But the answer was really simple! A pen/pencil box made just for such devices. And they make them. They make lots of different ones. Small ones. Big ones. Plain ones. Fancy ones. Some with a single try. Some with multiple trays. All are expensive! All out of my price range. But for sometime now, I mean for several years, I have been admiring the pen trays available form gopens.com. These trays are made from plastic and coated with a fine layer of some sort of material resembling suede. It reminds me of the stuff one model car maker included in one of their car models. It was a small packet of fabric shavings that, when applied to the interior of the model, made the seats and dash look like it was covered with lush fabric. It is meant to cushion the pens/pencils as well as help keep them from sliding all over the place like they would on slick plastic. The trays are advertised as being 12-1/8" by 16-3/8", with 24 slots. That meant to me that each tray could hold 2 pencils per slot for a total of 48 pencils per tray. So I would need at least 2 trays. They come in Black, Red, Green, Burgundy, Blue and Gray. Well recently we had a bit of "spare" cash so I ordered 4 in gray, the most neutral color. They arrived in just 3 business days!
Now I had some very nice trays in which to lay my pencils but no box to put the trays in! What a quandary! Not really. I knew when I purchased them that I was probably going to make some boxes out of foam board. So, with hobby knife in one hand and a straight edge in another I beset the poor unsuspecting foam board and cut out a top, bottom and 4 sides from a single sheet of foam board. Little did I know that sheets of foam board would give up their shapes as I experimented with design, form and function! At one point I even laminated sheets of corrugated cardboard together in order to construct a box when I ran out of foam board and could not run to Wal-Mart to get more! Such was my frenzy! I was a madman possessed with a single purpose! To make the perfect pencil box!... To bad I was working with foam board and not wood! Oh well! We make do when we have to!
The final 2 boxes ended up being constructed the same way. One was a retrofit. Basically they are just a simple box with a removable top secured with small super strong magnets in top and bottom edges with the addition of 4 straps of felt using the same magnets and strips of mild steel. I didn't want the tops growing wings, or feet and moving off on their own. The trays fit into the boxes with a snug fit but with enough wiggle room for me to remove them should I have too. And I had to! About that later. Once I had felt that I had the interior finished I set about decorating the exterior of the boxes while I contemplated how to keep the pencils inside from sliding into one another. You see, I did not want to cut the tray inserts in half! Why, you ask? Well... They were just to darn pretty as a whole unit! Anyway, I spent the next several days letting my artistic spirit loose on the boxes I had made. Poor boxes...
What I used to decorate the boxes was a mixture of colored card stock, various stickers and florescent and phosphorescent paints! I've never outgrown my likeness of florescent/black light colors and decorations. My computer room/workroom at one time had as many as 7 working black lights. Alas in all but one the bulbs have burnt out. Never fear, though I have plans for a really nice black light/white light set up. But I digress. I had a lot of fun squeezing out the dimensional paint. Even more fun looking at it under my remaining black light. in the photo above the box on the left is shown in regular light. The box on the right is shown in black light (ultraviolet). While the phosphorescent paint does glow a bit in UV light, the UV light charges the paint better than regular fluorescent light.
So much for the outside. I'll bet all of you want to see the inside, don't 'cha? Before I show you the inside, remember earlier that I wrote that I built the boxes so that I wouldn't have to cut the trays?... Well, try as I did there just seemed like there was no other elegant way to keep the pencils from hitting each than to halve the trays at the 6" mark and insert a divider between the opposing pencils. It almost hurt to cut those beautiful trays in half! On the website the owner, Gary, recommends the use of clear plastic edge protectors, the kind used on the edges of walls to protect wallpaper from being scuffed up. But these are approximately 1” by 1”, which makes them far to tall to use in my homemade pencil box. So I cut strips of gray card stock and folded it over to form a more ridged boarder. I cut it the correct height and joined the too short pieces together then inserted them between the halves of the trays. The fit was a tight one for the OHTO Super Promechas as they are the longest pencils that I have, to date. They measure just a 1/16th of an inch shy of 6”! But as long as they don’t move very much and are not restrained in any other way, I’m happy! In fact I have to admit that now that the deed is done, it doesn’t look as bad as I had feared. The card stock is quite a close match in color to the trays and it acts as an effective barrier between pencils in the same column.
All in all I am quite pleased with the trays that I bought form GoPens.com. They were easy to cut, as advertised and they look great! I just wish that I had had some nice ¼” cedar with which to make a nice pencil box with four drawers. I’d bisect each tray with a ¼” piece of cedar. That would be so sweet.
But even if you can only make boxes the way I do, it’s well worth the money to purchase the pen/pencil trays from GoPens.com. Short of routing out custom grooves from a piece of ½” cedar they are about as good as you’re going to get.