An office tape dispenser out of wood can be a beautiful desk accessory. You can either use all of the same species of wood or mix and match for contrasting colors.
This can be made using a band saw, scroll saw or a laser cutter.
- 1/4" to 1/2" thick wood about 4-6" wide, scrap would also works.
- I used maple and cherry for contrast.
- Walnut is a nice dark brown wood, one of my favorite woods but can be expensive.
- Maple is a blonde wood that is easy to work and relatively inexpensive.
- Cherry will darken with age and exposure to light.
- 1/4" and 1" dowel
- Hacksaw blade. A dull one is just fine, otherwise a cheap one.
- 18 gauge wire nails, 1/2" - 5/8" long
- Wood glue
- Polyurethane finish oil or water based depending on your preferences. I like General Finishes brand oil.
- Oil based
- Will darken the wood with an amber tone which may be appealing
- Will age with time
- Seems to have a thicker film so fewer coats may be necessary
- Much slower dry time, 6-24 hours depending on conditions.
- Oil based
- Leaves the wood a more natural tone
- Tends to have lower odor
- Dries much faster, 1-2 hours is typical under ideal conditions.
- Sandpaper 80, 120 & 180 grit
- School glue stick (if using a saw)
- Blue painter's tape (optional)
- Nitrile gloves to keep the polyurethane off your hands
- Band saw, scroll saw or laser cutter
- Brushes or clean t-shirt rags to apply finish
- Tin snips or other tool to cut the hacksaw
- Cordless drill
- 1/4" drill bit
- Razor or Exacto knife (if using a saw)
Printer (if using a saw)
Step 1: Cutting Out the Parts
This part can be done on a band saw, scroll saw or a laser cutter. You will be needing two outside pieces and 3 or more middle pieces. The number of middle pieces will be dependent on the thickness of the wood and how many you need to create at least 3/4" between the side pieces.
Band saw or scroll saw:
Download the PDF of the pattern.
Print the pattern using Adobe Acrobat (or similar program) using the Actual Size / Don't Scale option. The pattern should scale up if needed, but I wouldn't make it any smaller.
Print then cut out the pattern from the sheet using a scissors or razor knife.
Arrange the patterns on the wood to make good use of the wood. Try to get the wood grain going in the same direction if possible.
Glue from a school glue stick to the back of the pattern then stick it to the wood.
Cut the wood following the pattern with the band saw or scroll saw. Try to make the parts the same size so the edges line up with minimal adjustment. You can adjust the edges by sanding if needed. Also make sure the slot is at least the width of the 1/4" dowel so it can rotate.
The paper pattern can be peeled off after you make your cuts.
You will not need to cut out a paper pattern.
Download the PDF for the laser cutter version of the pattern.
Load the PDF into Illustrator or Corel Draw according to the manufacturer's directions. Change the line colors if your manufacturer requires something other than red (R:255, G:0, B:0) for vector cutting. Change the line width to what the manufacturer requires if needed. The PDF should already be set to .001" for Illustrator or hairline for Corel Draw.
Rearrange the parts to fit your work piece if needed.
Install the wood on the work surface and bring focus of the laser head into focus by adjusting the bed height (Z axis). Consult your owner's manual for specifics on your laser if needed.
Tip: Place blue painter's tape both sides of the wood will reduce soot deposits on the faces of the wood. It also works well as a stencil if you paint in raster etched letters.
Adjust any laser settings to suit the wood being used. I suggest working these out with test cuts.
I had good results with 1/2" maple on a Universal Laser Systems PLS6.150D 150W laser with 100% power, 5% speed and 750 PPI making two passes. The defaults charred the edges too much. Cherry used the same settings but took four passes.
You will need to sand the edges since they will be darkened, unless you like the appearance. Be careful not to remove too much of the edges or things may not line up right. You can skip sanding edges of the middle pieces until you glue them together to keep them in alignment if needed.
Note: A card / cabinet scraper works surprisingly well for removing the residue on the cut edges without altering the dimensions much. Just make sure it is sharp and take your time.
Note: I understand you can use a orange hand scrub, but I don't like what it does to the appearance of the wood.
Step 2: Sanding the Faces
Sand the sides of the wood pieces of the dispenser starting with 80 grit progressing to 120 then 180 grit. Sand with the grain of the wood. You can use a sanding block or a random orbital sander if available. A cabinet or card scraper can also produce very smooth results.
