Is There Life After WhiteyBoards?

Is There Life After WhiteyBoards?

Perhaps we just suck at putting up WhiteyBoards, but after two wrinklyboard fails, we concluded they were not for us. What we needed was something that would both inspire us and show us off in the best light with our clients.

Subject Matter
Shop Life


January 28, 2014

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Write Anyplace You Please!

Here at AWP, we’re always looking for opportunities to draw on things that don’t usually get written on in polite company. Walls, columns, desks, windows, you name it.


If you are in a meeting and want to whip up a quick wireframe layout, it’s nice to be able to take a dry erase marker to the glass top of our conference table. Designing a new handwritten font? Break out the chalk and write it up on our chalkboard column. That’s how CHAWP and Southpaw were born.

Turns out we’ve got a lot to keep track of: project schedules, site launches, bright ideas, diagrams, doodles, timelines, meeting notes, chord progressions, whatever.

Enter WhiteyBoards

When we moved to our new space on Ithaca’s West End last summer, we left our old floor-to-ceiling hardboard panels (the poor man’s whiteboard) behind. We settled on WhiteyBoards for our new space.

These dry-erasable sheets can be stuck on any flat surface and, ostensibly, taken down and reused just as easily. They present a nice writing surface that takes dry erase markers well and can be easily and completely erased without ghosting. Nice!

Putting them up, however, revealed some challenges. It took four of us to put up our first WhiteyBoard, and despite a great deal of concentrated effort, we were unable to do so without introducing wrinkles which all our attempts to remedy only succeeded in spawning new wrinkles.

We watched the how-to video and followed their suggestions and then tried with a second WhiteyBoard. It turned out worse than the first. Our clients in all likelihood barely noticed (or were at least not overly bothered by) their flaws, but we did, every time we wrote on them.

Exit WhiteyBoards

Perhaps we just suck at putting up WhiteyBoards, but we soon concluded they were not for us. What we needed was something that would both inspire us and show us off in the best light with our clients.

In casting about for alternatives, we found some nice glass whiteboards online. We liked the idea, but they were insanely expensive, costing a few thousand dollars apiece for 4′ x 8′ models. So I checked out a few DIY posts online and decided we could build them ourselves and save some money at the same time.

Most of the commercial products rely on painting or frosting the back of the transparent whiteboard to make the writing on them legible. How much cooler would it be if we illuminated our boards from the edge and wrote on them with fluorescent markers so that they could remain fully transparent?

GlowyBoards, Anyone?

What we needed was a compelling proof of concept that answered some basic questions about materials and techniques. What transparent material would display dry erase markers well without absorbing or reacting to the ink over time? Which would transmit light to best illuminate the board? Which dry erase markers would glow best? How much light would be required to get the desired space-age glow effect? What kind of bit and drill speed would allow us to drill mounting holes through the sheets without melting or chipping them?

So we ordered a bunch of sample materials to test out: polycarbonate, acrylic and polypropylene sheets of several thicknesses, a couple of types of hanging hardware,  a low heat / low voltage lighting source, and several types of fluorescent and neon erasable markers.


Once we had settled on our materials and understood how we were going to mount the board, I ordered what we would need to actually build the thing. Time to remove the WhiteyBoards. Yay!

As we peeled them oh-so-carefully off the walls, they exacted their revenge: not only did they yank the paint and much of the primer off our wall, but the drywall paper and even layers of gypsum plaster came off in large ugly patches. Boo!

That wasn’t in the product description! Perhaps we suck at removing WhiteyBoards as well.

We repaired and repainted the wall and were finally ready to build our illuminated transparent whiteboard. In my next post, I’ll take you through the process of putting together, mounting and lighting a kick-ass GlowyBoard of your own.