Monthly Archives: January 2015

DIY Project: Build a Chalk Board with Cork Board

We were looking for a chalk board for our condo so that we could post notes, menus and other things. I wanted it to have a distressed look and did not want to spend a lot of money, so I decided to build it myself. In this blog, I will step you though the process.

Finished Chalk Board

Finished Chalk Board

What Materials are Needed?

To create a chalk board, you just need a few things, the cost will be about $30 – $40 in total:

  • Thin Plywood – This will be the actual chalk board. I bought a piece from Home Depot for less than $10 and had them cut it to fit (24″ wide x 30″ tall).
  • 1 x 4 boards for frame – I used boards from an old pallet but you can also purchase 1 x 4 white pine board from Home Depot for about $2.50 for an 8 foot piece (purchase 2 of those).
  • Chalk Board Paint – You can purchase Valspar spray-on Chalk Board Paint at Home Depot for about $6.
  • Screws – You will need some screws (#6 x 1/2″) to secure the plywood to the frame, cost of this will be about $4.
  • Sandpaper – I used some existing sand paper (medium grain), it will set you back a couple of bucks if you need to purchase it.
  • White Paint – I used some existing ceiling paint, but any type of non-glossy paint will work well.
  • Stain – If you don’t have an old pallet, you can purchase white pine 1 x 4 wood for your frame. If you wish to make it appear to have a distressed look, you will need some stain as an undercoat. I used some stain I had lying around the house.
  • Cork Board – You can pick up Cork Board from Michael’s or Home Depot.
  • Painter’s Cut-In Brush – You can pick this up from Home Depot for about $3.

Step 1 – Paint the Plywood

Paint the chalk board

Paint the chalk board

If you did not get the plywood cut from Home Depot or wherever your purchased it, cut it to your desired size. I had mine cut to 24″ wide x 30″ high.

Once cut, lightly sand the plywood then spray the chalk board paint by holding it about 8-10 inches away in a sweeping motion.

Allow it to dry for about 30 minutes and apply one more coat.

Step 2 – Paint the Frame

If you have access to an old wooden pallet, it will most likely be distressed looking so there is no need to make it look distressed, you will just need to sand them so that they are smooth to the touch.

Wooden Slats from a Pallet

Wooden Slats from a Pallet

However, if you don’t have access to an old wooden pallet, you probably purchased (2) 8 foot 1″ x 4″ white pine slats.

White Pine Slats

White Pine Slats

To make it look distressed, first sand both sides of the white pine slats. It should be somewhat smooth to the touch once you are done sanding it.

Next, use a hammer and a nail to make nail holes in the white pine board.  Drag the sharp end of your nail along the grain of the wood to make marks — giving it an aged look.

Hammer nail holes to make it look distressed

Hammer nail holes to make it look distressed

Next, apply some stain to the wood slats. It really does not matter what color stain you use, I used English Chestnut.

English Chestnut Stain

English Chestnut Stain

Stain the wood

Stain the wood

Once the wood is stained, you can begin painting, no need to wait for it to fully dry. Use a painter’s cut-in brush to apply the white paint to the stained board. I like the painter’s cut-in brush because it does not leave any brush marks and allows you to vary the pressure of the brush to allow stained areas to show through — giving it that aged look.

Painter's Cut-In Brush

Painter’s Cut-In Brush

Notice how I let areas of stain show through

Notice how I let areas of stain show through

As mentioned earlier, if you were able to get some wooden pallet boards, there is no need to stain them, simply paint them with the white ceiling paint as I described above for the white pine slats. Here is what that might look like:

Pallet wood before painting

Pallet wood before painting

Pallet wood after painting

Pallet wood after painting

Step 3 – Cut the Frame

Once you have stained / painted the wood pieces, you will now cut them for the frame. I used a miter saw and cut each end at 45 degree angles. I measured them so that the long side was 3 inches wider and 3 inches longer than the plywood chalk board. That will allow you to screw the chalk board into the frame.

The trickiest part of this entire project was getting the 45 degree cuts correct because if you are off by one or two degrees, the joints will not align properly. So it is best to cut those pieces about 12 inches longer than you normally would and test out your joints first. Once you know you have the cuts right, you can shorten them.

45 degree cuts for the frame

45 degree cuts for the frame

You will want to secure the back of the frame with an L-bracket as shown here:

L bracket



The final step is to simply attach the cork board to the plywood (I cut the cork board to 10 inches tall and the exact width of the chalk board) and attached the plywood to the frame. I secured the plywood to the frame using small screws (#6 x 1/2″) spaced about 6 inches apart.  Below is the finished project, hung on the wall:

Finished chalk board

Finished chalk board

I hope you enjoyed this post, if I can do it, so can you!

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Goals for 2015: Self, Family, Others

Most years I make goals but I do them silently. This year I am publishing my goals because I’ve found in the past that you have more accountability when others know what you’re up to.

For example, I told all my friends in 2013 that I was planning to cycle 50 miles by training for 7 weeks. Knowing that my friends would be asking me about my progress, I accomplished the task in 6 weeks. In 2014, I repeated this task with my youngest son (Ryan) and we did it much faster than I did in 2013 (we trimmed 45 minutes off my 2013 time).

