How-To: Handmade Paper Magnet Board

Craft & Design

By Andrew Lewis
The refrigerator is the organizational hub of many households. All of the little sticky notes, bills, tickets, reminders, and priceless works of crayon art conspire to clutter up the door. It’s a convenient place for important reminders, but it does make it more difficult to clean the kitchen.
It’s also awkward when you open your house for a party, and have to take everything down and find somewhere to stash it so that it doesn’t get damaged or stolen by an overly pickled relative with a bowl of trifle and a questionable sense of humor.
This “portable fridge door” is a great way to liberate your kitchen from the drudgery of paperwork, and getting the kids to help you make it will keep them occupied during the summer holidays.

Materials for the Frame

Large wooden picture frame; I used an A2-sized (16″ x 24″) frame that I found in the attic.
Sheet of magnetic metal the size of the picture frame; I used the sides from an old computer case.
Glue stick or spray adhesive
Picture hanging hardware

Materials for the Paper

6 sheets of newsprint
A scrap of net curtain
, the same size as your picture frame
The dry skin of three onions
Large jug
, preferably a blender you won’t use for food
Staple gun
Clear acrylic sealer, optional

Materials for the Magnets

Sculpey polymer clay, or an alternative
Assorted small magnets; I used 5mm rare earth magnets, but any small, strong magnets should be fine.
Acrylic paints
Epoxy or PVA glue


Part 1 – Make Some Paper
Step 1: Pulp the newsprint by tearing up the paper into small pieces and adding it to the blender. It is best to fill the blender 3/4 full of water, add two sheets of newsprint to the water, blend, and then pour the pulp into a bucket. If you use too much newsprint in the mix, the blender may get stuck. Next, tear the onion skin into small pieces and blend it with water. Add this to the bucket as well. Leave the mixture to soak for a few hours, stirring occasionally.
(The onion skins, incidentally, add a bit of color and texture to your paper. You might want to experiment with other add-ins, like bits of colored paper, flower petals, tiny bits of string, etc.)
Step 2: Stretch the net fabric across the back of the picture frame and staple it in place. (Remove and safely discard the glass and contents of the frame first.) This is the frame for making your paper, so make sure that the net is pulled tightly across the frame.
Step 3: Stir the paper mixture in the bucket and then use a large jug to scoop out a good portion of pulp. Pour the pulp evenly over the net, so that you get a good covering of pulp all the way across. This is a messy job, so working over a large wet-room sink or a bathtub is absolutely necessary. This isn’t the best method for making paper, but it is the easiest way to make a piece large enough to use on this project.
Step 4: Leave the paper somewhere warm to dry in the frame, supported by sheets of newsprint. (Fold the newsprint sheets to that they’re small enough to fit inside the frame. Use a stack tall enough to support the underside of the net fabric so it won’t warp from the weight of the wet paper.)
Change the sheets of newsprint as they become saturated with water – every few minutes at first, then every few hours as your handmade paper dries out. The drying process can take a couple of days, but you can help it along with a hairdryer, a fan, or a dehydrator.
Step 5: When the paper is dry, remove the staples from the back of the frame and carefully peel the net from the paper. Set the paper to one side and wash the frame clean.

Part 2 – Make Some Magnets
This is a great step for the kids to get involved with. You can make the magnets while you are waiting for the paper to dry.
Step 6: Take a piece of polymer clay and start making some simple shapes. The back of the shapes should be flat, and the pieces should be thick enough to push a magnet into. I chose to make some simple fruits and berries, but you can make whatever shapes you like. If you have kids, I’m sure they will have plenty of suggestions!
Step 7: Turn the clay shapes over and make an indent in the back for the magnets. Don’t leave the magnets in the clay yet – just make an indentation.
Step 8: Bake the clay, using the instructions on the package as a guide. I used Sculpey and baked it at 220˚ F for 15 minutes.
Step 9: Leave the shapes to cool, and then paint with acrylic paint.
Step 10: Glue the magnets into the recesses in the backs of the magnets you made in Step 7. I used epoxy resin, but PVA glue will work just as well and is a less-toxic alternative if you are working with kids.

Part 3 – The Grand Assembly
Step 11: Glue your handmade paper to the metal sheet using a little glue stick or some spray photo mount. If your board is going to be put somewhere near water or steam, it’s advisable to give the paper a coat of clear acrylic lacquer. The lacquer will stop the paper from swelling or disintegrating.
Step 12: Place the metal into the frame so that the paper faces forward.
Step 13: Tack the frame so that the metal is held firmly in place. I stapled around the insides of the frame using 1/2″ staples, leaving about 1/4″ of each staple sticking over the edges of the metal.
Step 14: Hang your new masterpiece. Remember, you will be putting things on the board regularly, so a single nail and a piece of string might not be enough. Picture hanging hardware might be more suitable on a large board.

About the Author:
Andrew Lewis is a journalist, a maker, victophile, and founder of the blog.

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