Open Bottles – In Style!

No longer should you open a bottle and worry about where the bottle cap has fallen.  Did it roll under the fridge?  Perhaps it sauntered beneath the stove with who knows what other refuse?  Craft one of these, and your days of chasing bottle caps are over!  Watch the video below for a complete overview, or keep reading for a step-by-step walk-through!

What I used

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Materials
Tools 

Step 1 – Choose your material

I typically use scraps and off-cuts to make these, so first I rounded up what I had on hand.

For this project, to keep it simple, it’s easiest to find a scrap or off-cut from previous projects.  The nice thing, though, is that the final form of your bottle opener is entirely up to your imagination.  For the purposes of this walkthrough, I’m sticking with a simple rectangle, cut out of the chunk of walnut in the top-right corner of the above image.  I’d recommend using something that is at least 1/2-inch thick.

Step 2 – Cut to size

With your material chosen, it’s time to get it to the right size. Luckily, for this project the “right size” is really whatever you want.  I typically aim for it to be between 3 to 6 inches wide, and 8 to 12 inches tall.  Remember though, it doesn’t even need to be a rectangle, make whatever shape you like, so long as you leave enough space to install the magnets in the proper places.  I used my bandsaw for cutting it to size, but you can cut it however you wish.

Step 3 – Layout the hole locations

Laying out the location for the magnets.

To install the magnets, I first start by marking the location for the top two magnets.  These will be what holds the completed bottle opener on the fridge (or to whatever other magnetic surface you choose to attach it).  The magnets I use are just shy of 1 1/4-inches round, so I mark a location 1-inch down and in from the top and either side.  Using two magnets here will ensure the force of a bottle being pulled againt the opener doesn’t pop the whole contraption off your fridge and make a giant mess, defeating the whole purpose.

After you’ve marked the top spots, it’s time to mark the lower magnet location.  You’ll want this spot to be in-line from where you’ll be installing the actual bottle opener hardware on the front-side of the wood.  So if you plan to make that in the center of your board, then ensure this is also centered.  For mine, since I’m using the rectangular magnets, I like to start the slot about 1-inch from the bottom of the wood, I don’t mark the end-point of the slot, as I’ll use the actual magnet for that when it comes time to create the slot.  If you’d like to keep it simple and only use round magnets in your opener, then just mark here where you’ll drill another hole for the magnets, rather than where a slot will start.

Step 4 – Makin’ magnet holes

Drilling the top magnets’ recesses.
Top magnets

We want these magnets recessed into the wood so the bottle opener will sit flush up against the fridge once it is complete.  For this, I use my 1 1/4-inch forstner bit in my drill.  If you don’t have a forstner bit, a spade or paddle bit would also get the job done.  Use the locations you marked earlier as the center point for the hole.  Don’t drill all the way through the wood!  We only want to drill the same depth as the thickness of the magnet.

Starting the recess for the bottom magnets.
Bottom magnets

The bottom magnet can be a bit trickier, as we can simply drill one hole for it to sit into (silly drill bits not drilling rectangular holes!).  I like to use my router in a router table to do this, but the router table isn’t necessary, you can do it with a handheld router as well.

To start, I drill a 1/2-inch hole at the location I marked earlier.  I use 1/2-inch because that’s wider than my magnet, and I plan to use the same sized router bit.  Again, this hole should not be drilled all the way through the board.  You want to stop before the drill bit exits the other side.  Keep in mind that forstner and spade bits typically have a point in the center that goes deeper than the rest of the bit, so be sure to stop drilling before that point pokes it’s way through.  As a way to mark this, use a piece of masking tape, and wrap it around the drill bit, so you know when that tape gets to the surface you’re drilling into, it’s time to stop.

An example of the masking tape trick for drill depth.

This hole will be used to start routing out the rest of the groove.  With the proper router bit installed in the router, I move the fence on the router table out of the way, and place the wood so that the router bit sits inside the hole we just drilled.  

I can then bring the fence up to the edge of the wood, and tighten it back into place.  Using a pencil, I mark on the table where the right side of the wood is, so I know this is where I should start routing each pass (I didn’t have enough room to the right side to use a stop block for this).

Then I lift the board up from the router bit, and use the magnet to measure how long I’ll need the slot to be, by moving the board to the left the same distance as the length of the magnet.  I can then tighten my stop block down at that distance.

Finding the length of the channel I need to route. (silly face drawn on board optional)
Use a stop block to ensure you don’t go farther than necessary.
Here’s after one pass on the router. I mis-measured and made the slot longer than necessary. Not the end of the world, Just adjust the stop block on future passes.

