How to make a custom cork bulletin board that is thick enough for your enamel pin collection

We have been looking for a creative way to display our enamel pin collection since moving to our new home over two years ago. The front-loading shadow boxes we got from Michaels worked great in the old house but we felt they were a bit too modern for our new 100-year-old house. We threw around several ideas but ultimately decided that the best place for them was in my craft room. Keep reading below for an overview of how we made custom cork bulletin boards that are thick enough for our enamel pin collection.

The finished cork boards
The finished cork boards

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Purpose

Creating these custom-sized cork bulletin boards for my pin collection also gave me the opportunity to solve another problem; covering up the electrical box in my craft room. When we refinished our basement, we decided to add to the finished square footage by claiming some of the originally unfinished space. We turned this space into my craft room. 

However, at some point in the past, an electrical box was installed on one of the walls. We decided not to spend thousands of dollars to move it and figured that we would come up with a creative way to hide it eventually. It took two years but we finally figured it out- a custom cork bulletin board that would also act as a cover for the electrical box.

Project overview

For this project, I decided that I wanted to create three cork bulletin boards in custom sizes. The largest board size was determined by the size of the electrical box. I taped it out using painters tape on the wall and then taped out where I wanted the other two boards. Once the sizes were determined, we figured out what materials we needed.

For the base of the cork bulletin boards, we decided to use 1/8-inch hardboard. If you are making smaller boards, you can purchase hardboard on Amazon, but one of our boards was 23″ wide, so we needed to purchase a larger sheet from the home improvement store. We thought this would be sturdier and look nicer than plywood, but either could work for this project. We then picked out some nice wood trim molding pieces to act as the frames.

Buying cork

Finally, we needed cork. I was so excited to find some 12 x 12 squares of cork at the local Goodwill for a steal. But my boards were all larger than 12 x 12, so I also purchased some cork rolls from the crafts store. I originally ordered a cork roll from Amazon, but it had been badly damaged in transport and was cracked into small pieces. Unfortunately, the Board Dudes Cork Rolls that I purchased from Joann’s don’t seem to be available any longer. I recommend looking for these at office supplies stores or Target/Walmart and would be wary of ordering them online.

When buying cork for any project, you will need to pay attention to the thickness of the cork. The 12 x 12 cork squares I had found were about 4mm thick. I found that in order to fully secure my enamel pins, I needed a total thickness of about 7mm. Ultimately, I used two layers of 4mm cork. For the bottom layer I used pieces of the cork squares cut to size. However, this left very visible seams. In order to cover them, I purchased a 4mm thick cork roll and cut a piece for each board. I made numerous efforts to flatten this cork but was generally unsuccessful. Thankfully, with enough adhesive it laid perfectly flat on the final project.

Project execution

We first cut the hardboard to size using the table saw and based on the design I had mapped out on the wall. I then used the miter saw to cut the frame pieces to size. I am very proud to say that I made all of the cuts for this project myself. Once all pieces were cut and sanded, we glued the frame pieces to the hardboard. We were concerned that wood glue wouldn’t be effective because the hardboard isn’t porous, so we used contact cement. I think wood glue would have worked fine, but we didn’t want to take any chances.

I then used wood filler to fill in any gaps between the frame pieces and hardboard and to smooth the corners of the frame pieces. For some reason we didn’t use clamps with the contact cement but I think if we had, we would have avoided these gaps. I then painted the frames. I first used a gray chalk paint I had on hand (even though I don’t love chalk paint, I was trying not to waste). However, I didn’t end up liking the color against the lighter gray walls. There just wasn’t enough contrast. So, I picked out a nice dark green (SW 6195 Rock Garden) instead. Since I had already applied the gray chalk paint I thought it would be best to purchase a chalk paint to paint over it with. I used Krylon Chalky Finish paint from Sherwin Williams.

Adding the cork

The next step was to apply the cork. For the bottom layer I applied the cork squares. I first cut them to size using my rotary cutter. I tried using an exacto knife and scissors, but found the rotary cutter was most effective at cutting a straight line through the cork. We used an E6000 spray adhesive for this layer but found that a few of the corners did not stick. For the second layer, I used pieces of the cork roll cut to size so that there wouldn’t be any seems in my cork. We used Locktite spray adhesive as well as traditional E6000 glue on the edges. I was afraid the top layer wouldn’t stick well because it wanted to roll up despite my efforts to flatten it.

Wall mounting

For the two smaller cork boards, it was easy to attach standard picture hanging hardware. The larger board, however, needed to be on a hinge so that it could open when we need access to the electrical panel. For this, we decided to use a piano hinge. We actually used the same hinge on our cedar chest makeover. Because it is so long, this hinge is able to support the weight of the board and pins. It opens smoothly and wasn’t too difficult to install.

Tools Used

For this project, I needed several tools. Although I used both cork squares and a cork roll, you could purchase just one or the other.

  1. Hardboard or plywood 
  2. Table saw
  3. Wood trim molding to create the frame
  4. Miter Saw
  5. Sand paper
  6. Wood glue, contact cement, or another strong adhesive
  7. Wood filler
  8. Wood clamps
  9. Paint (I used Krylon Chalky Finish Paint in SW 6195 Rock Garden)
  10. Paint brush
  11. Painting pyramids (to prop up boards so that you can paint the edges)
  12. Cork squares or a cork roll (I recommend a total thickness of at least 7mm for most push pins or enamel pins)
  13. Rotary cutter to cut cork to size
  14. Spray adhesive (I used an E6000 spray and Locktite spray adhesive)
  15. E6000 or gorilla glue equivalent (for corners and edges of cork pieces)
  16. Piano hinge
  17. Picture hanging hardware
  18. Push pins or your enamel pin collection

Conclusion

Once the boards were constructed, I gathered our enamel pin collection. My plan was to organize them into a sort of color wheel since they were being displayed in my craft room. It took me a few days to organize the pins by color and map out the color wheel, but I am really happy with how it turned out. I used washi tape to mark each area of the color wheel. 

It isn’t a true color wheel; I chose the placement of each color based on the number of pins (and which colors looked nice together). Also, I had to make a red/white/blue section because I have a huge number of pins that are red, white, and blue for some reason.  

I am very pleased with how this project turned out. The largest board acts as a great electrical box door/cover and the smaller boards fill in the wall nicely. I finally have a way to display my pins that makes sense in the new house and I really like the pop of color in my craft room.

If you are looking for more DIY inspiration, you should check out my posts on how to make a custom growth chart ruler, custom candles, or custom face mask chains.

Have you ever done a similar project? What tips do you have for working with cork? I am so glad you visited us at Jack and Bax. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter (sign up available either on the right sidebar or at the bottom of the page). And please follow me on Instagram and Facebook so that you don’t miss any of my upcoming projects!

finished bulletin boards

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