Use This for That: DIY Black Dry Erase Board

Black Dry Erase Board

As a writer, I use a whiteboard as a catch all. From important dates to writing targets, to witty lines that I’ll undoubtedly find less witty when I get around to adding them to my manuscript, a whiteboard is like flypaper for my scattered mind. I’ve written about my whiteboard before here. There’s just one problem. I’d grown sick of using it.

Before I dove into the land of writing, I was a teacher and as such, used a whiteboard daily. I love the dry erase format but my office whiteboard seemed to function as a constant work reminder rather than an inspiration board like I had intended. It was almost as if it was standing over my shoulder with a coffee cup asking for my TPS reports. I just couldn’t take it any more. I needed something different but something that could still serve the same function.

I’d seen black dry erase boards online and had been pining over them for months. There was something about the bright neon writing on the stark, black background that just seemed right. Each note, an idea shining through the aether rather than jotted down on dirty white page. Here in Switzerland black dry erase boards are very hard to come by and world wide, they’re stupidly expensive. I spent a couple of months trying to justify the expense until one day I decided to put on my MacGyver mullet (figuratively, of course) and get inventive.

There were three things I wanted in a dry erase board. It had to be black, it had to be magnetic, and it had to be easily erased. After a lot of searching for things like black acrylic sheets and black glass cabinet doors I finally settled on the simplest solution.

I started off by destroying my old whiteboard. This was for more than just catharsis. I needed the thin steel sheet (the actual writing surface of a whiteboard) in order to make my new board magnetic. Next I went to Ikea and picked up a cheap STRÖMBY frame. This frame is perfect because it has a glass front so there’s no need to worry about chemical reactions, etching, or fogging depending on your chosen writing utensil. Finally I went to an office supply store and snagged a large black sheet of card stock. Once I had all the pieces I just needed to put them together. Here are the steps.

  1. Put the frame face down and remove the back plate leaving the glass in the frame.
  2. Start by cutting the card stock to size and laying it over the glass.
  3. Next, place the thin steel sheet over the card stock and center it. Use some duck tape (duck or duct both are appropriate, look up the history) to secure it to the card stock.
  4. Finally, reattached the back of the frame and hang that puppy.

You can see the finished product above. There’s a bit of a glare issue and you have to use the neodymium (rare earth) magnets but for my purposes, it works great.

I’m currently using chalk pens with this board but am not incredibly impressed. They work fine but can be a bit messy and the cleanup is more of a hassle than I thought it would be. My wife is traveling to the States for work soon so I’ll have her bring back some neon dry erase markers. I think they’ll do the trick.

So, why did I bother going to all that trouble? For me it’s about being inspired. I’m a bit of a head case when it comes to writing. Sure, changing a dry erase board from white to black is a completely cosmetic change but it altered how I felt about using it. It’s a small change but worthwhile. At least to me.