A few weeks ago in order to participate in the Summer Pinterest Challenge, we scraped together a few items we had laying around the basement to create a project for almost no cost and little effort. For our modest investment of a little time (most of it spent watching paint dry), we now have a hidden chalkboard message center on the back of two of our kitchen cabinet doors.
As much as I love a "free" project, the fat sticks of sidewalk chalk we had purchased from Target several months ago, though great for hopscotch games, left something to be desired in the way of penmanship chalkmanship.
Alex knows my penchant for neat handwriting, as well as my love of things that are not covered in chalk dust, so he made a noble attempt to remedy our dillemma and purchased "chalk pencils." In reality, he had purchased pastel chalk pencils, for chalk artists. Though they write on the chalkboard paint we had applied to the backs of our cabinet doors, I wouldn't particularly say they do it well.
Not to mention the sound that tends to accompany the thin tip as it jumps along marking the surface has a very Freddy Kreugerish, "finger blades on industrial pipe" melody. Trust me, far worse than fingernails on chalkboard, it makes Lulu hide her head.
I also can't forget the difficulty of cleanup. Soapy warm water plus a bit of elbow grease seems to get the job almost done, but I fear we'll always have some ghosts of meal plans and reminders past.
So after that failed experiment, and a waste of $11 unless Alex decides to pick up artistry and starts working in chalks (I don't see it happening), we're back to the chalk drawing board.
We started looking around at the various options and kept seeing Chalk Ink, and similar chalkboard pen style writing implements. These are the same pens that coffee houses, sandwich shops, and places like Trader Joe's use to make their brightly colored chalk drawings.
They go on more like ink or paint, with consistent lines, true edges, and bright colors. The other advantage is how well they write on glass and other non porous surfaces. We were hopeful we had a solution, but there was one significant caveat.
Through our research we learned that these pens have been known to ruin chalkboard painted wood. Wood is a proud surface, and chalkboard paint over wood is still rather porous, so the ink likes to jump into those little pores and sit there forever. When this happens, you're left with a ghost image of what you had written. You're only option is to put another coat of paint on. Talk about an inefficient process.
Knowing the risk, we went ahead and ordered one of these pens. Our feeling was simple. The wood our cabinets were made of is a good hard wood. Not to mention we had painted them white, which went over a layer of primer, and then finally we had our chalkboard paint. If ever there was a chance a porous surface might not be porous any longer, this was it.
After shaking and then priming the pen with several pumps, I nervously wrote out a few items for the week, hoping we wouldn't be repainting later in the day.
After allowing the ink to dry for a few minutes, Alex grabbed a paper towel and dampened it with warm water to make our attempt to just wipe it away. We had our fingers crossed.
As you can see from the photo, the ink was gone, but wait, the paint still had an outline of the words that had been written. Oh no!
Is this what people are talking about? Had we just ruined our project? Would we need to repaint? Well, I guess this isn't a real surprise, but we're a bit neurotic. This is one of those situations where patience is key (and we had exercised none). As we were lamenting another $8 wasted and the time necessary to repaint, the water we had used to wipe the board began to dry, and the outline began to fade away. Just about two minutes later and our chalkboard was back to a clean slate, just waiting for another recipe. Success!
I'll be using this pen for sure, and I may even be tempted to pick up a few colors other than white, especially since I know the option works for our board. Who knows, with how great this stuff works, we may end up with more chalkboard covered surfaces in our house. Only time will tell.
If you're interested in using this type of chalk ink, I think the key here is the hardness of the surface the paint was applied over. Even if you're putting the chalkboard paint over a porous surface, you should still be okay as long as you have many layers of paint and hard wood under the chalkboard paint. Another option that may work is to apply an oil based primer before the chalkboard paint. The oil based primer should make a porous surface more consistent.
I know several other people chimed with knowledge of these pens in on our previous post, thanks for that! Your feedback helped us land on a winning choice. But does anyone else have any particular preference or experience? Has anyone inadvertently ruined their chalkboard by using this type of pen? I'm just curious to see the experiences of others in this matter.
Update - Four Months Later
Harumph! Now that we've used this pen for a little while, we're sad to report that it has permanently stained our chalk board paint. The pen erased easily when you write and then erase within a few hours. But if you leave the writing on the paint for a few days, it leaves a ghost of the writing that simply can't be erased. Looks like we're going to be having Tuna Casserole for the next few years. Just wanted to let you all know what to look out for.
Did you enjoy reading this post? Want to learn more about our first-hand experiences with other tools, devices or items used throughout our renovation? If so, check out our complete list of product reviews in our Toolbox Tuesday section.
Note: We weren't compensated for this review. We simply want to share good products when we see them, and hope that learning from our mistakes can help save you time, money and frustration.