Wooden Alphabet Magnets


Wooden Alphabet Magnets:
Amber Bailey is definitely ‘a lady of letters’ as she proves with this gripping little project

Amber Bailey is definitely ‘a lady of letters’ as she proves with this gripping little project

Novelty fridge magnets are relatively a thing of the past, but as a child of the 1990s they hold a fond memory for me. Like doodling, there is a natural impulse to rearrange the letters into words. As much as I still love plastic alphabet magnets, they are something of an eyesore, yet made out of wood they suddenly seem to be much more presentable and they can make a rather natty gift.

What you will need
• Wood of personal preference at approximately 4mm thick. Each letter is no more than 30mm squared so it is a good excuse to use up scraps!
• Fretsaw or other saw type
• 1 x full-size paper template
• Carbon paper
• Pillar drill
• Jewellery files
• Abrasive paper
• Le Tonkinois varnish or other finish of personal preference and a brush
• Self-adhesive magnets Suppliers Magnetic sheet is available from Hobbycraft and other good craft shops.

Health and safety
When cutting with a fretsaw you are required to hold your fingers very close to the blade, so beware of slipping and wear hand protection if necessary. These letters are not suitable for a child under five years of age due to possible choke hazard.

Preparing the materials

1. As each of the magnets are so small the project could easily become very fiddly, so to minimise any problems all the blank wood should be prepared to a similar thickness. Remember that the natural wood will appear very pale, apply water to demonstrate how the wood will actually look after a finish is applied. Transferring the design

Transferring the design

2. By enlarging or reducing the size of the template you can make the letters as big or as small as you wish. To transfer the template to the wood, place a sheet of carbon paper face down onto the wood with your template on top, secure both with tape to stop the sheets from slipping out of alignment. Trace over the design with a ballpoint pen and when you lift the paper away it should reveal a copy of the design

3. Try to make sure that the grain direction follows the same way on all the letters to keep the magnets looking uniform

4. It is advisable to leave a little room between all the letters for space, however the project should still only use up a minimum of material

Drilling access holes

5. The majority of the letters can be cut straightaway but there are a few that will need an access hole drilled to be able to cut away the centre waste material. Try to keep the drill bit as straight as possible and support the piece of wood to prevent it from spinning around.

Cutting the design

6. Although this is a fretsaw project, I am actually using a jeweller’s saw. Fretsaws tend to be slightly larger, which allows for a greater turning width around the blade. With a project so small I felt no need to support the extra weight of a larger saw. You will need to support your cutting on a tabletop marquetry donkey, which is essentially a board of wood with a slit cut into the middle that is screwed onto a strip of wood and held in a vice. For each letter, gradually cut around the design, making sure to support the wood from lifting and breaking. Try to keep your blade as straight as possible to avoid cutting off-centre

7. The best way to clamp your fingers is to position them either side of the blade and just behind it. This should keep them clear of the saw teeth

8. Once all of the letters have been cut out, you can begin the final stage

Drilling the centre holes
The centre hole is the same size for all the magnetic letters, but do not be tempted to use a large drill bit to extract the material. The wood follows a natural grain direction and any short grain sections will easily split under the force of the drill. The access holes need only be large enough for a thin fretsaw blade, try to drill them fairly centrally to avoid any mistakes that might take slight nicks out of the designs. Here you can see the damaging result of a large drill bit compared to creating a small hole.

Smoothing and finishing

9. The sawn edges of the letters will have developed a burr as a result of the torn wood fibres. To remove these, use a variety of abrasive papers and jeweller’s files for the intricate and hard to reach areas. Jeweller’s files come in various shapes and sizes making them ideal for cleaning up areas that abrasive paper cannot. Once all the edges are cleaned up, give the front surface a final smooth over with fine abrasive paper to prepare it for finishing

10. With a small brush apply a waterproof varnish such as Le Tonkinois. The varnish will need to be built up in a few layers, the first to seal the surface then the others to build up a suitable finish. Choose a brush that can be ruined if necessary, as Le Tonkinois is tough and will not be easily rinsed out unless washed immediately with white spirit. I would also advise that you do not go for the cheapest of brushes, falling bristles is the perfect way to ruin a decent coat of polish. Do not forget to polish the sides and it may also be worth sealing the back of the letters

Cutting detail
Always cut out any central detail first before removing the exterior waste, as this will give you as much material to work with as possible. It will also be slightly safer for manoeuvring your fingers near to the blade.

Adding the magnets

11. You can buy self-adhesive magnets that are designed for crafting, they are incredibly soft and pliable and can easily be cut with a pair of scissors. Pre-backed with double-sided tape, these can be instantly stuck in position after strips have been cut for all appropriate areas

12. Add magnetic segments to support all sections of the designs. Your alphabet is now ready to stick on the fridge!

Amber Bailey

Amber is a skilled marquetarian and surface design artist who graduated from Bucks New Uni in 2014. She is now based in Paris at the École Boulle where she will complete her studies in the art of marquetry and Boulle metalwork, continuing withthis traditional decorative skill. Web: www.abmarquetry.com

  • User Ratings (0 Votes)

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.