Turning wine corks into a home for memories

In my house, there is a lot of wine.  Which means a lot of wine corks.  Vince has caught the red wine bug but try as I may, I can’t seem to jump on board.  I’m trying to keep up, but the best I can do is white wine, preferably Riesling.  Although to his delight, I’ve been able to choke down a Pinot Noir here and there.  But it would be so much more fun to be able to share a bottle at dinner with him when we go out!  And wine is so much better for you than beer.  Cheaper on the calorie count as well!  So I keep trying.

Now personally, I love wine for what’s left over!  The bottles are my favorite, as you can paint them, decorate them, fill them, light them, etc.  They come in all different shapes and sizes, colors and styles.  There are cool foil tops that I promise to one day find a use for.  And then there are the corks.  These things are fun because they’re always different.  Sometimes you find a cool saying on them, sometimes there’s an incredible design and sometimes the color is totally unexpected.  I decided I had to make something monumental out of all of these corks that we’d been saving for years.  But what would be cool enough, yet not look tacky?

Aha!  A cork memory board!  We had a memory board in our last house that was pretty cool and once we moved, we realized we had the perfect spot to do it again, but this time with corks and with more oomph!  Our “memory board” consists of all of the things that are most meaningful to us.  Ticket stubs from Cirque du Soleil shows (my favorite!), the brochure from the Trapeze class we took (SO much fun!!!), a postcard from the hotel we stayed at when we got married (La Playa Carmel – a simply incredible place!), a lock of our most beloved dog Dre’s fur who passed away recently (best dog EVER), temporary passports when we road tripped through Baja (amazing trip!), concert tickets from when our band played in Hollywood (yep – we used to be in a band… I played bass & piano, Vince sang and played guitar), the movie ticket stub from the first movie we saw together (A Christmas Carol), our Winner medals from a downtown LA treasure hunt… but I needed a way to present those things so they didn’t look like a bulletin board in a college dorm.

There is a spot in our new house that has built-in shelving that seemed like the perfect spot to build the memory board in to.  If you don’t have something similar already, you can build a simple frame around the project with baseboards/crown molding as we did in our previous house.

This is how I did it:

First step of the project was to put a backing of cork on the spot you’ll be covering so if you have any spots that show through, it will blend in.  I purchased a roll of thin cork at my local Michael’s craft store.  I measured and cut it to size then simply tacked it up on the wall with flat push pins I got from my local Dollar Store.

I got a large piece of cardboard to lay my corks out on, as well as to mark all of the measurement lines that I needed to stay inside of while I worked up my cork arrangement.  After measuring the space I had available in between the two shelves, I realized I would have some extra space left over that a cork would be too large to fill.  I decided to make a small frame from wood quarter round pieces just to fill that space and hopefully equal out my measurement space versus corks.

In order to cut quarter round, you need to have a miter saw.  If you don’t have one, most DIY stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s will cut them for you, some for free but some charge a small fee per cut.  Figure out your sizing then cut your pieces to fit.  If you’re doing it on your own, it can be a bit tricky at first to figure out how the angles fit together.  I’d suggest getting a small spare piece of quarter round to practice on first.  And most importantly, be careful!  Keep your fingers and hands away from the blade!  It’s REALLY hard to make a memory board when you’re bloody and missing fingers.


Once I made sure my pieces all fit together like a snug puzzle, I spray painted them a hammered copper color.  Once dried, I stuck them into place.  How?  Hot glue!  Along with spray paint, hot glue is my best friend.  It will hold anything.  Since they’re such long pieces, it was a bit tricky getting sections glued while still being able to “bend” the wood away from the wall enough to get more glue in for the next section.  Hot glue dries fairly quickly when it’s not put on thickly, so you can only do small portions at a time.  Otherwise the glue will be dry on one end and wet where you just squeezed it on.  If you add it too thickly, it will ooze out as you press it to what you’re gluing and make an ugly mess.  The good news is, if you make a mistake or need to start again, if you haven’t glued your piece in yet, the glue is generally fairly easy to pick or peel off and start over.


Now on to the corks.  You may read or hear that it’s easier to cut them once you’ve boiled them for a while.  I tried both ways and I didn’t find it to be any different after boiling, other than it added another pot to the dishes to wash.  I used a serrated knife on a sturdy cutting board and cut the corks while they were standing on end.  You have more leverage on end than if they’re lying sideways.  Make sure to practice with a few of the non-cool corks you have lying around first, as it takes a few tries to get the hang of it.  I found that if you do the first slice starting near the tip of the knife in a quick, smooth, angled motion, then pull back with a second quick, smooth, angled motion, you can usually get a clean cut with two to three swipes.

