Introduction: The Space Cat Tissue Box Holder

A plain tissue box looks so ordinary on the shelf or table. While very functional, it just does not have any flair or heart. The issue however, is that if your goal is to spice up the old tissue box your only options usually consist of boring tissue box covers with fake floral patterns that nobody really likes or worse…crochet. Enter THE SPACE CAT tissue box holder which will take your tissue experience to a galaxy far far away. The following steps will take you on a journey to infinity and beyond… well maybe not quite that far but at least it will be a fun distraction and the next time you have the sniffies you’ll reach for the stars. Now back to earth for a little bit of housekeeping. This instructable is set up in two parts. The first will cover the design and physical construction. While the second is really where the magic happens when you uncover your creative side and bring the space cat to life. All in all, you will be taking boring flat pieces of material and turning them in to a creative masterpiece that serves a functional purpose.



- ¼” and ½” Thick Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) sheets (project panels are usually available in 2’x2’ squares)

- Water Base Wood Glue (recommend TightBond Premium, Stay away from gorilla glue)

- Quantity 6 #6 wood screws with flat head, 1” Long

- 6 or 8 penny common or finish nail

- Hammer

- Cordless drill motor

- Combination drill/countersink bit

- Square for lay out

- Pencil (preferably mechanical or regular one with a sharp point)

- Table Saw or sliding miter box

- Clamps (bar or quick grip)

- Phillips Head screw driver (regular length and short if available)

- Scraper blade or chisel

- 220 grit sand paper

- Vacuum or can compressed air


- Flat white spray paint

- Various acrylic paints in space themed colors (blue, gray, black, silver, white etc.)

- Brushes of different sizes and weights

- Hair dryer

- Modge Podge or equivalent

- Other general painting supplies such as drop cloth or table coverings, water, water container

- Vinyl overlay if available and means to cut (otherwise, paint the details by hand)

Step 1: Building Overview

The end result of the build phase will be an MDF structure that looks like the picture.

Step 2: Cut the Material

First, you will need to cut the MDF into the necessary pieces. The image shows the necessary quantities, thicknesses, and sizes. It is helpful to cut pieces of a similar dimension at the same time. In other words, since multiple pieces are 4.75” wide cut a long strip at 4.75” and then cut the individual pieces from that strip at the other dimensions. This will help ensure consistency. All images will be attached as a PDF at the end of the build phase for download.

Step 3: Drill and Cut for Top Section

Next, cut the 1.5” diameter tissue outlet hole using the hole saw and drill the holes for the screws that will hold the top and bottom sections together. Use the combination drill and countersink bit. These processes are done to one of the 4.75” square pieces. The image shows the lay out and dimensions but the tissue box hole is on center of the part. One helpful tip when using the hole saw is to cut half way through from both sides. This will keep the surface from tearing out and create a cleaner cut. Also, use the square to assist with layout.

Step 4: Drill for the Back Piece

Next, you will drill the holes for the screws that connect the back upright piece and the base piece. These holes are drilled in the 6.0 x 5.25” piece of MDF. The dimensions are shown in the following figure. As in the previous step, use the square to assist with layout and drill the holes using the same combo bit.

Step 5: Assemble the Top Section

In this step, you will assemble the upper section of the tissue box holder. You will need the box front piece, the two box side pieces and the box top and bottom. This assembly relies on glue only as the fastening method. When done carefully it provides a high strength joint that will hold up long term. It’s a good idea to do a dry fit up with no glue in order to figure out the best method for assembly. Dry fitment will also get your clamps all close to the correct size. The more you can do to ease the assembly process the better. Also, note, the counter sinks you created in the box bottom piece in step 2 will face up into the inside of the box.

Once you have figured out the assembly and have the clamps sized up, place wood glue on three small faces of the top and bottom pieces of the upper section as well as the front small face of the side pieces. Then line all the edges up and clamp everything back together. Follow the directions on the glue bottle for drying time but waiting overnight never hurts. Also, recommend you stay away from using gorilla glue as it swells up when it cures which can create issues. Importantly, if glue seeps out of the joints, do not wipe it up as this will force it into the surface of the MDF and create issues when it comes time to paint. Instead, let it dry and then remove with the chisel or scraper.

