Working With Cardboard

Written by larry simmons
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Working With Cardboard
With cardboard, you can create any 3D object imaginable. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Cardboard as a crafts material has been widely used by architects for decades in the creation of miniature buildings to scale for demonstration purposes. This is largely due to the ease with which artists can work the material, along with its low expense. This has resulted in the spread of the use of cardboard as a crafting material far outside of the architectural community, into the hands of modelers of all sorts. The ease of use is due to the few tools needed to work the material. With a cutting implement and a hot glue gun, you can bring your imagination to life, creating colourful 3D objects for play or display.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Pencil
  • Cardboard
  • Cutting mat
  • Ruler
  • Craft knife
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue gun
  • Acrylic paints
  • Paintbrush
  • Clear coat spray paint

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  1. 1

    Mark any cutting lines required on the face of the cardboard with a pencil. You can use any shape with an edge as a guide for marking the lines. For straight lines and clean cuts, however, it's best to mark them along the fluted ridges in the cardboard, as seen from the edge of the cardboard sheet.

  2. 2

    Place the cardboard flat onto the surface of a cutting mat to cut along the drawn lines using a craft knife. Place a ruler along the line and use the edge of the ruler to help you keep your cuts running straight. A sharp craft knife will cut through cardboard in a single pass. Make curved or complicated cuts in the cardboard with a pair of scissors instead of the craft knife.

  3. 3

    Create folds in the cardboard for cornered areas using the craft knife. Mark the fold line onto the rear of the cardboard following the line of the cardboard fluting. Score through the surface sheet of cardboard along the marked line, then bend the cardboard so that the scored edge forms the outside curve of the corner. Fold thin non-corrugated cardboard without scoring by bending the cardboard along the marked corner. Place a ruler along the inside curve of the bend, and then bend against the ruler to aid in making clearly defined folds.

  4. 4

    Roll the cardboard parallel to the fluted lines to create cylinders or curves in cardboard shapes.

  5. 5

    Glue any two pieces of cardboard together using a bead of glue applied to one of the pieces with a hot glue gun. Bend an edge of one of the joined pieces of cardboard and apply glue to one side of the bent piece on the interior. Place the second piece of cardboard against the corner, in the glue. Hold in place for 30 seconds to allow the glue time to begin setting. This two-piece joint is stronger than any other joining method.

  6. 6

    Join two pieces without glue by using a notching system. Cut notches in both the pieces you want to join, running about half the piece's width. Slide the two notches together to join the pieces.

  7. 7

    Paint cardboard creations with acrylic paint and a paintbrush, taking care not to saturate the cardboard with the paint, and sealing the paint with a layer of clear coat spray to avoid dulling or cracking of the paint.

Tips and warnings

  • Do not use creases already present in the cardboard to create bends or cuts with, as the crease weakens the cardboard at that point.

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