You can sand with higher grit sandpaper if you are not going to use polyurethane. However sanding finer than 180 will make it difficult for the polyurethane to absorb into the wood. So don't be tempted to sand finer than 180 unless the polyurethane directions allow for it.
The end result should be nice and smooth without swirl marks.
Step 3: Dry Fit the Pieces Together
Line up the pieces with the wood types arranged in a way that is visually pleasing to you.
Measure the distance between the outside edges of the dispenser.
Step 4: Making the Spindle
Cut a 3/4" to 1" piece from the 1" dowel. It should be slightly narrower than the width of the middle pieces together.
Find the center of the dowel piece. A center finder works well, otherwise do your best by eye. Drill a 1/4" hole through the dowel. A drill press works best, but I used a doweling jig and a cordless drill since I don't have a drill press.
Cut the 1/4" dowel about 1/2" longer than the distance between the two side pieces as determined in step 3.
Go ahead and put a little chamfer on the ends of the dowel with some fine sandpaper. It doesn't need to be a large one, it's just to clean the edges up a bit.
Step 5: Gluing the Sections Together
Apply a thin layer of wood glue to one face of one of the middle pieces. Too much will make lining up the pieces more difficult since they kind of skate around, not to mention the mess.
Line up edges with the adjacent middle piece. Repeat with the remaining middle section(s).
You should end up with a sandwich of wood pieces looking like the one you dry fit in step 3.
Check the alignment of the edges, then clamp the pieces together. Check the alignment again, make adjustments if necessary. A pin nailer can help keep things aligned if you have one.
Glue squeeze out can be either removed with a clean slightly damp rag or allowed to dry and scraped off later. It is a matter of preference and some people claim a damp rag can dilute the glue and work it into the grain.
Keep the pieces clamped for the time specified by the glue manufacturer, overnight is better.
Add some glue to the outside faces of the completed center section.
Carefully line up the front, back and bottom edges with the side pieces. You want to apply the glue to the middle sections to avoid unnecessary glue on the outer two pieces.
Clamp the thing together again.
Step 6: Applying the Polyurethane
Apply your polyurethane using the manufacturer's directions. Apply to all sides of the pieces.
Generally speaking you want to work with the grain to apply the finish in a thin even coat. Set the piece aside and allow it to dry according to the directions on the can.
Once the coat is dry you can lightly sand the surfaces with 400 grit sandpaper or buff it with 0000 (super-fine) steel wool. Check the directions to verify their suggestions. Remove the dust from the sanding.
Repeat for additional coats of polyurethane. Applying three coats is typical for oil based, you can do more if desired but there are diminishing returns. Don't sand the final coat.
Note: I like to use a strip of clean t-shirt rag folded up into a square. Bags of t-shirt rag are available at most home improvement or paint stores.
Note: Make sure you stir the can well to suspend any additives that may have separated.
Tip: Polyurethane will go bad and crust over once opened and exposed to oxygen. You can help delay this by purging the air out of the can using inert gas like argon sold at a woodworking store or from a welder. I use the welder since it far cheaper than the stuff at the store. I have also seen people use propane from an unlit torch, but I have no personal experience with it.
Step 7: Adding the Cutter
Cut off the end of the hacksaw where it normally attaches to the handle, a tin snips works well.
Mark the length of the blade a bit shorter than the dispenser is wide using a Sharpie. Cut the hacksaw blade then check the fit. It should be narrower than the dispenser.
Note: You may need to hammer blade flat since it may have a bend from cutting.
Optional: Clean up the hacksaw blade with sandpaper and apply some clear spray paint to prevent it from rusting. My first attempt used Johnson's wax but the tape didn't want to stick to the blade when I was finished.
Drill a 1/16" hole about 1/8" in from the edges of the section of hacksaw blade. You want to be far enough from the edge where you won't split the wood when you drive in the nails. You can help prevent the drill bit from wandering by using a punch to create an indent where you intend to drill.
Place the hacksaw blade on top of the front section of the dispenser with the toothed side facing the front edge. The edge of the blade should stand out about 1/16" or 2-3mm) from the front edge. It seems to cut better if it sticks out a bit more. Use a bit of blue painters tape to hold the blade in position.
Drive the nails into the dispenser through the holes in the blade. Use a nail setter if you want.
Step 8: Finishing Up
Place the 1/4" dowel section into the 1" dowel then place a roll of office tape on 1" dowel.
Install the tape in the slot. Place your new beautiful tape dispenser on your desk.