Book Pages Pencil Cups

I am so excited about today’s project, because for the first time in a while, it’s not a light! Don’t get me wrong, I love my lights, and the first idea that always pops into my head with a new material is “could that be a light?”  But sometimes, it is refreshing to do something different, and it can spark your imagination in new and unforeseen ways.

As you may know, I make lights out of old books.  Old books that I cut up.  Specifically I cut circles out of them, to make my Artichoke Mixed Book Page Light.  (Which I first explored in this 30x30x3 post before discovering the key was full circles, not just simple scallop shaped pieces.)  Many, many circles…

I love finding a new use for a forgotten about item (often I collect unwanted books from friends or used book sales), but once I cut the circles out there is still a chunk of book left.  I always carefully save the left over pieces and recycle them with my newspaper and cardboard, but sometimes I’ve wished I could do more, that I could find some other cooler use for the left over part of the pages.  And then, a couple of weeks ago, I had a stack of the pages sitting there and suddenly a lightbulb went off.  Wait a second, I essentially have a rectangle with two circular holes in it.  What can you do with holes like that?  Use them to hold things!!

Of course I immediately began racking my brain as to what would be the right shape and size.  An existing metal pencil cup I had didn’t fit, and neither did a piece of cardboard tube I’d been holding on to.  And then I remembered these two small cardboard tubes that I had from a fancy invitation I got in the mail.  They were so cute that I had been keeping them hoping that one day I’d find a good use for them, and what do you know I found one!  They were the perfect fit, especially because they were just slightly smaller than the actual holes which made it easier to get through the stack of books, and it allowed for the small variation in exactly hole location in each page.

Overall, I think the key to this project was ‘less is more’ at least in terms of production methods.  Basically, I cut out a piece of scrap cardboard that was just a little bit smaller than my book pages.  Then I glued one book page down on top, to serve as a template for where to glue down my cans.  The bottom of the cans had a little bit of an edge, so I also cut out a piece of cardboard to fill-in that bottom part, and give me an even and level surface for gluing the cans down to the base.  After gluing the cans in place, I basically just started adding book pages, dropping them down from above, with the one hole going around each can.  I didn’t use any glue because you really don’t need it, and it can start making the pages wrinkle or scrunch up in funny ways.  

I also noticed with this first attempt that the spine-edge of the pages still had some of the rubber glue on it, so it looked different.  I probably could have just kept a nice mix of orientations so each side of the pencil cup had some spine edges and some clean edges, but I decided instead to keep all of the pages sitting in the same direction.  However, because of the glue residue the spine edge side of my pencil cups stuck up a bit higher than the other side.  But I discovered that if I pushed it down to be level with the clean edge side of the pages, and then smeared hot glue on the spine edges, they stuck together in this more compressed manner and you could make the top of your structure level again.  I think for my next version though I might try quickly trimming off the glue residue so that both sides lie equally flat.  And that way you’d have a double sided finished product instead of something that has a ‘good’ side and a ‘not-so-good’ side.

I also learned that my cardboard tubes were a bit tall for holding pencils and pens, so I cut out a bunch of cardboard circles to drop down into the bottom of the cans, to raise everything up.  I measured the height of an existing pencil cup I am using but I still think it might be too tall, especially for those short colorful pens!  Maybe I can use this for special items, taller special items like the unsharpened pencils and scissors.  

Another thing I love about this project is how it can get the wheels spinning in my head.  I already have ideas for how I can take this and build on it!  For once I’m cutting circles out of books thinking as much about the left over pieces as I am about the actual circles!  Its fun to see a supply like this in such a different and unique way, and it makes me feel like I’m doubly recycling these books!  So stay tuned, one of these days I just might have a project update based on this very pencil holder.  I guess it depends on how many circles I’m going to be cutting out in the future, and if I have enough time when I’m not supposed to be making lights that I can try some new projects.

