3’x4′ at the home improvement store)
  • 2 – 8′ long, 6″  (actual size: 5/8″ x 5.5″ x 8′) wide cedar fence pickets
  • chalkboard spray paint
  • 220 grit sandpaper
  • palm sander
  • hammer (or other tools for distressing)
  • miter saw
  • wood glue
  • heavy things (like paint cans) to weigh down frame while glue dries
  • cordless drill
  • 5/8″ screws
  • D-ring hangers

How to:

  1. (not pictured) prep your plywood by cutting to desired size and sanding any rough areas
  2. spray paint your plywood with chalkboard paint
    (tip: use 3-4 light coats and sand lightly with 220 grit sandpaper in between coats)
  3. prep your fence pickets by sanding and distressing if desired (I sanded mine a LOT because I didn’t want splinters)
    (tip: give your kids hammers and let them go to town… my favorite distressing technique! 😉 )
  4. using a miter saw, cut one end of your first fence picket at a 45° angle
    (tip: use a speed square or protractor to make sure you have an exact angle!)
  5. measuring the outside corners, cut your first board so that the longer measurement reads at least 52″ but no more than 54″ (it should be shaped like this: /____\ )
  6. cut your second piece (from the same fence picket) so that the longer side measures at least 40″ but no more than 42″
  7. cut the other fence picket to match those to boards exactly
    (tip: just lay the boards you already cut on top of the ones you are cutting… see 4th image below)
  8. dry fit your frame around your chalkboard
  9. put a liberal wavy line of glue on the outside edge of the chalkboard (the part that will be covered by the frame)
    (tip: don’t let the glue seep out!  it will keep the chalk from drawing on the chalkboard)
    step by step tutorial for how to make a giant chalkboard with a vintage schoolroom look... for cheap!
  10. before you fit the actual pieces of the frame together, glue the angled cuts that will be facing the other angled cuts (see below)
  11. once your frame is in place, weigh it down with something heavy (I used full paint cans) and let it sit for several hours to dry
  12. once dry, turn the frame over and pilot 8 holes: one on each end of each board
    (tip: be sure you don’t let your drill go all the way through the front of your frame!)
  13. insert 5/8″ screws into your pilot holes to secure the frame to the chalkboard
  14. (optional) stain or paint your frame, though I opted to leave it natural
  15. attach D-rings where desired
    (tip: try to line them up with your studs on the wall where you intend to hang the chalkboard)
  16. hang your chalkboard and be sure to “season” it (rub all over with chalk) and wipe off before you actually write on it!
    step by step tutorial for how to make a giant chalkboard with a vintage schoolroom look... for cheap!

A few notes regarding the frame: if you do not have access to a miter saw (or the idea of angles frightens you), you can always use straight cuts; I just prefer the mitered look.  It’s not difficult but your angles need to be accurate or it won’t work!

tutorial for this diy chalkboard: more than 3x4 feet and less than $20!

Also, you can adjust the frame size by a few inches (I made mine to fit this space exactly); just make sure you have enough overlap of your chalkboard to to secure the glue.

love that old school chalkboard! Tips for Organizing a Homework Space

Finally, you can always route a groove into your frame so that the chalkboard sits inside the frame; for that matter, you can try pocket screws to secure your frame independent of the chalkboard (though these pickets are so thin I think it would be difficult)… but I think that’s the beauty of this. It doesn’t require fancy tools or difficult joinings (you could even use a miter box to cut the cedar pickets if you want).  The edge of the plywood does, however, show behind the frame if you stare from the right angle, but I think it’s incredibly subtle.

side view cedar frame of diy giant chalkboard

What do you think?  And don’t worry, even though I let my 4 and 6 year old hammer the heck out of the frame, I promise not to make them beat any erasers.  Gotta have some standards, right? 😉

step by step tutorial for how to make a giant chalkboard with a vintage schoolroom look... for cheap!

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