I'll bet every one of us has looked at a box of some kind and thought, "That would make a great pen box, if only "
And the "if only" usually involves the availability of a suitable divider that will keep the pens apart from one another and protected from scratching and squishing. Recently, I spent quite a bit of time snooping around jewelry boxes and felt-lined drawers and various other things that contain dividers for particular purposes because I'd come into some shallow-drawered chests, with three drawers of about 1" depth, and intended to turn them into pen chests.
I considered the flocking route, with which I understand many people have had great success, but I looked at some and just didn't like the texture. I wanted to use fabric. Velveteen, to be exact.
Being a lazy sort, I was reluctant to do the obvious -- somehow build an insert, then spend great time and frustration trying to glue fabric around all those angles and planes. Not for this kid, no-sirree.
I consulted with a few woodworker friends and threw their comments into the back of my head to churn for a while. I took a bit from column A, a lot from column D (thanks, Dean!), and synthesized a few other things, and came up with something that works. Pretty darn well.
And you, dear reader, are about to be the beneficiary. With this method, you can construct attractive, protective dividers for any size box, drawer, or chest you like. Naturally, you're not going to want the dividers really deep, because it would be impossible to get to the pens, so I'm not talking depth here, just the rectangular dimensions.
This is not a science. Exact measurements will depend on the materials you use, so be aware that some experimentation will be required no matter how you go about it.
You'll also need the fabric of your choice--velveteen, felt, or something similar. I'd suggest sticking to natural fabrics, not least because they're easier to manipulate than many synthetics, but if you're set on an acetate satin, so be it.
You'll need spray adhesive (whose volatiles will evaporate) and either glue (like Elmer's) or a double-sided tape. With this latter, I found an intriguing product by 3M that allows you to apply double-sided adhesive in one smooth motion without the hassles of trying to peel it off. It resides in the scrapbooking section of hobby stores and will also be gentle on your pens. And you'll need something to measure, rule, cut, and score paper.
Since I have a career's worth of drafting equipment sitting around, I plopped my stuff on the drafting table and used T-square and triangle to measure, rule and score. It may be a bit more problematic if you don't have that equipment and will certainly take longer, but it's still do-able.
Scoring paper involves running a ball-pointed stylus across it to make a tiny furrow. The paper will then bend naturally at that furrow, cleanly and evenly. This is important, believe me. If you don't have a stylus, an empty ballpoint pen will work as long as you press hard. You may also go through several pens, as their balls are not as hard as a real stylus. Or you can go to your local art store and buy a stylus; they come in several sizes for no more than about $5.
To start, cut two small strips of paper the length of the drawer, minus your tolerance fraction, and the height you want the divider to be--in our example, 1/2", so our lengthwise wall would be a strip 1/2" x 9 7/8". Place that on your fabric (with the grain, please) and cut a piece of fabric 1/8" larger on one side and about 3/8" larger on the other three sides. Glue the paper to the fabric (Elmer's works best for this, but be sparing--don't glob it on so it bleeds through the fabric), fold over the 1/8" flap and glue it down. Now you have a piece of paper with a nice finished top and three loose sides.
Cut a 90-degree rectangle out of the unglued fabric at the corners to make the fabric foldable in a single thickness -- think in terms of a mitered corner, only you're cutting out the whole rectangle. Place (or glue, if you're really confident) these two into the box, with the glued side against the edge of the drawer. If you've measured and determined fabric allowances correctly, it will snug right in there. The loose edges of fabric will fold forward and form a clean finish on which your insert will rest.
Prepare the Insert
This is a good time to cut a 7 7/8" strip and make sure that, with fabric folded over both ends, it fits smoothly into the drawer with the two side pieces in it. If not, adjust the width of the paper accordingly.
Now. Add the length of each divider, 1/2" for each end-wall, and 1" for each divider wall. (This is why I say prototype it first; it can get confusing and those tiny tiny fractions will add up.) Whether you use a scrap or start with a full 7 7/8" wide piece, cut it squarely and cleanly; you want it to match the 90 degree angles of your drawer. Cut it as long as you can; you'll still probably have to splice some additional at the end, depending on the size of your drawer.
Place your cut strip on your drafting table or tabletop and square it up (so the paper is perfectly parallel to the edge of the table) and mark it at the proper intervals for scoring: 1/2" from the top for the first part, for the divider wall that will go against the side of the box, 3/4" (or more) for the pen holder; 1/2" for the left side of the next wall; 1/2" for the right side of that wall; 3/4" for the next divider; and repeat as many times as your measurement indicates you'll be able to get into the drawer (it will probably be a bit too long, but that you can adjust).
Once you're all finished with that, score the measured marks with heavy, even pressure so that, when covered with fabric, the heavy paper will bend easily in the way you want and where you want it to.
Place this on the back side of your fabric (again, with the grain, please) and cut fabric about 1/8"-1/4" larger than the paper around three sides. On the fourth, an "end" side, leave an inch or two of fabric, just in case you've measured a bit off and need to add a little more paper.
This is a good time to do a final check to make sure
that, with the fabric folded over both edges of the paper insert, it will
fit cleanly into the drawer. After this, you're committed.
Shape the Insert
This is tedious. I won't lie. It will be much more tedious if, when finished, you Elmer this than if you use double-sided adhesive, which is much faster and less messy. Repeat this folding throughout the length of the divider. Now, work it into the drawer, folds and all, to see how well you did measuring-wise. If you wind up with a bit too much, you can cut it off. If too little well, you can add a bit, but you should be sure to allow plenty if you aren't absolutely certain of your measurements (as I never am, no matter how many times I make them, and despite the fact that I've spent a lifetime doing accurate tiny measurements).
When finished with this step -- and make sure the creases are as crisp and clean as you can get them -- you'll want to glue the left and right sides of the divider walls together. This makes the wall, the double paper thickness gives it additional strength (as does the glue or adhesive), and once you press it into the drawer, the tension of the surrounding materials will add still more strength. The more divider walls you stick together, the more tension you're likely to develop in the fabric, and you'll notice as you go that the insert will begin to curl up on you. Don't worry about it. Just keep gluing.
The Finished Product