Beauty likes doing art, but it can be hard to find a good medium for her. Crayons take too much pressure, though she’ll use them sometimes. Markers get all over her hands and face, and it wipes off but there’s always traces of color left, not to mention the blue blob behind her ear that I missed. So I decided to make her a chalkboard tray!
If you want to make one of your own, here’s what you’ll need:
- a tray for the base. I used a cookie sheet from the dollar store. If you want your chalkboard tray to be magnetic as well (mine is!) use a metal tray, keeping in mind that aluminum is NOT ferromagnetic. I’ve seen more than one crafter make that mistake.
- paint. I used cheap acrylic craft paint. practically anything would work.
- dry unsanded grout. it’s $5 at the hardware store for a giant container, considering the amount you’ll need. Keep it out of reach of children – Beauty gave me quite a scare when she decided to taste some a few months back. (She fussed all afternoon, threw up, and was fine. But I still don’t want to repeat the experience.)
- primer for the tray. this will depend on the surface of the tray, and if you have fancy paint designed for non-porous surfaces you may not need it. I didn’t have any on hand and used a coat of Super 77 adhesive instead.
- sandpaper. you may not need or want it. I did.
- contact paper and cutting tools, for stenciled decorations.
- brushes, plastic cups for mixing, covered work surface, etc.
I think that’s everything :)
Like I said, I started with a cookie sheet from the dollar store. The label didn’t tell me whether it was steel (which is ferromagnetic) or aluminum (which is not) so I ended up lugging it all over the store until I found a magnet to test it on.
And it sat in Hero’s study for ages, waiting for me to get around to it. Then I saw this Pottery Barn knock off and was suddenly inspired to get started. I’m not sure why, since they aren’t very similar, but I guess they both involve chalkboard-ness and that is enough.
So I pulled out my cookie sheet and snapped a quick “before” picture:
I needed something to prime the surface so the paint would stick. It was late at night and I don’t own any primer (I’ve never used it before, and I try not to buy things on a “just in case” basis) but eventually I discovered a can of Super 77 spray adhesive lurking in Hero’s tool chest. (The Super 77 was actually from the “sidewalk boutique” as some people call it – back in June, one of my neighbors threw out a whole box of adhesives and solvents and other things that probably should not have been left for hours on end in the hot sun, and I grabbed a couple that looked useful and not empty.)
Anyway, I sprayed the tray pretty well and left it outside (well, inside the screen door) to dry overnight.
(Sorry for the poor picture. Hero had absconded with the camera because he was taking the baby out for breakfast and I had to use my cellphone instead.) The Super 77 did not dry smooth – it left a cool bubbled texture all over. Not what I was going for, but I thought it was pretty cool anyway. Painted black it would have looked a lot like wrought iron, which might be useful information someday.
Once it was dry-ish, I mixed up my chalkboard paint: 1 part grout to 8 parts paint, give or take. That’s 2 tablespoons of grout in 1 cup of paint, if you happen to have or want that much paint, which I didn’t. So I eyeballed it to make smaller amounts.
(I believe Martha Stwewart first discovered the secret of DIY chalkboard paint, but I learned from Attempting Aloha, who tried using craft paint instead of latex paint and discovered it works fine that way too.)
I did a couple coats of blue chalkboard paint as a base. (I have lots of blue and I was low on purple, so I was just using what I had.) I discovered that between the Super 77 texture and uneven application, it was a little more textured than I wanted, so I sanded it a bit with some sandpaper I found in Hero’s tool box. I could have skipped that step, but it was nice to get it smoother. Once that was dry and sanded, I gave it a nice coat of purple chalkboard paint.
I wanted to decorate it with Beauty’s name, so I turned to my handy-dandy Silhouette to create a stencil. I used the Piron stencil font, which I absolutely love, and cut it out from contact paper. Piron is lovely for stencils, because there aren’t any floating bits to worry about, but it doesn’t look military or sci-fi like most stencil fonts. Doing the same thing by hand would take a while but is totally doable. Or you could freehand it.
I cut out my stencil, got it lined up and rubbed it down as well as I could. Then I coated it in purple paint, to seal it against leakage. (More accurately, any leakage that occurred was in purple and therefore unnoticeable. Clear acrylic mediums can be used the same way, or even mod podge.)
I mixed up a nice rosy color for the name, with Red and Buttermilk and a little Pearl Finish for some shimmer (which does not photograph well, but it’s there) and of course a pinch of grout to make it chalkboard paint. After a couple of coats I peeled the stencil up and I was done!
I rubbed it with chalk to prime the surface (makes it easier to erase properly) and handed it over.
It was a hit! (And note the cracker. She is still living on crackers and dairy products. She doesn’t even eat the crackers, she just carries them around for ages, taking a bite whenever she thinks of it.)
I loved making this. It was easy and relaxing, and I knew she would love it. The tray is magnetic, as I mentioned, so at some point I’ll make her some magnets to play with. I especially loved the price: this feels like it was free! The tray was only a dollar, and I got it some time ago. The grout I had on hand from another project, and I needed very little. Honestly, I’d probably have to do a whole room in chalkboard paint to even *think* about running out. I had the paint and stuff on hand, though I need to buy more purple paint now. If I had to estimate a real price, it’s probably all of $3 or so.
and that’s cheap for happiness.