Friday, July 11, 2014

Adventures with ScotchBlue Painter'sTape : How to Make Chalk Board Blocks

You guys know that I am a sucker for free products to try ( I really do get all jittery excited when I get product packages in the mail that someone just randomly offers to give me to try), so when the good people at ScotchBlue Tape offered me two FREE roles of tape to fool around with, I was all over it. The caveat here (and there is usually some kind of obligation) is that I have to enter a project using their tape in a national contest. The prize is $5,000! You guys can enter too, if you're quick. Here's the link. The contest closes July 15th . I did say you had to be quick.

You all also know that I have a tendency to get way over involved in things....and this project is no exception to that. In fact, If I wasn't entering the contest, I would break this into three different posts. But I am, so you get it all in one, long "three-techniques-for-the-price-of-one" post. 

So today's project is:

Two Sided Chalk Board Blocks: 
One colored side for free drawing,
One black board house side for decorating

How to Make Two-Sided Chalk Board Blocks

Part 1: Basic Chalk-Painted Blocks

1. Get a bunch of slices of wood. This is a good project to pillage your scrap pile for. Since you are painting them, you can even use different types of wood. These were free from Home Depot. DK and I found them sitting in plastic bags near the cutting table when we got our board cut for the pipe curtain rod (that I still haven't posted about, for shame!) last spring. We asked the guy what he was going to do with them, and he said, "You want them?" He was happy not to have to haul them to the trash can and I was psyched to have free wood to play with. These are all about 6 x 6 inches square, give or take an inch. You could also just buy a 2 x 6 and cut that up. Be sure there aren't many knots. They don't lend themselves to paint and sanding very well. If you have a bag of free end cuts or spare wood from the pile, use pieces that don't have knots and that are not bowed in any direction.

2. Sand off all the rough patches and splinters on your wood. Remember, this is a toy, and you don't want your kids to get splinters or scratched. I used my trusty palm sander and sanded twice. Once with a 150 grit and once with a 220 grit, until everything, but the roughest edges (I probably should have re-cut those) was smooth to the touch.

In case you didn't believe me about the trash, take a look at the front block. Thanks again for the free wood, Steve C!

3. Choose your paint color. I used my scrapbook paper to determine my paint color, but if you are just making simple blocks and are not nuts or entering a TAPE oriented contest like me, then you can choose whatever color of ASCP or "Clay and chalk based" paint you want. In fact, you might just go look in your paint stash and see what you already have, like I did. You don't need very much paint for this project, unless you are making a whole bunch of blocks.

And I mixed a bunch of colors to get the right shades for what I needed. In fact, I don't think I used a color straight for the whole project.

If you want black, go buy a can of spray blackboard paint at Walmart. It's like $4 a can in the paint department. You'll only need one can.

4. Paint your blocks. Annie Sloan recommends 3 coats to make a chalk board surface, so I went with that. I painted top and the four sides, but left the bottom mostly blank, because I am doing another technique there. If you are just making painted blocks, you need to paint ALL the sides, top and bottom included. 

I sanded in between each coat using a 220 grit paper, just to be sure the surface was nice and smooth. I even sanded to top coat, just a hair.

If you are just making plain chalk board blocks, let the paint dry and then you are pretty much done! If you want to "season" the paint, let it dry overnight and then  rub white chalk all over all faces of the block. Then erase the whole thing. 

At this point, you're ready to go! Draw away.

This is an "action shot" of what they look like after being drawn on by real children.

Part 2: Laminating Scrapbook Paper to Wood
OK, this is where it gets a bit more relevant to the contest, but where I go WAY off the beaten path of just regular painted blocks. You can also just use this technique to laminate a capital letter to a scrap of wood or a picture or silhouette you like to a plaque. 

5. Choose what you will be "laminating" to your wood. This is the focal point of your piece and should probably dictate your background color choice.

If the piece you have chosen will cover most of the front of your wood, skip to step 6. 

If your piece is smaller and will allow a bunch of the background to be seen, paint all visible front and sides of your wood. Be sure to sand as needed between coats. Do any desired distressing once the paint is dry. Do NOT wax your paint! Now skip to step 7.