Once you’ve got it all set up, take shallow passes to clear out the wood.  Again, be sure not to go all the way through here, I normally stop when there’s about 1/8-inch of material left between the slot and the surface.  To do this, you can use an adjustable square to find the thickness of your material, then take 1/8-inch off that measurement, and use that as a gauge for adjusting your router bit height. Alternatively, you can just hold your piece up next to the router bit while you adjust the depth of cut, and eyeball it to about 1/8-inch (this is probably the easier way to do it, but I didn’t think about it until after I finished this one…)

Checking the depth of my cut.
Alternate Methods for the bottom magnet

If you don’t have a router table, that’s fine.  This can be done by hand with router as well.  Just do your best to keep the slot straight to ensure the magnet fits within it.  If your router came with and edge-guide, I recommend using it.

If you don’t have a router, it’s still possible to accomplish this step.  You can simply use a slightly larger drill bit than your magnet and drill a series of holes close to one another that will form a slot for the magnet.

Drilling adjacent holes to form a slot.

Even simpler yet, you could just drill the same size round hole and use the same round magnets as we did for the top.  Again, just make this hole go through all but 1/8-inch of the wood.  I’ve accidentally drilled too far and created a hole where there shouldn’t be one, and was super bummed.  So I recommend caution.  If you think you’ve gone far enough, hold the magnet in place and grab something metal, see if the magnet catches it through the wood.

Here I used a wrench to ensure the magnet had enough strength through the wood. If it can catch a wrench, it can catch a bottle cap.

Step 5 – Sanding!

Sanding, everyone’s favorite!

This step is pretty straightforward.  Grab your sanding implement of choice and sand everything smooth.  I used 120- then 220-grit, and that left it smooth enough for my liking.  Be sure to wear proper safety gear, a dust mask or respirator while doing this.  Your future self will thank you.

Step 6 – Magnet installation

Magnets in their places.

Installing the magnets is fairly straightforward.  For the top magnets, if you are using the kind that can be attached with screws, check that your screws aren’t so long they’ll poke out of the other side of the wood.  If they’re short enough, then that’s the best route to take to attach them.

The bottom magnet (and top magnets if the screws are a no-go), I use two-part epoxy to secure it into place.  Mix up your epoxy according the directions on the package.  I err on the side of “more is better” in this situation, and try to get the bottom magnet completely submerged in the epoxy to be sure it stays put.  If I have any extra epoxy, and feel there’s plenty for the lower magnet to stay where it belongs, I use the extra for a little added strength on the top magnets.

Step 7 – Put a cork on it!

To cover the not-very-aesthetic looking backside of our wooden plank, we’ll use adhesive cork sheets.  This stuff comes in rolls, I just cut out a piece that is slightly larger than my board, remove the paper backing, and stick it on.  Not only does this make the back look nicer, it provides a barrier between the magnets and whatever surface they’re attached to, preventing any scratches or other dings that may happen inadvertently.

Step 8 – Apply a finish

Applying some Howard’s Feed-N-Wax.

Now it’s time for what can be the best part of any woodworking project.  Applying a finish.  Especially when you have a hunk o’ wood with some nice character, a finish can really make that pop!  My finish of choice here is Howard’s Feed-N-Wax.  It’s easy to apply and does a great job of letting the wood look great, without any added shine or plasticky feeling to it.  For this stuff, you just wipe it on with a rag or towel, let it sit for about 20 minutes, wipe off anything that hasn’t soaked in, then buff out the finish with a clean towel.

Step 9 – Install the opener

All that’s left is to put on the most important piece of this project – the opener.

Lay the opener on your board to get an idea of where you want it placed.  Remember which end you have your top magnets installed, as you want the opener on that same end (I bring this up because I have made that mistake, and felt very silly afterwards…)  I typically eyeball the placement of this to get it close to center.  If you want to measure and ensure it is exactly centered, that is absolutely fine.  Once you’ve got it where you want it, pre-drill the holes and then drive in the screws to hold it in place.

Step 10 – Crack one open!

The finished product! Much larger than my other magnets, but just as pretty.

And that’s that.  Now you have a handy way to pop open any bottles that need to be popped open.  There are many different ways to make this your own, from the wood species you use, to designs you could engrave or burn onto the wood.  Or even combining different woods to create a unique look.  Check the gallery below to see a few others I made from the scraps in the picture at the beginning of this guide (all of which are for sale!).

As always, if you decide to take on this project, be sure to share it with me,(@bearmaked on Instagram & TwitterBear Maked on Facebook, or just drop me an email – bearmaked@gmail.com).

Thanks again for following along!  Have fun and happy making!

-Justin

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