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Cedar and Steel Chalk Board Frames | Build Video

Chalk Board Frames

The same client we made the cedar and steel tables for are back again! They purchased a couple chalk board slabs from an old school and they want a matching frame. The clients establishment has a theme and decor that would remind you of an urban city. Exposed I-beams, concrete floors, man-hole covers, gabions, bikes hanging from the ceiling. Their name is BLVD Pub. They are on Veterans BLVD in West Fargo, ND. Their style really plays to the name! Some of their decor is a rustic-modern design, including our tables we built. The frames for the chalk boards need to be similar.

Design Challenges

The client purchased two chalk board slates that are two different sizes. The sizes don’t pose too big of a challenge but we do need to keep track of the part dimensions and make sure our parts are to the correct size. The biggest challenge was coming up with a design to incorporate metal and the cedar with the slates. When you think of a frame you normally think of a picture frame with a back rabbit to hold the mat board, picture, and backing. Well, with metal, we need to construct a structure that simulates this as close as possible while still be simple enough to construct. With some off cuts, we continuously played around with various designs and arrangements but kept going back to the structure we used on the cedar and steel table tops. It is a square tubing frame with flat bar welded to the back to act as a registration point for the slates (or in the table build, the cedar tops). Then we decided to add a bit of flare and rustic contrast by including a 1″ thick strip of cedar inside the steel. This did two things. First, it added a second shadow line. This shadow line added depth and character to the frame. Second, it added structure and support to the slate. We will touch on this a bit more below.

Cutting The Steel Tubing

We measured each piece of slate and were very careful not to screw up the tubing dimensions. We took the 1.5″ square tubing to our Skill Saw dry cutting saw station. We set the saw to 45* angle and made our first cut. We then measured taking into count the slate measurement we grabbed earlier. This measurement is to the inside of the 45* miter. Once we made the second cut on the first piece, we set a stop block to make sure the opposing side was exactly the same. After all, any square piece needs to have parts that have opposing sides that are the same length or you will never have a square piece.

Welding the joints

We headed over to our welding table to get the parts squared up and ready for welding. Once we squared the piece up, we used some clamps through our dog holes in the table tops to hold everything in place. We made two tacks on the side that was facing up. Once all four joints were tacked in place, we could then flip the assembly and tack the other side. We like to tack both sides of the joint before making the full weld as it help prevent warping. With all the joints welding, we can then grind them smooth.

Grinding the welds

Andy is a professional woodworker and a beginner welder. Let’s just say his welds are the grinders best friend. In all honesty, the welds were ok but the scope of the project called for the grinder no matter how good the welds looked. We really dig the smooth joint look, especially with the type of project that it is. We could have gotten away with not grinding these joints on the frame, as it would have added to the character of the piece. But, we had a system that we developed from the cedar and steel table build and decided to continue the look.

Applying The blackening Agent

Our raw steel looks, well, RAW! We love adding a blackening agent to the steel to instantly cause a chemical reaction and give the metal a very dark look. We use a products called JAX’s Blackening Agent and it is extremely easy to apply. We pour a little more than we need into a measuring cup and then use a chip brush to apply it liberally to the metal. You can instantly see where you have applied it.

Cutting The Cedar and Protecting the Surfaces

The cedar is the easiest part of this build. We took our rustic cedar and ripped 1.5″ strips at the table saw. We then laid them down on our Centipede Tool Stands and some OSB for a surface.

With the steel blackened and the cedar ready to be finished, we load up 50/50 Semi-Gloss and Matte Lacquer into our HVLP spray gun. We spray the metal frame and the cedar (edges too) multiple times waiting in between each coat so it could fully dry.

They are heavy!

There is no doubt about it, with the heavy slate, all the steel, and a little cedar, these assemblies are extremely heavy. We need a way to hang the unit that will be suitable for the weight that is involved. The client would like to hang these from a rock wall that has a metal cage around it (Gabion). We decided to weld a few bolts at a downward angle. When we go to install, we will first check if these are level. If they are we can put them right on the metal wire. If they are not, we made some metal wire assemblies that will hook on to the bolts and be connected to the cage with carabiner.

Happy Client!

The frames turned out wonderful and the client is extremely happy. The biggest thing we took away from this project is the weight. We need to be more aware of the combined materials and how much that will affect then end products total weight. All in all, the project was a big success, the client was happy, and the end results look fantastic. They match the decor of the bar and the previous work we have done. Whenever working for a client, always have your project come in on or under bid, and on time or early. You will continue to get repeat business if you do so!

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