Over at TechSpaceBend, we needed to put up some whiteboards and corkboards. Big ones like you’d have in an office, not the little ones that decorate your kids room at home. The only problem is that TSB is a non-profit with little/no funds availble, and these things tend to be a bit pricey. A 6′ X 4′ corkboard goes for $105, and 5′X4′ whiteboards come in at ~$225/per. Ordering from a site like china-whiteboard.com (which seems to be one of the better sources for this sort of thing) was going to run us over $600-$700.
So instead, I turned this into a weekend project and got cracking in my shop. Here’s what I ended up doing …
Total cost: ~$83. However it may be possible to reduce the cost by $20-$30 by using thinner cork (3/32″) and using 1/4″ plywood with only one good face.
- Cork roll (4′x6′x1/8″) – $40.
- 1/2″ Plywood, one good face (4′x8) – Price varies. I bought a sheet of lauan plywood w/ two good faces for ~$25 at Home Depot.
- Contact Cement (1qt) – $9
- D-Ring Hangers – $2.40
- Masking tape
- Paint roller and adhesive cover – ~$6
You’ll need a large, very well ventilated work area for this project – a clean garage floor for example.
- Place plywood on your work surface with the good face up. Roll out the cork on top of it and position so that 3 of the four edges (mostly) line up. Don’t worry about the plywood being larger than the cork – we’ll trim everything down to size later.
- Firmly tape one edge of the cork to the plywood. Make sure this won’t come loose during the next few steps!
- Flip the cork over, like turning a really large book page, to expose the cork and plywook surfaces that need to be glued together.
- Using the paint roller with the adhesive cover, apply the contact cement to where both surfaces where they’ll meet. This is where things get stinky – you have ~65 sq-ft of contact cement outgassing as it dries, so make sure you’ve got plenty of fresh air circulating.
- This is the tricky part, and will be easier if you have someone to help. You don’t want to mess this up because there’s no do-overs here. Once the contact cement is tacky (30 minutes or so?), carefully and slowly roll the two surfaces back together, using your hands to work the cork onto the plywood and make sure there’s no wrinkles or air pockets. Do this by starting from the edge you’ve taped down and working toward the opposite edge. If you’re by yourself you’ll need to reach under the unflipped-section of cork for this. If you have help, one person can hold the cork up while the other person works it onto the board.
- Once you have the cork glued down, the skillsaw and a cutting guide to trim off the excess plywood.
- Attach the D-Ring Hangers where needed.
Let me start by saying there are two approaches to take with this project in terms of the actual white board surface. You can either use Rust-Oleum’s Dry Erase paint product applied to a 1/2″ sheet of plywood, or you can simply buy a piece of “tileboard” at Home Depot. I document the “Dry Erase paint method” here, since that’s what I built, but in hindsight I would strongly recommend people go with the tileboard solution. It’s much cheaper and less labor intensive. I probably spent $50 and two hours more than I needed to, and got a whiteboard surface that’s not as smooth. Which is kind of a bummer. The only advantage of the Dry Erase paint method is that the boards themselves, being 1/2″ thick, are much more sturdy than the 3/32″ thick tileboard.
The only downside of the tileboard is that it’s < 1/4″ thick, and rather flimsy, which I had thought would be a showstopper. However I found myself adding a 1″x2″ tray along the bottom of the board that, in hindsight, would be enough of a stiffener to alleviate this problem.
- (Dry Erase paint method only) 1/2″ Plywood, one good face (4′x8′) – Price varies. I bought a sheet of lauan plywood w/ two good faces for ~$25 at Home Depot.
- (Dry Erase paint method only) Rust-Oleum Dry-Erase paint – $20
- (Dry Erase paint method only) Spackling compound – $4
- (Dry Erase paint method only) Latex Primer – $7
- (Tileboard method only) Tileboard (4′x8′) – $13.
- 1″x2″ x 8′ board – ~$5
- 1-1/4″ Drywall screws
- 200-grit Sandpaper
- (Dry Erase paint method only) 6″ Paint roller and ultra dense foam cover – ~$6
- (Dry Erase paint method only) Use the spackling compound to fill in all imperfections in the good face of the plywood. When dry, sand smooth with 200-grit sandpaper.
- (Dry Erase paint method only) Using paint roller, apply a coat of latex primer. Let dry. Sand smooth.
- (Dry Erase paint method only) Activate the Dry Erase paint and apply the first coat. Let dry 30 min.
- (Dry Erase paint method only) Apply a generous second coat of Dry Erase paint. The instructions say that 3 coats are ideal. However I found that by applying a liberal second coat, you would get a smoother surface because the paint flows better. Note, however, that this requires painting with the plywood completely level to eliminate dripping. Let dry.
- Cut plywood / tileboard to size. I made a medium and large board by cutting the board into a 4′x5′ board and a 4′x3′ board.
- Make your marker tray by using angling the tablesaw blade to 10° and ripping both short edges of the 1″x2″ board.
- Attach try to whiteboard as shown by clamping board to the bottom of whiteboard. From the back of the whiteboard, drill pilot holes for the drywall screws every 12″ or so, and insert screws.
- Round edges of all wood to taste using sandpaper or file.
- Attach the D-Ring Hangers where needed.
For TSB, I made one corkboard and four whiteboards. I was careful to place the D-ring hangers at the same spacing on all of these (42″) so that they can be moved between the various offices with ease, which I’m sure will prove useful over time.
The dry-erase paint was a simply mistake. It’s very labor intensive and if you can find an alternative solution I’d definitely recommend doing so. In my case, I wasn’t as attentive to detail as I could have been on the first set of boards I made and the result came out a bit rough. Still very usable, but definitely not the quality I would expect in pre-made whiteboard. On the second set of boards I took a lot more care to prep and paint, which paid off, but even so the surface is still a bit orange-peal-ish.
One final note: The tileboard that HomeDepot sells doesn’t erase quite as well as you might expect. However several sources recommend treating the surface with Turtle Wax, which should allow the board to erase better. (Haven’t tried it myself, so if you.