Get half-corked (and why grandma would approve)


I’m really not a hoarder like the people you see on TV, but whenever you buy something that says “some assembly required” it often includes a variety of parts for various situations. I save all of the leftover pieces. My ever-loving wife, “Rosé” (not her real name), rolls her eyes when I do this but those oddball parts have come in handy bunches of times. The trick is to remember what I’ve got and where I put them.

My grandmother always said, “Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do. Or do without.” She wouldn’t throw anything away. She even kept empty Kleenex boxes. “They might be useful someday, you know.”

So, genetically, I can’t throw things away and therefore I can’t be held responsible the accumulation of mystery parts. For example, I have accumulated quite a collection of wine bottle corks that needs to be put to good use. Real corks can be recycled but most corks are synthetic these days. The concrete floor in the workshop is a little hard on the knees so I decided to turn the corks into a floor mat.

Whole corks are too thick for a mat so I cut them in half the long way so the flat side could face the floor and the curved side would face up. I first tried using a handsaw to cut them but they are too hard to hold still because they are small and curvy. Taking a cue from Tim “The Toolman” Taylor, I needed more power and I happened to have a miter saw sitting right there.

To hold the corks while sawing them, I made a jig with a slot the width of a cork and long enough to hold three corks at a time, which is the size of the miter saw blade. I put some corks in the slot for a test run and lowered the spinning blade and … cork pieces went EVERYWHERE. Because the jig slot had no ends the corks flew right out.

Fortunately, Rosé doesn’t like to be around when I’m sawing so she didn’t see that little incident. Otherwise she would have had yet another opportunity to roll her eyes.

I screwed a stopper block to the back end of the jig slot and for the next test I used a push stick on the front end of the slot to hold the corks tight. This time when I lowered the spinning blade … the cork halves stayed put and I had six pieces for my floor mat. A few minutes later and my whole cork collection had become a half-cork collection.  (Watch the video to see the jig and how to cut the corks.)

By arranging the half-corks in a rectangular pattern I could see how big the mat was going to be. Some corks are taller than others so they needed to be lined up in rows where all of the corks were the same height. I made a frame of plywood the same size as the cork layout and trimmed it with some thin molding around the edges.

What was going to keep the corks fastened to the  frame? My motto is, “When in doubt use epoxy.” That stuff will hold anything–permanently. Ten pumps of the resin, ten pumps of the hardener, stir, spread it on.

This video shows how to mix the epoxy and arrange the corks.

After transferring the half-corks to the epoxy-covered frame I had a cushioned floor mat that gives my knees and feet a break from standing on a hard concrete floor.

“If you want to make another mat, I’ll be in charge of providing more corks,” Rosé said a little too eagerly.


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