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Customizing Magazine Holders

A pile of magazines can contribute to unwanted clutter, but a magazine holder, or a collection of them, can serve as a great storage solution. Martha transforms a plain, inexpensive wooden magazine holder she found at Ikea into an elegant object for her kitchen shelf, using a finishing technique inspired by Japanese and Chinese lacquerware.

Source: Martha Stewart Living Television


The technique involves numerous coats of paint, and wet sandings in between. This process is called "denibbing." The many sandings are what gives the holder its absolutely smooth finish. Martha paints today's batch of magazine holders Martha Stewart Living Everyday Giverny Green, which is the color of the trellises in Monet's gardens at Giverny.

Resources: Magazine holders are from Ikea. Martha Stewart Everyday Paint available at Kmart. Pratt & Lambert acrylic varnish available at most paint stores.


  • Wooden magazine holder

  • 150-grit sandpaper

  • Palm sander (optional)

  • 320- to 600-grit silicon-carbide sandpaper

  • Tack cloth

  • Paintbrush

  • Primer/sealer

  • Sponge brush

  • Paint

  • Varnish


  1. Sand the magazine holder thoroughly inside and out, using medium (150-grit) sandpaper. Clean up all rough edges, soften sharp corners, and sand away any imperfections. A palm sander will help reduce the amount of time necessary to complete the sanding.

  2. Wipe off dust with a tack cloth, which is a wax-infused cheesecloth, then prime the magazine holder inside and out with a primer/sealer such as Aqua-lock to seal the porous surface of the wood and fill in the wood grain. Allow the primer to dry for at least an hour, then resand the surface with 150-grit sandpaper, and prime once more, followed by another sanding.

  3. Use a sponge brush to lay down a thin, even coat of paint both inside and out. (If you prefer to use a conventional brush, use a soft-bristled one.) Move the brush in one direction and don't go back over the surface you just applied. Paint one side at a time, and allow each side to dry before painting the next.

  4. Allow the paint to dry, then wet-sand the surface of the box, using 320-grit silicon carbide sandpaper: Fill a small container with a solution of water and one squirt dishwasher detergent. Wet the surface of the box, wet the sandpaper, and sand the box inside and out, using a gentle hand motion in the shape of a figure eight. Wipe off the debris, apply another coat, then repeat the sanding process, then paint and sand two more times, using successively finer grades of sandpaper, moving from the 320-grit of the first wet-sanding to a 400-grit grade.

  5. Varnish the box with a thin coat of non-yellowing, water-based varnish, such as Pratt & Lambert acrylic latex varnish gloss. Allow the varnish to dry, then wet-sand, then varnish, then wet-sand again, using 400- to 600-grit sandpapers.

  6. For a beautiful, lustrous finish, leave the final coat unsanded.

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