After this step you will have a structure that looks like the image.

Step 6: Assembling the Lower Section

This step assembles the lower section of the tissue box holder. As in the previous step conduct a dry fitment and get your clamps sized up. Apply glue to the base piece and clamp it to the upright piece. One clamp directly in the middle should be sufficient. Then using the 6 or 8 penny nail, drive it down slightly through the two pre-existing holes that show. The purpose is to create a starting point for the wood screws to bite in. 4 to 5 good solid taps should be enough. Remove the nail and then run the screws in. You can use the drill motor with a Philips bit or the Philips screw driver, whichever is your preference.

After the two outboard screw are in place, remove the clamp and repeat the nail procedure in the center hole. Then run the center screw in. At the end of step 5 you will have a structure as shown in the figure. Since you have mechanical fasteners holding the joint together, simply wait for any glue that seeps out to dry sufficiently to scrape off. No need to wait overnight.

Step 7: Final Assembly

Finally, join the upper and lower sections together using the same glue, center clamp, outboard screw method as in step 5. It will be slightly more difficult to drive the nail due to clearance however you can hold the hammer on its side and use the flat face to hit the nail. The short screwdriver may be advantageous to run the screws in here if you have one available. Even better if you have a right angle drill motor but that is definitely not required, just makes it easier.

The last step is to chisel away any excess glue that remains and then give everything a light sanding with 220 grit paper. It is also helpful to break any sharp edges or points. This will provide a smooth even finish for the paint to adhere to. Using either the vacuum or a can of compressed air, remove any remaining dust from sanding

Step 8: Decorating Overview

With the mechanical portion over, it is time for the artistic creativity to flow. The fine details of the space ship and cat explorer can be created either using the vinyl overlay method or by painting them after the fact. Just depends on your preferred method and what equipment you have available

Step 9: Paint Everything White

The first step is to paint the entire structure flat white using spray paint. Multiple light coats are better than one heavy coat to prevent runs. This seals the surface and provides a base layer. If you are using the vinyl overlay method to mask off the white details, cut and apply those pieces once the paint dries.

Step 10: Select Space Themed Colors

Select your space themed colors based on what your vision of the great beyond would look like. Blues, grays, and blacks are a good place to start but throw in some reds and whites for contrast. Also, these contrast details will form the depth and background to give a realistic look to your space environment.

Step 11: Paint Your Vision of the Dark Void of Space

Apply your paints in a layered approach as shown in the first photograph. The purpose here is to generate depth effect on a 2 dimensional surface. It helps to vary light and dark colors. Also, you can cut a particular paint with a little bit of water to lighten it up or even mix colors together. If mixing, you can create a swirled or dappled effect by not full mixing the colors together. In the end, it is really up to you on how far to go. You can also work in stages and use the hair dryer to speed things up by cutting down on drying time. This way you can have a lot of depth buildup in a short amount of time. The end result may look something like the second photo

Step 12: Add the Fine Details

Now that the whole thing is covered with the coolest space environment ever, it is time for the fine details. If you have used the vinyl overlay method, remove those parts now to reveal the features beneath. Otherwise, start by deciding what and where you would like your details to be and then pick a focal point. Then get to work adding life to the outer space abyss. This project is titled the space cat so that is the main feature along with his deep space rocket conveyance however you may pick a different theme all together. Once again, use the hair dryer to set the paint more quickly and help build detail.

To add stars, it is helpful to take the splatter approach. Get some white paint on the bristles of your preferred brush, bend them back with your finger and then let go gradually while moving around. Try on a different surface first if you have never done anything like that before. The picture demonstrates this method.

Step 13: Seal It Up

Finally, you will need to seal off the paint to prevent any degradation down the road. Modge Podge is especially effective for this and it will not cause the acrylic paint to bleed as with some solvent based clear coats. Also, Modge Podge produces a depth effect when applied giving even more flair to the exploratory feline.

Step 14: Final Creation

When complete, you will have created a masterpiece that combines both mechanical and artistic skills together into a functional yet elegant end product.

Space Challenge

Participated in the
Space Challenge