I have pretty much religiously avoided blocking in my knitting career until I entered my present lace obsession. I traditionally wash, steam or press depending on the finished item, but blocking wires and pins had been completely out of my repertoire. Lace, however, does require formal blocking. One discovery: not all blocking wires are equal. Sometimes ends are not sharpened in the manufacture, snagging can result.
Blocking boards can be expensive. They come in a range of styles as well, including carpentry versions. Homasote or plywood with layers of padding, etc. work if steaming and pressing are a necessity. Such contraptions can be cumbersome, and heavy.
Portability and storage can be a big consideration in small studio space. With this in mind, some DIY options if boards are to be used for pinning and drying only are as follows. One is purchasing interlocking floor mat pieces, the kind sometimes seen in children’s playrooms. They can handle being stuck with pins, keep moisture from passing to the surface beneath, and best of all, they can be moved around like puzzle pieces to create the size you need for the piece you’re blocking. Discount outlet pricing is much less than that for online kits, and squares can be shifted around to alter shape as needed. Another is yoga mats. They have similar properties to tiles. I was able to find one at a discount retailer that is 47 X 95 inches, nearly 3/8 inches thick for all of $16.00. One side is “gridded” with bumps, the reverse is smooth. Add a large enough piece of gingham check fabric in the desired scale on top, and one has a large blocking surface that can be easily moved, rolled up and stored when not in use. Bumps are not a factor in affecting knit surfaces in these instances.