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Cork Notice Boards – Why do they make such good pin boards?

natural cork and cork notice boards

Why use cork in a notice board?

When you think about notice boards, you probably picture cork notice boards. It’s a well established product and has been around for a long time. In fact a man by the name of George Brooks of Kansas, USA, issued a patent for one in 1924. So it’s not surprising it’s so ingrained into our minds. Despite competition by other types of pin board, like felt boards with their vast range of colour options, cork notice boards endure. And for good reason too. As we shall see later, cork has many positive properties that benefit it’s use on a notice board.  

Even if we ignore the benefits for a moment, there is still something inherently traditional about a cork notice board. Combined with an attractive frame, and today’s choices are wider than ever, it remains a good looking and trustable product.  

Cork – What exactly is it?

Well the simplest and shortest answer is it’s the bark of a tree. Shall we all go home now? Actually, hang around there is some great trivia about cork that you probably didn’t know, oh and lots more. Let’s dig a little deeper. Most trees have an outer cork bark, but most cork products are made from the Cork Oak Tree, probably because it meets our commercial needs the best. It has the thickest layer of bark when compared to other trees too. So, where might we find these particular trees? Well most of the harvest comes from places such as Algeria, Spain, Morocco, Italy and Tunisia to name a few.

If you think of it as a protective layer to the more delicate inner bark and fibres of the tree, you can begin to understand why this material has the wonderful properties and benefits it does. Such as being water-proof, lightweight, rot resistant, fire resistant, soft and buoyant etc

Cork Harvesting

Cork Oak trees need to grow until they are around 20-25 years old before the cork can be stripped from them. After that it can be stripped every 10-14 years for as long as the tree lives. Care must be taken not cause any damage to the inner bark of the tree or the outer layers will not grow back

Once the cork has been taken away from the tree, the rough outer layer or skin is removed and the remaining pieces are then boiled. Boiling aids the removal of outer bark and also softens it making it much easier to work with.

It can be ground up and baked for use in products like floor & wall tiles and notice boards.

Looking Deeper

Cork has a honeycomb-like structure, meaning that much of it is empty space, which means it’s very lightweight. But unlike honeycomb, it has a very irregular construction of ‘holes’ with many more sides and different spaces between them. These microscopic holes reveal another benefit, that of a cushioning effect. This structure of holes has even more uses as it is also good for insulation and noise reduction.

Why is it so good then?

Amazingly, for a wood product, it’s fire retardant! Fire will only char the surface and there are no toxic fumes. While this is a positive point, it should be noted that as far as cork notice boards are concerned, the cork is only a thin laminate. The underlying pin board core is wood based and therefore not fire resistant.  

There’s more. When you place a piece of cork on a flat surface there are open holes in the structure that act like little suction cups. Those cups effectively grip the surface giving them anti-slip properties.

Cork does not absorb dust or moisture, and is very resilient to being crushed, returning to most of it’s original size over time. It doesn’t rot, and resists insects. Additionally it is resistant to wear and is or has been used to polish diamonds. Many people consider the flat surface an ideal material when they want to display larger items like maps. The neutral background, as seen around the map for example, might also be preferable. Or it may be a case that cork notice boards simply have a more   

How are cork notice boards made?

Many people believe that apart from the frame, cork notice boards simply contain a reasonably thick piece of natural cork material. Actually that’s not the case. Cork is a supple material that can become quite flexible in larger pieces. This is not ideal as it could get damaged quite easily. So a layer of cork, usually between 1-3mm thick is permanently bonded to a industry standard piece of medium-high density fibre board. This is necessary to keep the board rigid and improve pin retention.

Traditional cork notice boards

Time and time again we are asked for cork pin boards and perhaps this article helps explain why. But let us consider how some of those wonderful cork properties lend themselves so well to this particular established product.  Although felt notice boards have their place, and a few positive points of their own. There are times when a ‘cleaner’, fibreless surface is actually better. Again a good example of this would be when using a map on a pinboard. Our aim is to lay the map as flat and close to the pin board surface as possible. Cork is ideal in that regard. In fact cork’s natural anti-slip benefit helps the map, and indeed any information stay in place better.

Now You Know!

Now you know why it’s such a great choice of material to choose. Plus you can now impress your friends and family at dinner parties!

Article revised Dec 2018.

Don’t forget to check out the Notice Me cork notice boards range.

cork pin notice board

Check out even more useful information;

UK Cork Industry Federation
Wikipedia Cork Material article

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