Have a lovely week everyone, ciao!  Allison

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52 Responses to Book Pages Pencil Cups

  1. I love this project! Great for my many pens. Now my head is full of ways to use such a design I may use some cut wine bottles and improvise a vase. Thanks for the idea and inspiration! Keep creating!

    Calligraphy Chic

  2. I too was thinking this would make a fun vase. Perfect gift for the circulation desk of your favorite library!

  3. Interesting! I totally hadn’t thought of doing a vase. The project I had thought of was making a planter and planting some plants in dirt. So similar concept I guess. But a vase would be really nice! If either of you make one, I’d love to see the results, I’m sure we all would, so post a link or email me a photo to post or something like that.
    Hurray for old books! Allison

  4. Priya Mani says:

    Hi did you make round cuts in every page and then inserted the pages? Im planning to do this project with a few old books. A bit more detail would help.

    • Yes, I had this stack of pages left over from cutting out circles for my lights, so you would need to do that step first. As I said in the post, I glued the cans down to a cardboard base and then just started dropping the pages into place. That’s really all there is to it, its super simple, probably cutting the circles out is the most time consuming part of the project but for me I was already doing that step so this was just an added bonus.
      Good luck! Allison

  5. Amy Renea says:

    Awesome project and result!! love the creativity!

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  7. great ideas!!! Love it!!! 🙂

  8. ldvorak says:

    What a great idea! How did you cut out the circles so perfectly lined up?

    • I use a paper punch to cut the holes, and beyond that I just sort of eyeball it. I never pay too much attention honestly since my goal is to cut out as many circles as quickly and as easily as I can for my lights. Most of the circles are roughly in the same location but have a bit of variation, which is why the front is somewhat jagged, which I actually kind of like. If you wanted a more even and organized look you could line the pages up on a cutting mat first so you’d have a grid of sorts to line up the circles, if that mattered to you.

  9. mel mccarthy says:

    How fabulous is this!?! Thank you so much for sharing it.

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  12. Stacie M. says:

    This would make an adorable gift for a teacher’s desk! Thanks!

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  14. Debra Kapellakis says:

    Excellent upcycled project! BRAVO!

  15. Andaira says:

    Completamente ORIGINAL!!!!!!!!!

  16. hurtiglån says:

    I like what you guys are up too. Such clever work and reporting! Carry on the superb works guys I¡¦ve incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it’ll improve the value of my site 🙂

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  18. ashybug says:

    this is a great website, I’ll continue reading this as I love making crafts with old books. My sister and I have recently started selling old book orgnanisers. Please keep posting new ways to reuse books! Check out my wordpress travel blog please….

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  22. JCS says:

    This is a beautiful and unique project! My almost 11-year-old daughter is a voracious reader, and this is perfect for her to do this as an art project for her birthday party coming up (six guests). We thought we’d do the holes first :~0, before the kids arrive. I would be so grateful if you could be more specific about the process — how did you make the holes? Also, if you don’t glue the pages together, how do the pages stay in place?

    • I use a large 3 inch circle paper punch for the holes. Which happen to be just the perfect size for a tin can. And then if you glue the cans down to the cardboard base first, the pages just sort of sit in place. When you reach the top of the cans you can add a bit of glue, I recommend pushing the pages down so they compress, and you can see the edge of the can, you apply glue to that edge and then let the pages come back up. Its a bit finicky, but I would think if you use Elmers or Craft glue you’d have some wiggle room.

      Good luck, this sounds like a great birthday party activity! -Allison

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  36. LaTourStudio says:

    Thanks for the tutorial!
    I make eco-friendly notebooks with repurposed papers, making pencil cups would be great to use the left-overs, and would also reduce paper waste, once I have finished cutting the pages of my notepads.
    I’ll share the link to the tutorial on my eco-friendly stationery Facebook page!

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  40. Helena Ewert says:

    I am a language teacher in South Africa and plan to use old books to raise money to buy new books for my class library. I like the idea about your book pages pencil cup.
    Is there a easy way to cut all those round holes in the pages? Could it be done to cut the same holes through an old dictionary?

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