Kids can turn a cardboard box into nearly anything. So can adults, actually, and they’ve got better, sharper tools to make them. Here are 10 projects that use cardboard for inexpensive but reliable DIY creations.
To get the ball rolling on any of these projects, you’ll need cardboard. If you’ve just moved, know somebody who just moved, or run a liquor store, you’ve probably got no problem finding cardboard. Otherwise, big-box stores, especially those that sell appliances or electronics, are likely to have some boxes they’d be happy to pull off their recycling loads for you.
10. Kids’ construction set
Whether they’re your own tykes or someone else’s you’re in charge of herding, it’s easy to underestimate the value of a few big boxes and the means to re-imagine them. As Brad Isaac explained in his 10 really cheap kid entertainers, with a little safe scissor shaping, kids can put themselves in a medieval castle, a pirate galley, or anywhere else they’re feeling that day, rather than being forced to figure out whatever means of play that over-priced thing with all the LEDs on it wants out of them. Photo by cambodia4kidsorg.
9. “Stealthy” camera/gadget bag
Nothing says “easy target” to thieves like an unattended bag that obviously holds an expensive DSLR camera or laptop. Wired’s How-To Wiki offers step-by-step instructions on making a stealth camera bag. It costs as little as $US28 to assemble from an Army surplus shoulder bag and some foam from a hardware store, and you use cardboard to both measure out the foam and reinforce the loose compartments of the shoulder bag. Okay, so this one isn’t entirely cardboard-based, but it does achieve the same kind of cheap-because-cardboard-does-everything breakthrough.
8. Solar-powered oven
It’s a truly environmentally sound way to cook food and it makes for easy backyard bragging points. Find a sunny spot on your lawn, attach some aluminium foil to a cardboard box big enough to fit some food, and you’ve got a DIY solar oven going on. Photo by thescarletmanuka.
7. Kitty chaise lounge or scratching pad
The bond between cats and cardboard is as old as, well, cardboard. Exploit that love to avoid the kind of ridiculous prices of kitty “lounges” and scratching pads (basically stacked-up corrugated cardboard) at pet stores. The Evil Mad Scientist blog runs down making a cardboard cat chaise lounge, which looks a lot better than just some boxes laying around. Design Sponge also has a stylish take on feline entertainment with a recycled cardboard kitty pad, a circular spiral of corrugated cardboard sides that provides maximum surface area for Mr. Littlejeans to get crazy with the claws.
6. Minimalist laptop case
Unless you get really crafty, this cheap, minimalist laptop case made of cardboard and fancy duct tape won’t have the pockets or cord and card holders of the laptop bags most folks pay $US30 for at department stores. But your case will be unique, potentially more waterproof than the cloth kind, and won’t make you feel awful if it gets scuffed, pen-marked, or coffee-stained.
5. Sturdy laptop stand
Unless you’re going the wine cork route or busting out the power tools, even a great DIY laptop stand involves searching for, and shelling out for, office supply stuff. Want a temporary or low-cost solution? Eco-conscious blog greenUPGRADER has a template for a DIY cardboard laptop stand that can actually hold up a standard size laptop, but also comes apart easily and packs into flat pieces for laptop bag transport. It requires faith in your positioning skills, but it’s also as customisable as you want, given that it’s an empty brown canvas.
4. Tangle-free cord containers
Here’s an easy way to tackle two clutter problems at once. Bundle up your longer cords (extension, holiday lights, networking cable) in long, neat loops, then take the paper towel and toilet paper tubes that eat up space in the recycling bin and use them as cord holders. No more surrealist spaghetti tangles when you need a longer power line.
3. Phone dock
This one requires a bit more precision than the other cardboard hacks here—lighter, A4-sized cardboard, a thin-bladed craft knife, non-tape adhesive, and soft hands. But the money-saving results of this cardboard iPhone dock are much the same, giving you a place to keep your iPhone (or any fancy-pants, similarly shaped phone, really) upright, accessible, and charging while you’re busy at your desk or elsewhere. Go ahead—smirk as you stroll past the Apple Store.
2. Adult Lego projects with Bloxes
Our inner structural engineers have a serious crush on the Bloxes cardboard modular building blocks , which can fill in for nearly any solid design object you pretend you need to drive to TarWalCo for. Need to elevate books, a printer, books, or other goods? Build a custom Bloxes stand. Cubicle view blocker? Check. Crazy-complex cat fortress? Block out your Saturday afternoon and get building.
1. Starter macro photography kit
You’ve spent enough time drooling over those amazing flower contours, the ridiculously succulent pies, the everyday objects that just look so darned cool when put under intense, micro-level focus. Without shocking your credit card, you can get started with a few cardboard tools. Lighting-obsessed photography blog Strobist details the $10 macro photo studio, made entirely of cardboard, tissue paper, and posterboard, that gets you some great shadows, isolation, and a chance to monkey around with lighting. As for the camera rig itself, a bellows lens crafted from a Pringles can really does work, as long as you’re willing to mount a (thoroughly cleaned!) chip can onto your DSLR body. With either or both tools, you can learn a lot about up-close shooting before deciding to move further up the pro-am ladder.
These kind of projects make us almost wish we were moving again, just to get our hands on a whole bunch of cardboard. If you had a sturdy cardboard sheet and some spare time, what would you make with it? Point us to the project you’ve had on the back burner for a long time, or share your original ideas, in the comments.