Chica and Jo
...simplifying life
Chica and Jo
...simplifying life
Chica and Jo

Recycle a phone book into a pen organizer

by: Chica

Spring is finally approaching, and with it comes a familiar sound… the thud of a new phone book landing on the front porch. In our area, Jo and I are inundated with as many as 4 or 5 new phone books every Spring, from different publishers all trying to compete in the advertising biz. Of course nobody needs that many phone books, and I usually just toss all but one of them in the recycling bin, but this year I decided to try to upcycle one of them into something fun. I managed to turn one into a quirky and unique pen/pencil organizer that’s a real conversation piece on my desk!

Cut the phone book

The first step is to cut your phone book down to size. The finished pencil organizer should be between 3 and 4 inches tall, so that’s how much you’ll want to cut off the book. Use an aluminum T-square to keep things straight and a very sharp utility knife to make your cuts clean. Make several passes with the knife and go as far into the book as the knife will allow.

phone book pencil holderphone book pencil holder

Before you can cut through the rest of the book, you need to fold the cut part out of the way, but the spine is stopping you. So take your knife and cut carefully through the spine, lining it up with the cut you already made on top. Now you can fold back the cut pages and continue cutting through the rest of the book, using the T-square as a guide.

phone book pencil holderphone book pencil holder

When you’ve cut the book in two, use a pair of scissors to cut the front and back cover off, as close to the spine as you can.

phone book pencil holderphone book pencil holder

Form the loops

Separate the pages of the book evenly into 5 sections, and put a binder clip on each section to hold it in place. If you want to get really creative here, you can try to find your own phone number or the number of your favorite pizza place. If you’re lucky enough, you can split a section on that page, and have that number visible on the outside of the finished loop!

phone book pencil holder

Now we need to roll the spine up tightly in the middle. To do this, you need something to be in the middle for spine to curve around. Take a brand new pencil and cut it about 1 inch longer than the height of your book (no saw necessary — regular scissors will work). Using a hot glue gun, glue the pencil to the spine, lining up the bottom of the pencil with the bottom of the book (the part where you cut, which is not as smooth) and letting the eraser end stick up past the top of the book (the part that is nice and smooth).

phone book pencil holder

Squirt a bunch of glue around the pencil and roll the book up around it, holding it in place until it’s set. Your book should no longer have a beginning or end, and the pencil will make a fun handle for picking up the organizer after it’s done.

phone book pencil holderphone book pencil holder

To form the first loop, take one of the sections and remove the binder clip. Curve the entire section around a piece of cardboard tube, making sure that the pages are nice and smooth and forming a nice loop. When you have it in a position you like, put the binder clip back on.

phone book pencil holderphone book pencil holderphone book pencil holderphone book pencil holder

If it fits, glob a bunch of hot glue on the edge and push it back into the crease, securing your loop. Hold in place until the glue is set.

phone book pencil holderphone book pencil holder

Repeat with the other four loops. You’ll be left with five wobbly loops around the center. Now we want to open those loops up a little and make the whole thing more secure. To do this, run a bead of hot glue along the side of one loop, about an inch or two away from the spine.

phone book pencil holderphone book pencil holder

Then press the two loops together along this glue line and hold until set. Repeat for the other loops.

phone book pencil holderphone book pencil holder

Decoupage the paper

You’ve got this really neat looking pencil holder now, but it is still weak. The pages aren’t stuck to each other and it’s all still flexible. We’re going to fix that with a few coats of decoupage medium (our favorite is Mod Podge). Using a 1″ wide, soft-bristled paint brush, glob the Mod Podge onto the top edges of the loops, making the individual pages all stick together. Don’t try to coat the inside or outside of the loops yet — just focus on the top edges where all the pages meet.

phone book pencil holderphone book pencil holder

Let it dry then apply a second heavy coat, but this time go ahead and brush the Mod Podge on the inside and outside of the loops, and again on the top edges.

phone book pencil holder

With two coats on, it’s time to flip it over and coat the bottom. Because of your pencil “handle”, the piece won’t sit flat on the table when it’s upside down, so cut a small length of cardboard tube and set the pencil inside that. It will make the perfect stand and keep your project stable. Put two generous coats of glue on the bottom, so that the pages are all firmly stuck together.

