Introduction: Wax Tablet

Picture of Wax Tablet

Are you tired of everyone around you constantly using one of those new-fangled iPads and tablets? Are your teachers and professors instituting "no technology" policies in their classes? Is paper just too darn expensive? Well do I have news for you!

With just a few tools, a bit of wood, and some beeswax, you can make an authentic wax tablet!

I'm a first year history teacher at a high school (my alma mater!) and we are going to be covering the Renaissance after Labor Day. I figured I could whip up this tablet over the 3-day weekend and bring it into class!

Step 1: Materials & Tools

Picture of Materials & Tools


  • 2 x Pine boards (11" tall x 5.5" wide x 0.5" thick)
  • 2 x String/Twine (18" each)
  • Beeswax
  • 1 x Wooden dowel (9" tall x 0.5" diameter)


  • Router
  • Ruler
  • Cheese Grater (for beeswax)
  • Double Boiler (for beeswax)
  • Saw
  • Sandpaper (recommended)
  • Carving Knives (optional)
  • Drill/Drill-press/Drill bits

Step 2: Measurements

Picture of Measurements

Pine Boards

The size of your wax tablet is up to you. I have 2 pieces of pine board already cut the these specifications (11" tall x 5.5" wide x 0.5" thick), so I just stuck with that. Now you have to mark up the well for your wax. Measure 0.5 inches from the edge all around the board. You should now have drawn a box within your board (see picture 1).

If you plan on doing the 2 folding boards for your wax tablet, you will need to drill out some holes to attach them with your twine. Along one of the long edges, measure 3.5 inches from the top and the bottom. You will drill your holes between the edge of the board and the 0.5 inch line (see picture 2).

Wooden Dowel (for the stylus)

Your stylus should basically be shaped like a pencil. I chose a 0.5 inch diameter oak dowel for mine. Cut the dowel at 9 inches. You can go bigger or smaller, whatever your preference. On each end of the dowel, measure 0.5 inches from the end. Make a mark.

Step 3: Cutting Out the Wax Well

Picture of Cutting Out the Wax Well

Caution: This step requires power tools and sharp objects. Please exercise extreme caution and observe all safety measures.

Secure your board to a flat surface for the router. If you have a router table, now would be the time to use it. Set the depth of your router to roughly 0.25 inches (half the thickness of the board). Using caution, carve out the well in the wood for the wax. As you can see in the 3rd picture, I had a boo-boo and the router cut a little too deep. If this happens, don't worry, it will be covered up by the wax.

If you see in picture 3, you can't really cut corners with a router. You can either leave the corners rounded, or use some carving tools to cut it. Please use caution with carving tools.

Step 4: Drilling the Holes

Picture of Drilling the Holes

On the raised edge of your boards, you should see the measurement of 3.5 inches from the top and bottom that you did in the previous step. You may want to make sure that when you put the boards together, they line up. This will be the tricky part. You need to drill the holes on the raised section of the board, about 0.25 inches from the edge. I used a 11/64 inch drill bit for this because the twine I had fit in that. I wouldn't recommend going any bigger.

At this point you should sand down your boards and erase the pencil marks (see picture 3). The next step is pouring the wax.

Step 5: I'M MEEEELTING!!!! (Pouring the Wax)

Picture of I'M MEEEELTING!!!! (Pouring the Wax)

If you followed the specifications that I did, you are going to need a fair amount of wax to fill up the wells in the boards. I would recommend about 2/5th of a 1-pound block of beeswax. I wasn't measuring this, so it was just by eye.

To melt the wax faster, I recommend shaving down the block using a cheese grater. Melt down the wax using a double-boiler (a glass bowl on top of a boiling pot of water).

When the wax is a liquid, pour it into the wells slowly so that there is no splashing. I would not recommend pouring more wax over the already dried wax. I did that and have a big mound of wax on one of the tablets. Wait about 15 minutes for it to cool down and solidify. This is a perfect time to make the stylus.

Step 6: Stylus (pen)

Picture of Stylus (pen)

Remember that wooden dowel you cut to around 9 inches? Pick one end to be the writing point and the other to be the eraser.


For the point, use the last 0.5 inches of the dowel to gently carve it to a point. You can do this with a bench grinder, a knife, maybe even a pencil sharpener (if the wood is soft enough)! I used a razor blade and a hand file to make my point.


On the other end of your dowel, make a "fan." I used a vise and hand file to grind down both sides of the dowel. In the end, it looked like a flat-head screw driver.

Step 7: Tie It All Together!

Picture of Tie It All Together!

