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…)


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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

Cardboard Karma Chameleon

A few more tweaks and this guy’s ready to dance!

How are your costumes coming?

We have a little less than a week left!

Can’t wait to see YOUR creation! Upload to Flickr or just shoot me an email with your costume photo attached to

Adapting a sewing pattern for cardboard

It’s often handy to work from a pattern if you’re feeling squeamish about designing a headpiece for your costume from scratch. Sewing patterns are a great option if you can get your hands on an appropriate pattern for the costume you’re making. Here I’ve adapted a simple child’s hood pattern into a headpiece that is big enough to fit an adult.

1. Trace your pattern pieces onto cardboard and cut them out.

2. Texturize your cardboard by crumpling it up and twisting it, this will give your cardboard a more leather-like texture and make it easier to work with.

3. Cut thin flexible strips of strips of cardboard about 1.5 to 2 in. wide by whatever length you will need (I like boxes that are similar in weight to pizza boxes) and glue these strips one side at a time to the two pieces that you are trying to join. Regular white glue and clamps or clothespins work great for this.

4. Continue adding your cardboard seams as you put all your pattern pieces together. trim as needed.

5. Now you can begin to modify your piece for your individual costume. Here I added more pieces with the same technique by gluing thin strips of cardboard for the seam and then attaching a forehead and jaw piece.

Links to a few handy patterns suitable for costume making:

Vest pattern by the Mother Huddle

Hood pattern by Fabric link

Children’s fitted hood/hat pattern by Martha Stewart Living

Baby cowboy boots pattern by Nap Time Crafters (You could adapt this pattern for making any kind of boot-like shoe covers.)


Our Cardboard Swiss Cheese Chalet

A new watermelon box creation!  A hideout for my two little pipsqueaks.

This little place was a lot of fun to build, and I love the idea of a hideout that’s triangular in shape.  I spent about 2 days working on this project off and on, because I had to take breaks when my arm got tired of sawing through all that cardboard.

The watermelon box I started with already had lots of holes in it, so I enlarged some of them to create my  “Swiss cheese matrix” on all three sides.

I started by figuring out the rough dimensions of the little fort by folding the box in different places until I found what worked best for a roomy wedge of cheese.

This box had about eight creased corners, so I cut cardboard strips about 6 inches wide and glued them over the unwanted creased portions so the cardboard wouldn’t bend in the places I didn’t want it to.

After securing the cardboard and cutting out all the holes from the sides, I put a nut and bolt with a washer in the side to keep everything together and make it easy to disassemble.

Last step was creating a top piece out of lighter cardboard so that the girls could open it easily.

I added a coat of yellow paint, but I think it would be just as nice plain brown.  I also thought  pink washi tape would liven up the holes, but you can see where that’s all going to end up.

I’m looking forward to the day when they’ll be building their own little cardboard nests… And hey, did I tell you where some of our other watermelon box scraps have ended up?

These came shipped in a cardboard box that we picked up at the local post office.

They’re not ours to keep.  We’re just babysitting for grandma…

Sandwiches are Beautiful ….. Sandwich Books are Fine!

The latest addition to our cardboard book library; a very delicious book about how to make a B.L.T. (Bacon, lettuce and tomato) sandwich. This book was easy to make and I had help from Electra painting the pages. We used the same process that I wrote about earlier in the How to Make Cardboard Books post. I used a type of tape made from white paper that could be painted for the binding. I touched up the spots where the book was adjoined after the whole thing was assembled. The coolest part was finding white cardboard for the bread that gave the look of “brown crust” when you cut the pages out. This is literally a recipe book for getting your child or toddler cooking in the kitchen!

Mmmmmm cardboard!

Big Fat Cardboard Book Booster Seat

When Isis took over the highchair, Electra needed a booster seat so she could sit in one of the big chairs at the kitchen table. We put together a big fat cardboard book for her to sit on. We found a box with a Japanese castle on it, so you could even say this seat is throne-like.

I sewed an elastic band to keep the pages from opening up when she was getting into and out of the chair. The beauty of it? It doubles as a leaf press!

Hello world!

We’re shouting out to you from the suburbs of Tokyo! An amazing city that we are learning a little bit more about every day. I live here with my husband, and two daughters, in what I call a tiny Tokyo apartment. Actually by Japanese standards it wouldn’t be considered tiny, but compared to living spaces back home in Michigan, it’s small.

The inspiration for this blog is a book I read one day at one of the wonderful city sponsored play houses for children aged 0-3. I don’t yet know exactly how to translate the name of the book because I am still a “young Jedi” of the Japanese language, but, in short it’s a book all about making cardboard furniture for children. To be sure I have always been obsessed with cardboard and already had many many pages in my scrapping journal devoted to this humble, yet noble material, but this book was a real springboard for me.

After figuring out how to order this book on Amazon Japan in Japanese with the help of a few friends, my husband and I set out to make our first set of table and chairs. To our surprise they were perfectly sized, light enough for a 1 year old to move around, recycled and recyclable, adorable and amazingly sturdy. Is there anything more divine? And the best part was that I felt an incredible sense of joy and (still do) every time I look at those table and chairs. Mostly because my husband and I lovingly made them, but also because we built something really durable and fun without having a garage, a basement, a workshop, or even a car.

I hope that this blog will inspire you to make something out of cardboard for yourself or your child, that reduces your impact on the earth, and brings you an incredible amount of joy.

I now have my cardboard goggles on. Prepare for brilliance.