How to Build a Map Board – Forward Observer Shop

How to Build a Map Board

One of the most important things we can do in community security is maintain situational awareness on what’s going on beyond our line of sight. To do that, we need timely information, and we need some maps. Today, I’m going to show you how I build my map boards.

Now I went by my local hardware store and purchased a 4′ by 8′ section of white panel board. It should run you about $15 or $20. And I’ve already cut a 12″ by 12″ piece for a mobile map board. This is something that I can stick in my backpack, stick in a bugout bag, or keep in my truck, so that I have something if I’m mobile.

The other option is this 24″ by 36″ map board, which is the standard size of the maps that I recommend. This is for our static location, so that we have something large and permanent enough to work on for the long haul.

Now all I’ve done is cut some standard trim to the lengths of the two map boards, and then drilled some holes into the panel board and the trim. I’m putting my map and overlays on the board, and then using two bolts to fasten the trim down. This is going to keep my map and overlays in place.

Now the great thing about this white panel board is that its basically a dry erase board on one side and then it has a matte brown finish on the other. I can put my map and overlays on the brown side and then have the dry erase side to take notes or draw some visual references or teaching aides.


Materials List

4’x8′ White Panel Board ($15-$20)

1″ piece of trim, long enough to cover your map board (usually sold in 8′ sections)

Bolts, nuts, and/or wingnuts to keep the trim cinched down on the map board

Mike Shelby is a former military intelligence NCO and contract intelligence analyst. He spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now the intelligence and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.


  1. Is this true – A map is used as a method of displaying information of intelligence value generally through unit markers in the context of time and geographical space. The intent is to provide decision makers with a common operational picture graphically displayed to better understand the contrast between friendly and adversary forces in relation to the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of conflict.

    1. What isn’t working? There’s a banner image (which we’re trying to remove) and under that there’s a video.

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