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Thursday, July 3, 2014

{diy with style} DIY Alphabet Magnets that Actually Stick to Magnetic Primer

Yesterday I told you about the magnetic chalkboard wall that we created in our kitchen, and I gave you my not-so-glowing review of magnetic primer.

While magnetic primer might not be strong enough for many uses, the only use I was specifically interested was allowing my boys to play with, and learn from, alphabet magnets. As I shared yesterday, I purchased some lightweight, plastic alphabet magnets from the toy store, but the magnets were not strong enough and they fell right to the floor. I tested some different types of magnets on the wall and discovered that the flexible, printed magnets that we sometimes receive as advertisements stuck to the wall quite well.  And just like that a DIY project was born!


Did you know that you can buy printable magnetic sheets?! You'll find them along side the other speciality printer papers at your local office supply store. BUT, yes there is a but... I picked up a pack of Avery brand magnetic sheets, and brought it home eager to make some alphabet magnets, only to once again be let down! The magnet would stick the side of my fridge, but still wasn't strong enough to stick to the magnetic primer below our chalk wall.

So I turned to the internet and read some reviews online. Others described similar experiences and gave so-so reviews to most brands, but one - ProMag - brand stood out as having a much stronger magnetic hold. I ordered a pack of five magnetic sheets, and when they arrived I was impressed by the glossy finish and the fact that they did, in fact, stick to my magnetic chalkboard wall! BINGO!

I wanted several different colors of magnets, so I printed solid blue, green and teal onto the three of the magnetic sheets, and printed stripes {designed in Photoshop} onto the remaining two sheets.


Now I just needed to cut out letters. To make the project quick and easy, I used my Cricut cutter {I have the original model, not the fancy new Cricut Explorer}. But if you don't own a Cricut {or some other die cutting machine}, you could certainly use a stencil to trace letters on to the magnetic sheets and cut them out by hand with a fine point pair of scissors.


I've cut through a variety of materials with my Cricut, but had never cut through anything as thick as magnetic sheets. I read up on whether the Cricut could handle this, and learned that I would need to swap out my regular blade for a deep cut blade.


To swap out the blade housing, you simply loosen the screw and open the apparatus that holds the blade housing in place. I removed the standard blade housing {the green}, and slid in the new deep cut housing {the blue}, then closed the arm and tightened the screw back in place. I set the blade depth to 6, the cutting speed to 3, and the pressure to 5.


I wanted to be sure my boys would have plenty of letter magnets to be able spell lots of words, so I knew we would need more than one of each letter. I consulted Scrabble to determine which letters are more and less common. I decided to cut a minimum of three of each letter, and as many as twelve of each the vowels. Because I needed so many letters, I wanted to cut as many letters as possible from each sheet of magnet. Since my Cricut is nearly ten years old, its capabilities are more limited than newer models, but by using my Gypsy handheld designer {a Cricut companion tool} I was able to control the layout of the letters to maximize the number I could fit on each sheet. I believe that with the newer machines, you could do this directly through a computer program.


I hooked my Gyspy up to my Cricut, placed a magnetic sheet on the cutting board, and loaded it into the Cricut.


I was thrilled to find that the deep cut blade worked perfectly and produced a nice clean cut through the magnetic sheets. After the cutting the striped sheet, I peeled off the excess magnet and was left with my perfect alphabet magnets.


I repeated this process for each different color of sheet until I had blue, green, teal letter magnets, in addition to the stripes. My boys are still very young, and Beckett is just now learning to recognize his letters, but as they get older I thought it would be helpful if the vowels were different from the consonants. With that in mind, I used the stripes for all of the vowels, and the solid colors for all of the consonants.



Once all of the magnets were cut, I started thinking about how to store them. It's important that they be kept flat, because if the magnets get bent or curled, they won't lay flat against the wall and won't stick well.

I scoured through my craft supplies and came across a small metal tin with a hinged lid that was perfect {purchased from the Container Store to hold beads once upon a time}. Since I already had my Cricut out, I cut some vinyl letters to label the top of the tin {gotta make it cute, right?}.



Beckett was eagerly watching me make these magnets, just waiting to get his hands on them. Of coures, the first thing we spelled was his name, which he proudly informed me starts with a "B."


Soon he was busy sticking all of the letters to his magnetic chalkboard wall, singing the alphabet song over and over as he worked.


The new alphabet magnets entertained him for well over an hour {pretty much a miracle for a two and a half year old}!


Right now the magnets are mostly just fun to play with, but as both boys get older, I know they will become a great educational tool. I can just see us now sounding out words and practicing for spelling tests!


Magnetic primer isn't all it's cracked up to be, and if you are wanting to use magnets to hang your kids art work, it's not the product for you. But if, like me, you just want a fun place for your kids to learn to read and spell, then magnetic primer is perfect when combined with some quick and easy DIY letter magnets!


3 comments:

  1. Great idea! It occurs to me that if the advertisement magnets will stick to the wall, and you don't have a Cricut, all that fancy duct tape they make now could be stuck on the advertisement magnets and the letters cut with a heavy-duty shears or an exacto knife. It would take a lot longer, though. :)

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  2. What a great idea for little ones, and you can customize to fit your own needs. LOVE IT!

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