White boards are a “must have” in all maker spaces so they’re a good place to start a discussion of FabLab design.
Movable White Boards
First, lets address the basic question, why not just buy a traditional movable metal white board? Of all the alternatives, metal white boards are the easiest to write on and clean (and the fact that they’re magnetic is handy as well) However, they tend to be heavy and very expensive. My other complaint with them is they look too “finished” and aren’t consistent with the DIY vibe of a makerspace.
The best option I have seen for a DIY white board came from the Stanford d.School and is built on the Z-Rack platform with the white board material cut to fit and zip-tied to the rack.
I have tried various substrates for the white board:
Plexiglass: This was available at OSH and while it looked very cool to draw on a clear piece of plastic, it was too clear and brittle (very easy to crack and break while drilling it)… and not very cheap. I wouldn’t recommend.
Acrylic: You can get this cut to size at TAP plastics and is less brittle than the plexiglass. Be careful drilling acrylic because it too is brittle but with the proper drill bit you can get a nice, clean hole. The downsides of Acrylic is that it is expensive and can scratch if you’re not careful.
White Board Contact Paper on plywood or other substrate: I’ve had two issues with white board contact paper: 1. It tends to be hard to wipe off and 2. It is hard to apply it properly without bubbles or seam lines. And besides, it doesn’t tend to be much cheaper than…
Hardboard MDF Backing: By far the cheapest and most effective option I’ve found is the glossy hardboard from Home Depot. The downside of this product is that it rarely lasts over a year… but even so, it is so low cost it is easy to replace ongoing.
Wall White Boards
Wall paint- Everyone loves the concept of wall paint but I’ve heard mixed reviews on the outcome. On one hand it seems like a great idea but the paint tends to be very high VOC and needs a lot of time to vent and dry.
Contact Paper – Same issue as above.