From an outsider’s perspective, at first it may seem that technology and sustainability are mutually exclusive concepts. But, in fact, the two worlds are inexorably linked. The use of technology allows us to accurately measure and assess our impact on the environment as well as create and execute intricate plans for improvement. So it only seems natural that computer accessories should be eco-friendly, too, right?
This Father’s Day, you can surprise the tech-loving dad in your life with a fancy homemade mouse pad that you created especially for him from upcycled wood scrap and a DIY eco-friendly wood sealant. A project like this is a fantastic way to help older kids learn to use a few simple power tools while younger kids can get involved with the decoration process. So, let’s get started!
First you’ll need to rifle around in the garage for a suitable piece of wood. Each type of wood will have different characteristics so keep that in mind while you search. The right piece will be thin and somewhat smooth.
My best option was quarter-inch thin plywood, which is not the most beautiful wood in the world, but seeing as the point is to give purpose to something otherwise destined for the trash, it’s just perfect. Other supplies you’ll need:
• Power sander
• Permanent marker or paint pens (optional for decoration)
• ½ cup beeswax pastilles or grated beeswax
• 1 ½ cups olive oil
• A glass jar (a standard Mason jar is the perfect size)
• Stovetop double boiler (or two pots that could be used as such)
• Clean rags
• Adhesive rubber feet (optional)
Step 1: Create your wood sealant. Fill the bottom of the double boiler with water and bring to a boil. In the top of the boiler, pour in ½ cup of beeswax. When that has mostly melted, add 1½ cups of olive oil and stir until all of the beeswax has combined with the oil.
Step 2: Pour sealant carefully into your glass jar and let it cool while you work on the rest of the project. Little ones might enjoy watching the liquid change color and harden as it cools. Monitoring the progress might also keep them entertained while you manage the power tools. Just make sure they don’t touch—it’s hot!
Step 3: Mark the area of wood that you would like to become the mouse pad. I thought my husband would like a unique circular shape, so I traced a plate that was just the right size (8 3/4" in diameter). Be aware of any knots or other imperfections in the wood that won’t allow the mouse to glide uninterrupted.
Step 4: Using the jigsaw, carefully cut out your shape. If you have teenagers, they may be ready to try using this tool with your careful instruction and supervision. Be sure to use goggles and take other safety precautions.
Step 5: Now it’s time to sand down the wood so the surface and edges are smooth. This may be a good opportunity to teach older children to use a power sander! If you have patient kids, you could even try having them sand by hand to avoid electricity usage.
Step 6: Wipe your mouse pad down with a damp lint-free cloth to remove dust from sanding and let it dry completely.
Step 7: Decorate! My husband is a bit of a minimalist, so I thought I would keep it simple for him with a quick monochromatic drawing. I used a regular black permanent marker for this (after drawing my illustration on with a pencil to get the correct layout). There’s a slight bleed into the wood from the marker, so you could try paint pens instead if you wanted to. This is a fun step as decoration offers the perfect opportunity for younger kids to get involved so the gift can be a full family effort.
Step 8: Make sure the sealant has cooled to a solid and isn’t too hot to handle. Then, apply it to the wood in a circular motion with a clean lint-free rag. Let the wood drink in the sealant for at least a few hours before buffing it into the wood in the direction of the grain. The wood I used isn’t anything super special, but this magical concoction of ours will help to polish wood and bring out its rich hues which can be a really neat transformation for fancier types of wood.
Step 9: (Optional) Add some adhesive rubber feet to the bottom of your mouse pad to keep it from sliding around. This step may be unnecessary depending on the surface upon which it will rest. I usually try to make do with what I have (i.e. going without little feet) to avoid buying new products that come with a carbon footprint and, usually, plenty of unnecessary packaging. Thus the need for a DIY mouse pad in the first place!
This customized project is perfect for Father’s Day for many reasons: You’re helping Dad clean up a little scrap from his workshop, creating something by hand (and as a family!) specifically for him and you’ll have plenty of natural wood sealant left over for him to use in the future! Enjoy the family time and the look on Dad’s face this Father’s Day when you give him a newly upcycled addition to his computer desk.
Julia Marchand is a DIY and upcycling expert who loves developing unique and sustainable projects, especially if they’re a gift for her husband or son. She writes about her different creations, including this father’s day gaming gift, for eBay.com. Read all of Julia's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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