making wooden pencil holders

For some time I’ve thought about making a set of office accessories (that includes wooden pencil holders, headphone stands, phone stands and other things like these) because soon we will have to change the childrens’ desks with new ones.

Until then, I started with these pencil holders, which will help them to organize their pencils, pens, and markers better, to get a nicer look.

There were two reasons why I chose this simple design:

  • it takes up little space
  • the kids can keep on the desk only the necessary things (a pen, a pencil and a marker)

To make them I followed 4 steps:

  • I prepared the boards. I used different wood species to give the kids the possibility to choose the one they like most (oak, ash and thermally treated ash)
  • I routed the 4 channels (I used a concave radius double edging router bit)
  • I sanded them to get smooth surfaces (I used 120, 150 and 320 grit sandpaper)
  • I finished them with oil

You can also watch the making video on our YouTube channel. Don’t forget to subscribe to watch the upcoming videos, too:

How to build simple wooden pencil holders out of oak, ash and thermally treated ash wood

Preparing the boards

I chose a few boards with a width of at least 6.7 cm. I wanted to use as many scraps as possible, to avoid wasting too much wood. They are very good for small decorative objects, such as these pencil holders.

I found one piece of thermally treated ash about 35 cm long. I didn’t have any problems with the channels routed on one of the faces because by planing I was going to remove them. I needed to get them to a thickness of 18 mm for my project. I cut it into two equal pieces along one edge, to be able to make 2 pencil holders out of it.

I also found an ash board, much thicker than I needed, but with a wonderful pattern. It had a width of more than 6.6 cm. Being wider was a good thing because it had a little bark on one of the edges that had to be removed.

Then I searched for oak scraps. I found some boards with a width and thickness of 1-2 mm more than I needed. I chose 2 boards because I was going to use one of them to test the routed channels. Being a prototype project, I didn’t know exactly how well everything would work out, and I chose to test before going through all the steps and ruining too many boards.

oak, ash and thermally treated ash wood scraps needed for building the pencil holders
Scraps for making the pencil holders

The first thing I did after I selected the boards was to bring them all to the right width. For this, I used the band saw. Each plank had one already planed edge. That was a very big advantage because I was able to use those edges to advance along the band saw fence when cutting them.

the boards from which I made the pencil holders are cut to the needed width
The boards after cutting them to the needed width

I planed all the pieces to get them to the same thickness: 18 mm. For the thermally treated ash wood, after removing the channels, I had to make a pass through the thicknesser on the other face of the boards to also remove the already rounded edges.

Routing the channels

For the channels, I used the router and the parallel guide with a 12,7 mm diameter concave radius double edging router bit. I first set the routing depth, to get a channel of 12 mm width so that we can route 4 channels along the entire face, keeping an edge of 6 mm from each edge of the boards and 2 mm between channels.

I routed the channels with a concave radius double edging router bit
Routing the channels

Then I set the distance from the edge to the first channel: 6 mm. I made the first pass with the router and I moved the parallel guide so to get a distance of 2 mm between two channels. I did the same thing until I routed all 4 channels.

these are the boards after I routed the channels with the concave radius rrouter bit
The boards after routing the channels

Sanding the wooden pencil holders

Sanding the pencil holders was the most time-consuming process. To reduce the time for finishing them, I sanded all the surfaces before cutting the boards to the right length. So that, after cutting, I only had to sand the ends.

I started to sand the channels with 120 grit sandpaper. For that, I used a round piece of chalk for support, with a diameter similar to the router bit, just a little bit smaller (I didn’t measure it).

I sanded the routed channels with 120 grit sandpaper using a piece of chalk as support
Sanding the channels with 120 grit sandpaper

When I was sure they were very well sanded, I turned back the boards and sanded them with 150 grit sandpaper. To make it easier for me, I secured 2 pieces of plywood (thinner than the boards) to the workbench with some clamps, as a two-way stopper.

I sanded the back of the planks with 150 grit sandpaper using the belt sander
The back of the planks sanded with 150 grit sandpaper

I also sanded the edges of the boards with the belt sander, but that time I secured it to the workbench.

I sanded the edges of the boards using the belt sander secured to the workbench
Sanding the edges of the boards

After all these steps, I cut the pieces to the right length (22 cm) with the sliding miter saw. I first cut the ends of the boards to get a smooth surface. Then I measured 22 cm from that end and cut the second one.

I cut the boards to the length needed for my project
Cutting the boards to the needed length

I managed to get 8 pencil holders: 2 out of thermally treated ash, 2 out of ash and 4 out of oak.

the wooden pencil holders before final sanding
8 pieces of pencil holders cut to the right length

I sanded the ends until I removed all the traces that appeared after cutting them. Then I sanded the holders with 320 grit sandpaper. Thus, the surface became very very smooth ready for applying the oil.

the wooden pencil holders after sanding them with 320 grit sandpaper and before applying the oil
The wooden pencil holders were sanded with 320 grit sandpaper

Applying the oil

I used oil for the final finish. The oil highlights nicely the wood fiber, protects the wood and keeps the surface smooth. That’s why we chose at the end to sand the holders with 320 grit sandpaper, even if we usually used 120 or 150 grit.

The process of applying the oil is very easy:

  • wipe the dust very well with a dry cloth
  • apply the oil over the whole surface with another clean cloth
  • after a few minutes, clean the excess oil with a dry cloth
  • apply another layer of oil using the same method
the way the simple pen holders looked after I applied one layer of oil
The simple pencil holders after applying the oil

After the oil has dried, the surface remained smooth, with a well-highlighted pattern.

The result was beyond expectations. I asked the kids to choose one of the pencil holders, showing them one of each wood type. They both chose the thermally treated ash version. Which one do you find more interesting?

the simple wooden pencil holder made out of oak wood
The oak wood pencil holder
the simple pencil holder made out of thermally treated ash wood
The thermally treated ash wood pencil holder
the simple pencil holder made out of ash wood
The ash wood pencil holder

Learn also how to build a computer monitor riser desk stand, out of thermally treated ash wood. I made it out of this type of wood because my son chose the dark wood pencil holder.

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