6. When you are painting your blocks, be sure that just a little bit gets on the edges of the bottom. This allows a little wiggle room when you are placing your scrap book paper. Plus it makes a nice transition between the paper side and the painted side. You can even do it while you are painting the rest of the sides, so you don't have to wait.

Find a small piece of flat wood, and use it to keep the painted edges of the bottom from touching your base. 

It took me until the last two boards to figure this out. Up to that point I just dry brushed the paint on and put it down on the table. It worked fine too. But the small piece of wood worked better.

7. Once everything is dry and sanded, cover up everything you don't want to get Modge Podge and sealer on with tape. I used ScotchBlue tape in the 1.47 inch width. It almost completely covered the side edges. I didn't worry about the bottom, but if you are worried, you could cover that with paper or plastic and use the tape to hold it in place.

8. Cut out your piece to be laminated. For me this was a process of sizing my scrapbook paper to to the board I was working on. I lined up two sides with the raw edges of the paper and then creased it to get the right size of the other two edges. You can do this for all four edges, if the design or picture you want is in the middle of the paper.

Then I just cut along the creased lines.

It's better to cut things too big and then make small adjustments. You can see how small the sections I was cutting off were. It's a bummer if you cut something too small and have to start over or find something else to use. When in doubt, cut larger and then adjust down.

9. Dry fit everything you are planning to use on the actual board you are planning to use. This may sound like a "no brainer", but it will save you tons of frustration in the long run. Just lay everything out to be sure you like it all together and to get a good feel for where everything will be adhered.

10. Apply Modge Podge to the area where you will be putting your paper designs. If you are covering a large area, put the Modge Podge on the board and then lay your paper on top of that. 

If you are only using a small area, put the Modge Podge directly on your paper pieces and then lay them on the board.

Be sure to smooth out all air bubbles from under your piece. It helps to smooth from the center to the edges. And be sure your edges are very secure. This is where your adhesive tends to fail the most.

11. Let your Modge Podge dry under something heavy. I prefer books shoved in gallon size zip locked bags. It prevents the books from sticking to what ever they are weighing down. I left things to dry for 30 minutes. I could have just turned my blocks over and let their own weight press them down, but I was afraid they would stick to the paper on the table. If you put down clean plastic, this would not be an issue.

12. Once the Modge Podge is dry, apply three coats of Varathane Polyurethane in a Matte finish. I think I bought it at Lowes about a year ago. It cost around $4-5. I like Varathane better than using the Modge Podge for the top coat because it dries much smoother and much much matte-er. But you can use Modge Podge, if it's all you've got.

I just apply it with a crappy brush, but I've heard that foam brushes leave less brush marks, if you're worried about that. You do not need to sand between coats. The can recommends allowing two hours of drying time between coats, so that's what I did. Then I left them overnight.

If you are just laminating something to your wood, you're done! Go hang it on a wall or place it on your mantle 
and show all your friends. 

Well done. 

Part 3: How to Make a Black Board Silhouette 
Using a Tape Stencil

You all still with me? I promise this is the last section. This is where the tape plays a major role. I LOVE this technique. There are so many cool thing you could do with it! You can create whatever silhouette shape you want with this and then draw on it! So cool.

13. Get some wax paper that is a bit larger than your base piece. You want to allow enough extra room that the tape you are going to use cane wrap all the way around the edges of your piece and protect it from all over-spray.

14. Make a crease in the wax paper around the side of your base piece so you have a good idea how big an area you need to cover with tape.

15. Start layering strips of tape on the wax paper. Be sure to over lap the tape at least 1/4 of an inch. And make sure the tape will be long enough to wrap all the way over the edge to protect the whole base of your project from over-spray.

16. Once the whole area is covered in tape, put the wax paper over your base wood piece and using a Sharpie, draw a line around the edge of your piece. You want to keep this as close to accurate as possible. You will use this line to help you judge where your cut out will go on the finished piece.

