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Cardboard: The Ultimate DIY Material

Cardboard notebook

Cardboard is strong, versatile, and usually free. It can be used for nearly any kind of crafting project, from toys to art to furniture. Let’s explore this amazing material.

The Wonders of Cardboard

Ask any of the team at Carboarders, and they’ll explain why they have built a career out of crafting with cardboard. It’s because when people work with expensive, delicate materials, they hesitate: they want to know their project will be perfect before they even begin. Cardboard, on the other hand, is cheap and disposable: the very roughness and replace-ability of cardboard stimulates creativity and frees people from their inhibitions about perfection. Thanks to cardboard, this team of makers is able to teach, share, and inspire people throughout the Netherlands.

cardboard costumes

Cardboard is an incredible resource for makers, and the most versatile material for upcycling. It’s easy to cut, easy to shape, and easy to work with. It accepts a huge range of adhesives. It’s compact and lightweight to store. And it’s ubiquitous and (virtually) free.

Excellent Cardboard Crafts

Here are some links to some excellent cardboard crafts and makers to inspire you:

Cardboard crafts for kids:

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Cardboard art projects:

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Cardboard furniture and decor:

DIY Oratory by Maria Amora
DIY Cardboard Shoe Cabinet by kikomoda
DIY Free Cardboard Chair by Nordwerk Design

Tips for Working with Cardboard:

Even weak, beat-up cardboard can be made strong and sturdy when properly reinforced. Here are some tips for working with cardboard:

  • Make it thick. Maria Amora is my YouTube cardboard goddess, and she always layers her cardboard to 3cm thick for strength and sturdiness. I don’t always go that thick, but it’s better to make it stronger than needed than weaker.
  • Cross the corrugations. When layering cardboard for strength, always alternate the “grain” of the corrugation: one horizontal layer, one vertical, one horizontal, etc. Cardboard naturally wants to fold along one grain and crush along the other – alternating the direction prevents it from doing either.
  • Treat it like wood. A lot of people shape their first layer of cardboard and then reinforce it by adding more layers. Instead (depending on your project), make multi-layered “boards” or “sheets” of cardboard. Once you have a number of flat, strong boards or sheets, you can work with it just like plywood (except that it’s so much easier to cut).
  • Store it flat. The easiest way to manage a lot of cardboard in storage (if you are gathering a supply for a project, or simply hoarding it like I do) is to immediately break down the boxes and flatten them. Then they are easier to store, easier to visualize, and easier to work with when you begin.

We’ll be getting into more detail about the best ways to work with cardboard in future posts, but these projects and tutorials are a great place to start.

Featured photo by Laika Notebooks on Unsplash

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