Once you have all of your corks cut, lay them all out on your cardboard to see what you’ve got.  It’s a good idea to give them a once over and put all of the same ones in piles.  I now know which wines are Vince’s favorites by how many of the same corks we had!  You don’t want to find yourself on the last quarter of the board and realize you’ve still got loads of one style cork left.  Try to spread them around in an even spacing.

Just to make sure, I placed all of the corks on the cardboard within my measured out lines, to see how it would work out.  (I actually did this first and this is when I realized I needed a quarter round frame).  I wanted a simple pattern, so I chose to put two corks vertically, then two horizontally, from top to bottom.  On the next row, I did the same thing but started with the opposite of what was on the first row.  I followed the same pattern, back and forth, for every row.



We have a few things for the memory board that are hanging, such as the Winner’s medals, so I wanted a few spaces that I could hang items from.  I used champagne corks for this.  Just put them on end so they stick out 3D style.  To fill in the space left next to them, I cut a cork in half from the top to take up the remaining open space.  We also happened to have a handful of black corks (from Apothic red wine) as well as a handful of hot pink corks.  (Pink Zebra Riesling wine is REALLY good!)  I arranged a pattern of one row including a hanging style champagne cork, one row of regular corks, one row with one black cork included, one row with a hot pink cork included, then back to the beginning of the pattern with the hanging style champagne cork.  I wanted everything to look cohesive, so I made sure that all of the corks that were vertical were all angled in the same direction, so when you read the words, they were all facing the same direction.  That may just be my OCD, but I think it looks best and is easiest on the eyes when looking at the completed project.

Now that you’ve arranged it all on your cardboard, you’re ready to apply the corks!  And you can guess what I used to stick them up… yep – hot glue!  Before adding glue to the cork, take the two you’ll be gluing up next and place them, just to make sure they fit and look good.  When you’re satisfied, line a squiggled bead of hot glue along the back side of the cork and put it in place.  You’ll have about 10 seconds to get it settled before it’s there for good.  If you really mess up and desperately need to remove it, a serrated knife slipped in between the back of the cork and the cork “wall” you laid out will remove it.  It’s messy and may not come off perfectly, but it can be done if absolutely necessary.  I realized I had used a cork that was identical to one I used one row over, only one space up, and my OCD couldn’t handle that, so I had to slice it out.  I would suggest to check the two upcoming corks as a dry fit every time, even though it’s a pain, just to make sure.  Sometimes you’ll realize that for whatever reason, you may need to substitute another cork instead of the one planned.  It might not cover as much area as you were expecting, it might be larger than the one next to it, etc.  Corks come in all different lengths, widths and heights so it’s a bit tricky to get them to all “match up”.


Now just glue corks until you’re done.  It’s not a quick job, if you’re picky and anal like I am.  Each row takes me approximately 30 minutes to arrange and glue.  It’s the arranging that’s the time killer.  I scratched the full arrangement on the cardboard in lieu of arranging 2-4 rows at a time, as I got further into the project.  It seemed more prudent, as I was having fit issues here and there and it was just easier to do it in smaller batches.

The last thing I added was something I could stick magnets to.  We like to get a magnet from new states or countries we visit as our keepsake for the trip and I needed a way to get them to stick to the board.  We had some really cool mid-century modern styled rolled up metal stuff that we found in a dusty corner of the attic of our last house.  I fell in love with it and swore I’d use it for something one day.  After holding on to it for years, I was finally able to make use of it!  We used it to make a front panel for our wine fridge shelf, as well as a for a few cork coasters, so I figured why not use it for this as well and then everything will match!  You can use any type of flat metal to do the same.  I used tin snips to cut, then spray painted the same copper color to match the trim pieces as well as the wine cupboard and coasters.  Of course I used hot glue to stick it on.

Voila!  A memory board complete!

Now I have to figure out what I can do with all those foil tops…

Reagan Avery

Co-creator, artist, and the crafty one at Once Upon the Stars. A unique shop of custom created pieces designed for – your home – your lifestyle – your attitude. Maybe it’s funky, maybe it’s edgy, or maybe its a little different.

Maybe its ___, but whatever it is, it’s YOU!


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