Make a permanent mark on a chalkboard.
October 2, 2009 9:43 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to make a permanent 1-inch grid on a chalkboard. How would I go about doing that?

Specifically I want to turn a tabletop into a gaming map using chalkboard paint. The trick is to have the grid be indelible so that we can erase the sketched maps between encounters.
posted by ChrisR to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Why not use regular paint over the chalkboard paint for the grid lines?
posted by zippy at 9:51 PM on October 2, 2009

Magic Marker. (I.e. do it in black.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:56 PM on October 2, 2009

If you're not going to be using the table for anything else you could score in the lines before painting the table. Or you could do the same thing with a sheet of wood that could be removed from the table when not in use.
posted by fearthehat at 9:56 PM on October 2, 2009

I like the idea of altering the texture of the tabletop before painting it.

How about instead of scoring (which might leave grooves that fill with chalk), you raise the gridlines instead?

Buy some very thin pin striping tape (auto supply, art supply, etc) and lay out your grid, then paint the whole thing. You'll end up with very slightly raised gridlines on your chalkboard surface.
posted by Aquaman at 10:14 PM on October 2, 2009

Paint the surface with chalkboard paint. Layout your grid. Use a V-point routing bit and router to mill out 1/16" V-channels on your surface. Tape each edge of channels with blue painters masking tape. Paint 2 or 3 coats of contrasting enamel into V-channels, allowing plenty of time to dry between coats. Lightly sand final coat of V-channels to level of chalkboard paint surface with 600 grit very fine sandpaper.

Result: A very durable Cartesian scribed, chalkboard system.

Or, if this seems like a lot of work, you could just buy a commercial version.
posted by paulsc at 10:17 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Routered channels will look neat, but they'll also make it really, really annoying to use chalk on, since it'll skip and get stuck in every freaking square unless you do the multi-layered leveling and re-sanding that paulsc suggests. That's the "right" way, but yeah... a lot of work.

For much simpler (and less dusty), why not use a whiteboard and draw the grid with permanent markers and a ruler; use regular dry-erase ones for your mapping. If you're sold on black, get a black-whiteboard, like the kind that restaurants use, and some white and neon markers.

(Disclosure: Practical or not, I totally want one of those cartesian blackboards now that paulsc has shown me that they exist.)
posted by rokusan at 10:27 PM on October 2, 2009

1. Get a roll of masking tape (or similar) of the width you want your grid to be.
2. Mark off 1.05" ticks along the perimeter of the table.
3. Get a friend to help you stretch out n strips of tape horizontally (leaving a thin gap between each strip), and m rows of tape vertically (leaving a thin gap between each strip).
4. Then get yourself some spray paint, and paint yourself a nice grid.

Disclaimer: I have never tried this, it's all in my head. Seems like it would work though.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 10:31 PM on October 2, 2009

1. Paint the tabletop in the color that you want the grid lines. Let dry.

2. Using painter's tape, create the grid that you want.

3. Paint over the whole thing with the chalkboard paint.

4. Pull up the tape.
posted by The World Famous at 10:33 PM on October 2, 2009

Oh, and
5. Remove tape.

PS: It'd probably be a good idea to test the spraypaint out with chalk to make sure the chalk moves over it smoothly.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 10:33 PM on October 2, 2009

Paint the table with chalkboard paint.
Mark your grid however you want to -- I'd probably use narrow painter's tape, or cheap detailing tape. If you're real confident in your ability to follow a line, use a ruler and a pencil.
Use a paint pen or detailing pen to make your permanent stripes, using the tape or pencil lines as your guide. (An opaque permanent marker might also work.)
Remove the marking tape.

I don't know if chalkboard paint comes in a wide enough range of colors for this to be feasible, but you could use World Famous' idea and have the chalklines show up on your gridlines as well.
posted by jlkr at 11:07 PM on October 2, 2009

Cut each line in the chalkboard in one pass with a very sharp,very straight sword or long sushi type knife. nice clean line not too deep.
posted by hortense at 11:41 PM on October 2, 2009

We used to just use pencil crayons; they won't wipe away with a chamois or an eraser. They can be scoured off with a bit of elbow grease.

Have you considered moving onto hex maps? Having a big paper hex map laminated makes it accessible for dry-erase markers. A heavy laminate helps it keep flat, especially if you don't have to move it around too much.
posted by porpoise at 11:53 PM on October 2, 2009

One of my schoolteachers used to mark his blackboard up with 'permanent chalk'. When he wiped the board, the day's lessons would be erased, but his grid lines would stay. We used to think it was magic, till we realised that he kept the 'permanent chalk' soaking in a jar of sugar solution. He'd write with it while it was still damp, so the sugar would crystallise and keep the chalk in place. At the end of the year, he'd put us to work with damp scourers to get the whole board clean.
posted by embrangled at 12:11 AM on October 3, 2009

Grid lines in chalkboard paint in another colour would be good, then the chalk won't go weird if it goes over it.

You should paint the table with chalk board paint. Let it dry, then prepare to add the grid.

Mask up all the vertical lines- so a skinny line between two fat pieces of tape. []|[] Paint over them with the ORIGINAL chalkboard colour. Paint *will* bleed under masking tape, so make the bleed the colour you want (the background) to seal. Paint the lines the desired colour. Peel up the tape carefully while the paint is still wet. Repeat for the horizontal lines.

Crisp line win!
posted by titanium_geek at 12:19 AM on October 3, 2009

In terms of getting the grid onto the table:
Project a sheet of graph paper using an overhead projector, slide or regular projector.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:42 AM on October 3, 2009

White paint pen.
posted by rhizome at 5:12 AM on October 3, 2009

Yes, paint pen! And a good long straightedge (like a yardstick). You should be able to find paint pens at any craft or art supply store.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:25 AM on October 3, 2009

Since the surface is going to be horizontal, it's going to be more of a challenge to wipe clean than any normal vertical chalkboard. You definitely don't want to rout or scribe it because too much residue powder will always remain behind. I think that even the maskingtape paint technique might catch too much dust.

I'd experiment on a small surface first and try out a couple of the paint pens suggested.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:00 AM on October 3, 2009

You could use one of the "white-out" pen things.
posted by kylej at 12:08 PM on October 3, 2009

Agreeing with titanium_geek: paint the background with chalk paint, then do the grid by masking it with painter's tape and a friend. I think the painter's tape will result in longer, straighter lines than using a long ruler.
posted by sambiamb at 6:50 PM on October 3, 2009

Paint the table in green chalkboard paint, let dry, tape, then paint it over with black chalkboard paint.

Personally, I'd print the grid I wanted on paper with Kinko's large-format printer, blue-tack it to the table and cover it with a sheet of thick glass, then use dry erase markers on it. Easier to clean up, doesn't muck up people's painted figurines or clothes as much, no chalk dust in the doritos, etc, etc. And you're not stuck with a cartesian coordinate system when you want to start using hexes or triangles.
posted by Orb2069 at 11:07 PM on October 3, 2009

There's a lot of good info here; my wife and I are going to go away and see which of these works best. Thanks for the info, folks!
posted by ChrisR at 8:24 AM on October 4, 2009

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