At this point, you should have both of your boards filled up with wax and a wooden stylus/pen. You will use the holes you drilled earlier to attach the two boards. Take your boards and put them together, with the wax on the inside. Now take the two pieces of string/twine and string them through the holes. Tie them together with a square-knot. Be sure to leave some room between the knot and the wood so that the tablet can open and close easily.

Step 8: Time to Write!

Picture of Time to Write!

Hooray! You can get rid of that iPad or electronic tablet now! Good riddance! And writing down all your notes is so simple! Simply use the sharp end of your stylus to carve into the wax. But wait? What if I run out of room?!?!?!

Never fear! Using the flat end of your stylus, simply "brush" over the carving/letters and you are back in business!

When you are done writing, you can fold up the two halves and slide your stylus between the twine and the wood. And your notes will be safe, even if you drop it! Take that iPad!

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, please leave a comment below!


Marco_Hawk (author)2017-07-16

Would it be possible to use candle wax?

mrsmerwin (author)2017-02-12

dropping it won't hurt it but be careful about leaving it outside on a hot day. Great project.

Alex in NZ made it! (author)2016-04-29

Thank you very much for the Instructable. My niece's classics teacher was very impressed.

In the photograph attached, the little bubbles left by the setting wax disappeared after the first use on a warm day.

Two points:-

1) in my version the wax was very hard and difficult to write on, even in summer. I was wondering if the Romans might have blended their wax with varying amounts of olive oil to produce a consistent writing surface. This might also have reduced the amount of shrinkage which draws the beeswax away from the edges of the board.

2) since the Romans lacked high-speed plunging routers, I imagine that hollowing out the timber would be time consuming, and the wax itself would have cost money, so I was curious if the original item would have had a shallower cavity (easier to carve and taking less wax)? This might also explain why archaeologists can find the impression of the stylus on unearthed wooden tablets?

244 Jake (author)2015-09-07

No batteries?


How wonderful could it get, the whole idea of it, writing on a device with No Send button.

Graphic system is a learn as you go?

What would be cost of a devise like this for a group cub scouts to build?

Big Jake

Karsaell (author)244 Jake2015-10-17

You can ask for bee wax to any bee-keeper, I got some for under 10€/kg. The wood wouldn't much more expensive if you use cheap pine wood (you don't really need thick hardwood for this project). The only problem would be the power tools, but then I expect scouts should be able to make do without them ;-)

All in all, I'd guess somewhere between 3 and 5€ per child should do it.

And by the way, I'm totally making one tomorrow ! Great idea, neat execution, and I was wondering what to do with my leftover bee wax ;-)

DarkalityL (author)2015-09-29

If you left enough room in your border, you could poor in cold cast resins or perhaps a silicone casting medium and create a template plate for printing whatever you wrote in your handwriting.

I'm thinking that if you put the tablet in the freezer to harden the wax, you could paint on a layer of plastidip to pick up all the fine details, then when that airdried you backfill it with something more rigid to maintain the shape... just a thought

BLASTFEMI (author)2015-09-22

Very cool! I love low tech!

Didgit (author)2015-09-21

I was going to say that it is a neat historical replica, but I would be terrified of the mess if these were used in florida!

PeterT22 (author)2015-09-14

Have you considered painting the inside of the wells black, so wherever you scratch a line, it shows through to add contrast?

One80Bits (author)2015-09-11

I love the barefoot policy, I do the same!
This is a very cool idea, I can see a hanging 'shopping list' in my kitchen... It would smell awesome!

blkhawk (author)2015-09-10

Your project is also known as a "palimpsest".

The Ancient Romans wrote (literally scratched on letters) on wax-coated tablets, which were easily re-smoothed and reused; Cicero's use of the term "palimpsest" confirms such a practice.
BigBoulder123 (author)2015-09-08

Not wearing shoes in the shop?!? Haha (pic 6)

WrshpMzshn (author)2015-09-08

Wireless, paperless, portable word processor!

JennaWrites (author)2015-09-08

Not only a cute idea, but can be honestly helpful. I went to a school that didn't let you use your left hand to write no matter what was your dominate hand (upside, I'm now ambidextrous, so not ALL bad) and using something similar to this that a family friend for me made learning how to write a lot more manageable. Tracing a line on a paper only helps so much if your hand wavers - tracing a physical mini-trench helps the motion be easier to grasp.

rbrown3 (author)2015-09-08

will make one just for fun and to put away and flumox grandkids and great grand kids one day

echristensson (author)2015-09-07

I imagine using a heatgun or hot hair dryer to "reset" the tablet.....

USMC-USAF-USN (author)2015-09-06

Very cool! Is a revival of more ancient Babylonian high tech the next new thing? (It's certainly less stressful than my current multitude of electronics.)

Sunbutt_Shimmer (author)2015-09-06

So clever!

momoluv (author)2015-09-06

So cool!

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