How to Build a Slate (Project Blog #5)

I have to say, I am at my height of excitement when I am building things.  And thus I have been entertained through the building of a thing!  It was seriously Super-Happy-Fun-Time!

I knew that with my big film project coming up, I would find myself in need of tracking shots and organizing them in post.  The easiest way to do this, of course, is to have a slate – something that I was missing – that is until now.

Yep, I spent a day making a slate with a clapper on it (since I will be shooting dual system for this project).  I want to break this down for everyone, because it was a good time and hopefully other people will enjoy it too.

Materials:

  • 2 Clear acrylic clipboards
  • 6 one-half inch machine screws with nuts
  • 15 Washers
  • 1 two or three-inch machine screw with two nuts (to double nut it so it does not come loose)
  • 2 L-shaped corner reinforcement brackets (with screws)
  • 2 Straight reinforcement brackets (with screws) optional
  • 2 pieces wood one inch by two inch (about 12/13 inches long – basically as long as your clipboards)
  • Slate template printed out

Tools:

  • Drill
  • Drill-bits (one for pilot holes, one for drilling out rivets, and one for drilling your hinge hole)
  • Screwdriver
  • At the very least a good chisel and a hammer (and a ton of patience) but if you have access to a router…USE A ROUTER!!!!

First drill out the rivets on the clipboards.

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It will be easier to drill them out on the top where it’s thin.

Once the rivets are drilled out remove the clips.

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Here’s the clip off and the rivet drilled out, you can see that the rivet is easy to just pull out now.

You can now drill the holes on the other side of the clipboards using those rivet holes as guides so everything lines up.  Now sandwich your slate template between and secure the clipboards together using the 6 one-half inch screws with washers on both sides to reduce the chance of cracking.

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Here you can see the screws fairly clear.

As you can see in the photo above, I added a color card to mine, it won’t be as precise as a real color card but I think it will still be helpful in a pinch.

At this point, you pretty much have a slate, you don’t have a clapper on there, but this slate can still be very useful.  I got distracted and forgot to take any more photos, so all the rest of the shots will be from after I finished the clapper, but you can see how things went together.

I then cut the wood to the dimensions that I liked and got to work putting a groove into the piece that would attach to the slate.  I don’t have a router, so I had to go old school on this and use a set of wood carving tools – a chisel would probably have worked better but I didn’t have one of those either.  Cut your groove where it feels natural, it needs to be deep enough that you can fit the slate in far enough to put screws through it.

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Here you can see the groove I cut with the slate inserted.

Once the slate is in there nicely you can either pull it back out and reseat it with some glue, or you can say, “meh” like I did and just go with the screws.  Either way, screws should still be used.  Be sure to drill pilot holes first, and drill them at a slow speed, if you drill too fast you will melt the clipboard and may end up plugging up your own drill holes with the plastic.  DO NOT SKIP THE PILOT HOLES!  If you don’t drill pilot holes you are nearly 100% guaranteed to crack the slate you just put together.

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As you can see here, two of my screws that hold the slate on also hold the L-bracket I used for a hinge.

Before you use the L-bracket screws as support for the slate, make sure you are happy with where you’re putting the L-bracket.  If you put it too close to the edge or too far in your top stick for the clapper is going to be wonky; point is, do a mock-up and see how things line up before you screw it down.  Along with the L-bracket screws, there is another screw further down towards the end of the clapper that also holds the slate on, don’t skimp on support if you want this thing to last.

Once the slate is attached, the last thing you need to do is get your hinge all set up.  Line up another L-bracket on the other side of your lower clapper stick so that your upper stick will fit in straight and screw that bad boy down too.  Now, lay your upper stick in-between the brackets and mark where the hinge’s hole is going to be in the upper stick.  Drill that baby out.  Now, you may notice that the stick is not going to work on that hinge, it is too long for the stick to get clearance – it’s easy to fix: just cut the corner off at an angle on the hinge side.

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See, now that pesky corner doesn’t get in the way.

Now that it’s cut, and all the rest of your hardware is mounted, you can put the top stick in place and toss a screw through the hole.  Be sure to put a washer on either side of the stick INSIDE the brackets so that it can lift and fall smoothly.  Once that is all happy and well, then you can double nut the back so that the constant movement of the top stick doesn’t loosen things up and you’re done with construction and can get your paint on!

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Ta-da!  As you can see, I did the paint with a more weathered look, doesn’t really matter, is maker’s choice!

OPTIONAL:

If you so desire, you can make the clapper louder and more durable, but it’s really not necessary.  To do this, simply add some metal bracket plates to the ends of the clappers; be sure to do this before you drill your mounting hole, though, because the added width of these will change the spacing for the clapper’s top stick.

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Here is one of the bracket pieces to make it louder, and I’ll tell you, this thing can be heard from across a busy freeway.

That’s all, thanks for reading and looking at all of this stuff!  If you enjoyed it, please check out my other posts as well as my portfolio!

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