Decorative Fridge Magnets

Author: Heather Craig
Published: December January 2016
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Gift Project: These little magnets are quick and easy to make, very functional and will be used for years. As gifts they will remind your friends and family about you each and every day.

  • DIFFICULTY
    1/5
  • LENGTH/TIME
    2/5
  • COST
    1/5

I waste very little in my shop. As a result I have a lot of little scraps in bins and bags just waiting for their time in the spotlight. Some of those diamonds in the rough became decorative magnets.

I just happen to have a 2″ hole-saw, which determined the size of my magnets, but you could easily make a set of magnets with hole-saws of different diameter. I was able to get a 1/4″ diameter by 1/10″ thick rare earth magnet, with a 2.5 lb. strength from Lee Valley, though I’m sure other hardware stores or craft outlets may have something too.

Valuable Scraps
Craig uses scraps of all shapes and sizes to make magnets from. Yet another reason not to throw out valuable scraps.

Rip to Width
With one face flat, and one edge jointed, you can cut the wood blanks to thickness on your bandsaw. Make sure to perform the operation safely, or these small pieces can cause problems. An alternative is to cut blanks from a larger piece of wood.

Keep it Secured
Drill the magnet blanks from the stock on your drill press. Make sure to clamp the blank to your drill press’s table, as small pieces are impossible to grip with just your hands.

Paste Then Drill
If you’re using a printed pattern you can apply it to the upper surface now. Small holes will make it possible to insert your scroll saw blade into the area where wood needs to be removed.

Cut the Pattern
With a scroll saw and sharp blade, cut the waste from the magnet base.

Drill for the Magnet
Carefully drill a shallow cavity to accept the magnet. Don’t drill too deep or you will come through the front of the wood.

Rip stock to thickness

Now I just had to work out the details. If the magnet was 1/10″ thick I thought my blanks should be about 1/4″ thick. I set the bandsaw to rip my scraps to 5/16″ leaving me 1/16″ to remove any roughness during sanding. Use push sticks for this operation, as this is far too close for comfort. It’s also easiest to rip long pieces of stock to width, rather than shorter pieces, even if you only want to make one or two decorative magnets.

I then clamp the rough stock to my drill press table and cut out the blanks. Next, I sand off the rough edges with 80 grit sand paper and smooth the flat side so the piece is 1/4″ thick. Now I’m ready to adhere the pattern to the workpiece.

Apply the pattern

The 2″ hole-saw will produce a 1-7/8″ blank. Hole-saws typically leave a pilot hole in the center of the hole. If you can incorporate this hole into the design, there’s no need to worry. If not, it’s possible to remove the pilot bit on most hole-saws. I make a 1-7/8″ circle and draw a pattern in it. When laying out the design, remember to leave a solid border around the perimeter and a large enough area to accommodate the rare earth magnet. Following the directions for a temporary bond, I use spray adhesive to attach the pattern to the blank, then let it dry. If you want to make many decorative magnets you can print out many patterns before cutting and pasting them to the wood workpieces.

Cut out the design

I typically drill 1/32″ pilot holes to allow the scroll saw blade to be inserted into the workpiece. You can adjust the size to accommodate your pattern or scroll saw blade.

My favourite blade for cutting out the waste is a #3 Reverse Tooth. It is small enough that I can cut fine patterns, aggressive enough that I don’t get frustrated and over-stress the blade, and the reverse tooth cuts relatively clean so I have less finish sanding. Experimenting with a blade that works for you can be done on some scrap before hand. If you find manipulating the small workpiece close to the blade is either difficult or dangerous, you have an option. While boring the small workpieces from the larger blank, stop at least 1/16″ before drilling through and removing the workpiece. The patterns will be easier to cut, and you can remove the workpiece and clean up the edges afterwards. To help remove the pattern and adhesive, brush on paint thinner and let stand 2–5 minutes before it softens and can be removed easily.

Drill for the magnets

Using a 1/4″ Forstner bit I drill a cavity for the rare earth magnet on the back side. It doesn’t matter which is the back side. Do not drill too deep, as this will negatively affect the ability to latch on to the desired surface. The visible surface of the rare earth magnet should be flush, or even slightly proud, of the wood. I like to sand the wood to 180 grit, wipe with a tack cloth then put on a coat of polyurethane. Once it dries, I lightly sand it and put on another coat. A spray can may work best for you for these small pieces. Continue until you are happy with the finish. Usually three or four coats works well, but different wood species soak up finishing material differently.

Attach the magnets

Test the magnet before gluing. I had a magnet with poor strength but didn’t find out until I had glued it to the wood. Now I check each magnet before gluing. There are many adhesives that will hold the magnet in the cavity, and if you size the hole correctly the magnet will be fairly snug without adhesive. Two-part epoxies work great, but can be messy. Put some adhesive in a small container and use a toothpick to dab glue into the cavity. Press the magnet into the hole, wipe off any excess with a damp cloth and let it dry. Test that it is secure by adhering and removing it to and from a metal object several times.

As you can imagine, the possibilities are endless. I started with a simple pattern and worked my way to the more difficult dolphin pattern. I then ventured into abstract shapes and drew patterns on the wood based on what I saw in the grain. Incorporating the live edge adds a natural, rustic, dimension. Moral of the story: don’t throw it away, save it for another day.


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