Have you ever had something you couldn’t get out of your head until you made it happen? This acrylic message board was that project for me. It started out as an idea for a holiday countdown, but then it felt like too many supplies to only be used 30 days out of the year. So then I thought it might work as a perpetual calendar, but then things got really busy around the new year and I couldn’t squeeze it in in time for Jan 1st. So it sat in my head. And sat. And sat. Finally, over the weekend, I managed to figure out everything I needed to make it happen, and the idea morphed from a calendar into a message board. Now it’s got a day job AND a dream job!
The hardest part about putting this together was figuring out measurements and having patience while I cut acrylic rectangles. I made a few mistakes because I was impatient, but overall it all came together in the space of two interrupted afternoons. Now I have a fun display board to keep me motivated in my studio and to use throughout the house as a calendar or holiday countdown. I am SO thrilled that this idea finally came to fruition. Sometimes things just need to sit a little to become the best version of themselves, huh!
– 12″ x 12″ precut piece of wood from Michael’s (or cut your own down to size)
– two 18″ x 24″ acrylic sheets. I tested two thicknesses and the one shown was harder to cut through. I suggest the Duraplex brand or anything around 2mm thick. It will also be the cheaper option.
– two lengths of 1/4″ x 3/8″ x 2′ balsa wood
– two lengths of 1/4″ x 1/4″ x 2′ balsa wood
– 3.25″ vinyl alpha and number stickers. I used a set from Michael’s that I found in the scrapbook section. This size fits best with the size of the wood I’m using, but you can adjust your sizes for both as long as you adjust all of your measurements consistently.
– general purpose sandpaper
– utility knife or Plaskolite’s Plastic Cutting Knife
– self healing mat
– wood glue
– alligator hanger for mounting to wall (optional)
If you’re using 3.25″ vinyl stickers like I did, you need to cut your acrylic to measure about 1″ taller so that you get about 1/2″ of negative space on the top and bottom. Part of this might be covered up by the lip of your balsa ledges. This means your acrylic should be 4 1/4″ tall. Your width will vary depending on the width of your letter or number. I suggest adding about 1/3″ to each side of your letter or number’s width. This will help space them out evenly no matter what word or abbreviation you spell.
To prepare to cut your acrylic, place it on your self healing mat and measure about 4.25″ from one edge. I then placed my metal ruler on the line where I was going to make my cut and used my utility knife to score a straight line against my ruler. Once I made the initial score, I repeated scoring it with more pressure to help make the cut. I may have had to score it 10 times to get a deep enough cut. Then I laid it against the edge of a table and applied downward pressure until it snapped off. 9 out of 10 times I got the clean cut that I made with my knife. Once I got lazy and didn’t cut it deep enough, it just broke off where it wanted to.
After getting my length of 4.25″ acrylic cut, I would measure out each letter with about 1/3″ to spare on each side and then make another round of cuts with my utility knife. This is the tedious part, but it’s also pretty fun to see your stack of numbers and letters grow.
NOTE: I suggest wearing heavy duty work gloves for this part as you’ll be applying pressure to your acrylic and using a sharp tool. Safety first!
If you want to make this part easier, you can use the thinnest acrylic sheets you can find or maybe skip this and use transparency sheets like the kind you can print on and use with projectors. It won’t have the same sturdy look, but it might be another route to try.
As you can see, I can fit about 3-5 letters across the width of my message board depending on their width. If you were only wanting to use this as a calendar, you could cut one length of acrylic per month and just add three letters each such as ‘Mar’ or ‘Dec’. This would save some cutting, but you’d also need to ensure you have multiples of regularly used letters such as ‘a’ and ‘e’.
Prepare your cut of wood by sanding it lightly and wiping off excess sand with a damp cloth. Then cut your balsa wood so that you have four lengths of both sizes that are 12″ wide. You can use your utility knife or sharp scissors. Sand down your ends.
Run a thin line of wood glue along the top half of your wider piece of balsa wood (1/4″ x 3/8″) and place your other size on top of it so that the top edges are flush with each other. Repeat with the other three sets. These will create your ledges. Since my wood glue needed some time to dry, I placed my glued balsa ledges next to each other, covered them with another piece of flat wood, and placed heavy things on top to help keep the wood from warping while the glue dried.
Once my glue was dry, I found the center of the board and lightly marked it. I placed two of my ledges together in the center with the lips facing opposite directions and glued them to the large piece of wood and to each other. Then I gently fitted a piece of acrylic to find the measurement for where my top and bottom ledges should go. You don’t want them too tight, but you don’t want them to fall out either. So just make a mark with a little wiggle room and glue it in place. Again, I placed something on top of these while they dried.
At this point you could paint or stain your wooden base. You could also add an alligator hanger to the back if you wanted to mount it to your wall. Add your acrylic and find a home for your new favorite project!
In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy my new signage in this happy corner of my studio. What short phrase would you display on yours? –Rachel