Summer is over and I’m sure your kiddos started school a few weeks ago. And while there might not be too much “down time” to display their sidewalk artistries now, there’re still some warm days left to unwind with outdoor play after being cooped up inside the classroom all day. And chalk is a quintessential tool in their “must have” childhood box to help them express themselves. But it’s also one of those annoying things that do not last that long. They get worn out easily and if not careful, they get wet and break.
And what’s more, if you are considering using chalkboard paint to create writable surfaces for home decor, – the latest interior decorating fad – you’ll need lots of chalk. Writing with chalk is pretty cool since the signs you create are totally reusable and rewritable. You can replace wasteful “Post It” notes or make a customizable and rewritable signs. (Great for Tag Sales and Garage Sales in the Fall!) Some people paint door panels as message centers and some even paint the entire refrigerator with chalkboard paint to create the ultimate message billboard. I wouldn’t go that far but I have to admit, writing with chalk on a chalkboard is pretty useful.
But here is the thing. When I looked for tutorials to make a chalk, they all made it sound really stupid easy. Just mix some plaster and water and you are good to go!
Um….no. It’s not as simple as that. Technically, Plaster of Paris - gympsum hemihydrate or, more accurately calcium sulfate hemihydrate - is fine powdery stuff that can get into your lungs and irritate the eyes if not handled properly. But it’s also used in setting broken bones in a cast, as well as smoothing out sheet-rocked walls before painting. But I’ve seen tutorials that showed kids making these chalks on their dining tables. YIKES! That’s DEFINITELY NOT RECOMMENDED in my book. To make these chalks, I used a flattened out cardboard box on the garage floor with the garage door wide open, wore gloves and a mask.
Wear gloves and a mask and work in a well ventilated area.
Finally, here is my tutorial on how to make a sidewalk chalk. Oh, I’ll tell you how to turn any surface into a writable chalkboard surface to write with this chalk on my next post. And even how to make it magnetic too, as a bonus! But first, let’s make chalks!
How to make your own homemade chalk
- Plaster of Paris
- Food Coloring or Tempra paint in colors of your choice (optional)
Prepare the area with newspaper or opened cardboard because it might get messy. Again, make sure to wear a mask and gloves and work in a well ventilated area. Just follow the instruction on the box and mix equal parts of water and plaster of paris if you want to make a hard chalk good for a hard concrete surface, like your sidewalk. But if you want to use it for a painted surface like a wooden board or a cabinet, add more water to make a softer chalk. This is the information I didn’t know until I chipped the paint off on a few plaques and had to start over. This is the little secret I didn’t find out on tutorials I read. Drat!
If use equal parts of plaster and water, chalk becomes like cold hard peanut butter that you just took out of the refrigerator. Like this.
But if you want to write on a painted surface smoothly with a softer chalk, add little more water and make the mixture to be more like pancake batter mix. You can add food coloring or Tempra paint at this point to make colorful chalks. Then, put the mixture in a mold, like a bathroom cup, or a toilet paper roll, or just roll it in the parchment paper like below, like a sushi roll.
You can make any shape or size chalks and you can add any color you want but I kept mine white here since white can be used on any color surface. Use just enough plaster to make the number of chalks you need because once the mixture is hardened, you won’t be able to save the leftover. Use them all up and mold them into shapes you want. Chalk will be ready in less than 30 minutes if they are soft. I left mine alone for about an hour, just to be sure. They will get a little warm as the mixture hardens. I think I like these naturally shaped chalks than perfectly round cylindrical ones. Don’t you?
You can erase with water if you make a mistake in writing with chalk. If you left it on the surface for a long time, you can use a bit of soap to erase completely. When you first write with the chalk, it’ll be light – see the word “For” below. But then, like magic, it’ll get darker, like the word “Sale”.
With a box of $7 plaster of paris, I think you’ll make enough chalk to write a novel or paint a Sistine Chapel! Making homemade chalks are so much cheaper and fun too!
Tune in next time if you want to know how to make these pretty chalkboard plaques! Just like making chalks, making paintable chalkboard paint is an “art” that none of the tutorials mentioned in my search. I had to learn it the hard way. But guess what? I’ll share the secret with you. But shhhh….don’t tell anybody.