Pongo Tablets

For a while I've been planning to build myself a set of wax tablet and use them to take short-lived notes, but I've been having problems finding an affordable source of beeswax. I'm also not that good at working with wood, nor any other suitable period material, so I've been thinking in the meanwhile to try and build a set of modern tablets in cernit and pongo (an italian plastiline brand).

I've never used the real thing, but these are proving to be quite confortable to use: at about A7 size (told you I was going for a modern approach) they fit quite well in my left hand, and the stylus made with a pin and a cernit handle leaves easily readable traces with no effort.

The main drawback is that they are quite fragile: my first set suffered some trauma and the plate broke, so I'm thinking about a new version with some kind of strenghting material.


Decide how big you want your tablet to be: historical tablets were smallish and an A7 size (74 × 105 mm) works well for shopping lists and other quick notes.

First Method: Pure Cernit

For each tablet you'll need:

  • about 50--60 g cernit,
  • a lump of dark coloured pongo (plastiline/plasticine),
  • some cord;

for the stylus you'll also need some other cernit (you may be able to do it with scraps from the tablet) and a rounded pointed needle.

For each tablet, roll a sheet of cernit about 1 mm thick, place it on the flat surface you're using to bake it, cut the tablet borders as in the diagram and place them on the base; this will give a wax recess about 2 mm tick. Cut the holes for binding and closure with a toothpick and bake.

If you want a double sided "inner" tablet, first bake one side, then add the borders on the other side and bake again, so that the base stays flat.

When the tables have cooled down, take a lump of pongo, put it in the middle of the recess and spread it towards the borders with your fingers; you'll never get as flat a surface as you can get with wax, but it's not going to get worse with usage.

Thread the cord in the holes so that the tablets look like a booklet.

For the stylus, make a cylinder of cernit, flatten one end with care so that it can be used to smooth the pongo, taper the other end a bit and insert a round pointed needle. You may also want to cut a hole just below the flat end. Bake it and you're ready to write.

Some ideas for the outer tablet surface include plain marbled, skinner blends, canes, or a print transfer on light coloured cernit; in most cases you may want to cut the outer bases and as many border pieces as possible from "virgin" clay, work a bit and flatten again the leftovers and use them for additional inner tablets.

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