Life Saver Magnets Tutorial

One of the things that I get to do for the Alpha Center in my duties as a volunteer is come up with ideas for thank-you gifts for the speakers at our Life Skills classes.  I made these a couple of years ago, but I had it in mind that I might blog someday, so I took pictures of the process, thinking someday I might share with the world how I created these.  At the time, my craft area was in the basement of my parents’ home, so the pictures aren’t quite as bright and good as they could be.  Sorry.

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The life saver magnets fit perfectly for the theme for the Alpha Center that year, which was celebrating their 30th year of saving lives.  I think I got all of the materials for making the magnets from Hobby Lobby, except for the life savers themselves.

Materials you will need to re-create these:
Life savers
2-part epoxy resin (I used Ice Resin, which I’ve used for multiple projects and have never had a problem with)
Bottle caps (newly purchased, not used from actual bottles)
Magnets
Hot glue
Matte mod podge
Scraps of cardstock

The first order of business to make these is to cut circles out of various colors of cardstock.  I used a 1 inch circle punch to cut them out and they fit perfectly inside the bottom of the bottle caps.  Once you have as many as you need, the circles need to be sealed with mod podge to keep the resin from soaking into the cardstock and discoloring it.  Coat one side, making sure to get all along the edges of the circles, and place it on wax paper.  Allow the top to dry before flipping them over and coating the bottom.  You want to avoid making bubbles or large ridges in the mod podge as those will be permanent.

While your circles are drying, learn from my 20/20 hindsight and be sure to do this next step.  I actually made a couple batches of these and didn’t do this the first time, which caused issues.  Thin down your life savers!  The candies are kind of thick, which makes pouring the resin a lot trickier.  Grab an exacto knife and chip away the bottom of the life savers until they are about one-half to two-thirds the size they were originally.  Try to keep the bottom relatively level.  Once you’ve trimmed one down, drop it in a bottle cap and see how level they are to the top of the sides.  They can be a little taller than the sides, but you don’t want them sticking out very much.  Also, make sure you are carving your life savers down into a garbage can that is lined with a garbage bag!  Otherwise, you’ll be scrubbing your garbage can with soap and water to remove the sticky mess.  Not that I’d know that from personal experience or anything…

After your circles are dried on both sides, trim down any excess mod podge, still making sure it completely covers the circles all the way around.  Then press them into the bottom of your bottle caps.  Don’t worry if it’s a little bit of a tight fit.  Just make sure they’re pressed in all the way.  Place your trimmed-down life savers in the middle of the bottle caps.  I tried to mix and match colors so they wouldn’t all be the same.

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Once all your bottle caps are full, it’s time to play with resin!  Make sure your work surface is protected with wax paper and that you have tight-fitting surgical gloves to keep the resin off your skin.  Follow the instructions for whatever kind of resin you are using to make sure you get the results you want: solid, clear resin.

ice resinmix cups

Ice resin used to say on the packaging to mix it for two minutes, but now it says to just mix it for one.  I still mix it for two, being careful to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure it mixes evenly, while also trying to create as few air bubbles as possible.  Once your resin is properly mixed according to the instructions, use the craft stick you used to stir it to fill your bottle caps.  Make sure to get resin all the way around the life saver, inside the hole, and covering the top.  This is where shaving down the candies makes all the difference!  You want the candies to be completely coated in resin, but you don’t want to overflow your bottle caps.

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Remember in science class when you learned about surface tension?  I know, awakening old memory cells like that can be painful.  I’m sorry.  The resin will be higher than the edges of your bottle caps, but the surface tension should keep it from overflowing provided they don’t get too full and they don’t get bumped.

Now comes the longest part: babysitting.  You’ll find that any resin, no matter how carefully you stirred it, will form air bubbles in your work.  Gently blowing on the tops through a straw will remove most of the bubbles, but I always keep a long needle handy to pop any that form on the bottom, or to bring them to the top where I can pop them with a gentle blow.  Keep a close eye on the caps for at least an hour or longer, depending how how quickly your resin sets.  Once you feel confident that no more air bubbles will form, cover your work with a dust-free bowl or something that will keep any lint from settling on the sticky resin.

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I always prop up my cover just a little so it doesn’t rest on any resin that might have dropped or spilled on my wax paper workstation.

Allow your resin to cure for as long as the instructions say.  I always leave my projects at least for overnight to make sure they get good and solid.  Once the resin is set, remove the cover and check out your work!

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Shiny.  🙂  The final step is to simply hot glue magnets to the back of the caps.  Make sure to work quickly.  I found that putting the glue on the magnets didn’t work as it set far too quickly, so apply the glue to the bottle cap then press the magnet on.  It also worked better to make a thin circle of glue that was about the size of the magnet than to make a large drop in the middle and press the magnet into it.

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I put the finished magnets in cute little organza bags with a little tag that said “Thank you for being a life saver”, but sadly I didn’t take any pictures of that.  These magnets may seem like a lot of work, and they are more time-consuming than a lot of ideas, but the final result is very worth it.  Everybody loved their little gift, and it’s nice that they are practical little things that can be used as opposed to a little trinket that just sits on a shelf.

If anyone decides to try their hand at making these, let me know!  I’d love to hear your experience or if you have any other tips to make them easier!

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