Introduction: Cardboard Desk Tidy

After writing almost 12000 words on honeycomb structures, I was inspired to make something which was related but also useful. This is a really easy make and can be done with just about any card you have lying around. Corrugated card is the easiest if you don't want to measure as much but you can use whatever you have lying around including old cereal boxes or packaging. It would be a great project to get kids to do, though they might need supervision and/or help with cutting out the card. For more detail on the inspiration, see the notes at the end.



  • Cardboard (corrugated is easiest if you don't want to measure things but any will work)
  • PVA glue


  • Cutting mat
  • Box cutter or other cutting implement
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

Step 1: Cut Out the Cardboard

Cut out stips of cardboard to the maximum height you want the tidy to be. I just cut of the flaps of an old box so mine ended up being 11.6cm but any height between 10-12cm will do. Cut the strips as long as possible, in total you will need about 75cm of cardboard.

Make sure that when you cut down to height, you cut at right angles to the corrugations as we will be using them to make the hexagons later.

Step 2: Cut Out the Tubes

  • Measure 1 1/2 corrugations in from the edge of your cardboard and fold.
  • Skip the next corrugation then fold (in the same direction) on the one after so you end up with two folds with one corrugation inbetween.
  • Repeat this until you have 7 folds total.
  • Cut along the seventh fold.

Repeat this 6 more times so you end up with a total of 7 pieces.

(If you are not using corrugated card:

  • Draw 7 parallel lines, like the ones seen here, 1.5cm apart
  • Cut along the seventh
  • Fold along all the lines in the same direction)

Step 3: Add a Slope to the First Tube

Measure 7.5mm down from the top on the centre two folds.

Draw a straight line across the middle section, then draw two diagonal lines up to the top of the folds either side (as shown).

Cut out this section.

Step 4: Cut Out the Rest of the Slopes

For the next size down:

  • Measure 15mm from the top of the middle two folds and draw a horizontal line across the centre section.
  • Draw diagonal lines up to the tops of the outermost folds.
  • Cut out this section
  • Repeat so you have a total of 2 pieces with this shape cut out.
For the middle tube:
  • Measure 7.5mm down from the top and draw a line across the whole piece.
  • Measure a further 15mm down from this line (22.5mm from the top) on the middle two folds and draw a line across the centre section.
  • Draw diagonal lines from this line to where the top line meets the outermost folds.
  • Cut out this section.
For the second shortest tubes:
  • Repeat the steps from the middle tube but this time drawing the top line 15mm from the edge (this will make the bottom line 30mm from the edge).
  • Repeat so you have two pieces of this height.

For the shortest tube:

  • Repeat the steps from the middle tube but this time drawing the top
    line 22.5mm from the edge (this will make the bottom line 37.5mm from the edge).

Step 5: Glue the Tubes

  • Apply PVA to one of the outermost sides.
  • Fold the tube so it meets the other outermost side.
  • Hold the sides together until the glue is tacky enough to hold the tube in shape.
  • Repeat for all the other tubes.

Step 6: Arrange and Glue the Tubes Together

Arrange the tubes in height order.

Glue the tubes together one at a time by applying glue to the sides where they meet.

You may have to move them around slightly to ensure all the edges line up.

Step 7: Cut Out the Base

Put the glues tubes on top of a bit of cardboad and draw around the edges of them.

Roughly cut around the outline of the tubes, it does not need to be exact as we'll cut it down later.

Step 8: Glue on the Base

Apply glue all over the base then press the tubes down on top.

Wait until everything is secure then go around the outside trimming the base so it is flush with the tubes.

Step 9: Finished! + Optional Additions

Once all the glue is dry you can go about using the desk tidy and putting whatever you want in it.

You can also paint or decorate it however you want, using whatever means you have on hand.

Hope you enjoyed making this! The next "step" isn't part of how to make it but is instead just part of the background of what inspired this design.

Step 10: Further Information

Honeycomb and cellular structures are seen all through nature, and for good reason - they are very strong! When someone says honeycomb you probably imagine the stuff that bees produce with the regular hexagons, but that's not the only kind that's around. Many different plants and animals have honeycomb like structures hidden within them. Take for example beetle shells, they have a cellular structure (something that is made up of lots of different cells or cavities) which provides them a lot of strength whilst also being very lightweight. Plants such as pomelos also have similar structures which can absorb a lot of energy when the fruit falls from a big height.

Of course there are also man-made examples of this. In aeroplanes, it is very common to find hexagonal honeycomb covered in carbon fibre to make something called a sandwich panel (unfortunately not edible). These sanwich panels provide very good structural properties whilst being lightweight and so helping with the fuel efficiency of the plane. Sandwich panels are also popular in space flight. The low weight is good in reducing launch costs whilst the structural properties help protect the spacecraft, even helping deflect objects that are going at several kilometers a second!

Introducing hierarchy (smaller structures within the larger overall structure) has been a point of interest for many scientists and engineers. This is because hierarchy might be able to provide even better structural properties whilst keeping the overall mass the same, or even reducing it. In this build you can seen hierarchy in the corruagated walls of the tubes, with the main structure being the hexagonal honeycomb. This goes to say your desk tidy is very strong for it's weight and is also a shape that is seen in lots of different things.

Declutter Speed Challenge

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Declutter Speed Challenge