Our cork backed placemats were showing their age. I had looked for replacements for ages but was having trouble finding any I liked. So I decided to make replace the picture on the front and extend the life of the placemats I already had. The whole project only took a few hours, was remarkably easy and I was able to use things that were already in the shed and did not end up spending any extra money.
What you will need
An old set of cork backed placemats
Glue (I used self adhesive photo paper and did not need the glue)
Spray or brush on varnish or lacquer (I used the spray on variety as that was what I already had)
Step 1: Sand the Old Varnish and Wet
The first thing I did was to use the sandpaper to break the water proof seal created by varnish on the placemat. I used a pretty fine grain sand paper but I shouldn't imagine that the type of sandpaper you use is particularly important. An electric sander would make the job quicker but I found that each placemat took about 20 minutes.
You could use the sandpaper to remove the old image but I did not bother to go that far, I just removed the existing varnish.
Once the varnish is removed then I quickly placed the placemat under running water and then set it aside while I sanded the next placemat. I DID NOT soak the placemat or place a wet cloth over the top of the placemat as I only wanted to cause the image to lift off and did not want to risk causing the placemat itself to warp from getting too wet.
Step 2: Remove the Old Image
Once the water had had a short amount of time to soak into the image (probably about 10 minutes was all that was necessary) the old image simply peeled off of the placemat in fairly large pieces. I tried a few different things to peel the image off (a paint scraper, a knife and a pair of scissors) but at the end of the day the thing that worked the best was my thumb nail! I am sure that must contravene loads of health and safety rules but what can I say?
The time it took to peel off the image varied from placemat to placemat depending on how well I had sanded them. The quickest was about 10 minutes to remove the whole image while the toughest one (which I hadn't sanded as well as the others as I was getting bored) probably took me 40 minutes. Sighhhhh, I should have spent the extra time sanding.
Step 3: Apply a New Image
Select the images you want to use and print them onto either regular photographic paper or self adhesive photographic paper. Because the pictures were going to be on display every day I used "best photo" setting on my printer.
Remember to select your paper as "landscape" or your image will be shown the wrong way on the placemat.
Stick paper onto old placemat either with glue or using its own self adhesive covering.
The image on the original placemats had finished a little inside the edge of the wood. I figured this was so that the varnish would cover the edges of the photographic paper and waterproof your image. I used a scalpel and metal ruler to give me a neat edge once the paper had been applied to the wood. Hmmm, note to self, don't try and do this freehand as you end up with a wobbly edge.
Step 4: Varnish
I had a can of high gloss spray on lacquer in the shed so that was what I used. You could use a brush on lacquer or any type of varnish. Applying multiple coats of lightly applied lacquer is always better than one thick coat, allow to dry between coats. If you are using a spray varnish or lacquer don't forget to wear a face mask.
Allow time for the varnish to dry and enjoy your lovely new placemats.