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August 23, 2010

Cork-a-Doodle-Do - Make Fridge Magnets from Corks, Twigs and Rare Earth Magnets


Fridge magnets are an under-sung hero of modern communications.  You can forget a voicemail, a text message or an email, but you can’t ignore a note stuck to the fridge.   

The average person opens the fridge 22 times a day (94 if you’re dieting), so a fridge message makes at least 22 impressions on the visual cortex.  That’s why fridge notes work better than nagging tones in a voicemail or SCREAMING CAPS in an electronic message. 

The only thing that can erode the impact of a fridge note is the strength of the magnet that affixes it to the metal surface. Under the force of say, a hungry teenager slamming the fridge door, some magnets have less sucking power than a dying leech. 

My fridge magnet collection of circa 1989 Fimo ladybugs is so lame that whenever I post an important note it slips to knee level by the day’s third FDO (fridge door opening). 

I needed a new fridge magnet design that couldn’t be dislodged by gravity, impact or a light breeze. 

Inspiration struck, as often happens, when I was opening a bottle of wine. 


Quirks and Corks

As the world cork supply has become strained by the growing legions of wine enthusiasts, some vintners have resorted to plastic corks.  But better vintages still sport beautiful, spongey, sweet-smelling genuine cork. 

I never throw out a cork because cork is freakishly cool.  It grows in only one region of the world - the sea-mist laden coastal hills of Portugal and Spain.  The cork tree’s bark is harvested just once every 9 years in sheets up to 3 inches thick.  Then the tree is left alone for another 9 years to re-grow its thick, fragrant wrapper.

With all of the work a cork tree goes to, it seems awful to just toss a cork after removing it from a wine bottle.  So I’ve been hoarding corks to make trivets, bath mats, bulletin boards and other quasi-Hippie-ish projects.  Why not a fridge magnet?

Rare Essentials

I bought a sampler pack of rare-earth magnets (insanely powerful, tiny silver disks) for $15 at Lee Valley Tools and now I’m making cork fridge magnets for all of my relatives for Christmas.  These little units are lightweight, durable and they stick like stink. 

Rare-earth magnets have such immense strength that you can get away with using the tiniest size to get serious holding power.  I played with implanting several sizes of rare-earth magnets in one end of each cork, using different sized drill bits to create cavities with the same diameter as the rare-earth magnets. 

A normal twist drill-bit makes a hash of the cork, but you can pack a little epoxy into the hole and seat the magnet with no trouble.  A Forstner bit (also available at Lee Valley) will give you a clean cylindrical cavity with a flat bottom so it’s easier to get the magnet to lie perfectly flat. (photo below shows a Forstner bit drilling into a lilac twig)


The resulting hole is very tidy as holes go.


Tools and Materials




Drill bits


Rare-earth magnets


1.    Place the cork in a vise to hold it steady while you drill.


2.    Choose a drill bit that matches the diameter of the rare-earth magnet you’re using.


3.    Drill a hole just a little deeper than the depth of the rare-earth magnet.


4.    Mix a little epoxy and place a dab in the bottom of the drilled cavity.


5.    Press the magnet into position.  Allow to cure.


6.    Pop your new magnet on the fridge holding an important note.

If you use larger rare-earth magnets you can literally play fridge darts with your new cork magnets.  It wouldn’t be smart or responsible, but it’s tempting. 

TIP:  If you’re cork-deficient you can also cut and drill short thick twigs (hardwoods are best - i.e. maple, lilac, fruit woods) to get the same effect.  I made some of my fridge magnets from lilac twigs when I ran out of corky goodness. 



Hi. We love your cork idea and plan to make as gifts for friends. Can you please indicate the dimensions of the rare earth magnets that you found to be the most effective and sticky? Any help would be appreciated. Your site is great!

Thank you ~ Terry

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