Finishing melamine to make dry-erase surface?

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Forum topic by ADHDan posted 06-26-2014 06:16 PM 1710 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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800 posts in 2105 days

06-26-2014 06:16 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question finishing

I built a play table for my daughter using melamine for the tabletop, figuring that she could color directly on it with dry erase markers. But the markers don’t wipe off as well as I expected, and I don’t want to have to scrub with rubbing alcohol or other cleaners every time she uses the board.

Is there anything I can do to make the melamine more like a store-bought dry erase board? Perhaps sanding it with fine grits (220 and up) to smooth out the texture? That might help, but I’m wondering whether there is a varnish or some other finish I could apply over the plastic to make it even better for this purpose. And if there is a suitable topcoat, should I leave the melamine unsanded or even rough it a little bit, to encourage adhesion? Thanks!

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

7 replies so far

View Whiskers's profile


389 posts in 2023 days

#1 posted 06-26-2014 06:46 PM

I’m not sure what your calling melamine, I used to own some dishes that were called that and they were a plastic material that was way to porous for that purpose, but you can get what I’ve always called masonite that is coated with a white surface and people use it for dry erase boards regularly. Some people just call this stuff hardboard. Your probably most familiar with the stuff as pegboard material. It’s only about $8 for a 4×8 sheet and can be gotten in 1/8 or 1/4 thickness. It so cheap, that as she tears it up you could just cut a new piece and recover it. Another common use of the stuff is as projection screens.

The unfinished stuff is great for workbench surfaces too as it is very tough and takes a lot of abuse, yet super cheap to replace.

Cut a piece of the white stuff the size of the play table, than get enough corner molding to surround the outer edge. Attach it only around the outside with a couple screws so it holds the new top over the existing one framing it and giving a raised edge to keep markers, crayons, etc in place. When you need to replace the top cut a new one, remove some of the molding and slide the old piece out and the new on in and reset the molding.

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800 posts in 2105 days

#2 posted 06-26-2014 09:30 PM

This is what I’m referring to:

It’s basically particle board with a plastic laminate surface. It’s non-porous and easy to clean, and I thought it would be good for dry erase but unfortunately the markers are leaving ghost images that need to be scrubbed off with a cleaner. I already built the table, so I’m hoping there’s a quick fix (otherwise, I picked up a 2’x4’ piece of actual dry erase board, which I can use to make a false top).

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

View Woodknack's profile


11613 posts in 2376 days

#3 posted 06-26-2014 09:56 PM

Try this stuff, found in the paneling section. Take a marker with you to double check it instore.

-- Rick M,

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389 posts in 2023 days

#4 posted 06-27-2014 12:24 AM

Ok dan, now I know what your calling Melamine. Personally I don’t think that stuff is good for much except maybe counter top in a laundry room, even than, iffy cause particle board is so prone to disintegrating even from humidity. The stuff Rick is linking too is what I believe I am talking about, but hard to tell from the picture. Seems HD is kind of high on it considering what I paid for mine at a local store. There is another similar product that is used to panel bathrooms. It is extremely thin and is not what is used for dry erase board. It might can be I don’t know, but usually it’s white surface doesn’t go all the way to the edge, as it’s meant to be put in little plastic pieces between panels. I think the key is the stuff Rick linked to is NOT moisture resistant, so I think he probably linked to the right stuff. The idea of taking a marker with you I think is your best bet.

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4725 posts in 2347 days

#5 posted 06-27-2014 01:03 AM

That stuff is too porous for a marker board, you should have used this=.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View ADHDan's profile


800 posts in 2105 days

#6 posted 06-27-2014 01:58 PM

Ok, thanks for the advice. I can build a false top with a different material easily enough. My local HD doesn’t have the item Rick linked in stores, but they stock a erase coated hardboard for $10. I think it’s pretty much the same thing Bondo posted.

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

View Zmoondog's profile


1 post in 1424 days

#7 posted 06-29-2014 06:34 PM

There is a pressure sensitive vinyl dry erase material available from sign suppliers, or your local sign shop.

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