Project 14 Week 18 – Cork Covered Pencil Cups

Who doesn’t love a good old recycled tin can?  Even if you eat only the most lovingly home cooked food, there’s always something that comes in a can.  I’ve been turning them into pencil cups since I was 12, but recently I’ve been working on perfecting my techniques and updating their look for my more modern aesthetic.

I decided to turn this project into an official tutorial, as simple as it might seem, so that everyone can join in and make their own recycled can pencil cups!  I covered my cans in cork, but any sheet of flexible thin material would work.  (Paper, fabric, etc.)

1. I both scrub my cans with soap and sanitize them in boiling water, just to be safe.

2. Next, each can gets a nice solid coat of spray paint.  I chose black for the interior, and since I’m going to be covering the exterior I painted it black as well.  However if you are going to be applying something thinner, like say paper, to the exterior you might want to paint it white.  Simply paint the inside of the can first, then once its dry turn it over and paint the outside.  This way the interior black gets protected from the white, and any black that also ended up on the exterior, just gets painted over.

3. Take your material, mine was a roll of sheet cork.  Cut a strip the length of your material, with a width equal to the height of your can.  If you are using different cans, cut a strip equal to the height of each type of can, don’t try to cut down a thicker strip to fit a smaller can, that will waste material.

4. Once I have my strip, I cut it down to size so that it will wrap around my can and just slightly overlap (approximately 1/8″ which I have found looks just fine and is much easier than trying to line the cork up end to end.)

5. Have your hot glue gun plugged in and ready to go!  I usually look for the seam in the can, since this gives me a line to follow for attaching the edge of my cork.  I put one line of glue down that seam edge, and attach one end of my strip of material.

6. I have found that with the cork, all you need is a line of glue at the very top and very bottom of the can and you can leave all the space in the middle unglued.  This also helps prevent any funky hot glue bulges under your nice clean cork.   I only apply about 1″-2″ of glue at a time because I find it gets really messy if I try and apply glue to the entire can from the start.  Go slowly and get it right the first time because with this cork its almost impossible to remove it once its glued in place without it tearing.

7. Finish gluing around the can, and add a final line just along your first edge, so that the overlap is secured.  Be careful not to add too much glue or it will ooze out along the edge.

8. I decided to jazz my cups up with fun silhouettes.  (Right now I’ve only done animals but I’m planning on expanding to other fun things like sailboats or churches!)  I had a roll of extra contact paper that was the wrong type for another project, but it was exactly the right thing for creating my stencils!  Find an image you like, scale it on your computer to be the right size, and then print it out.  I find using actual silhouette images make it easier to see what you’re cutting, but really any image can be made into a silhouette.

9. I cut a strip of my contact paper approximately 1/2″ wider than my silhouettes are tall, and tape your silhouette to the contact paper.  (I printed my images out in a grid, and then cut the paper into rectangles with each silhouette in its own rectangle.  Do not cut your silhouette out at this point, its a useless extra step and will actually make cutting out your stencil harder.)

10. Using a good blade that you can maneuver easily (I used my Xacto blade, see my post here for my discussion of the various cutting tools I use) slowly and carefully cut out your silhouette.  Depending on your cutting skills, you should be able to get quite a lot of detail in your shape, which will make for an even nicer look on your cup.

11. Once you’ve finished cutting out your silhouette, you have a perfect contact paper stencil!  Attach the stencil part to your cork using the adhesive side of the contact paper.  Make sure to rub your finger along the interior edges to make sure the seal is secure, and your paint doesn’t bleed.

12. Carefully fill in your stencil.  I used black paint but any color would do.  I simply used a random can of house paint I had lying around, which left a nice sheen at the end.  But if you use a craft paint you might want to add a quick layer of varnish before you remove your stencil.

13. Carefully peel your contact paper stencil off your cork.  The adhesive shouldn’t be too strong that it would damage the cork, but you might want to test this out on a scrap piece first.

14. Because I’m a little bit obsessive, I cut a circle out of black felt, and a circle out of sheet foam, the same diameter as my cup.  The black foam goes on the exterior bottom to protect your desk surface from scratches (and to help it not slide around) and the black felt goes on the interior bottom of the can so that your pens and pencils don’t clank quite as loudly.

15. Add pens, and enjoy!  I like the clean modern look of just the cork and the stencil, but if you wanted you can always add a strip of ribbon to the top or bottom for a little extra pizzaz.  Make a whole family of cans in different sizes to suit all your desk organizational needs!

Hopefully you have enjoyed my wordy tutorial, and feel empowered to make your own cups.  However, if you’d prefer one of my designs, simply hop on over to my Etsy shop where I have a bunch of my pencil cups for sale.

Thanks for reading!  And stay tuned for my super exciting Project 15 coming soon!!!

Ciao, Allison

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44 Responses to Project 14 Week 18 – Cork Covered Pencil Cups

  1. Laurel says:

    These are really awesome. I’d love for you to submit this to the M&T Spotlight:

  2. Mrs Ergül says:

    I love what you did with these cans. I am just curious though. The cans that we get here are usually slightly tapered at the top end. And the cork sheet won’t adhere as nicely, do you have any suggestions for that?

    • Hmm, tapered cans. Well, it will be slightly more difficult, but still completely do-able. I would recommend looking up tutorials on how to re-cover a lampshade, because I think the same principle would work here. Roll out your cork so the sheet is flat, and then take your can and starting from a straight line or seam on the can (mark this with a sharpie if you need to) you are going to want to slowly roll your can along the cork, tracing the shape that the top (and then doing it again for the bottom) edges make. This will result in a slightly curved shaped piece of cork, depending on how tapered the cans are. I actually did something similar when I covered two little tin plant pots in cork. I would actually recommend drawing the shape out on paper first, cutting it out and test wrapping it around the can to see if it fits, and then using that as a template for the cork. This will let you make your mistakes with the scrap paper and not your nice material.
      I hope this works out, if you give it a try come on back, I’d love to know how it turned out!


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  5. Kathy Vee says:

    This is brilliant! I absolutely have to try this out myself!

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  7. Vieta smith says:

    Very creative, Where do you get the sheet cork at?

  8. iambosco says:

    LOVE these!! I am incredibly uncrafty however, off to Etsy I go! Is there a spaniel?!

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  14. Donna says:

    Love this idea! Can I ask, how do you deal with the inevitable sharp edges you get on cans? I see so many ideas for reusing cans but none of them say what to do about the sharp edges! If possible, could you email me?

    • Hi Donna,

      Actually if you have the old fashioned kind of can that needs a can opener, you are left without any sharp edges. The can opener cuts the top off without leaving any lip on the inside wall of the can, and the actual top rim of the can is not that sharp since it is the part of the can everyone is touching in stores, etc. So I’ve never had an issue with sharp edges.

      I hope this helps! Allison

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  38. Maxine 3 says:

    Great idea. But I don’t understand how uu did the cut out. I like the shepherd. I have a learning disability. So that is my fault. I guess..

    • I cutout the shepherd like I was making a stencil but with sticky paper. But you could probably buy a precut stencil. Maybe you could even find someone on Etsy who makes stencils and you could hire them to cut one out of the exact dog silhouette you like. Does that help? Good luck!

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