PopSci DIY: a newspaper baler, updated from the archives

Streamline your environmentalism with this easy and inexpensive project.
A DIY newspaper baler made out of plywood, with a stack of newspapers inside of it.

Get ready to bundle those papers and recycle them, 1971-style. Joel Barnard

For the eight of us still reading a daily newspaper, compiling the week’s news into a recycling bundle that’s able to withstand the journey from kitchen to recycling bin fully intact is a battle of wits, strength and patience. Okay, I’m being dramatic, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a simple contraption to make the job oh-so-much simpler? That’s what the editors of Popular Science were thinking back in June of 1971 when they provided readers with just such a contraption.

Re-creating (and updating) this newspaper baler is actually quite easy, thanks to the detailed diagram provided with the 1971 article. All you need is a single 4-by-4-foot sheet of 1/2-inch plywood ($15), a handful of other inexpensive materials ($24), and an afternoon of your time.

A 1971 Popular Science article about a DIY newspaper baler.
This is the original Popular Science article from June 1971 that inspired this PopSci DIY update. Joel Barnard

Tools and materials

A power drill, a level, other tools, and a sheet of plywood.
A few of the basic materials you’ll need to complete the baler. Joel Barnard

Instructions

A schematic for a DIY newspaper baler, from a 1971 issue of Popular Science magazine.
The 1971 baler. Joel Barnard

1. Print out this original illustration (above) from the 1971 Popular Science article and use it as your blueprint during construction.

  • Note: Your bottom piece of wood should be the size of your folded newspaper, plus a 1/2-inch on each side. All other measurements will be determined based on the size of the bottom piece.

2. Rasp or file the 1/4-inch slits for twine, making them as smooth as possible so you won’t battle with splinters down the road.

A person cutting a slit in a piece of plywood.
Rasping. Joel Barnard

3. Once all your pieces are cut and edges are smooth, you’re ready to assemble.

Several sheets of plywood against a wall on a tile floor.
The pieces, ready to be assembled. Joel Barnard

4. Although the original article suggests using glue and nails to attach the pieces of wood, I’ll always argue for the strength and durability of screws (especially considering the abuse this unit might take). If you go the screw route (#8 wood, 1 1/4 inches long ($5)), be sure to pre-drill the holes and countersink the heads for the smoothest, most professional finish. Three screws per edge will be sufficient.

A person using a power drill to assemble sheets of plywood into a box.
Assembling the baler. Joel Barnard

5. Once the bottom and sides are together, attach the front piece using two 2-inch T-hinges ($3), screwed into the base.

A person using a screwdriver to attach hinges to a plywood newspaper baler.
Use human power to attach the hinges. Joel Barnard

6. Ball bearing swivel casters ($14) are optional, but wheels make things a lot easier if you’re storing the baler in a closet or pantry.

A person attaching wheels to the underside of a homemade newspaper baler.
Your back will thank you for these wheels. Joel Barnard

7. Secure the door and allow for easy access with two simple eye-and-hook latches ($2), mounted near the top.

A person attaching eyehooks to a DIY newspaper baler.
Adding the latch. Joel Barnard

8. Assembly is now complete, but the baler’s not quite ready to accept newspapers.

An assembled DIY newspaper baler.
The baler, fully assembled. Joel Barnard

9. Place two equal lengths of twine, tied at their centers, in the middle of the baler. Each string end should then exit the baler through one of the four slits.

A DIY newspaper baler with twine coming out of its side slits.
Getting started with the twine. Joel Barnard

10. Tie the twine ends out of the way until you’re ready for binding.

A DIY newspaper baler with twine tied around it.
Twine: tied. Joel Barnard

11. Once the baler is full, unlatch the front panel and swing it down for easy removal of the newspaper stack.

A DIY newspaper baler with the front hatch down and about half full of newspapers.
Newspapers in the baler. Joel Barnard

12. Finally, tie the four twine ends down and remove your newspaper bundle.

A DIY newspaper baler on a black-and-white tile floor with a stack of newspapers in front of it that's tied with green twine.
Ready for recycling. Joel Barnard