Project Update: Glass Writing Boards – April 6

All of my efforts since my last update have been on the design of a metal frame for the writing boards. My big setback right now is that I am still waiting to have another meeting set up with facilities as well as my client (Hall professor).

Overall #1 Question about Metal Frame:

  • Should I pursue the idea of a customizable aesthetic frame to be placed over the structural metal?
    • The picture frame stock material is already aesthetic and expensive! If it gets covered then what would the point be…
    • If this stock material is not used, do I have the time for a new design composed of aluminum bar stock? This type of material is much more customizable as compared to the picture frame material which is not meant for engineering projects.

The Research:

Here is an example profile of a single-wall metal picture frame:

Metal Profile from
Nielsen Bainbridge Metal Frame Profile from

A decent amount of research on this site taught me that there are essentially endless numbers of colors & profiles for metal picture frames… Importantly, different frames all have different rabbet depths (the 7/16″ dimension above)! Therefore I had to do something different to focus my research: go talk with people! For this, I went to a local store framing store in Boulder, The Great Frame Up. This was an amazing decision and I learned a lot!

  • Recommended to use a double-wall metal frame instead of single-wall for additional strength. These are example double wall profiles from the store:

Double Walls_1

  • Backing option is white mat (~1/16″ thick)
    • The bad thing about this material is that it is really expensive!
    • After further research, I decided that just using Elmer’s acid free foam core should work quite well (3/16″ thick)
  • Framed materials are usually pushed forward by using spring clips. This probably won’t apply to me because of the total thickness I will be dealing with – at least 7/16″
  • Orders are placed on Tuesdays at this store!
  • Hardware:
    • Included with order: all corner fastening L-brackets and 2 wire hangers
    • Research “security hangars” for metal frames ( Security hangars do indeed allow for pictures to be locked to the wall!
  • Example Quotes:
    • 3’x5′ = 17′ length of ordered material
    • $16.90/ft = $287 for just the frame material…
    • $15.71/ft = $267

These are very steep prices for just the frame. Therefore, I have started thinking that the glass size should be reduced to 2 ½ ‘ x 4’. This equate to 14′ of ordered material, and a savings of at least $45 for any frame profile. The grid paper in the picture below is a close example of this smaller size, and I think that it would work great as well.

Example Size

  • Upon ordering, this store would normally do all of the custom cutting themselves in shop. However, it would be possible for them to not do that cutting so that the students in Andrews Hall would be able to!
  • Gained:
    • Many pictures of materials
    • Knowledge of hardware for metal frames!

Next Prototype:

For my next prototype, I will use this old, about-to-be-recycled metal frame that I got from another framing store in Boulder that I visited.

Prototype Frame

SolidWorks model assembly:


SolidWorks model side view with glass & foam core:


The absolute hardest part about this frame design has been thinking about how to secure it to the wall. I have spent hours and hours on researching and thinking about this, including trying several different ideas in SolidWorks… The idea that I am happiest with right now is shown below:


These aluminum bars will be machined to have keyhole slots, just like for the wooden frame, and attach to the metal frame using thin hex nuts which fit into the back slot – so similar to other extruded aluminum options but not as straight forward…

Design Questions:


  • Double or Single Walled??
    • More colors with single!!
  • Is an offset needed between the glass & frame?
    • Do this with mat, foam core, felt, rubber…?
  • What is allowed to touch the wall (question for facilities)?
    • Can metal frame/pieces be in contact, or is some barrier required?
  • When ¼” glass is ordered, is its actual thickness ¼” or is it less??
  • Additional Strength:
    • Extruded aluminum T-Nuts? Thin Hex Nuts?
    • Metal ribs on back


  • Add magnets somewhere for markers?


  • Should transparent material be used, or would solid white acrylic be okay?
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2 Comments. Leave new

  • […] to have another meeting set up with facilities, my prototyping efforts have paid off! Use this link to see the details about this prototype introduced last week. To reiterate, for this prototype, I […]

  • Peter Brunsgaard
    April 11, 2016 11:30 pm

    You’ve been hard at work on these whiteboards! It looks like you’ve learned a lot and are slowly evolving your ideas to match the resources available to you. Most of your current questions are beyond my understanding of the project, but if you were to use a solid white acrylic material for the face, you would not have to worry as much about what to use as the backing. By keeping them transparent, you have to be much more conscientious of how it looks behind the boards. Good luck!


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