Homemade Easel and Chalkboard Frame

My sister is getting married next month (congrats!!). During her wedding planning she found a picture of an easel with a chalkboard frame on it with the clever saying “Choose a seat not a side. We’re all family once the knot is tied.” She asked if I could make something similar. That was 10 months ago. Her wedding is next month. Sounds like a perfect time to get it built.

For those who are interested I do have a detailed set of plans available. The plans include a materials list, two different material options for either 3/4” or 1-1/2” thick stock, appropriate layout diagrams for each stock setup, 3D assembly diagrams with written instructions for each step, and the SketchUp file I used to create the plan. Those plans can be found HERE.

I wanted the easel frame to be 1-1/2” but couldn’t find any 2x dimensional lumber that was clear enough for this build. I didn’t want any knots or major defects showing not only because they would show through the paint once complete but also I didn’t want to sacrifice structural strength in the event that a large knot was piercing through one of the legs. So the route I went was 3/4” poplar boards. I went with poplar because the material I had access to was clear of any defects and the same price as pine of a similar grade. The first step for just about all of my projects is to rough cut the pieces to length at my miter saw station.

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Because I was using 3/4” stock I needed to laminate a few boards together to reach the desired 1-1/2” thickness. When doing so it’s best to wait on cutting the pieces to final length and instead glue up the necessary boards in an oversized state. After the miter saw station the easel pieces were ripped to rough width at the table saw.

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Any time I’m working from a layout diagram I always like to layout all of the pieces the same way that they are in the layout diagram. This lets me know instantly on what has and hasn’t been cut yet. I find this method a LOT more convenient and efficient for me when working with a large number of parts. Quickly identifying what has and hasn’t been cut yet on a stack of pieces is not quite as easy.

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Sometimes when you glue a bunch of pieces together the boards tend to wiggle and shift around in the clamps as you tighten them. To prevent this I pinned the boards in place with a couple brad nails prior to placing them in the clamps. This will keep them stationary and prevent them from shifting and because the parts are still oversized the nails will be cut off later.

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Once out of the clamps one of the short faces of each piece can be cleaned up at the jointer.

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With the freshly jointed face against the fence the pieces are ripped to their final width at the table saw. No need in cleaning up any glue squeeze out as it is all sliced off anyway.

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Using the stop block on my miter saw station all of the legs can be cut to their final length. The top and bottom of each leg gets a slight angled cut in the same direction. This is where the A shape of the easel will come from.

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The top rail length was already determined in SketchUp when I made the model for this project. With it already established I could clamp it in place between the to front legs which essentially creates a full size template to determine the length of the lower rail. I had determined the length of the lower rail already in SketchUp but wanted to verify that the length was indeed accurate with the actual project. In doing so it let me know that everything was cut as it should be.

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There are many acceptable options for joinery. Dowels, pocket hole screws, or countersunk screws from the outside are all valid options. I chose to use floating tenons because I have a machine that makes the process extremely quick.

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At every joint two 10mm x 50mm floating tenons were used.

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With some gentle persuasion the joints closed nicely. I didn’t bother with clamps at this stage. The joints were extremely and I had an even line of glue squeeze-out at each joint.

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With the front assembled I could use it to determine the length of the rear leg.

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In the effort of trying to use hardware that I already had I used an old hinge to secure the back leg to the front frame. The hinge was a bit large for the rear leg so I used a hacksaw to shorten it and drilled a couple new mounting holes. It’s not the most elegant thing in the world but it was free and will honestly never be seen. Once the easel is in its final orientation the hinge will be mostly hidden.

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I thought of a couple of ways to make a locking arm to fix the rear leg in place but in the end chose the “Keep It Simple Stupid” route. I used four cup hooks and two pieces of small chain to limit the rear leg travel. Also, when the rear leg is in the closed position the chains can be shortened to further restrict the movement of the rear leg.

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Time for a shelf. To secure the easel shelf I predrilled and added two screws from the back side of the lower rail. At this point the construction of the easel is complete.

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The chalkboard frame starts with a piece of plywood. I used 1/2” plywood to keep the weight down a bit. This was cut to size at my table saw. The piece of plywood I started with didn’t have a square corner so I had to rip to parallel edges on the long direction first and then square up the other to edges with my crosscut sled.

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The chalkboard frame has two frames, the interior frame and the perimeter frame. Construction starts with the perimeter frame. Butt joints, glue, and brad nails. First the two short pieces are installed followed by the two long pieces. As you can see, I had to straighten the plywood panel first with a couple straight edges and some clamps.

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A simple moulding for the interior frame looks the best to me. To make the moulding one angled rip cut is made at the table saw on all of the moulding pieces.

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A few miter cuts later and the interior frame is completed. I didn’t secure the interior frame pieces just yet though.

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I wanted to get the chalkboard paint applied to the plywood first. I figured this would eliminate one time of taping off the joint when painting the frame. But first, the chalkboard paint is allowed to dry overnight.

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The next day I started by gluing and securing the interior frame pieces with a couple 5/8” brad nails. I didn’t go crazy with the brad nails here. The more nails that are used the more holes that needed to be patched.

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Before painting I wanted to break up some of the boxy, bulky look of the frame slightly so I used a chamfer bit in my router create a chamfer on all of the easel frame edges. After removing the hinges and cup hooks the entire project got sanded.

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To aid in paint sticking to the cup hooks I sanded them slightly before spray painting them. I’ve had great results with spraying cup hooks in the past but for some reason all of these rubbed off a bit of the paint. I’m guessing I didn’t get them clean enough before spraying. That’s OK though as I have a couple of weeks to get them straightened out. The easel frame got two coats of satin black paint.

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And the chalkboard frame got two coats of satin white paint. Here you can see the chalkboard paint taped off. In my previous job I was maintenance at an apartment complex and after painting several hundred apartments I got pretty good at cutting in a straight line with a paint brush. Those days are long gone and I’ve lost my touch with a brush. Now masking edges is much faster for me.

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The easel base turned out great.

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And the frame turned out great as well. A fresh coat of paint really looks nice. I didn’t get a chance to actually use the chalkboard yet as I currently do not have any chalk in my house. I’ll pick some up and see how it performs in the coming days but from all of the feedback I’ve heard from others I doubt there will be an issue. Like I said earlier, if you are interested in a set of plans they can be found HERE. Have any questions? I’ll answer them in this Tuesday’s vlog video. Until then, take care!

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4 Comments

  1. Frank Randall

    Great simple build! I would have had the back leg extend further back, making it more stable.

  2. Larry Mann

    I would have found an eye-screw instead of a hook-screw to attach the chains at least on one end. Loose at both ends means ‘Lost’. Otherwise, Very nice. Good luck at the wedding!

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