Upcycled Cork Coasters

 
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Apparently, I've got a thing for corks these days. However, I've actually been meaning to do this project for awhile now! My family drinks a lot of wine (ahem, Mom and Dad) and we used to recycle our corks at the San Francisco Ferry Building. When they stopped accepting corks (much to our dismay), I became determined to come up with a way to reuse the corks. 

These are super easy, and you can make them as simple or as decorated as you'd like. They look great either way!

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Things you will need:

  • Used corks - about 5-7 per coaster, depending on how thick you cut them
  • Pot, lid, and steamer (or a bowl that can rest on top of the pot)
  • Knife (I used a kitchen one, but Xacto knife would be much better!)
  • E6000 glue (for a stronger bond) or hot glue gun
  • Ribbon (optional)
  • Acrylic paint and paint brushes (optional)

A note about the glue: I used a hot glue gun, which I found easier to work with, but I had to work fast before the glue dried, and the glue would sometimes peel off the cork's smooth surface, so I had to reapply. While a hot glue gun totally works fine, I think E6000 or a more permanent glue would make a stronger bond.

Instructions:

1. Steam your corks! Bring water to a boil, and steam your corks, covered, for 5 minutes. 

I initially (and unsuccessfully) tried to cut the corks dry, and then a quick Google search led me to the solution of steaming corks first! They cut a lot more smoothly with a little heat and moisture.

 
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2. Cut your corks into 1/3" to 1/2" pieces, based on how thick you want your coasters.

Quick tip: Only take one cork (the one you're about to cut) out of the steamer at a time, and leave the others in until you're ready to cut them. Once the corks have been sitting out for even a minute, they become hard to cut again.

3. Once you've cut all your corks, arrange them in hexagons, so you get an idea of what each coaster to look like. Add some wine stained cork ends for color!

4. Glue your cork pieces together!

Turn on your hot glue gun (if not using E6000).

Make one small dot of glue on the center cork piece, and stick on another cork piece.

It's hard to see, but there is a small clear drop of glue in the center of the cork!

It's hard to see, but there is a small clear drop of glue in the center of the cork!

Now, with two cork pieces bonded, make drop two dots of glue on each cork where the 3rd cork piece will touch -- near the corner of where they meet. Stick on the 3rd cork piece.

The two drops should be closer to the corner than to the middle of each cork, so that the new cork piece will touch it!

The two drops should be closer to the corner than to the middle of each cork, so that the new cork piece will touch it!

Continue working your way in a circle, adding drops of glue where the new cork piece will bond.

On your 7th piece (the last piece of your inner circle), you'll have to add 3 drops of glue to bond the cork piece to the surrounding pieces.

Oops, my drops are kind of droopy, but they still worked!

Oops, my drops are kind of droopy, but they still worked!

Start the outer circle of the hexagon. Glue wherever your new cork piece will touch the your already-glued corks.

Quick tip: Double check (prior to adding glue) that the next cork piece will fit in place. My corks were slightly different sizes, so sometimes I'd get to my last piece of a circle and realize that I needed to use a smaller cork to fit.

Coasters complete (if you want)! If you want to add some more embellishments, keep on reading!

5. Add a ribbon trim to your coasters (Optional)

Glue the ribbon onto the edge of your coaster, one cork piece at a time, and snip off the end once you've made a full circle.

Gluing ribbon one cork piece at a time

Gluing ribbon one cork piece at a time

Finishing the ribbon trim

Finishing the ribbon trim

Gluing the hanging edges to the bottom

Gluing the hanging edges to the bottom

Ideally, your ribbon will be the same width or narrower than the thickness of your coasters, because then you're done!

In my case, the only ribbon I had laying around was a bit thicker than my coasters, but it still worked. Folding the edges over, I glued the hanging edges down to the bottom of the coaster, which actually created a nice padding on the bottom edges!
 

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6. Paint some accents on your coasters (Optional)

I thought it'd be cute to paint a few of the circles gold, as a subtle accent. Then I got the idea to paint a single color on each of the coasters, so that people at a dinner party or gathering will remember which coaster/wine glass/cup is theirs, kind of like wine glass charms. (I guess this only works if people keep their cups with their coasters!)

Add some dots, chevron stripes, monograms -- anything you'd like -- to your coasters for some extra detail.

As the holidays are approaching (I start brainstorming gifts a little early :D), I've been thinking what I could make for people. Wouldn't a little set of 4, customized for each recipient, be really cute and actually useful? You could also make potholders by just making a bigger coaster with a couple more rings of corks!