Use register tape for shopping lists and other household notes

10 Nov

Register tape mountMy friend Carly gets all the credit for this one. She has a roll of register tape mounted on a handsome spindle to use for household notes like shopping lists. As soon as I saw it, I knew that I had to make my own. Classy, cheap, and functional? I’m sold even without the classy. It’s easy to slap one together from spare parts that any packrat will have around the house.

I’ve attached notepads to the refrigerator door for shopping lists, which is a great idea for anyone to use, but this is superior and more aesthetically pleasing to boot. I like the elegance of tearing off as much paper as you need for any given task. Register tape is cheap, too, since a 130-foot roll costs less than a dollar. With an Altoids tin, a pair of corner braces, and a few magnets, you can be taking notes on a roll like the rest of us.



  • Register tape
  • Altoids tin
  • 1.5″ corner braces
  • Nuts and bolts to fit braces
  • Zip ties
  • Rare-earth magnets

Altoids tin - holesAltoids tin - braces

Drill holes in the Altoid tin to match the holes in your corner braces. The braces need to be spaced far enough apart for the register tape to fit between them, so put the holes as close to the edge of the tin as you can without preventing it from closing. After drilling the holes, you’ll need to hammer or file away any metal sticking inward from the holes where it would interfere with tightening the nuts. Bolt the corner braces to the lid of the tin.

Altoids tin - magnetsAttach your magnets to the inside of the tin (this should all seem familiar if you’ve seen the magnetic towel bar I installed in the bathroom). This time, I used four powerful magnets (salvaged from a pair of hard drives), stacking them in pairs at the far edges of the tin. These provided plenty of gripping force to keep the entire apparatus from falling off the fridge. Can I say how much I love hard drive magnets? These things are so strong that it can be hard to pry them off once they’ve stuck to something. I can’t bear to throw something away that has a useful magnet in it.

Register tape diagram

To mount the roll of paper, all you need to do is run a string through the central spindle on the roll and tie each end of the string to one of the corner braces. I used a pair of cable ties attached end to end, which I’ll have to cut off and replace whenever I need to put on a new roll. Cable ties are cheap and durable, so I’m fine with that solution.

Register tape - side

That’s it! The roll is easy to write on and won’t slide around under the force of a pen. For added usability, consider a magnetic pen, as seen in the top photo. You can make your own by pulling the bottom off of any ballpoint pen and sealing a small magnet inside (such as the tiny magnets used in my magnetic Lego┬« blocks).


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  1. marybeth.fedor

    11/11/2010 at 11:17 am

    Drew, you are a magnet wizard!
    Hope to see you on Saturday… did your wife tell you?

  2. carbar

    11/14/2010 at 1:03 pm

    All the credit. Woohoo!

  3. carbar

    11/14/2010 at 1:04 pm

    p.s. good shopping list.