Ballard Designs Memo Boards
Surrender, crafter.

You'll never finish knitting scarves for every member of your family.

Back away from the jigsaw and that unwanted spice rack.

And don't even think about rushing to the mall to find substitutes for all those amazing, easy gift projects you should have started in July.

You do still have time to present a present that is budget-friendly, attractive, unique, personal, practical, gender-neutral and guilt-inducingly "handmade": a large framed magnetic memo board and matching set of magnets.

Best of all, you can whip up a whole batch of these not-exactly-crafty goodies in one evening, from hitting the shops to wrapping the goods.

Hands Off

Now, if inspiration had struck sooner, you'd have had time to shop for and ship a memo board from several stores.

And if you're truly all thumbs, you still might, as long you don't mind paying express shipping charges.

Ballard Designs has several enticing models, including a jaw-dropping monster of a gold-framed corkboard ($499) to a more modest beadboard-trimmed blackboard ($49). Pottery Barn might still have its framed corkboard or chalkboard ($149) in stores if you're lucky. The Container Store has the usual suspects plus some with more personality, such as the recycled rubber bulletin boards ($24.99-$34.99) for eco-conscious gifting, or the "Translations" Japanese graphic art magnet board ($24.99) for your favorite manga fan.

A big-box office supply store -- try Staples, Office Depot or Office Max -- can supply more utilitarian yet still giftable memo boards.

But you didn't start sooner, so get to it -- right after a brief explanation of what you're getting into.

For the board, you're going to frame a sheet of metal; for the magnets, simply glue glass gems to button magnets.

Easy-peasy, and plenty customizable, too: Think about your intended giftee and choose a frame to suit his or her home and interests, which can be further painted or embellished. Consider covering the metal with an image or fabric. Coordinate the color of your glass gems, and you'll wow the crowds with your creativity.

OK, now you can hit the stores. Map a route to your favorite home improvement retailer and art-supply store (try Michael's, A.C. Moore or Rag Shop), and don't forget your shopping list.

Shop Supplies

Start by buying a 24" x 36" sheet of tin flashing (less than $10), usually in stock at a major home improvement retailer such as Home Depot or Lowe's, in the plumbing section.

Handling the sheet carefully, check for bent corners or blemishes; remember, one side will show if you're not planning to cover the board.

(If you're interested in making smaller boards or your home improvement store is out of this size, buy a roll of flashing and get a frame equal to the width of the roll. You'll have to use tin snips -- and the requisite safety gear -- to cut off a piece of flashing to fit your frame, then flatten each piece.)

Move on to the craft or art store for the rest. Put in your basket:
  • ProMAG Magnetic Buttons (the 50-pack of 3/4" is ideal, and gives you five sets of 10 magnets for around $7)
  • glass glue, which works better than hot glue (try Beacon's Glass, Metal & More, around $5)
  • a bag of glass "gems" -- marbles that have been flattened on one side -- from the floral department (a pound should cost less than $5 and give you more than 50 pieces).

Don't forget to pick up a 24" x 36" frame, which is a standard size for poster frames. You can even find these at major discount retailers such as Target or Wal-Mart.

Make sure the frame backing is removable and replaceable, and try to choose one in which the fronting is a thin sheet of plastic instead of glass, which is more difficult to remove and discard.

Master the Magnets

Start with the magnets so they're dry by the time you've finished the board.

Grab your supplies and a cookie sheet, and make like a pastry chef: Line up the magnets on the back of the cookie sheet, spread glue on about 10 at a time and press the flat side of a glass gem onto each.

Leave the magnets in a well-ventilated place to dry for the recommended amount of time, and tuck into the second half of your gift.

Tame the Frame

First, remove the frame's backing.

A butter knife makes pulling back any metal tabs easier. Lift out the backing -- usually a sheet of corrugated cardboard -- and set it aside.

Remove any fronting, which will be easy if it's a thin sheet of plastic. Removing glass requires more care, particularly if it's secured with adhesive.

(If it is, put on some gloves and eyewear, take the frame outside, hold the frame with the "good" side facing you and carefully press the glass away from you to release it.)

It's best to customize your metal sheet before you frame it. This is the point at which you could wrap it with fabric or paper (securing on the back with hot glue or strong tape) or cover it with images, securing cut-outs with decoupage compound or glue.

Carefully drop the sheet of flashing into the frame, unblemished side out. Replace the backing and bend back down any little tabs using your butter knife.

Place the completed magnets on the board, and you're set.

All that's left is to wrap and gloat -- and vow never again to ruin your Good Life with an overly ambitious craft project when better-planned alternatives exist.

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