Q. My magnets don't stick to my new stainless steel refrigerator. What am I going to do with the stuff that hung on my old one?
A. We feel your pain-and also your consternation, if you're one of the many people who have stainless steel backsplashes or other surfaces that hold magnets just fine. What gives?
The reason your refrigerator doesn't hold a magnet, according to Peter Eng, a physicist at the University of Chicago, is that different stainless steels contain different proportions of nickel (added to help keep steel from cracking and to allow the addition of more carbon, for strength). More than two percent nickel interferes with what Eng calls iron atoms' "magnetic moments." It seems your gorgeous new refrigerator has sacrificed its magnetism for a greater good.
Now to the pressing problem of where to hang your refrigerator art. One thought is to buy a piece of galvanized steel and screw it to a wall in your kitchen, pantry, or wherever you like, and use it as a magnet board. Jim Brunetti, owner of Avenue Metal Manufacturing Company (1640 W. Ogden Ave., 312-243-3483), will cut you a four-by-five-foot piece of light-gauge metal for about $45. He will punch screw holes in it and hem it, too, if you like. He even had a cool idea: "You could glue fabric to it, like felt." Call before you go.
Larry Boyle, owner of Boyle Exteriors Company (4000 S. Cottage Grove Ave., 773-373-4000), will fabricate a custom piece of sheet metal for about $90. Boyle's cool idea was to use a piece of metal with a baked enamel finish (he has three colors on hand). Boyle is devoted to recycling and he may have a piece of exactly what you're looking for, or a piece of what you didn't know you were looking for, somewhere in the back. Again, call before you go.
Another thought is to paint a wall in your kitchen with magnetic paint. Apply two to four coats and then cover it with your own paint color. Rust-Oleum makes magnetic primer that you can buy at Ace Hardware stores and The Home Depot. Kling Magnetics also makes one; it's available at Epco Paint (4020 W. Irving Park Rd., 773-286-3010; epcopaint.com), other paint stores, and at kling.com.
Finally, kitchen-supply stores stock all manner of adhesive-backed magnetic boards and doodads in various shapes that you can hang on your refrigerator and stick your magnets to, just like the old days. We saw some, both cute and sophisticated, for $4 to $8 at Freehling Pot & Pan (1365 E. 53rd St., 773-643-8080).