In remodeling & redecorating my kids' rooms in the the last year I made some cute magnet boards that matched their new decor. The first one was quite simple, just a decorated piece of metal, but the most recent ones I did included a decorative frame and I was really pleased with how they turned out so I thought I'd make an 'ible. My son wanted one of his to have a painted frame, and I was trying to decide the best (i.e. easiest!) way to do that, and I also wanted it pretty flat so it didn't get in the way of things hanging near the edge of the board. What I came up with for the frame makes use of balsawood strips, and is purely decorative. The frame is not meant to be used to hold the board while it's hanging.
The way I've made these, by the way, has them screwed securely onto the wall, they don't hang on a hook.
Step 1: Materials
Sheet of metal- Must be steel! Aluminum is not magnetic. I got 26ga plated steel, already cut to 24"x24". I've done this with other sizes as well, so get what suits your design. This piece was $15 at the local Ace Hardware. To me the best way to do this was to figure out how to make the pre-cut sizes (or multiples of smaller sizes) work for your needs; that seemed easier to me than cutting the metal to some other size.
Decorative fabric to cover the metal- Just get a simple thin cotton fabric. You don't want too much bulk or else your magnets might not be strong enough to hold much. Make sure you have a piece that's at least a few inches bigger all the way around. In my case I had a piece that was about 33" square, giving me 4-1/2 inches on each side to wrap around to the back. Since this is going to have a frame, you could actually use a piece that JUST covers the front side of the metal- start with only a bit extra & trim around the edges.
Balsawood strips- Since the frame isn't structural, just decorative, these balsa strips worked well. They are nice & thin, so they don't add a thick frame around the board. For my frames I got the thinnest they had, 3/32". Each side needs to be cut as long as the metal is, but the store didn't have 24" so I got 36" & cut them shorter. And you will need two pieces of the desired width per side. Whatever thickness wood you get, the sides of the frame will be double that thickness.
Paint- The regular craft paint works well. Covers in one coat & dries quickly. Of course you need brushes for it as well. The way my kids wanted the frames was to have two colors, one on the verticals & one on the horizontals. Of course it could be all one color, 4 different colors, whatever you like.
Spray Adhesive- I used the Elmer's brand, but anything with good adhesion is fine.
Iron- Need to get the fabric nice & smooth before you glue it on
Drill with drill bits & screw bit
Hot glue & gun
Four Screws- I really like the ones with a round head and built-in washer. The washer is good to really grab onto the board as you mount it on the wall, and they are a little nicer looking, make more of a decorative statement. But it's up to you what variety you use. Just make sure it's long enough to grab on the wall, at least 1".
Plastic wall anchors- unless you're attaching this into studs or some other piece of wood, you'll need to use anchors to get it to securely mount onto the wall.
Hammer or similar
Step 2: Cut the Wood for the Frame
I wanted my frame sides to be somewhere around 1 or 2" wide. They didn't have balsa strips in that range, though, so I got 3" wide ones & ripped them in half. I happen to have a table saw, but this stuff actually cuts pretty easily with a few passes with a good craft knife. Since I needed 8 pieces & I was buying ones that were double my width, I bought just the 4 pieces you saw in the "materials" picture and after ripping them I had the eight I needed.
Also, they need to be cut to the length of the sides. My metal sheet was 24" square so I cut all of the pieces to 24" in length. If I was doing a 12"x18" sheet of metal, I'd need two pairs 12" long and two pairs 18" long. You get the idea. To cut the length I just used a craft knife & metal ruler.
Step 3: Glue the Pairs to Make Each Side of the Frame
Draw a line 2" from one end of one of the strips. Put wood glue all along the strip to the other side of that line, leaving that 2" part at the end unglued. Take the other strip & lay it on top of the glue, with its end just up to that pencil line. You'll end up with a piece that's two layers of wood and at each end one of the layers protrudes out by 2". At one end it's the upper layer & at the other end it's the lower layer. Wipe off any excess glue along the edges, make sure your strips' sides are lined up as evenly as possible. Do this for all four pairs, then stack them under a nice weight until they dry. Be patient, let them dry! Now each of these frame sides are not 24" long, but now 26" long.
Step 4: Mark, Drill & Smooth Each of the Metal Sheet's Corners.
At each corner mark a 1" square & determine the center of that square. At that center point you want to drill a hole. The wood pieces will overlap the metal by 1" all the way around, so by putting the hole there the screw into the wall will hold both the metal and the wood nicely. The drill bit should be just a little bigger than the size of the screw you will use to attach the piece to the wall. Once you've drilled that hole (I used a drill press but a handheld drill will work as well) the metal might be a bit flared out on the other side. Use a hammer or some similar hard thing, on a hard surface, to flatten that down.
Step 5: Paint Wood Strips & Glue Together Into a Frame
Give a quick sanding to the wood frame sides once the glue is dried. If the two glued pieces are not lined up right, try to sand or trim them a bit so they look more like one piece of wood down the long edge.
Paint the edges & both sides of the wooden pieces. If the paint requires two coats to fully cover, just do that on the edges & one side. The other side won't really be seen, but it's still nice to have it painted in case a bit of it shows.
