Glue-mounted Magnetic Surface for Hanging Photos

Introduction: Glue-mounted Magnetic Surface for Hanging Photos

Goal: to make some place for easily hanging and changing enlarged photos without frames (usually you don’t have enough wall surface to display all your pictures at once and not enough storage room to store each picture with its own frame when it’s not on display).

Solution: a “magnetic wall” you can hang the photos on by means of magnets (like on a refrigerator door) and keep “unused” photos in folders when you change pictures on your wall.

I think this project suits well for “Make It Stick” contest because almost all you have to do here is gluing and sticking various adhesive things. So let’s start and remember the rule number one: don’t let your adhesives stick where you don’t want them to – this can ruin all your work!

Step 1: Find a Wall for Your Project, Prepare the Tools

Find a wall you can use for your project and prepare the tools and materials you will need:

Thin sheets of a ferromagnetic metal (a metal that is attracted by magnets – iron, not aluminum). I didn’t find them in the store so I had to destroy a 120x80 cm office white board.

Contact cement (I bought a 1-liter can); a brush; thin (not padded) double-sided adhesive tape; self adhesive wallpaper for finish; a spirit level; rulers; pencils; magnets and/or flexible magnetic strip to fix your photos when everything is done.

And things I’ve forgotten to take pictures of: polystyrene profiles or narrow wooden planks for the border, scissors and cutters, thinner to clean the brush etc.

Step 2: Mark the Area

Prepare the sketch of your magnetic surface. If you chose the wall near the stairs (like me) it will be something like this drawing.

Mark your area on the wall with a pencil. Use a spirit level. A tip (and one more use of adhesives): I don’t have a long spirit level, so I temporarily attached my level to a long ruler with double-sided adhesive tape.

Step 3: Prepare the Metal Sheets

In my case they were glued to a cardboard layer. Remove the cardboard with some scraper. Don’t fold the sheets! Don’t press on them with any hard and sharp tool – this will leave marks clearly seen on the finished surface.

Cut the sheets according to your drawing. Use straight scissors, don’t let the metal bend and fold as you cut it. Don’t cut your hands on the sharp edges (I did)! Prepare the surface of the wall – it should be flat.

Step 4: Glue the Metal Sheets to the Wall

Do it with contact cement in a usual way: apply a layer of the cement with a brush on both metal sheet and wall, let them dry and form adhesive surfaces (it takes a few minutes – read directions on the can), then attach the sheets to the wall. Start from one edge according to your marks. Ask somebody to assist you – his task is not to let the sheet touch the wall before you want it to. If your magnetic wall consists of several pieces, start attaching the next piece from the border with the one you have already attached. Press the sheets firmly to the wall with your hands, don’t use hard tools.

I think it’s unnecessary to mention that you should put something under the sheets when you apply the cement (well, I’ve just mentioned it).

A tip: don’t let the glue dry on your brush. If you have to make a break, leave the brush in the can using a piece of thick wire (see the drawing).

The surface of my magnetic wall was a little less than 2 square meters (about 20 square feet) and it took more than a half of a one liter can of contact cement.

Step 5: Attach Self-adhesive Wallpaper

I wanted it to be more or less neutral – it makes better background for photographs – but you are free to make it as colorful as you like, it can be a real masterpiece! Or else, you can paint it with the same paint as the surrounding wall (consult some expert if the paint is suitable for both surfaces) to make it really an integral part of it.

When you apply the adhesive wallpaper, start from one corner; press your hand in diagonal direction gradually removing the paper substrate. If there are some air “bubbles” under the wallpaper, remove them making holes with a pin near a “bubble” edge to let the air out. If you have to attach a number of overlapping wallpaper sheets, the edge of the upper sheet must look in the direction of the light (window), or else it will cast a shadow.
And of course, do it together with somebody!

Step 6: Make a Frame for the Borders

of your magnetic wall. I planned to use polystyrene profiles but I didn’t find the profiles I wanted, so I bought narrow wooden planks – they also cost ten times less. Attach them with double-sided adhesive tape.

I hope there is some instructable on making frame corners because the corners I made are far from perfect… Nevertheless I was quite satisfied with the result. Important: before you attach the last plank, make sure that the corners it should connect (of the planks already attached) lie on a vertical (or horizontal) line, not at some angle.

Step 7: It's Done!

A tip: instead of using separate magnets for fixing your pictures you can make a nice frame from four pieces of a flexible magnetic strip – cut their ends at 45 degrees angle. Use level to put the frame horizontally and to straighten the strips.

That’s all! I hope you enjoyed my instructable. Good luck!

Participated in the
Gorilla Glue Make It Stick Contest

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    9 years ago on Step 7

    Nice. I've got a stairwell that this would work well for - once the kids are old enough not to tear everything off!