I also used this technique when we built our business. We would set goals in January and tied year-end team bonuses to those goals. Each month we would meet to discuss the progress and ideas to help us stay on track to those goals. It worked really well.

2015 Mission

My mission for 2015 is to become more balanced. After much self-reflection, I’ve come to believe that being balanced is a function of 3 areas of my life:

Goal Balance: Self, Family, Others

2015 Goals

For a goal to be meaningful, it must meet this criteria:

  • It must have a time frame (by the end of year, etc.)
  • It must be attainable (if your goal is to become incredibly handsome and even your Mom thinks you’re dog ugly, this might be an unattainable goal)
  • It must be measurable (do something [x] number of times)


  1. Learn to draw better – By end of year, produce 5 drawings I am proud of.
  2. Learn Photoshop better – By end of year, produce 5 photo-edited pictures I would happily hang in our home.
  3. Stay in Shape – By end of year, workout at least 100 times.
  4. Become a better friend – By the end of year, communicate regularly with at least 8 friends (outside of my family).
  5. Learn to cook – By end of year, be able to cook at least 10 meals that I would confidently serve to others.

OK, I hear you saying “how self-centered” to start with SELF first. I firmly believe that you can’t help others until you help yourself, so that is why I list it first. So shut up :).


I’ve always loved to draw but quite frankly, I’m not very good. Like anything else, I think I can learn some techniques to help. Ditto with Photoshop, it would be cool to experiment more with black and white photo editing.

Photos by Steve Miller


I’ve never had issues staying in shape, I normally work out 3-5 times a week (whether it be weight training, cycling, hiking or golfing) but it is good to keep that in the forefront of my goals. In the past year, I’ve cycled over 2,000 miles!

Cycling 50 miles


It’s so easy to lose touch with friends. Sure, Facebook is fine for keeping track of what your acquaintances are up to but how many of those relationships are you really growing? I plan to make a dedicated effort to communicate more frequently with my top 8 friends.


My wife is an incredible cook and so are both my sons. I admit it, I’m a bit of a slacker. But no more, I am going to learn to cook and I might even invite you over for a meal.


  1. Continue our Travels – By end of year, vacation at least 60 days
  2. Be More Fiscally Responsible – By end of year, reduce our retirement draw to a safe withdrawal rate (4%-5%) or less
  3. Solidify Our Home – By end of year, sell our condo and start the construction of our new home


We will continue to take short trips in the USA this year. Traveling internationally will be more challenging now that we have our dog (Katie) back. There are lots of great places to visit in the states, so we plan to visit some more areas (like North Carolina, Savannah, St. Simons Islands, Tybee Island, etc.)

Vacationing in 2015


In our first 2 years of retirement, we were learning the ropes and getting our sea legs. Any competent financial adviser will tell you that if you withdraw 4% or less from your retirement funds per year, you can live on that amount for the rest of your life. In fact, there is a great article on that here.

Luckily, the stock market has gone gang busters since we retired in 2009 and our net worth is higher now than the day we retired. But I know that this will not be the case forever, so it is important to reduce our draw to the safe withdrawal rate of 4% – 5% per year.

In Business 101, you learn that increased profitability is affected in 2 ways: By earning more or spending less. We can use that same principle here to reduce our yearly draw. We can make money outside of the retirement draw and/or we can reduce our expenses.

In 2015, I will be launching at least 2 mobile apps and they should be producing income that should affect the bottom line. We are also reducing our monthly spending. Since October, we’ve reduced our spending by 40% over that same time period in 2013. Wow, that will affect the bottom line! How did we do it? We simply made a budget and tracked it weekly. Each week, my wife and I review our progress and make changes according to how we are doing. Simple move, big results!


The value of our condo has increased by about 38% since we purchased it in 2011 so we feel this is a good time to sell it and roll that money into a house. We purchased a lot (only a block from the ocean) and plan to build on it as soon as the condo sells. We are looking forward to being in a home once again too.


  1. Give Back by Volunteering – By end of year, volunteer at least 30 days
  2. Give Back Financially – By end of year, anonymously donate to 4 needy families.


I was first exposed to Habitat for Humanity in Denver, when one of my sons and I volunteered. I’ve connected with the Walton County Habitat for Humanity and have already started volunteering. What a great organization, it is great to see the impact the volunteers are making. I look forward to volunteering here and other places in 2015.

Volunteering at Habitat for Humanity


I would prefer to donate to families we learn about than to blindly donate to an organization. I am sure that most charitable organizations do a great job of getting the funds to people in need but I do know that a good portion of the funds go to service the positions held by members of the organization (salaries, expenses, etc.).

In my opinion, finding needy families and giving directly to them anonymously is a better alternative. We can find families through volunteering, churches, and through hearing of them from friends and family.

Tracking Your Goals

As someone who appreciates software, I am tracking my goal progress using software. The software I use is called GoalsOnTrack. The thing I like about it is that it allows me to put my goals in, track tasks associated with the goals and gives me a visual indicator as I complete the goal. If you are interested in learning more about it, visit http://www.GoalsOnTrack.

Goals On Track

Let Me Hear from You!

Leave a comment with what your 2015 goals are, I would love to hear from you!

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