Once the paint is dry, setup the pieces to be glued together. The way these pieces are made the strips overlap each other at the corners, alternating around the square which is on top (or you can have both verticals on top, or both horizontals, whatever you want). Lay them into place & then check to make sure it's as square as possible. Without bonking anything out of whack lift up the top strip at each corner, one at a time, and glue the wood strips together where they overlap. Be sure to clean up any excess glue, especially on the side that will face out. The underside can be cleaned up after it dries if needed.
Step 6: Glue the Fabric Onto the Metal
While the paint dries you can get the metal & fabric part done.
Have your fabric smoothed out neatly on a firm surface, wrong side up. You want to be sure it's at least pretty well ironed so you don't end up with wrinkles glued in place. I noted lightly in pen in the two corners closest to me where the metal sheet should land when I lay it down. If you have lots of extra fabric to fold to the back then maybe it's not as critical how evenly you lay the metal sheet down, but I wanted to be sure I didn't end up with a big bunch of extra on one side & not enough on the other side. Also, if there are stripes or some other directional print in your fabric you want to be sure it's not crooked. The spray adhesive I used said that for a permanent bond it needed to be put into place within 15-20 seconds, so there isn't much time for figuring out placement & such.
Put out enough scrap paper to cover a space a good bit larger than your metal sheet, lay the sheet down good-side up (mine had a price sticker on one side, I wanted that on the back side), and spray a nice even coating of adhesive. Now quickly pick it up at the edges, flip it over, and place it down on the fabric. Press it down a bit, then quickly & carefully flip it all over so you can smooth the fabric down on the metal sheet.
Now take the who thing back over to your scrap paper, and for one side at a time spray the fabric with the adhesive & fold it down onto the back of the metal sheet, adhering the fabric to itself off the edges. I like to do two opposing sides first, then the other two opposing sides. Make sure as you fold it down that you pull it snug up against the edge & don't get a bubble along the edge. Also, particularly if you are not doing one with a frame, make sure that when you fold down the second two sides that the folded edges stay within the edge of the metal sheet & don't stick out. It can be a bit lumpy on the back, but you don't want it to stick out & show.
By the way, you might want to wear thin gloves for this step, your fingers can get quite sticky!
Step 7: Place Fabric-covered Metal on Wood Frame & Glue Into Place
Have the painted & glued frame laying on a firm surface, face down. Lay the fabric-covered metal sheet face-down on the frame & center it along all four sides. There should be about a 1/2" of wood sticking out all around the metal.
Once it's nicely centered you'll want to glue it in place with hot glue. You could also use duct tape or some such method if you don't have hot glue, but I think hot glue works best. Basically you just want to tack the two together to make it easier to install it. Carefully lift up the metal one corner at a time & put a bit of glue on the wood, then press the metal firmly back down in place. Do this along the middle of each side as well. Do corner, side, corner, side, etc. As you pull up each corner or side try not to actually bend the metal. Try not to glue under where the hole was drilled in the metal, as that will make it harder to get the screw through there.
Step 8: Transfer Hole Through the Wood
After the metal is glued down to the wood, you'll want to transfer the hole that is in the metal. Using an awl, poke through the fabric, through the hole in the metal, and carefully through both layers of balsa wood. Since the balsa isn't too sturdy, you'll want to support it underneath with your fingers, and poke slowly. Be sure your fingers aren't where the awl will come through & poke them!
Just poke through enough to find the hole on the other side. Once all four are done, flip it over & improve the hole a bit from that side. That reduces the risk of flaking a bunch of your painted wood off. Another reason, though, that it's good to have the washers under the screw heads- covers imperfections. ;-)
Step 9: Get the Wall & the Board Ready to Mount
Take the board to the wall where it will be mounted, hold it against the wall & make it nice and plumb & level. Hold it very firmly (could help to have a second person) and use the awl to poke through the hole at each corner & into the wall.
Take the board down (good idea to remember which side is the top) & you should have four holes in the wall. If you're using the plastic wall anchors, drill holes now where each of the awl marks are, and insert the anchors. If you're not using anchors, pre-drill holes in the wall.
Take each screw one at a time & position it in a hole in the wood frame. Using the drill screw it in through the wood, slowly, and use your fingers to hold the fabric on the underside firmly such that it doesn't swirl around as the screw turns. You want it to go THROUGH the fabric and not push the fabric out or twist it around. Once it's all the way through, back it out at least half way. You could trim some of the fabric off the back around the hole, but if you work carefully it's not a big problem. When they are all in place, line the screw tips up with the anchors in the wall, top ones first, and start to screw them in a bit. Once they're all lined up, screw them all the way in. The balsa is VERY soft, though, so be sure not to go in too far!
Step 10: Done!
Done! Cute magnet board finished & mounted on the wall. Attached is also a picture of the other one I did, for my son (the one that caused the sister to say, "Why don't I have a big square magnet board? Why did he get one?!" and therefore have me make this pink one.). Also there's a pic of the frameless one I did for him. It's in a narrow section of wall. The white is door frame, baseboard, and another piece I did to add a top "frame", and the blue is actually the wall color peeking out from behind around it.