Trash to treasure: DIY Chalkboard Menu (Part 1)

Remember this little gem? One of my best friends, Savannah, salvaged this sad and disheveled frame from her grandfather’s house and generously offered it to us for use at our wedding. It sure needed a lot of work, but envisioning the final product kept me focused.

In this post of yore I explaining that the plan was to clean him up and outfit him with a chalkboard center, fit for our wedding reception as a big menu by the buffet. Something sort of like this:


First order of business? Get rid of that crumbling and slightly spooky portrait. It was a little sad not to be able to salvage what could very well have been a valuable piece of art, but there was nothing that we could have done. In the end, I’m just happy that we were able to salvage at least part of the piece – i.e. the frame itself.

Incredibly (and so not what I had been expecting) the removal of all the junk on the back of the frame was a snap. It was so badly in disrepair that the four pieces of wood holding the glass and portrait to the frame lifted right away. Other than that, it really just needed a good cleaning.

After taking the frame down to the garage so as not to dirty up the kitchen, my mom and I  brushed away the grime and dirt using a little hand-held bristle tool (can be picked up at any grocery store in the cleaning section). A light hand and gentle sweep across the surface got rid of the grit without harming the pretty details on the frame.

Still looking pretty grimey, huh? Well the next step was to wipe it down with a good bit of alcohol. Using a couple of rags, my sister and I took our time rubbing all the way around the frame, careful to get into the little curves and recesses. As you’ll see by our nasty, dirty rags, we were able to get it pretty darn clean!

Parts of the frame came away from these two cleaning steps looking lux and shimmery, such as this section:

But most of the frame still looked a little dirty and definitely not fit for a wedding reception – Not yet anyway. Even with the brushing and alcohol bath, the frame had tons of discoloration and broken/nicked sections that just couldn’t be fixed with a simple cleaning.

The section below is the worst, with a big chunk of the wood missing. Plus, if you look to the upper left of the photo you’ll see what almost looks like a burn mark. But I wasn’t too anxious – I had a plan.

Nothing a coat of spray paint can’t fix! I admit that I debated going with a bright color, like teal, to freshen up our inherited frame…But eventually decided to start off with something as close to its original finish as possible. My thought on that was, if it ended up looking dull and/or boring, I could always paint over it.

So I bought a can of Rust-Oleum spray paint in a metallic hammered finish. I liked the idea of the textured spray paint because it would really help to cover the frame’s imperfections, while also giving it the look of a still-vintage piece. I was a-okay with the idea of an uneven finish in this case because I didn’t want it to look brand new – Just cleaner.

A few coats of paint later and we were GOLDEN.

We even managed to camouflage that broken section with the spray paint – It’s not P-E-R-F-E-C-T, but I think it’s a lot less noticeable now.

Want to see that “Before” photo again?

And now “After”…

I am so excited with how much better the frame looks, with its bright new finish and clean surface. It’s not quite the yellow-golden sheen of its original state, but I think this fresh, almost milky bronze color really makes it stand out. The next step is to fill the center with a chalkboard surface so that we can write out the buffet menu – John and I picked up the wood on Tuesday and, even though my friends are throwing me a bachelorette party out of town this weekend, I am hoping to get the whole project wrapped up by Monday.

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week! Have a great weekend.

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