Are you tired of everyone around you constantly using one of those new-fangled iPads and tablets? Are your teachers and professors instituting “no technology” policies in their classes? Is paper just too darn expensive? Well do I have news for you!
With just a few tools, a bit of wood, and some beeswax, you can make an authentic wax tablet!
I’m a first year history teacher at a high school (my alma mater!) and we are going to be covering the Renaissance after Labor Day. I figured I could whip up this tablet over the 3-day weekend and bring it into class!
Task 1: Materials & Tools
- 2 x Pine boards (11″ tall x 5.5″ wide x 0.5″ thick)
- 2 x String/Twine (18″ each)
- 1 x Wooden dowel (9″ tall x 0.5″ diameter)
- Cheese Grater (for beeswax)
- Double Boiler (for beeswax)
- Sandpaper (recommended)
- Carving Knives (optional)
- Drill/Drill-press/Drill bits
Task 2: Measurements
The size of your wax tablet is up to you. I have 2 pieces of pine board already cut the these specifications (11″ tall x 5.5″ wide x 0.5″ thick), so I just stuck with that. Now you have to mark up the well for your wax. Measure 0.5 inches from the edge all around the board. You should now have drawn a box within your board (see picture 1).
If you plan on doing the 2 folding boards for your wax tablet, you will need to drill out some holes to attach them with your twine. Along one of the long edges, measure 3.5 inches from the top and the bottom. You will drill your holes between the edge of the board and the 0.5 inch line (see picture 2).
Wooden Dowel (for the stylus)
Your stylus should basically be shaped like a pencil. I chose a 0.5 inch diameter oak dowel for mine. Cut the dowel at 9 inches. You can go bigger or smaller, whatever your preference. On each end of the dowel, measure 0.5 inches from the end. Make a mark.
Task 3: Cutting out the Wax Well
Caution: This step requires power tools and sharp objects. Please exercise extreme caution and observe all safety measures.
Secure your board to a flat surface for the router. If you have a router table, now would be the time to use it. Set the depth of your router to roughly 0.25 inches (half the thickness of the board). Using caution, carve out the well in the wood for the wax. As you can see in the 3rd picture, I had a boo-boo and the router cut a little too deep. If this happens, don’t worry, it will be covered up by the wax.
If you see in picture 3, you can’t really cut corners with a router. You can either leave the corners rounded, or use some carving tools to cut it. Please use caution with carving tools.
Task 4: Drilling the Holes
On the raised edge of your boards, you should see the measurement of 3.5 inches from the top and bottom that you did in the previous step. You may want to make sure that when you put the boards together, they line up. This will be the tricky part. You need to drill the holes on the raised section of the board, about 0.25 inches from the edge. I used a 11/64 inch drill bit for this because the twine I had fit in that. I wouldn’t recommend going any bigger.
At this point you should sand down your boards and erase the pencil marks (see picture 3). The next step is pouring the wax.
Task 5: I’M MEEEELTING!!!! (Pouring the Wax)
If you followed the specifications that I did, you are going to need a fair amount of wax to fill up the wells in the boards. I would recommend about 2/5th of a 1-pound block of beeswax. I wasn’t measuring this, so it was just by eye.
To melt the wax faster, I recommend shaving down the block using a cheese grater. Melt down the wax using a double-boiler (a glass bowl on top of a boiling pot of water).
When the wax is a liquid, pour it into the wells slowly so that there is no splashing. I would not recommend pouring more wax over the already dried wax. I did that and have a big mound of wax on one of the tablets. Wait about 15 minutes for it to cool down and solidify. This is a perfect time to make the stylus.
Task 6: Stylus (pen)
Remember that wooden dowel you cut to around 9 inches? Pick one end to be the writing point and the other to be the eraser.
For the point, use the last 0.5 inches of the dowel to gently carve it to a point. You can do this with a bench grinder, a knife, maybe even a pencil sharpener (if the wood is soft enough)! I used a razor blade and a hand file to make my point.
On the other end of your dowel, make a “fan.” I used a vise and hand file to grind down both sides of the dowel. In the end, it looked like a flat-head screw driver.
Task 7: Tie it all together!
At this point, you should have both of your boards filled up with wax and a wooden stylus/pen. You will use the holes you drilled earlier to attach the two boards. Take your boards and put them together, with the wax on the inside. Now take the two pieces of string/twine and string them through the holes. Tie them together with a square-knot. Be sure to leave some room between the knot and the wood so that the tablet can open and close easily.
Task 8: Time to Write!
Hooray! You can get rid of that iPad or electronic tablet now! Good riddance! And writing down all your notes is so simple! Simply use the sharp end of your stylus to carve into the wax. But wait? What if I run out of room?!?!?!
Never fear! Using the flat end of your stylus, simply “brush” over the carving/letters and you are back in business!
When you are done writing, you can fold up the two halves and slide your stylus between the twine and the wood. And your notes will be safe, even if you drop it! Take that iPad!
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, please leave a comment below!
woodworking – Wax Tablet, in category: workshop