Make a Cardboard Toolbox

Cardboard Toolbox by the Cardboard Collective

Two years ago I found a beautiful old wooden sheep shearing box at Camberwell Market during a trip to Australia with my family.

It was beautifully worn and even had tiny little strands of wool still caught in some of the corners. I quickly filled it up with my favorite sewing tools and supplies, and have enjoyed toting it around immensely ever since.

Cardboard tool box

I have long thought about trying to replicate the design in cardboard for my cardboard tools. When I started working with banana boxes last year I realized I had found a possible solution.

I spent several weeks in late December and early January creating a variety of designs and assembly techniques that incorporated the pre-made features from the banana box like the pre-punched handholds.

I truly believe that this (essentially paper) toolbox could last a lifetime before being recycled.  It’s easy to build, strong, durable, and functional. Maybe someone will buy mine at a flea market some day. Wouldn’t that be a dream! (Although maybe now that I’ve built about 10 extras, I might get on that sooner than later…)


[vimeo 57671007 w=800&h=400]


The act of constructing a cardboard toolbox instantly transforms you from a passive Cardboard Aficionado into an energized Cardboard Maker– be prepared for this dynamic life change!

You’ll need:

  • Approx. 30 minutes of your time
  • 1 banana box
  • cutting tool
  • ruler
  • pencil
  • large binder clips or small clamps
  • white glue (I prefer low VOC eco glue

31 thoughts on “Make a Cardboard Toolbox

  1. Oh Amber, I covet your scissors. Or cutting tool, or shears, or whatever they’re called. The kitchen scissors I use can’t handle banana boxes, I don’t think. I hack at those with a knife or saw. And I love your video – so much fun to see your cardboard technique in action. I think we need more of these – videos for cardboarding, because not a lot of folks know how to actually cut cardboard, or take the time to measure it so that it actually lines up nice and even. I must link to this and share with my readers when I’m done with my current bag series (sewing – not as fun as cardboard).

    • Sounds great LiEr! The shears were a bit expensive, maybe between 50-60USD, and even though they are a tool I use almost daily, I put them on my Christmas wish list last year. I wonder if you couldn’t find a kind of pruning shear that might work similarly? (I’m also happy to send any readers a pair at cost through my Etsy shop, if you convo me…) You can also try other kinds of boxes for this project. Tomorrow I’ll be posting some pictures of a toolbox I made for my daughters…By the way, I’m loving the bag series and have been doing my homework faithfully! Can’t wait to stitch up the bag of my dreams…

  2. Amber I’m really impressed with those cutting shears that you use too. What exactly are they? I’ve been doing Google searches but I can’t find exactly the same product.

    • Hi Katie,

      I live in Tokyo and these are a pair of Japanese corrugated roof cutting shears. To my knowledge they are not available in the U.S. If you are desperate for a pair, you can convo me through my Etsy shop, and I’ll send a pair to Cardboard Collective readers at cost. They are between $50-$75 plus shipping (US). I’ve been looking on Amazon and I’ve seen a few similar products called aviation snips. The shears I have are offset with a long heavy blade and are spring set. Here’s a link to a set of shears that aren’t quite the same but also look like a heavy duty tool that would do the same thing. They are very reasonably priced:

      • Amber, thanks so much for the reply. I’ve just ordered a pair of aviation snips from Amazon UK. I’m not sure if they’re exactly the right thing, but they look like an affordable alternative.

        • Katie, That’s great! I’m excited to hear how they work out for you. My shears have really taken the grunt work out of a lot of projects, so I hope they will be of help to you.

  3. I just saw this on Craft Schooling Sunday a few days ago [I’m a bit behind on my blog reading!] and made one for my brother’s birthday today. I started out using kitchen shears, then regular scissors, and finally resorted to a [duh!] box-cutter. Overall it was an easy project, and since my brother and his wife are currently in the middle of gutting & remodeling their new house all on their own, I’m sure he’ll appreciate it. 🙂

    • Oh Panya, That’s so exciting! I’m so glad that it went well and was an easy project for you. I use my toolbox every day! I’ve got the biggest smile on my face right now knowing that someone else is using a cardboard toolbox out there in the world!

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  5. Maybe I was dreaming that you had photo instructions on putting together your toolbox from a banana box. It seems to be gone now. I am a librarian in a small Michigan village and I thought this might be a cool after school project with upper elementary/middle school kids. This past year we did a lot of creative challenges using recyclable materials. Any chance of getting instructions for the toolbox?

  6. This is such a great box. I wish you had some photos with the instructions I could print out to refer to while I tried to make one. Video is great but it’s hard to keep stopping it (or restarting it) to see what the next step is. I’m going to make some of these for my daughter’s teachers this year. Her school is “green” so I’m trying to come up with a gift basket of all recycled/upcycled gifts for the teachers for Christmas or teacher appreciation week.

    • Lynne,

      I’ve been thinking a lot about working with a few schools to create some zero waste classroom resources. If you send me your email, we can talk further about putting together a more formal classroom-friendly version of this tutorial. I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed the tool box. I think most people have a hard time seeing past the fact that they’re made of cardboard, but once they have one in their hands to use, they get it!

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