Tuesday, August 13, 2019

How To DIY a Large-Format Clipboard


How many years can you be vaguely annoyed by your kids' Girl Scout cookie order forms never fitting properly on a clipboard before you do something about it?

Six years. The correct answer is six years.

And you also need the impetus of an imminent Girl Scout meeting at the local farmer's market (the Tuesday one, NOT the Saturday one), for which you have created a scavenger hunt that requires the girls to annotate a large-format map of Indiana while running around and talking to growers and producers, making large-format clipboards also obviously necessary.

So here's how to make your own large-format clipboard! It's super handy, I love it, and you're going to like it a lot, too.

You will need:
  • MDF or hardboard, or a similar wood type. You want something that's higher-quality than particle board, although still within the same approximate .5cm-.25in thickness. You can go thicker, keeping in mind that you're going to have to tote this bad boy around with you, but I wouldn't go thinner, because if the wood is so thin that it flexes, then it's a crap clipboard and you'll be sad. You can also use real wood, of course, not the weirdo particulate nonsense that I'm advocating here--the best case scenario is to dig around in your garage until you find a piece that works for you for free.
  • measuring tools.
  • saw. I used a circular saw, but use whatever you've got that works for you.
  • sandpaper or grinder. You'll use this to round the edges of the clipboard.
  • (optional) paint, stain, and sealant. You don't have to decorate the back of the clipboard, but why lose out on an opportunity to be extra?
  • binder clips. Generally, it's bulldog clips that are used on a clipboard, but we're going for something different--and more versatile!--here.

1. Measure the clipboard. Since I essentially used scrap wood for this project, the proportions of my clipboards are slightly strange in order to use as much of the wood as possible. However, 12"x16" or 12"x18" make little difference--they're both good sizes to fit a Girl Scout cookie order form.

2. Cut the clipboard. Go play with power tools!


3. Sand all the edges and grind the corners. Especially since kids will be using these clipboards, you don't want them to be sharp or have splinters, so round all of the edges with sandpaper, then use a rough grit--or a grinder, if possible--to round the corners.

4. (optional) Embellish! The trick here is to embellish and seal ONLY ONE SIDE of this clipboard. That's because it's going to be secretly multi-purpose! I'm just going to tell you right now that when the kids were young I was super into Waldorf-style stuff for well more than a hot minute. 

I wasn't into Waldorf-style learning, mind you--just the stuff! I loved beeswax crayons and tree blocks and hand-sewn dolls stuffed with wool roving and wet-on-wet watercolor supplies and rolled candles and gnomes and shit.

Anyway, all the wet-on-wet watercolor aficionados always used these super-awesome wooden painting boards, which really are super awesome because they hold the paper still, don't get water all over, and are wipeable. I don't think you even need the beeswax polish, because I think it ruins the tooth.

So I never made the kids one of these painting boards (although I highly suspect that I originally bought this particular piece of wood in order to make painting boards and then never did that project and instead just hoarded the board in the garage for several years--I may have even moved house with it!), BUT by leaving one side of this large-format clipboard completely unembellished and unsealed, you know what you get?

A Waldorf-style plain wood painting board! Yay! Syd has been really interested in watercolor painting this summer, so this painting board is particularly nice for her. I also like that it's lap-size, perfect for sitting against a tree trunk and doing some outdoor art.

But back to the back of the clipboard, which you're free to embellish and is a nice size for it. To embellish these particular Girl Scout cookie order form clipboards, I stained them, stenciled a large trefoil onto each, painted the trefoil green with three coats of craft acrylic, redrew the border with Sharpie to neaten it, and then painted polyurethane sealant over the whole back.

Don't seal the front!

5. Add clips. The secret ingredient for this project is this exact type of binder clip:


Instead of screwing a non-removable clip directly to the clipboard, I have four of these binder clips clipped to it. We can use or move them as desired, which makes the clipboard highly versatile.

We've already used these clipboards a bunch, and it's not even close to Girl Scout cookie season! I love how handy they are, and how easy they are to store. It wouldn't be unreasonable to make one for every girl in a troop, or to have them make their own (Hello, Cadette Woodworking badge!), or to have them embellish their own before you seal it.

You guys, these kids are going to sell so many Girl Scout cookies this season!

P.S. Like weird (and wonderful!) projects like this? Check out my Craft Knife Facebook page, where there's lots more!

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