How to make a childs easel

Make a great blackboard to keep the kids amused – with a little help from Mitre 10.

Having trouble keeping your young children amused on weekends and during the school holidays? Or convincing them that the walls of your home are not meant for them to show off their colourful creativity? Then this easel blackboard will help.

Here's an easy-to-follow guide to achieving a great result. Outlines all the tools you will need for the job. Including materials checklist.

Materials Checklist

Timber

( Radiata Pine. Be sure to specify Dressed All Round (DAR) when purchasing.You can also order cut-to-size, at extra cost, ready to assemble. )

  • 42 x 19mm Pine 4 pcs x 1100mm long legs 4 pcs x 674mm long crossmembers
  • 70 x 19mm Pine 2 pcs x 67mm long chalk ledge
  • Masonite chalkboard 2 pcs – 600 x 600mm from single sheet chalkboard 1220 x 610 x 3.2mm
Hardware
  • Pkt. 30mm x 6 gauge Wood Screws
  • Small Can Blackboard Paint (Black or Green)
  • Hinges – Butt or long Piano type as preferred
  • Screws – for fixing hinges
  • 300-400mm Cord or Decorative Chain

Step 1: Prepare materials

If you’ve ordered your materials cut-to-size, you can proceed immediately to the next step. If not, you’ll find making your easel easier if you cut and prepare all frame pieces first.

Start by making sure all ends of timber are square using your carpenter’s square. If not, square them by cutting off 10mm or so.

Then measure out the four 1100mm legs on lengths of 42 x 19mm pine. Pencil lines across the boards at this mark with your carpenter’s square and cut to size (Fig.1).

A trick of the trade when cutting several pieces of timber to exactly the same length like this is to clamp them together and measure them as one. That way, even if you’re a fraction out, the pieces will all be the same length. Repeat the process and cut four crossmembers 674mm long from 42 x 19mm pine, and two chalk ledges the same length from 70 x 19mm pine.

Step 2: Rebate the legs

A rebate is simply a groove cut into one board to receive another board. In this case, the rebate is cut into the centre of each leg on the inside to house the masonite for the blackboard (Fig.2).

There are several ways to cut the rebate. The quickest and easiest is with a router. But if you don’t have one, a power circular saw is equally as effective.

First, layout your legs in pairs and make a mark to indicate the inside of each leg. This will help you to avoid any errors when cutting and ensure your rebates will end up opposite each other. Then measure down 600mm from the top of each leg and square a line across the inside leg. Square the line across the flat face surfaces as well as to act as a cutting guide.

The rebate is 4mm wide by 5mm deep. To accurately measure it, set your marking gauge to 6mm. Hold it firmly and squarely against one face surface of the leg and score a line in the inside edge from the top down to the 600mm line (Fig.3). Score another line like it from the opposite face surface of the same leg, leaving 5mm in the middle for your rebate. Do the same on each leg. Then run a sharp pencil down each score line so it’s easier to see.

If you use a router, you can remove the waste timber in just one pass. Because of the narrowness of the timber, you may have to clamp on another piece or two of timber to support the router base and to allow you to use the guide attachment for a perfectly straight, accurate cut.

If using a circular saw, you’ll need to make two or three passes to remove the waste. But again, clamp on another piece of timber to support the saw’s base. Set the saw’s blade to 5mm deep, and if you have a fence for the saw, set this to match the gauge line, then make a cut on the inside of one score line from the top to the 600mm mark. Do the same on the inside of the opposite score line. Any waste remaining on the middle of the two cuts can be removed with a third pass of the saw or with a chisel.

The router or saw cuts will go beyond the 600mm line to give you the exact measurement but don’t worry – the bottom crosspiece covers it over and hides it. But check that the rebate stops at the same point on each leg before continuing.

Whether using a router or a saw, make sure all timber to be worked on is clamped (and never held by a person) to a rigid work surface

Step 3: Put it together

The pieces are simply screwed together, so assembly is straightforward and easy.

To form one side, make sure the inside of the two legs are facing each other and lay them flat across the top (Fig.4). Check that the top edge of the cross member is flush with the top edges of the legs.

Then drill two holes slightly smaller than the 6 gauge screws through the cross member (at approximately 11mm centres from the edges) and into the legs. Be careful not to drill right through the front of the legs. Remove the cross member and countersink the cross member drill holes so the screw heads will be flush with the surface when fitted. Replace the cross member on the legs and fix it to them with screws.

 

Now turn the legs over onto their backs and place a second 42 x 19mm cross member across the legs at the 600mm mark, making sure the edges of the cross members are flush with the outside edges of the legs. Fix it to the legs in the same manner as the top cross member. Then stand the frame upright and insert one of the chalkboard pieces into the rebates on each leg from the top (Fig.5).

Finish off by forming the chalk ledge. Turn the frame upside down and screw a 70 x 19mm pine board to the underside of the bottom crossmember using two screws for the ends and one in the middle. Follow the same fixing methods as above.

Then repeat the same procedure to form the second side.

Step 4: Join the two sides 

The two sides are joined with hinges fixed to the top on the inside to both cross members. The simplest way is to mount the hinges directly onto the cross members with screws.

First, position the hinges about 100mm in from both sides of the frame on the flat surface of the cross members. The hinge pins should show just above the top edge of the cross member. Mark the position of the hinge holes, then drill pilot holes smaller than the size of the screws and put the screws in.

Recessing the hinges in the cross members produces a neater finish but requires a bit more work. After positioning the hinges on the flat surface of the cross member – again with the pin just above the top edge – mark around the hinge with your pencil. Then mark the thickness of the hinge leaf on the top edge of the cross member. Chisel out the recess, cutting down to the thickness of the hinge leaf first with your chisel, and then chiselling out the waste from the top edge (Fig.7). Place the hinges in the recess, make pilot holes and screw the hinges in place.

Step 5: The final touches

The final step is to sand the frame to a smooth finish and apply a protective coating. Be sure to sand with the grain to avoid scratching the surface, especially if you plan to use a timber stain or clear surface finish to bring out the natural beauty of the timber. And round off all corners – there must be no sharp edges or splinters on which children can hurt themselves.

Or, if you prefer, you can paint it to add a cheerful colour to a child’s room or to mix or match with existing furniture. Choose oil-based enamel paint for a hard-wearing surface that’s easy to wipe clean. You can even decorate the frame with patterns, transfers or self-adhesive decals to add a happy note.

But always remove all traces of dust before painting or staining for a smooth, professional result.

Finally, to prevent the sides from opening too far, fix a piece of cord or decorative chain to the inside of the bottom cross members.

Now all that’s left to do is stand back and enjoy a cup of tea while the kids tell you you’re the world’s greatest handyperson.