Cardboard Tinkering Toys and Mobiles

Intergalactic Cardboard Space Station? Cubist Crossroads? Alice in Cardboard Wonderland? Just a few possibilities for Cardboard Tinkering Toys.

After experimenting with some tightly rolled up magazine pages, our universe kept expanding. The fun part of tinkering with the cardboard and magazine pieces is that you keep adding pieces to your building set as you go. As you fiddle, you get new ideas for ways that you can connect the magazine paper rods to one another. Add to your building set every time you play. We were able to recycle some of our old cardboard beads and cardboard alphabeads, and I’ve been saving words and images cut from cardboard boxes as well.

I also loved the possibility for mobiles…….

Here’s a closer peak at some of our components. To be able to attach cardboard rods in two different directions, I glued two cardboard circles together with the channels running perpendicular to one another. If you glue four circles together and poke a whole through the center of each one, you can get your magazine rods to attach in four different directions plus you can thread the component piece on another magazine page rod. Other great possibilities include splicing two pieces together to get x-shaped pieces that act as stands and stabilizers.

I love the “found” poetry aspect of using cardboard words in conjunction with the bold cardboard geometric shapes…. Now go play!


Daruma dolls are a tradition in Japan having to do with casting a wish, setting a goal, or pursuing a dream. It’s been about 6 months since I started The Cardboard Collective and it’s taken me that long to straighten out a few ideas in my head about where I want to go with my cardboard passions. With that in mind, I purchased a Daruma doll at Jindiaji’s festival this year, filled in the pupil of his right eye, inscribed my goal on the bottom of the doll, and put him on the bookshelf in our living room (as did Electra). (When I hopefully achieve my goal, it is tradition to return the Daruma to the temple where it was purchased for ceremonial burning.)

After spending a few days sitting around the living room I realized that having a  Daruma doll in your house is a bit like planting your Kabuki-makeup-wearing kick-boxing coach in the corner with an eternal (one-eyed) look that says “Get out there Tiger.” You can almost hear the throaty Clint Eastwood like growl seeping out. “Wow,” is all I can say. It’s really kept me on top of my game!

One last note about Darumas; (you can learn more about their history and how they are made here) guess what they’re made out of? … Recycled Cardboard.

Cardboard Message Stamps II

This is a variation of Cardboard Message Stamps using paper twine instead of cardboard. The paper twine affords more bend-ability for working with cursive  or handwritten style fonts and yields a print that’s a little more whimsical. I will warn you that this project is a little fiddly and takes patience to curve the twine, hold it in place until it dries and get all the short pieces of twine to meet up. At the time I was doing it, I thought, hmmm this is tough, but now that it’s finished and the stamp came out so well, I would venture to say that I would try this project again.

I can’t read the package to be 100% sure, but I believe that this paper twine is made from the paper milk cartons that we recycle here in Japan. It reminds me a lot of the paper handles on those safety suckers that they handed out at the local credit union (bank) to pacify us when we were kids. And you know what? It worked! If only safety suckers were an option for nearly 1 year olds.

The first stamping always comes out a little patchy. The second run, pictured at the top of the post, stamped easily.

So I know this project begs the question, why make a message stamp, when you can just buy one?

1. Personalization. Write a name, or message that you would not otherwise be able to find on a store bought rubber stamp.

2. Make it Big. Perhaps you want to say something in a Big way over and over again. Then it would be handy to have a cardboard stamp.

3. Limited Life Span. Perhaps someone in your family is turning 40 and you don’t foresee using a “big 4-0” stamp all that often or holding onto it for eternity. You also don’t see the point of buying a stamp at the store and then Goodwill-ing it, or throwing it away. That’s when a 4-0 stamp would be brilliant if made out of cardboard. You can recycle the whole thing. I think that really is something to celebrate. And by the way I think it also makes you very cool and very smart.

Cardboard Message Stamps

Print out your message using word processing software.

Flip it over and glue it down.

Paste cardboard strips about 1 cm thick over the lettering. I clipped the cardboard in between the fluting on the inside of the “o” to help ease it into a circle.

Let dry overnight. Away from curious hands!

I painted the stamp with regular acrylic paint. It took a few tries to get the cardboard to absorb enough paint to stamp relatively evenly, so don’t give up if it doesn’t come out perfectly the first time.

I think I’ll go ahead and make name stamps for Isis and Electra using a different font, and then maybe we’ll make an oversize set of the whole alphabet? Or maybe just imagine ourselves having the time to do that. Ha.