phone book pencil holder

When you’re satisfied that you have enough coats of Mod Podge on the entire piece and it’s as firm as you want it, trace the bottom of it into a piece of black card stock. Cut the shape out, cover it with Mod Podge, and put it (glue side down) onto the bottom of the pencil holder. This bottom piece will keep your pencils from falling through.

phone book pencil holderphone book pencil holder

With the card stock bottom in place, apply another liberal coat (or two) of Mod Podge to the exposed surface, to seal it. Having a full coat on both sides of the card stock will make it sturdier and prevent damage from the things you store in the holder later.

phone book pencil holderphone book pencil holder

The finished result

When it’s all dry, go ahead and fill it with markers, pens, and pencils and add it to your desk.

phone book pencil holder

So cool and functional, don’t you think?

Update: Multi-level and multi-colored!

At our reader Cindy’s suggestion, I created another phone book organizer with each compartment at a different level. I built it using the same basic steps as above, but the cutting part was a bit trickier. Here’s how to do it:

Cut the phone book to a height of 7 inches. Then divide the pages into 5 sections and secure each with a binder clip. Open the book so that just one section is flat on the table in front of you, and use a ruler to measure down 4 inches from the top of the book. Mark a line and use the ruler and utility knife to cut that section on the line, so that what’s left is only 3 inches tall.

To remove the unwanted part of the pages, put the blade of the knife down into the spine and cut through, removing the whole section in (hopefully) one piece.

phone book pencil holderphone book pencil holder

Now fold the next section of pages down and measure again from the top, but this time marking it at only 3 inches. Cut on that mark and then again in the spine, to remove the section of pages from this layer. Continue on with the next two layers, marking and cutting them at 2 inches and 1 inch from the top. The final fifth layer will not need to be cut at all. When you’re done, you should have a nice stair-step effect with your sections, which will result in each compartment of your organizer being a different height. Glue the pencil to the middle and glue the sections in place just as you did before.

phone book pencil holderphone book pencil holder

The only problem I had with this approach is that the ends of the pages in each section were all showing because the compartments were different heights, so there was nowhere to hide the hot glue and cut ends. I didn’t like the look of it at all, so I decided to try something new with this one… I painted it!

It no longer looks like a phone book, so it has lost a little bit of the quirky appeal, but I really love the colorful result I got by painting each petal a different color.

phone book pencil holder

102 comments so far:

  • 1
    Chica 02/24/2011 at 5:53 pm

    Hi Spike, and thanks for writing to us from Brazil! According to Google’s translation of your Portuguese, I think you’re asking if the multi-colored, multi-level organizer is made of wood. It’s actually a phone book just like the other one, but we painted each section with glossy craft paint after it was finished.

    Oi Spike, e obrigado por escrever para nós do Brasil! De acordo com a tradução do Google para o seu Português, acho que você está perguntando se o multi-coloridas, organizador multi-nível é feita de madeira. É realmente um livro de telefone assim como o outro, mas pintado com tinta de cada seção do ofício brilhante após ter sido concluída.

  • 2
    Olivia Tejeda 03/25/2011 at 8:28 pm

    This is a really fun project. I was so happy to find it. For the past few weeks, I’ve been posting “Once A Book” projects on my blog on Saturdays. This project will fit in perfectly! I’ll be posting a link tomorrow. Stop by and say hi, and thanks for sharing this tutorial. ~ Olivia

  • 3
    Nancy 03/29/2011 at 10:49 am

    Great upcycle! Here’s another idea for finishing touches — using Mod Podge, apply a single layer of torn pieces of colored tissue paper. Lighter colors will allow the quirky print to show through.

  • 4
    isabella 04/11/2011 at 10:58 am


  • 5
    Stephanie 04/15/2011 at 7:58 pm

    I love this! I will be featuring it on next Tuesday! Thanks for the great idea!

