03-26-2012 05:02 PM
Whether you are a movie fan, need to construct one, or just want to make a decorative statement, building your own movie clapperboard is a fun and exciting project to do. I had the chance to make one when I took a Production Design course a while back and I thought I’d share my experiences with you. For the final design, I chose to build it with more depth versus a regular clapboard so I would be able to store papers in it, as shown in the image below…
Having that depth gives our clapperboard several advantages:
- Having a base without any additional support
- Storage to put items in it
- Sturdier than a flatter clapperboard
- Looks just like the real thing when using it to shoot videos
From my research, I found that there is no true size for a movie clapperboard, at least from what I could find. Since I manipulated the size to add depth, I chose a basic size that I found works very well. I’m going to break down building this in 3 specifics areas:
- The bottom piece (or compartment)
- Side hinge piece (that moves the top clapper piece over the bottom piece)
- The top piece
Below are the basic dimensions for it.
To get started, I actually used some very simple products all found at the Home Depot. A surprisingly free one was using 5-gallon paint sticks available in our paint department for the top and bottom clapper.
As for the rest of the clapperboard, I’d suggest to use thin ¼” luan plywood to build most of it. I built the sides using scrap wood measuring ¾” x ½” to give the storage space I needed. The central piece of the clapperboard to make it look authentic is using a hidden hinge made out of wood. While you can use a standard hinge for this, I decided to use all-wood materials except for the screws that hold the hinge in place to the side wood piece. To make the top clappers pivot, I used for the hinge a 3/8” dowel rod about an inch long to go through the inside parts of the clapper, as illustrated below.
As I stated before, you can use a basic hinge in this so you’ll be able to successfully close and open the clapperboard. Other than that, the materials list is the same no matter how you’ll put it together, and goes as follows.
- 1 sheet of 2’ by 2 ‘ ¼” plywood (luan, pine or any smooth type)
- 5-6 qty. 5 Gallon paint sticks available at your local Home Depot
- Approx. 3 foot length piece of 1” x 1” lumber (actual size should be somewhere around ¾” x ½” or ½” x ½”)
- Sander or sandpaper
- 2 screws minimum at 1" length to hold up the top clapper
- Wood adhesive
- 1 qt. of Chalkboard paint (spray or can, your choice)
- ½ pint of gloss white paint
- Paint brush or roller (if not spraying)
- Painters tape
- Measuring tape
- 3/8" dowel rod
- Drill to make an approx. 3/8” hole
- Access to a power saw
To get started, I’d suggest first by cutting two sheets of 9.5”length by 8.5” height of luan. Next, you can measure the 1” x 1” pieces of lumber for the bottom and sides to make the container, or bottom part of the clapperboard. For mine, I chose to shorten the bottom piece of wood so that it can fit in between the two side pieces, ensuring an accurate fit. Each time you place any piece together, make sure you use the wood adhesive to fasten everything.
Another option you can use to fasten everything together with finishing nails or small cabinet screws. I find glue works better since drilling into thin wood can lead to cracking and warping.
At this point, you can decide if you want to start building the top part of the clapperboard or the side piece that will hold the hinge in place. Before gluing or fastening anything, make sure all your measurements for all 3 pieces are accurate. I did the side hinge piece first since I could always come back and make adjustments for the top clapper. The side piece containing the hinge measures about 2 ¼” long, using the same 1” x 1” pieces for the bottom frame. You’ll need to take careful note of the illustration views shown above for the side hinge piece. You can vary how you want it to work, but remember this needs to open and close smoothly once it’s finished. I ended up using a rough grit (80) sandpaper to take the edges down to a curved shape.
Fasten the side hinge piece with screws 1” long to the side of the bottom piece; leaving about 1” sticking from the top of the bottom piece so that the hole/dowel rod will have enough room on it. I used a drill to bore a 3/8” hole through the top center portion of the side hinge piece to allow the dowel rod through.
The dowel rod and the side hinge piece is not meant to be seen after final installation, since the paint sticks used as the bottom and top will cover them. This will give you a nice clean look just like a real clapperboard! Of course, you can use hinges or other varieties of fasteners to successfully open and close the clappers.
After building the side piece w/ hinge, you are now ready to start on building the top parts and bottom fronts of the clapperboard. The top part consists of 4 pieces, with the middle being an 1” x 1” piece of wood at 10.5” long, with 2 11” paint sticks and one stick cut down to a 1 3/8” square to cover the opposite side. All are being installed flush from the top, since the paint sticks are a little wider than the 1” x 1”. Here’s an illustration of just the top part for a more detailed explanation.
After attaching the top part to the side hinge, you now have a working clapperboard, but we’re not finished yet! Next, close the clapperboard, and put the last two paint sticks at 11” long at the top of the original bottom compartment piece, making sure it is flush to the left where the side hinge piece is and not hitting the top clapper closing down on it. Having the clappers stick out about a ¾”of an inch on either side gives it the authenticity of a real clapperboard.
Now finally, you are ready to paint and label your clapperboard!
The key here to make it look like a professional clapper board is to use chalkboard paint. You’ll only need a quart of it (the smallest we sell), or you can use the aerosol version if you prefer. After the black paint dries, you can now use painters tape to apply gloss white paint for the diagonal clapper stripes. I recently found out that there are some multi-color stripes on newer clapperboards, so you can customize them in any color of your choice!
Next we’ll label the clapperboards. You can find white sticker letters or simply use chalk to write whatever you’d like on it. To make it look like the real thing include the following information when labeling it:
The great part about this step is that there is no wrong or right way to do this! You can make a personal note on it, or leave it blank so you can add something later, like I did.
And there you have it, and I hope this post has helped you build your very own movie clapperboard with storage compartment inside. If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to ask!
I am a 12 year Home Depot Store Associate, trained and authorized to help people on the Internet.