Upcycling old paper and boxes to make handmade paper has become an increasingly popular craft project in the past 10 years. With a little effort and ingenuity, you can create beautiful handmade cards, prints or stationery from this upcycled paper. Following the same basic instructions, you can also recycle cardboard products to make a thicker paper or cardboard product, which can be useful for creating gift boxes, journals, folders and other handmade paper crafts that require a cardboard component.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Cardboard (egg cartons, gift boxes, paper bags, toilet paper roll tubes, tissue boxes, construction paper, and so on)
- Liquid starch
- Warm or hot water
- Measuring spoons
- 8 by 10-inch wooden picture frame
- 8 by 10-inch piece of mesh screen
- 10 by 12-inch piece of flannel fabric
- Large basin or plastic tub
- Flat thumbtacks
- Two cookie baking trays
- Several heavy books
Make your mould: Stretch the mesh screen onto the bottom of the wooden picture frame. Tack it into place securely with the flat thumbtacks.
Select cardboard to recycle: You can choose similar cardboard to create a uniform piece of recycled cardboard, or you can pick different weights/colors/types of cardboard to make a unique pattern. Rip or cut the cardboard into small pieces.
Blend the pieces to a pulp: Place a handful or two of cardboard into the blender. Fill the blender the rest of the way full with warm water. Blend on slow to break up the cardboard. As it becomes pulpy, increase the blender speed until the mixture becomes smooth. You will need to make three blenders' worth of pulp.
Fill the basin halfway with water. Add the three blenders of pulp and 2 teaspoons of liquid starch. Mix thoroughly.
Place the mould into the basin. Push it down into the mixture and level it out using your hands so that there is an even coating of pulp across the entire screen of the mould. Slowly lift the mould so that it is above the water. If the layer of cardboard that comes up on the mould screen is too thin, add more pulp to your mixture and repeat this step. If it is too thick, add more warm water to the mixture and repeat this step. If it is the right consistency and thickness, proceed to Step 6.
Place the mould carefully onto the flannel piece. Use a sponge to press the cardboard through the mould screen. Remove as much water as you can. (Wring the water from the full sponge back into the tub and continue to press until the mould is fairly dry.)
Pull the mould up from the cardboard carefully. The cardboard should remain on the flannel, leaving the mould screen clear.
Place the flannel and cardboard carefully onto a baking tray. Place the second baking tray on top of the cardboard. Place your stack in a spot where you can press out the remaining water without making a huge mess (bathtub, kitchen counter or outside on the sidewalk). Stack the books on top of the top cookie tray and lean onto them, using your body weight to press out the remaining water from the cardboard. Allow the stack to sit there for a couple of hours to ensure that it is firmly pressed.
Remove the books and top baking tray. Hang the flannel/cardboard on a clothesline or towel rack to fully dry (this will take 24 to 48 hours). When the cardboard is fully dry, you will be able to separate it from the flannel easily.
Repeat these steps to make as many sheets of homemade cardboard as you wish.
Tips and warnings
- Add food colouring or non-toxic dye to your cardboard pulp mixture to colour your end result. You can also create designs on your cardboard once you've laid it onto the flannel and pressed it initially. Use dye or food colouring to create your design before you place the second cookie tray and books onto the cardboard to press it the final time. You will want to use a mixture of water and dye that is fairly thin. Use an eyedropper or a paintbrush to put your design onto the cardboard.
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