  • 6
    eleny pereira de melo 04/17/2011 at 12:24 pm

    maravilhoso,acho que essa ideías deveriam ir para as escolas públicas…

  • 7
    Cholle 05/04/2011 at 4:42 pm

    I like this idea, I’m thinking I might just have to try it – we have Soooo many old phone-books laying around that I’ve often wondered why we’ve never gotten rid of them… maybe I just got my answer.

    I did have a thought though – I really love the idea of the multi-layered one, but like you said, it lost some of the charm… I wonder how it would look if you just painted the top (or maybe even an inch or so onto the sides), so the bulk of it still had the phone-book design on it, but it had splashes of colour that hid the messy edges… Hmm, I wonder.

  • 8
    Chica 05/04/2011 at 5:58 pm

    I like the idea of just painting the edges, Cholle. If you do it, we’d love to see how it comes out!

  • 9
    Fred 05/07/2011 at 8:51 pm

    wow SOO CoO0l i love it !

  • 10
    marciely 06/08/2011 at 5:15 pm

    olha sou brasileira e queria pedir a tradução desta explicação……obrigada

  • 11
    Daisy Malachias 07/18/2011 at 1:40 pm

    Amei a ideia, gosto de tudo que é pratico e reciclável.

  • 12
    Chica 07/18/2011 at 3:34 pm

    Obrigado, Daisy!

  • 13
    Mary Cate 07/18/2011 at 4:53 pm

    I am making one a bit taller for my kitchen utensils, one for an herb planter on my porch or a few linked together lined up on the rail like a flower box. Also cute for a bathroom caddy for Q-tips, cotton balls and make up sponges.

  • 14
    Heather 08/03/2011 at 10:52 am

    How thick would the phone book need to be? Ours here is not very thick, so I don’t know if the sections would be sturdy enough. I guess we could try one with fewer petals.
    Thanks for the neat idea. Our phone books rarely get used. It is much faster and easier to look things up online!

  • 15
    Chica 08/03/2011 at 12:03 pm

    Heather, the petals get pretty sturdy once you’ve coated them with several layers of Mod Podge, so you might be fine with a thinner book. It might be a good idea to go with four petals instead of fine, too. Or maybe you could use two books at once?

  • 16
    shruthy 08/16/2011 at 4:14 am


  • 17
    Maruysa 08/26/2011 at 3:07 pm

    haha what a creatively :))) first tme i see that idea!

  • 18
    sauna 08/27/2011 at 1:17 am

    Howdy! I simply want to give a huge thumbs up for the great info you’ve here on this post. I will be coming back to your weblog for extra soon.

  • 19
    Jo 08/27/2011 at 10:57 am

    Welcome, sauna! Glad you are going to come visit us again.

  • 20
    Cloey 10/02/2011 at 7:03 pm

    You could also do little plant pots with this idea.

  • 21
    fred 10/05/2011 at 8:22 am

    This Is AWESOMEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!:) im gunna make it for my intro project:) yayayaya6yayyyy<333333333333333333333

  • 22
    franklin 10/06/2011 at 12:03 pm

    esta bien calidad..lo hare..tengo algunas guias pero son muy gruesas no se si eso afecta en algo?

  • 23
    mary 10/29/2011 at 10:58 pm

    i just threw away a phone book today…wish i would have seen this a few hours sooner! maybe next year. but i love the site…there are so many creative ideas to try! thanks for all the inspiration!

  • 24
    alene 10/30/2011 at 7:07 am

    So great!! creative , like .:)

  • 25
    Cassandra 11/10/2011 at 10:59 am
  • 26
    Chica 11/10/2011 at 5:43 pm

    Wow, Cassandra, you got really fancy! Thanks so much for sharing those photos with us. They look great :)

  • 27
    swarna 01/01/2012 at 9:35 am


  • 28
    Harry 01/31/2012 at 9:42 am

    Absolutely wonderful!!!!!!!!!!

  • 29
    Rolien 04/03/2012 at 11:01 am

    Hi Chica and Jo,

    I’m starting a blog about reusing garbage and other materials. I was looking for things to make w/ a phonebook and found this! Can i please use your image? Of course i’ĺl put a link to your site. You can check it out at
    ItÅ› in dutch, and the link is at the word “hier”, at the bottom of the article.


