Would you like to see how to construct a magnetic palette knife holder that you can make yourself? I’m not a master craftsman, just a DIY-out-of-necessity creator so there might be better ways to do this, but I will show you the solution I came up with that worked out great to hold my palette knives conveniently and in easy reach.
For anyone whose paint dries out because they don’t get to paint every day, I’ll show you each step of the journey in case you want to build a palette knife holder yourself. You can also watch the video below that captures all my struggles, insights and successes during the making of the palette knife holder.
Why Make a Magnetic Palette Knife Holder?
Why after 30 years of keeping my palette knives and razor palette scraper in the same spot on my palette, did I suddenly decide to make a palette knife holder and move them? The simple answer – my oil paints are drying out too quickly between painting sessions. Why, what has changed?
For the first 25 years of my art career I was painting daily (except Sundays of course) and my paints didn’t have time to dry out much. Now, with the large and growing Master Oil Painting community and all the online art training I’m lucky if I can paint once or twice a week. That means that my paint sits and dries out more.
So, to help keep my paints wet longer between painting sessions I need to create a plastic wrap station on the side of my palette so that each time I finish working on a painting I can pull the plastic over my paints and palette to keep my paints fresh. That way if it’s a couple days in-between painting sessions my paints will still be nice and fluid – hopefully.
That means I also need to move my palette knives to the end of my painting palette rather than keeping them at the backside so the plastic wrap can sit flat on the paints. So, I came up with an idea for a magnetic palette knife holder that would keep my palette organized and my palette knives in place.
Constructing the DIY Magnetic Palette Knife Holder
Materials you will need (I am giving my recommendations based on what I learned – not what I used):
- One Oak board – 1-inch x 2-inch x 2 ft (the actual dimensions are ¾ inch x 1 ½-inch x 2 ft.). At Lowes the board would cost about $2.20.
- 2 90 lb. pull magnets – they come with screws and have a hole in the middle to screw them to your board (the magnets I purchased came in a pack of 8 for $16.99)
- 1 or more 60 lb. pull magnets (mine came in a pack of 12 for $14.99)
- Wood/metal glue (I used E6000) for extra reinforcement (optional so the magnets never come off)
- 1 1 ¼-inch Forstner bit ($14.48 at Lowes) for the larger magnets to create a perfect hole to inset your magnets flush with the wood
- 1 1-inch Forstner bit ($12.48 at Lowes) for the smaller magnets
- 150 grit sandpaper if you would like to soften the edges of the board
- Tape measure or ruler
- White Polymer Eraser (to clean up pencil marks when finished)
- Paper towel to wipe off excess glue
The stronger magnets are to keep the holder attached to your palette. They are stronger than you need for the palette knives and scrapers. That’s why I used the smaller magnets.
If you will be doing future projects the 14 piece Forstner bit kit is a great deal ($49.98 at Lowes).
Step-by-Step Directions to make the Palette Knife Holder
1. Decide how many palette knives, razor scrapers, etc. you want to attach to the holder. Allow at least an ⅛-inch between each magnet (I used ¼ inch so that is what I will use as measurements).
2. Beginning at one end of the board measure ¼ + 1-in + ¼. After that you can repeat the process for as many magnets as you want to add. So, the measurements would go ¼ + 1-in + ¼ + 1-in + ¼ + 1-in + ¼ + 1-in + ¼, etc. Then put a small line in the middle of each 1-in space for the screw at the center of each magnet.
3. Make lines down the middle the entire length of the board so you create crosshairs for the positioning of the drill bit where you placed the small line in the middle of each 1-in space.
4. Once you are certain you have the center mark for each magnet, on a scrap piece of wood use your Forstner drill bit and create a hole to the depth you want. Then, while the bit is in the hole, mark a line around the bit with an easily visible marker (like a blue Sharpie) so you can see how deep you are making the holes on your palette knife holder. Drill a hole deep enough that a tiny bit of the magnet remains above the wood. I believe the magnets are strong enough to hold your palette knife or scraper if you make them flush with the wood as well. If you’re hesitant you can experiment by using a scrap piece of wood and screwing in a magnet before you glue them to be sure your palette knife will hold well.
5. For those with a metal (enamel) palette like mine, on the bottom of the board measure in 1 or 2-inches from each side for the larger magnets. Get your measurements accurate for the crosshairs because you don’t have much wiggle room. The larger magnets are almost as wide as the board.
6. Drill the holes using either the 1-in bit for the small magnets or the 1 ¼-in bit for the large magnets.
7. Once you have the holes made, use a 3/32-inch drill bit about ¼ in. down into the board where each screw goes so the screws easily penetrate the wood. I use masking or electrical tape on the drill bit to show the ¼ in. depth. Make sure you compensate for the two magnets on the bottom, so you don’t hit them with a screw (like I did).
8. If you would like to have softened edges on the wood this is a good time to sand. Once you’ve sanded make sure you clear off the sawdust with a vacuum or a brush.
9. Assembly line fashion, put glue in each hole, place in the magnets and screw them down tight. I also place a little glue on the end of each screw as I use them so they will not work loose over time. Then wipe off any excess glue so the magnets are nice and clean. You don’t want anything to interfere with the palette knives sticking to the magnets.
10. Let the glue cure for 1-2 days and you’re ready to use your new magnetic palette knife holder.
Having a magnetic palette knife holder is super convenient. I wish I had thought of it years ago. I’m now thinking of the best way to make one for my plein air painting palette.
It’s all about limiting busy work so we can have more time for painting! Hopefully, the small amount of time invested in creating something like a palette knife holder will more than repay us with extra days, months or years of productive art making.
What are some studio tools that you love? Please share what you’ve found useful in the comments below.
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Hi Bill what an inspiring video. Thank you very much for sharing your wonderful experience. I had bought a magnetic bar from eBay and used it for my palette knives. Nothing like shat you made but it worked. Do keep these videos coming. I have learned so much from you. Thank you.
From Glasgow Scotland
Good suggestion! But if I have a plastic-and-glass (not metal) palette, any suggestions as to where I can mount something like this?
Also – a friend suggested to me that a little clove oil will help keep your paints fresh for days. I cut a little 1″ square off a kitchen sponge and glued it in the corner of my palette. I place several drops of clove oil on it. When I’m done painting, I put the cover on my palette and the clove oil keeps the paint pretty fresh for several days. The clove oil also attracts these cute little metallic green bees – they don’t seem to sting but they sure do love that clove oil, so I have little mascots to accompany me every time I paint outdoors.