Brush Holder – Intro to Fab – Week 2

three black wooden holders with red dowels and yellow dowels


Make multiples of something, 5 or more.  The objects must be a multi-process piece, ie. I don’t want to see 5 things made solely on the laser cutter or 3D printers.

Take note of your order of operations, tools, and techniques used.  If you used any type of jig or unique setup, please document (if you built your own DIY jig, absolutely bring it in).  Determine whether it is better to build one piece all the way through before starting the next, or perform step one to all pieces, then step 2, then…


I currently have a pen holder and a makeup brush holder. However, sometimes I have to go through the brushes before I can find the one I really want. Therefore, I want to make pen/brush holder that is divided into sections. Here are the reference photos of my holders that I currently use.


three black wooden holders with red dowels and yellow dowels three black wooden holders with red dowels and yellow dowels three black wooden holders with red dowels and yellow dowels

General Idea

I drafted out how it would be more efficient for me to install and organize to make my life easier. I originally was picturing drilling a large hole using Forstner Bits on a wood cuboid. However, I prefer coherence in terms of shapes. Therefore, I decided to create a box without a lid as the holder. In order to section the holder, I used 1/2 inch dowels to divide the space inside the holder.


I brainstormed ways to make compartment in the holder and where to place the dowels. I originally thought of doing two holes vertically so that for one holder, four sides of them will be the same. Therefore, it would be easy to drill. However, that would be inefficient since it would only section the holder into four parts. That would be a waste of dowels and drilling process.

Draft of constructions and compartments of a pen holder on paper
This is me experimenting different ways of placing the holes to create a 9-compartment holder. I decided to use the right part in red circle as my trial.
thought process of creating compartments in a pen holder. This is the draft on paper
My calculation of playing with the placements of the holes again. I settled on the specific coordinates for each hole.

I then thought of creating two points horizontally so that the holder can be divided into nine (3*3=9) parts since two dowels create three compartments each. However, when I try to put them together to see how it looks before doing sanding and wood gluing, I realized that I didn’t take the thickness of the holder wall into account. The two points that I was gonna drill holes in the center area may be blocked by the walls with two holes that are in diagonal position with each other. Therefore, I switched drilling two holes in the center to just one hole. Therefore, in the end, there will still have six compartments (2*3=6) in the pen holder.

Coordinates of holes to drill on piece of wood.
Final coordinates of the holes in two sets of wood panels.


I used two pieces of 1/2 in. x 48 in. Wood Round Dowel and two pieces of 1/2 in. x 6 in. x 4 ft. S4S Poplar Board. One bottle of black spray paint, one small bottle of yellow acrylic paint, and another bottle of red acrylic paint. I also used wood glue to secure them together.


Ruler: I used it to mark the measurements for each wood panels for the holder.

ruler on top of measured wood

Miter Saw: I used it to cut the dowel into 6 pieces of 4-inch long and 12 pieces of 3-inch long. I also cut the board into 24 pieces of 3″*5.5″ and 6 pieces of 3″*4″.

miter saw cutting a piece of wood
I used a stop wood and c-clamp to make sure the dimension is the same when cutting.

top view of stacked wood boards and cut dowels

Sanding Machine: I used it to make sure each side and corner for the pieces are smooth to be assembled. I also used it to round the top and bottom of the dowels.

a bundle of red dowels with bottoms sanded in front of a huge sanding machine Jig Saw: I used it cut the 3″ dowel into 1.5″ and 1″ to play around with the placement of the red dowels to experiment with the juxtaposition of the dowels.

hand sanding tool and chopped off dowels

Drill Press with 1/2 inch Forstner Bits: I drill the 12 holes in the position of (1.5,3) in 12 pieces of 3″*5.5″. For the rest of the 12 pieces, I drilled 24 holes in total. They are in the position of (0.75,4) and (2.25,2) respectively.

Coordinates of holes to drill on piece of wood.
Final coordinates of the holes in two sets of wood panels.
top view of stacked wood boards
You can see the marks on the wood for better guidance when using the drill press.

C-clamps: They are used to secure the position of the holder after the application of wood glue.

C-clamp securing the position of the side of pen holder using two pieces of stop wood C-clamp used to secure the bottom of the pen holder made of wood after application of wood glue

Hand Sanding Tool: It was used to smooth out around the holes and making sure the corners are rounded enough to create the aesthetic.

unsanded square bottom on the left wood board and sanded round bottom on the right wood board
The left one is unsanded. The right one is sanded around the corner to make it more aesthetically-pleasing.


