I love whitewash and I love chalkboard so it kinda seemed like a given that I’d make a whitewashed DIY chalkboard menu sign for myself 🙂
This project was fun and easy and best of all, it LOOKS pretty fancy.
You can use any stain colors if you don’t want to use the whitewash, of course.
DIY CHALKBOARD MENU SIGN
- 1×4 dimensional lumber (3 pieces 15.75” long)
- 1×2 dimensional lumber (2 pieces 9” long)
- 6 – wood screws 3/4” long
- Stain for background – I used Minwax Water Based Whitewash Pickling
- Chalkboard spray paint – I used Rustoleum’s Chalkboard Spray
- Foam paintbrush (large)
- Makeup sponges
- Old rag
- Painter’s Tape
- Poly Sealer (I used the cheapest Minwax Poly spray)
- Vinyl Stencil
STEP 1 – Prep The Sign BOARDS
Cut your lumber to size, if you haven’t already. I’m using pine and I recommend using the best grade of lumber you can get.
Sand the pieces well – I use 120 grit to start, and then finish the big faces with 220 grit for a satiny finish. Wipe the boards down with a damp cloth to remove all dust particles.
Stain each board individually with your stain according to the container directions (I like to use a sponge paintbrush to apply my stain and an old flannel rag to wipe it off).
STEP 2 – SEAL YOUR BOARDS
This is where I do things a bit differently. I always want to seal my signs but I don’t want sealer over chalkboard because then it wouldn’t be a functional chalkboard!
So instead, I sealed the boards after staining and before assembly. This way, the only part that’s unsealed is the chalkboard (and the lettering, but it’s chalkboard too).
Just spray or brush on a poly sealer – I just used the cheapest Minwax but Polycrylic is also a good option.
STEP 3 – ASSEMBLY
Put your 1×4 boards face down in the arrangement you’d like.
Note: I made the mistake of having one board with a rough knot where my chalkboard went. I usually don’t mind this but found that with a chalkboard it looks weird (you can see at the bottom of my chalkboard) so I suggest making sure all your boards are as smooth as possible.
Pre-drill the holes in your 1×2 boards so that there would be a screw for each 1×4.
Screw the 1x2s onto the backs (which are face up) of the 1x4s. Make sure the 1×4 boards are tight together.
STEP 4 – PREP THE STENCIL
If you are using my Menu Board SVG for the top “Today’s Menu” like I did, FYI this sign I made the design about 9” wide and with the frame it was about 14.5″ tall.
Cut your stencil design out of your chosen stencil material.
I prefer using Oramask 813, but you can use regular vinyl and some people even have luck using contact paper.
Weed your stencil, apply the transfer tape and adhere it to the sign.
Position your stencil. I use a weeding box which is just literally a box around my design about a half inch smaller than my sign length and width.
One of the benefits of using a weeding box is that you can do most of the positioning work within the stencil itself before you even cut. Then, once it’s cut, all you have to do is line up the corners and you won’t end up with a crooked design once it’s all finished and done.
Make sure the stencil is adhered really well and tightly to the boards. Burnish it really well before removing the transfer tape carefully, peeling back at a sharp angle.
Tape off the edges of the stencil with Painter’s tape and the area that will be unpainted.
STEP 5 – SEAL THE LETTERING
First, we will need to seal the stencil edges to prevent leakage.
I’m using a water-based stain so I am just using more stain, but you could also use a paint (get a close match to your background color)
Using a foam brush or a makeup sponge (my tool of choice), “pounce” your background color (in this case, my whitewash) stain/paint very lightly on the letters. Make sure you get it really well in the cracks at the frame.
I like to do two thin coats of the sealer. Wait until the first coat is just barely dry to the touch, and then re-coat.
STEP 6 – CHALKBOARD PAINT!
Once the paint is set and not shiny anymore, it’s time to spray with your chalkboard!
I like using spray paint for this just because it helps me get a nice even cover and no brushmarks which I think look odd on a chalkboard.
Plus spray paint is WAY better for nice, crisp lines and less bleeding.
So – just set your sign out in your spraying area, and spray away! I do multiple light coats just a few minutes apart until it looks nice and chalkboardy. I think I did about 4 or 5 coats for this one.
Note: that dark spot at the bottom is where I screwed up and the board had a knot in it. Normally I like that look but this is when I realized that might not have been a good idea…
STEP 6 – REMOVE THE STENCIL
You definitely want to do this while the paint is still damp – if you wait until it’s completely dry, it may come up when you pull off the stencil.
The paint should be just barely set – not shiny and wet anymore, but definitely not fully dry.
Start by removing the painter’s tape. Then, starting at a corner, gently start peeling back your stencil.
Go slow and steady and don’t be afraid to tear the stencil. I like to use tweezers to grab the edges of the stencil in all the parts, and then pull with my hands.
Remove all the parts you can with tweezers, and then work on the rest.
The small inside parts of letters and tiny details you may need to pull off with a pin.
Just stick the pin into the vinyl carefully, and loosen an edge. You just need to loosen it enough so you can grab it with your tweezers and pull it off.
STEP 7 – PRIME YOUR CHALKBOARD
At this point you’re probably loving this gorgeous menu board, right? BUT don’t write on it yet! You MUST prime your chalkboard.
First – Allow your sign to dry THOROUGHLY.
Then, to prime it, all you have to do is grab a piece of chalk and rub it sideways so the entire board is covered with chalk and then just wipe it off with a DRY cloth.
If you don’t do this, the first thing you write on your board with chalk will never full erase! (This is because the chalk dust gets in the tiny crevices and holes in the sign, so if you do an “all over” prime first, it fills them up so it has a nice even look)
And voila! A gorgeous vintage style DIY chalkboard menu board.
Now go! Make stuff! And show me pictures!!
Disclaimer: I’ve sprinkled in a few affiliate links in this post but only to the products I actually used for this project and that I would recommend.
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