Sunday, September 30, 2007

Build your own whiteboard

Everyone knows that a developer's productivity is directly proportional to the total surface area of whiteboard he has access to, but places like Office Depot want $150 or more for a whiteboard of any appreciable size. Luckily, building your own is incredibly easy. Here's all you have to do:

  1. Head to your local hardware store to acquire materials. You'll need:

    • A 4'x8' sheet of melamine coated board. I found this in the Building Materials section. This is the key piece of the whole thing. Obviously 4'x8' is a lot of whiteboard. I had the helpful hardware store employee cut mine into 2 pieces, a 3'x4' and a 5'x4'. The whole thing is about $11.

    • Since the board is thin and wobbly, you'll need something to stabilize it. I opted to build a simple wood frame to mount the board to. You could glue it to a big sheet of plywood, but that will make the whole thing pretty heavy and difficult to move. Alternatively you could just mount the board directly to one of your walls with glue or cleverly placed trim or something.

      The hardware store sold nice 1.5" wide pieces of pine that came in 8' lengths. I bought 4 and had them custom cut to the size I needed. 2 were cut into a 3' length and a 5' length (for the top and bottom of the frames), and the other 2 were cut into 2x 3'-9" pieces each (4 total) to form the sides of each board (4' tall - 1.5" for the width of the top frame piece - 1.5" for the width of the bottom frame piece). Each one of these was about $2.

    • To assemble the frame I bought some flat L-shaped brackets. The packages I found came with 4 brackets and all the screws. I bought two of these for about $3 each.

    • Finally, to glue the board to the frame I bought some construction adhesive. It comes in a tube that fits in a caulk gun which you may have to buy if you don't have one. It was about $4.

    • If don't have some already, get some sandpaper to smooth out the frame edges.

    Total material cost is just under $30. For the record, $30 < $150.

  2. Now to build the thing. First sand the frame pieces nice and smooth.

  3. The brackets I bought said to drill 5/64" pilot holes before running the screws, so I dutifully complied.

  4. Then I screwed in all the brackets. I did the first 2 one at a time, but for the final 2 I put them in loosely and then tightened gradually going from one side to the other to make sure everything lined up fine.

  5. Now, place the melamine white side down on the floor (maybe on a towel so as not to scratch anything). Run a nice solid line of construction adhesive along the frame you just built on the side you didn't mount the brackets on.

  6. Place the frame onto the melamine, line things up, and press down firmly all along the edges. This step is much easier if you can procure the aid of a Lovely Assistant.

  7. Put some bricks or something heavy along the edges of the frame to hold things together while the adhesive sets up.

I let mine set up for a day and by then it was rock solid. I now have 2 giant whiteboards that cost about $30 and less than an hour of labor total. Not bad at all.