Make a Custom Slate Chalkboard
A Classic Kitchen Accessory Mounted with a French Cleat
By Rob Robillard
In this article I cut a 100-year-old, recycled slate chalkboard and create a custom-sized frame to hang it in. A client of mine came across an old slate blackboard that was salvaged from a boarding school. This blackboard was originally installed in the French classroom of the school more than a century ago and was recently replaced with a whiteboard during a remodel.
Our client loved the antique look and feel of the slate and wanted to make a smaller chalkboard for their kitchen. They had a small space in mind, approximately 20 x 54 inches, in front of an exposed brick chimney.
Salvaged slate chalkboard has a beautiful, aged look to it. It’s a creative alternative to traditional chalkboards, and the look complements many designs and home projects.
Design the Frame
The first step in many projects like this is to determine the size of the chalkboard. Remember that width and measurement will be the frame edges, and the slate will be cut smaller to fit into this frame, similar to a picture frame.
We decided that a 2-1/2-in. wide frame was not only a nice proportion but looked similar to the surrounding trim and cabinet styles. We also wanted to include a 3/8-in. radius bead along the inside edge of the frame for aesthetics and to complement the existing bead-board backsplash in the kitchen.
Real slate chalkboard is heavy, and we figured that we would need to mount this on the brick chimney with masonry screws and a French cleat.
A French cleat is a sturdy way to secure a heavy item to a wall. It involves using two ‘cleat’ boards, each with an opposing 30-45 degree bevel. One cleat is mounted to the wall and the other to the item you want to hang. The bevels interlock and secure the item to the wall. Because no fine maneuvering is required, even a relatively heavy cabinet can be hung this way.
Cut the Frame
This was a paint-grade project so we used clear, select pine for the frame, because it has little to no knots. We could have also used Poplar species, which is a cheaper alternative and is also known for its “knot-free” qualities. I took our materials into my “Concord Carpenter” shop and began construction.
The first step was to cut the chalkboard frame sides (long parts) to the exact height of our project. Next, I cut the top and bottom pieces to the exact width. Because we were mitering the frame corners, all four parts could be cut to the final length and width.