Pencil Holder

Steampunk Minimalism

There, I just created a new aesthetic genre with that subtitle. Anyway, after shopping around for certain accessories for a new technology purchase, I resolved to build my own. What came of this was a fun little design/sculpture project.

Graphic from Apple's Website

DIY Apple Pencil Holder

I recently was a crafty consumer, mostly out of need and frustration, but it felt good. I had a 4yo iPad Air and an Adonit Jot stylus that served me well, but the lag was atrocious, tracking was off even if calibrated in the best of conditions, and speed and connectivity were an issue on both the end of the pen and iPad. No complaints about either really, just hulk-rage type frustrations. I was able to sell both at decent prices (together) and afford about 85% of a new 10.5″ iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil (plus an educator discount) from the proceeds.


What about Zoidberg?

Ridiculous Accessories

I could rave on and on about how cool this new set up is, but instead I’ll get to the heart of this post: I wanted an inkwell type holder for my Apple Pencil and began shopping around at an Apple Store. Belkin has a nice stand for it, but as I examined its package (which was openable so I could look at the actual product), it dawned on me that this stand was a $30 hunk of brushed aluminum with a hole in it. This is kind of par for the course as modern tech accessories go. Basic geometric shapes in a chic material at exuberant prices.

No judgements, if you want one here’s a link to the Stand. I, on the other hand, realizing that,  “Hey, I got some stuff in my studio that could most likely work,” set out to make my own. I had some old ball bearings of decent size, and thought those could work. Short of Friction drilling, EDM drilling, or purchasing a solid carbide bit, the ball bearing idea wasn’t going to happen (even a carbide ‘tipped’ bit won’t have the hardness really). So I began a hunt in my studio.

Belkin Stand for Apple Pencil

Seriously, I will judge you.

Step 1: The Parts

pencil holder parts

An odd collection of parts

  • A decent sized, solid plastic ball
  • A left over brass lamp finial ring
  • 2 1.5″ self-adhesive furniture felt pads
  • 1 Aluminum roofing nail
  • A tall metal bearing (washer? spacer?) of some kind

Step 2: Drill Holes

holder ball close up

I even counter-sunk (counter-sinked?) it a little.

The idea of the pencil resting upright in a sphere appealed to me. I liked that picture in my head. First, I drilled the big hole for the actual pencil with a 11/32″ bit (.35 inch, diameter of the pencil) and gave it a little wiggle to be sure. I also counter sunk it just a tiny bit. I’d blow out any shavings and test the pencil for depth every now and then.

Bottom of ball holder

Always drill pilot holes… Good thing this is the bottom

I was doing this all on a whim, and didn’t want to take the time to line up a smaller hole for the roofing nail by drilling in from the bottom. Instead, I used the point at the bottom of the big hole and drilled through the bottom with an 1/8″ bit. For a quick second, I fancied I could use a machine or drywall screw instead of the nail. I tested that by screwing each in from the bottom, but the threads started tearing off bits of plastic. The roofing nail had been a good choice.

Step 3: Cut & Taper Felt Pads

Felt cushion footing

Like a Double Stuffed Oreo but far less appetizing.

Each pad is about 3/16″ thick, so 2 stacked on each other (held together by their sticky backs) would fill the void inside the brass lamp ring. A sharp box knife taken at an angle akin to peeling an apple or potato tapered the top edge perfectly. I also a cut slightly-smaller-than-necessary hole to fit the spacer/bearing in the middle. Centering the hole was easy: set the ring over the pads and hammer the nail through both, then center the spacer/bearing over than and trace with a Sharpie.

Step 4: Assemble the Bottom

Multistep step 4:
  1. Insert spacer/bearing into felt pad hole (a little hobby glue never hurt anybody)
  2. Insert roofing nail from bottom (again, a little glue just to hold it center. The spacer/bearing’s hole was a little too big)
  3. Flip assembly right-side up and press down brass ring firmly (I took advantage of the top felt pad’s adhesive back to stick to the underside of the ring… that sticky stuff is hardcore for some reason. It’s like made with depleted uranium or something)

Step 5: Glue on Ball

Gluing ball to base

Super-bondy-plastic-epoxy glue to the rescue!

I used the same glue as the underside. I just call it hobby glue, but it comes in 3 densities: Thin, thick, and the equivalent of molasses. The molasses one is my favorite. This type of glue comes with an accelerant spray which causes the chemical shift to happen faster. Seriously, you can see a little bit of smoke come off the glue/pieces being glued when you use it. I think if you use the accelerant, though, you don’t get as strong a bond as if you let the glue set naturally (3 hrs?). Anyway after that, I put the whole assembly in a table clamp. Squeezed it together ever so snugly (think about the last person you were with who had no sense of personal space), and let it sit over night.

Step 6: Show Off and Write a Post

The completed stand, while built completely on a whim with stuff just lying around, has a nice elegance to it as well as a slightly decorative minimalism. The black ball formally compliments the pencil when it is in place. When the pencil is not in place, the brass ring helps give the object a decorative presence. This self-made holder doesn’t look incomplete without the pencil, yet looks very sculptural with an without it. The pencil sits well in it and easy to drop in and pull out. Additionally, the spacer/bearing, while hidden, gives the holder a great weight and low center of gravity, even with the elegant weight of the pencil. The felt pads ensure the unit won’t scratch a surface, and the plastic ball’s hole won’t damage the pencil’s finish. Didn’t all of this just happen because of the parts I found? Of course not, my choices were deliberate. Since I made it with things around my house/studio, it didn’t cost me a dime. Unlike if you bought that Belkin stand (for which I will continue to judge you).

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