  • 30
    Candie 04/03/2012 at 5:30 pm

    What a super cute and clever project! I never ever would have thought it was made out of any old phone book! Awesome :) You should totally enter this project in Craftbaby’s ‘Upcycle Challenge’!

  • 31
    Chica 04/03/2012 at 5:38 pm

    Rolien, you are welcome to use our photo on your blog as long as you credit it to us and link to our site. Thanks for asking!

  • 32
    swetha 05/28/2012 at 12:24 am

    wow it is just ausome , amazing .

  • 33
    may 07/10/2012 at 4:59 am

    it’s so beautiful guys.. woww

  • 34
    Jenny U 07/10/2012 at 6:16 am

    So clever – and green too!!I love inventive ideas!

  • 35
    Charity 08/06/2012 at 8:41 pm

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! Me and my husband had a habit of losing our phonebooks. (Which no longer happens, due to planning out a single spot for it to go and keeping it there.) Last Christmas we got a big box from my hubby’s brother and his wife. It was a huge stack of phonebooks, haha! So I have been trying to think of what to do with them.

    I made one today and it turned out so cute! I made the two different level one in the shape of a butterfly and completely covered it in Mod Podge Sparkle. I will try to post a picture as soon as I locate my camera. Thanks again!

  • 36
    Chica 08/07/2012 at 8:02 am

    Charity, I love your family’s sense of humor! Glad you enjoyed this project, and we can’t wait to see a photo. If you have a Flickr account, please upload it to our Flickr group for reader photos.

  • 37
    Rose 08/15/2012 at 11:35 am

    Will this work if I use PVA glue?? I’m from the UK and they don’t sell Mod Podge… So is PVA glue a good replacement??

  • 38
    Mixed Kreations 08/15/2012 at 3:43 pm

    WOW! How cool is this. You are very creative. Great way to recycle phone books. I know I always have more then I need. Thanks you for sharing.

    Linda @

  • 39
    Chica 08/18/2012 at 7:42 am

    Rose, I haven’t worked with PVA glue enough to know if it will dry to a clear, hard finish like Mod Podge or other decoupage mediums would. You could try putting some on a few pages of a phone book and let it dry and see if you like the result.

  • 40
    TRISHNA AGARWAL 09/02/2012 at 2:37 am


  • 41
    Jena Gorham 09/11/2012 at 7:56 am

    Love the idea. I find the unpainted version has more character, but I’m not a fan of the bright “yellow” pages look. I think I’m going to try “antiquing” mine. Maybe with tea? or antiquing gel? Maybe a transparent white wash? or weak bleach solution? Any ideas? Do you think mod podge will work okay over an antiquing gel?

  • 42
    Chica 09/11/2012 at 9:14 am

    Jena, I love the idea of antiquing the pages. I’ve never worked with an antiquing gel, but you could try on a scrap first. Please let us know how it goes!

  • 43
    setiowati 09/17/2012 at 1:05 am

    It’s cool. I love it! thanks for sharing.

  • 44
    C.Soothill 09/21/2012 at 9:14 am

    Rubbish! What a good use for rubbish, love it :-)

  • 45
    heather 01/24/2013 at 10:39 am

    so cool my bff is going to love it peace

  • 46
    Olivia 04/14/2013 at 5:09 pm

    This will be awesome for a project! It will be a great accesorie for my desk!

  • 47
    christine daniels 05/12/2013 at 10:57 pm

    I made one of these!! It turned out pretty cool…have it on my desk at work!

  • 48
    Precious Crafts 05/28/2013 at 3:09 am

    Now this is a neat idea! Who would have thought it’s made out of a phonebook!

  • 49
    sahar 06/14/2013 at 1:27 pm

    awesome most ideas….cnt be neglected
    thanks alot for ur inspirational crafts :)

  • 50
    Hansika 08/11/2013 at 2:19 am

    Mind Blowing and Very creative

leave a comment:

submit comment


We are two best friends sharing our creative journey. You never know what we will be into each time you visit. We could be throwing a unique party, refinishing a flea market find, or whipping up a new cupcake recipe. We invite you to join us for the ride as we tackle life one project at a time!

Please visit Chica and Jo at for more DIY projects and clever ideas!