What Should We Do With All These Corks?

Since I entered the “re” business – reuse, refurbish, reduce, return, etc., I have second thoughts about throwing things away.  My home doesn’t look like an episode of Hoarders (yet), but I do have bags and bags of random things.

One of these things is corks.  Why would I hoard left-over corks?  It all started when a friend of mine suggested a cork backsplash. As time trudged on and bottles were opened, enjoyed and recycled, the cork bag began to fill up.

Now, what to do with a bunch of corks and no backsplash (besides gather more corks from my favorite wineries)? Well, a different friend of mine moved to Malaysia, so she opened up her home to the world in order to lighten the load and fill the coffers for her trip.  Low-and-behold, she had built / accumulated / rounded up a home worthy of Pinterest.  Seriously, every nook and cranny was filled with things you would see on millions of dream boards.  I was seriously impressed and overwhelmed with the sheer number of raw materials, projects needing finishing and flat-out killer stuff.  I picked up a funky old mirror frame with had lost its glass a long time ago, so it demanded a reinvention.

Design:  To make a message board.  All I had to do was cut a piece of plywood to fill the hole where the glass went and then paint it / fill it with corks.  Not much design there.

The true design work was in the jig to cut the corks.  I wanted to cut a crap ton of corks in half length-wise to facilitate mounting, cut down on thickness and double the amount of materials to work with.  Cutting 100 corks one at a time is dicy at best (literally).  My last job taught me a mantra I live by in the shop, “safety is like breathing, you never want to stop!”  With that in mind, I wanted to come up with a way to quickly, efficiently and (most importantly) safely cut corks in half.  Here is what I came up with:


Cork cutting jig made from cedar fence and old scrap throw away wood shims. Worked wonders!

The jig holds seven corks of differing sizes well enough to facilitate the portioning of all seven at once.  I used a scroll saw to complete the cuts because the bandsaw tended to walk left or right each time I made a cut.  The scroll saw isn’t the best tool to use, but it worked.  I used scrap wood from completed projects to make a jig because 1) the scrap wood was there and 2) I had no idea if the jig was going to work, so who wants to gamble with the good stuff.

The tip I didn’t find out until after I cut hundreds of corks and filled my garage with enough cork dust to choke a giraffe was to soak the corks before cutting.  Hydration makes them more pliable and easier to cut without the danger of them breaking.  Do your research folks!  Google is literally a tool in your pocket.

Materials:  Plywood, crap-tons (metric, not English) of corks, chalkboard paint,  and wood glue.  Simple.  Straight forward.

Construction:  Straight forward doesn’t always translate to easy.  Paint the top half of the plywood with chalk board paint and mount in the frame.  Flip and start gluing the corks down to the wood.

Apparently there are a plethora of patterns corks can be in, so I paused and did some more research (this is when I found out about soaking the corks.  Doh!).  I decided on, what I called, one-up over the top.  This is the phrase I came up with to keep the pattern straight in my head and nothing more – work hacks like this are highly recommended.

Once it was all glued down, I put a piece of wood down and then weighted it with a cinderblock to make sure everything got set in place.  I’m pretty sure this is how the Romans did it, so that’s how I roll.

Results:  I like it.  I think the message board will serve us well in the future.  Whether pinning coupons to the cork board or writing messages of welcome or inspiration, the board will be a conversation piece for years to come.


Inspiration on top! Cork board on bottom!

Lessons Learned:  Do your research before jumping in to something new.  Soak your corks before you cut them.  Work hacks, jigs and chants are highly recommended.  Nothing is broken unless it makes it to the landfill and is crushed by bulldozers.

This entry was published on January 17, 2015 at 12:43 am. It’s filed under Construction and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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