Monday, March 24, 2008

Cork: Not Just a City in Ireland

Saturday March 22 had all the makings of one of those beautiful, relaxing, productive gems-of-a-day. I woke naturally. Not my normal routine of waking from a death-sleep to shrill buzzing and flurried yet efficient chaos. Nope. Naturally. I opened my eyes to birds chirping, albeit perhaps slightly tone-deaf birds, but still. It was pleasant.

I slipped out of bed, enjoyed some pressed coffee, made a stop at the local farmer's market, and discovered a delightful new coffee shop. The day was truly a sunny, crisp reminder that spring is waiting to burst forth... and a good day to start a project. The nostalgia of the morning brings a smile to my face.

It's almost enough to make me forget the pain in my now-gnarled fingertips and aching back.

But what could have happened between such a splendid beginning and such a painful end? Cork happened. It was "glue day" at Casa Clifton. A year and a half of hording corks and time had come to transform them from their careless days of loosely hanging out in display bowls and vases to the almost military-like transition of tightly aligned and streamlined parquet rows of my soon-to-be mammoth corkboard.

You may have seen corkboard projects before, perhaps online or in a magazine. Kits are available for purchase at Target,, or in the ad section of Wine Spectator Magazine. Generally, the kits range from 9 x 11 inches "trivet size" to 22 x 22 inches "magnum size". My frame? 36 x 36 inches.

Now the good news is that I over-guesstimated how many corks my frame would require. It only needs about 850 corks, as opposed to the 1,000 corks I originally guessed. That is good news, because sitting hunched over a chalkboard, hot glue gun in hand, plus 400 corks (that's right - not even half-way there) all add up to a new kind of torture. So at least it's 150 less corks of torture.

Truly, it doesn't seem like rocket science. Fit the corks together, add a few dollops of glue, and secure them to the board. Couldn't be simpler right? Sure. But it's the "matching" the cork sizes that is the challenging and time-consuming step since the goal is a smooth, even and seamless appearance. Apparently, not all corks are created equal.

And let's face it, after 2 hours of constant gluing, you get careless with finger-placement and the expletives start flying fiercely. Eventually, your fingers go numb. This makes for faster work. But then the back pain kicks in, from constant hunching. And suddenly you notice that the corks at the end are much less disciplined than the front-line guys and any responsible drill Sergeant, I mean corkboard enthusiast, wouldn't stand for such sloppiness. So you tear out the bad seeds and start that row over.

But when all is said and half-way done, the sense of satisfaction at seeing my neat little rows of corks as the pattern of the board takes shape is thrilling. My little hatchling corks that I've nurtured over the past year and a half are finding their niche in life. So it turns out that making a corkboard, like child-birth, is one of those events in which the fruits of your labor render the pain of the experience a distant memory. And since I must admit that I have never given birth, apologies to all that might view a comparison of crafting a corkboard to birthing as a stretch. Our own experiences shape our own reality.

How To Make a Corkboard


A frame or, as it might be, a chalkboard
Friends that like to drink wine
Hot glue gun and glue sticks
Patience (both for collecting the corks and gluing the suckers down)


Wash the frame base or chalkboard down so no particulate matter remains and let dry
When the glue gun is heated, apply a few dollops of glue and affix to the board
Allow to cool a few hours before hanging your corkboard


mom22kids said...

Hope you're recovered by now! I bet the board is gorgeous and well worth the pain, but to save your hands next time, try using wood glue instead of hot glue to hold the corks (if you're using a wooden frame, that is). Just squeeze on a thick line row by row and plop down the corks. And the added benefit is that it dries more slowly so you can move the corks around to find the perfect pattern. :-)

Amy said...

Aha, wood glue! I knew there must be an easier way - thanks for the tip!

LucyinStLou said...

I admire your fortitude! Your cork board will look amazing when it is finished. I completely sympathize with how difficult it is to artfully place the corks. Completing our very small corkboard took much more work than I expected. I can't imagine 850 corks! We will, however, continue to do our small part to aid in completion of your magnum opus and save our corks.

cheriboberi said...

FYI, I don't know if you have them in your area or not but whole Foods recycles corks. If there are no Whole Foods in your area, try CraigsList, Freecycle, or the internet to find people who will re-use or re-purpose corks into cork flooring and the like!

Anonymous said...

For those of you who don't know, cork floors are beautiful, I have them in my home and they are super easy to maintain