It’s official: a new school year is upon us! And like many kids, my children have the itch to make something for their new teachers. A drawing, a little piece of origami, a sweet note. Of course, I always wonder if there’s something we can add, something to go along with the little note or drawing, that their teacher will find useful. A gift card so that their teachers can buy supplies for the classroom is always helpful, but if you’re in the making sort of mood (I am!), I thought this cement desk organizer fits the bill very nicely.
The project incorporates two of my favorite things — fresh school supplies, and cement. Best of all, it’s not just for pens and pencils. This handsome + utilitarian item can be designed to hold any number and any size of desk accessories. The style and layout is all up to you!
Don’t be anxious about working with cement for this project. Yes, it requires concentration and muscle (which surely you have in spades), and an odd combination of working fast and waiting. But the end product is worth it. These heavy duty holders would look handsome on any desk!
Plus, there are lots of ways to include the kids on this project, from gathering supplies, to stirring cement, to decorating the dried organizer with Sharpies (we used silver).
Ready to get to work? Let’s go.
- cardboard/papier maché forms
- dowels, various sizes
- wax paper
- glue gun or tape
- sander, optional
We used Rapid Set Cement All because it sets up so quickly. Of course you can use any kind of cement that you’d like. With Rapid Set, you must work very quickly. It’s good because the project will be done sooner however, it does require fast moving and it’s a little sweat inducing. : )
After a couple of tests, we decided wooden dowels wrapped in wax paper were the easiest to prep, most cost effective option. Other ‘pencil slot making’ options include wide metal dowels (found in the rebar section), various sizes of knitting needles or PVC pipe.
First, wrap the applicable dowels in wax paper and secure with hot glue or tape. The wax paper prevents the cement from sticking to the wood (because it really sticks!!).
Before any cement is prepped, take some time to plan the layout of the pencil holder. You can sketch it, use a grid or just lay it out. This step is vital, especially if you use Rapid Set cement. Your time is limited to get things placed before the cement sets and it’s best to plan it in advance.
When you have your layout decided, you can prepare the cement, according to the manufacturer’s directions. Pour the cement in your form, shake it to settle the cement into the corners and edges of the form.
Place the wax paper wrapped dowels into the cement. Watch the dowels because they might shift and lean and wiggle, especially when other dowels are added. As you place them, keep shaking the form to resettle the cement around the dowels.
As the cement sets up, especially the Rapid Set, twist and wiggle the dowels. If you leave them still until the cement completely sets, the dowels will be stuck — this advice is based on experience! Hah! Once the cement is holding up on its own around the dowels, remove the dowels, even if the whole form isn’t completely dry.
After removing the dowels, allow the form to completely dry.
Once the cement has completely dried, peel or cut away the outer form. An optional step is to use a sander to smooth out rough edges.
Lastly, we added some metallic doodles to the pencil holder with a silver Sharpies when the cement was dry. You could create patterns, add your teachers initials with a stencil, or even keep the cement organizer plain and simple.
Then the funnest part, choosing the products to put in the slots! Fill it with colorful school supplies and tada!, you’ve made an awesome gift for your favorite teacher.
I teamed up with Office Depot for this project, because I love how they support teachers. They help spread the word about what teachers need in the classroom, and the reality of how much teachers spend out of pocket for classroom supplies.
As an extension of their #TeachersChangeLives program, Office Depot worked with Newell-Rubbermaid (the makers of Sharpie and Expo) to document the stories of two teachers and how they help students think outside of the box. Click here to find videos featuring those two teachers, plus a coupon for school supplies, so you can help your children’s teachers get what they need.
Here’s to a fantastic new school year!
P.S. — Like to make things? Find more cool DIY projects here.