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This is a replica of a cardboard desk organizer I made years ago, that served me well for many years! I'd still have it today, if it weren't for the fact that when we downsized and some of the stuff that used to be elsewhere moved into my desk space, I tossed out it out in favor of a cheap plastic organizer with a smaller footprint. Which soon broke, and now annoys me every time I try to get something out of it, and on top of that the little swing-out compartments aren't really tall enough for all the junk I want to stuff in there. So, I finally decided to make a new cardboard one, since it worked so much better for me. It's definitely worth the little bit of additional bulk!

It's like a pen cup, except that it acknowledges that short, well-loved pencils deserve a better fate than being lost at the bottom of a jar and stepped on by all the tall, dignified pens and pencils! It also accommodates paper clips, erasers, refills for mechanical pencils and roller pens, and whatever other small or narrow things you have on your desk. As you can see, I even stash my scissors in there. It's easy enough for a kid to make (after all, I was a kid when I made the original!), yet perfectly at home in a more mature workspace. It is also incredibly customizable; the one in the picture is spray-painted, but that is by no means the only option for decorating it! And it's made of the most ubiquitous materials there are - toilet paper tubes and scrap cardboard!

Step 1: Materials

You will need:

  • Three toilet paper tubes
  • Some scrap cardboard (either corrugated or the cereal-box kind; maybe you can find a back of a used-up notepad in the right size!)
  • Tacky Glue or hot glue (hot glue if you don't want to deal with drying time, Tacky if you don't want to deal with a hot thing that drips strands of rubbery stuff everywhere)
  • A pencil
  • A ruler with centimeter markings (doesn't have to be as elaborate as mine, lol)
  • A pair of scissors
  • A calculator
  • Preferred means of decoration (spray paint, paper or fabric, beads or rhinestones, whatever)(optional)

Step 2: Cutting the Cardboard Tubes

First, measure the tubes. Different brands of toilet paper have tubes of a little different length. If you're really fortunate, you might get a tube that's exactly 5 in. long, but probably not. So I recommend measuring in centimeters, because they're easier to do math with! Again, you may get a tube that's exactly 10cm, in which case hooray for you! But if not, all is not lost. Just measure, and enter the length on a calculator. My tube was 9cm and 5mm, so I entered 9.5. You can round to the nearest 5mm; this isn't a high-precision project! Then, divide the measurement by 5, and that will be the difference in length from one tube to the next. As shown in the picture, my result was 1.9cm.

Next, take one of the tubes, and make a mark at the distance determined by the calculations, in my case 1.9cm up the tube. Then take another tube, and make a mark twice that far up, in my case 3.8cm. It's okay if you round up or down by a millimeter or two, nobody will notice! :-D Leave the third tube unmarked.

Now, cut the tube at the place indicated by the mark. The way I did it kind of smashed the tube, and left a crease on the side; to avoid that I think you'd need a saw or something - not totally sure (feel free to make suggestions in the comments!). But unless you're a hyper-perfectionist, the crease won't be a big deal (after all, there is that line spiraling up the tube, what can you do about that?)

When you're done, you should have five tube pieces, sort of "stair-stepped" in height, as shown.

Step 3: Cutting the Base

Arrange the tubes as desired on the flat cardboard. You can have them arranged as in the photo, or all lined up as in the last step, or any other way that suits your personal aesthetic and the layout of your desk space! When they are arranged to your liking, measure or eyeball about 1cm or 1/2" from the tubes, and make a line. Repeat until the tubes are all "walled in" by the line, or the edge of the cardboard. Then set the tubes aside and cut out the resulting shape. I recommend a rectangle, since it's easiest to cut.

As it turns out, corrugated cardboard isn't actually the easiest thing to cut with scissors. If I recall correctly, when I made the original I already had a piece in a suitable size. As mentioned before, if you have a used-up notepad, the cardboard back of it may be a suitable size. If not, you can use a piece from a cereal box, although I'm not sure if that could warp if painted, or just grab the biggest, toughest scissors you can find and go at it! Or maybe you could use a box knife... just don't cut off any fingers!

When you're done, you'll have a rectangle, as shown above. The edges will very probably be a bit rough, but that's not a big deal.

Step 4: Assembly

If you are planning to cover the tubes and/or base with decorative fabric, paper, or anything that has to be wrapped around, do that now. Also, if you plan to have some parts spray-painted and some not, the painted parts will have to be done before assembly. But if you're going to leave it plain (as I did with the original), or spray-paint the whole thing (as in this example), or do some other method of decoration that doesn't require wrapping something around or protecting some pieces from getting sprayed, you can assemble it first.

Then, apply hot glue or Tacky Glue to one end of the longest tube, and stick in place on the flat piece. You can make pencil marks where you want the tubes to be, if that helps. Glue the uncut ends of each of the other tubes in place, until they are all glued down.

If you use Tacky Glue, you'll have to wait an hour or so for it to dry. Try setting it in front of a fan, with the openings facing into the breeze, to speed up the process.

Step 5: Spray Paint (optional)

You can leave it just like that; my original organizer was left plain cardboard. But it also was made of noticeably less ugly tubes, that were actually brown instead of gray and didn't have that annoying printing on the inside. But if you're looking for a purely utilitarian organizer, you might not even care about that!

This particular version of the project is spray-painted. Just take the organizer to a well-ventilated area, and set in on a protective sheet (such as paper), if you don't want paint all over the ground. Then spray all around, to get an even coat on the whole surface, making sure to get it inside the tubes. Then wait for the length of time recommended on the can (in my case 15 min) before adding another coat. Repeat as many times as necessary to coat the whole thing (you don't have to paint the bottom surface, since nobody will see it but the top of your desk and it doesn't care. But you can if you like, it will just be more time and effort). Then leave it to dry. This could take quite a while. Best to just forget about it - go have lunch, read your Facebook feed, maybe take a bubble bath...

So, after a couple hours or so (if you're impatient, the ideal is to leave it out in the garage for probably 24 hrs, because fresh spray-paint is pretty smelly!), you can retrieve it and admire its great beauty! Or whatever :-P.

Step 6: Organize Your World! (Well, That Part of It, Anyway)

So that's it! The next step is to fill it up! Arrange all your different-length pencils in their respective compartments, find a home for your paper clips and erasers... Find the perfect spot for it on your desk, that it may hold your supplies with pride and dignity! Your desk will appreciate it, and so will all the formerly-ignored short pencils! :-D

I included a picture of my organizer at my desk, but all cameras really hate my desk lamp, so I had to take a pic on the kitchen hutch to get better lighting :-P.

Enjoy! If you make your own version of this project, I'd love to see it in the comments! :-)

And no, I don't use too many emoticons... why do you ask? ;-)

What a great idea! You are a GREAT creator
<p>Great design. It does just what you need :)</p>

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Bio: I live in Colorado, and love making things from stuff I have around :-D.
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