17. Make an actual size sketch of your silhouette shape. I cut the paper to the same size as my block face, then sketched a rough design. Next,  I used a ruler to tighten it up the lines. Once you like the sketch, cut it out. Include everything you want in your final piece because this is your template for the stencil.

18. Cut out your shape and dry fit it on the original piece of backer wood. This is where you make any necessary adjustments in size. Trim a bit on the edge so it won't over lap. Figure out how you want the silhouette to relate to the back ground. I moved some of the houses I made up or to the side to accommodate designs in the paper behind them. Some I put lower or centered, because I liked the way it looked better. This is the time to make those judgment calls, while you can still easily move everything.

19. Use a Sharpie and trace your cut out on to the tape and wax paper, using the outline as a placement guide. I also put my tape wax paper ON the board, so I could feel where the edges really were.

20. Using an Exacto knife, cut along the inside edge of your Sharpie version of your silhouette. I always put my cutting mat under my work when I am using a blade, but a piece of cardboard works pretty well too. Be sure that any corrections you make are on the inside piece you will be removing, not the outside piece, as the paint will show any major miss cuts.

21. Give the cut out portion to your 7 year old to use as a sticker that can be drawn on. Be sure that when you peel the wax paper off, you peel it from the side you started layering the tape on from. Look for the tape that's most covered. And pull upwards or over from there. If you go the other way, it will all pull apart.

22. Very carefully remove the wax paper from the tape, starting with the very bottom-most piece of tape and peeling away from that. "Bottom most" means the piece of tape that has all the other layers of tape stacked on it. You will only see one side of the original piece of tape.This helps keep the stencil together. If you pull the other way, it can all come apart, one strip at a time.

23.Using the Sharpie outline as a guide, carefully place the tape stencil on your wood base. Pay attention to all the details you figured out with the template, where the silhouette is in relation to elements int he background, the edges, etc. Now is your last chance to change anything. Be sure to press down firmly all over the tape. Put special emphasis on the inner edges of the stencil, to help protect against bleed through. Make sure all the tape is wrapped tightly around the side edges as well. This protects everything from any over-spray.

24. Place your taped board on a surface that can get spray painted. This is a garbage bag on the floor of my garage. As you can see, I decided it was a good idea to make 5 instead of just one. Why I do this, I have no idea. 

Be sure to check your tape again on the inside edge (design edge) of the stencil. Push it down so every bit of it is secure.

25.Spray two coats of spray chalk board paint on your stencil. Be sure to wait the appropriate amount of time between coats. This info is usually on the can and may vary by brand. I used Rustoleum Chalk Board paint. They said to re-coat after 20 min but before 1 hr. I let the paint dry overnight and then took the tape off.

Once the tape comes off, you're pretty much done.

If you get any bleed through, and I ALWAYS have at least a little no matter what tape I use, you can clean up the light spray with regular old acetone. Rub gently with a cotton swab until it disappears. For larger, denser spots, you need to touch them up with paint. I tried Mr. Clean Eraser as well, but all it did was rub out the Poly-urethane and start tearing up my paper. Don't do that. Since my background was paper and not paint, I just decided to live with the small spots. My kids don't care. 

If I were to make these to sell, I would just paint the whole block in ASCP and lose the scrapbook paper. Then you could touch up any mistakes after stenciling and have it be pretty flawless.

At this point, your stenciled piece looks something like this:

And if you like it that way, then you can stop here.

I like the look of a seasoned chalk board, so I went ahead and seasoned mine.

To season a chalkboard, you just rub white chalk all over it and then erase it.

And then it looks like this:

And when your kids get finished playing with it, it looks like this:

And when they turn their blocks over to the back side (because they will have 
claimed them for themselves by this point), they can do this:

and create whatever they want. and then erase it all and draw something else.

I think this one's my favorite.

So there it is is. 

How to make your own two sided chalk board blocks 
with stuff you probably already have.

Thanks for making it the whole. way. through.


And thanks to ScotchBlue Tape, for giving me a reason to try something new.
All opinions here are my own. They just gave me free tape. I'll let you know if I win.

Talk to you soon,
CM Shaw