Applying wood glue

I used the dowel to examine which way to glue the wood would be better. Then I came to a solution to lay the panel with one hole flat. I glue the panel with two holes and align them to the edge of the one-hole-panel. Then I used c-clamp to secure them with stop blocks to preserve the wood board I have. I waited for around an hour when I applied the wood glue to secure the four panels. Then, I waited another hour when I applied the glue to connect the bottom with the four panels together.

wood glue applied on top of wood

Applying acrylic paint

I used damp sponge to apply the acrylic paint onto the dowels. I did two coats on each dowel to make sure the color is vibrant enough to be installed in the holder later.

Two sections of yellow and red dowels laying on brown paper
Color finish of the dowels. They are divided into two sections with yellow and red.

A girl wearing yellow top painting the dowels into yellow and red individually

Spraying black paint

I went to the roof of my apartment building the next morning and layed the holders on top of a piece of plastic that I cut out from a large plastic bag. I did two coats with 1-hour in between to wait for them to dry. I sprayed both insides and outsides of the holder. I did flip them to spray the bottom to make sure the color is consistent all the way through.

wood blocks on top of a piece white plastic

spray painted wood blocks on top of a piece white plastic

six black hollow boxes with holes laying on the floor

Assembling the dowels to the holders

Most of the dowels are easy to put into by twisting and pushing. For some holes, they are a bit tight so I used a wood block on top of the dowel and pushed into the holes so that they stay stable.

Challenges/Problems and Solutions

Uneven wood pieces

The wood I got from home depot was not straight in a way that the shorter side is not in perpendicular to the longer side. Moreover, there are some issues when I try to sand them. Sometimes, I put too much force or stay there for too long, the shape was not straight anymore. It creates problems when I try to glue them.

Narrow compartment sizes

Although I considered the thickness of the wood board, I didn’t consider much of the thickness of the dowel. When looking down from the top of the holder, there were limited places when the dowels are too close to the wood panel.

two red dowels are perpendicular to one yellow dowel in between inside of the black wooden holder

So later, I played around with the length of the red dowels to make sure from the outside, it still has the aesthetic, but inside, it has the illusion of separating the parts of the holder. It turns out even better than I expected and I used two of them at home. One holder that has no red dowels going through the inside is my official makeup brush holder. Another one holder with the original design with dowels going through the inside is my official pen holder.

two red dowels are perpendicular to one yellow dowel in between inside of the black wooden holder

two red dowels are perpendicular to one yellow dowel in between inside of the black wooden holder

Wood glue coming out and difficult to clean

When applying wood glue, I tried to smooth them with my finger to make the glue flat. However, when I try to put pressure to make sure the wood panels stay put, there are some excess coming out. I then wiped with my hand. Yet, there are some residues that I couldn’t get off. I tried sanding in the later process before spray painting. But there are some visible yellowish color on the border where each wood meets.

The next day when I used wood glue to secure some dowels in the holes, I used screwdriver to clean the edges of the glue so that it is no longer visible. It works wonders. For my next project, I will clean them when it is still wet by using small steel/stainless objects to remove the excess of the glue.

Uneven spray paint

There are some wood glue residue on the wood pieces. When I spray painted, the parts where dried wood glue is visible is darker than the wood itself. I want a more smooth-color looking for my pen/brush holder. Therefore, I applied more coats on top to try to cover up. However, it doesn’t make the color darker and you can still tell where the wood glue is. Also, in some situations, I sprayed straight down yet there were drips of paint on top of the wood rather than spray paint.

So for future projects, I will test the spray paint out first and make sure moving the spray paint horizontally to the object slowly.

Mismatch of some holes

There are some wood boards with two holes that are flipped. Since they are not completely centered, I ran into the problem that the dowels won’t go through the holder. In order to keep the aesthetic, I cut the dowel into smaller pieces so that it will fit into the hole but won’t go through the holder to create compartments. Therefore, for three of the wood holder, there will only be two compartments with one yellow dowel going through. It becomes a happy accident where in the end, I played around with the design of the length of the red dowels and created an interesting aesthetic that suits my daily uses.

In the future, I will try to avoid the mistake by marking the side to make sure there will be no reversed situation of wood panels.

Final Application

I do love the color combination of the holder and I am quite happy how it turns out in general. Currently, when I take out my makeup brushes from the holder, I feel extremely rewarding and happy. My living standard has been improved drastically since I won’t need to fumble through to find the brush I wanted. It makes my life much easier. For my pen holder, it looks so cute on its own and the aesthetic fits my white desk and the theme of my room. I love how elegant it turns out despite the problems I ran into.

black makeup brush holder with other cosmetics black makeup brush holder with brushes black pen brush holder with pens

Published by Yiting Liu


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