Back in 2011, during a pretty bad heatwave engulfing most of North America, I created a cardboard swimming pool that was considered insane and improbable. It was also the type of concept that completely altered the direction of my YouTube channel. I refer to a concept of this nature as a ‘pivot point invention‘. A pivot point invention is a career-altering idea that might not make sense in the beginning, but is successfully executed in a way that makes a person rethink his/her creative direction.
Yes, the invention does sound as outlandish and weird as the name implies. A giant 72sq.ft. pool made out of giant sheets of cardboard, construction glue, coating mix, and scrap wood. It was a grand experiment that popped into my head after watching a news clip about how Texans were dealing with a horrible drought. The concept wasn’t meant to change the world or actually help Texans solve the drought. It was simply a random idea to see if scrap cardboard could be used in a cost-effective way to produce a simple swimming pool anyone could make for their personal use – even during a drought.
Prior to attempting to build the pool, my previous YouTube videos involved rudimentary craft ideas targeted to young viewers. Nothing too complex – stuff like toys, puzzles, and dull weapons. I had one ‘viral’ concept in 2009 concerning a cardboard bazooka, but beyond that, my channel wasn’t doing very well.
When I uploaded the cardboard swimming pool video in August 2011, my eyes opened to new possibilities.
The video did not become a viral hit. However, the video’s growth, positive ratings, and feedback were beyond expectations. The feedback and sudden subscriber growth genuinely shocked me. After admitting the pool exploded open when I tried to fill it to the top, parents and educators continued to tell me how much they loved the idea and never considered cardboard could be used in that way. Science teachers explained how they used the video for their classes. Fathers shared their bonding stories over smaller attempts with their kids. The positive comments dwarfed the now-and-then ignorant comments to the point where viewers were defending the concept for me whenever a trollish comment would appear.
The response to the swimming pool video showed me I could move beyond doing the same simple crafts for kids everyone else was doing and instead try to innovate in ways that would make sense for adults. This is the pivot point for me – a channel now dedicated to complex adult crafts and the birth of my slogan “welcome to creative madness”! Gone were the puzzles and toys…in came the cardboard furniture, large displays, and exercise equipment. Eventually, in came design contracts, commercial deals, and opportunities I didn’t anticipate. I’m telling you – sometimes trying insane things pays off in the end. That’s how we got the TV, Pet Rocks, and 3D printers!
But the most inspiring aspect of making the video was the constant comments from viewers requesting another cardboard pool. My subscribers wanted me to try again and after five long years, I found the time and materials to make a better design happen. The rebirth of the cardboard swimming pool had begun!
I made a smaller and thicker pool over a two week period using a rubber membrane coating called Liquid Rubber and PL Premium adhesives.
I learned from the first cardboard pool attempt that the key to success was thicker pool walls and a coating mix that could effectively hold water. The rock coating used for the 2011 pool was water resistant but due to the expanding and moving motion of the cardboard when I walked on it or with the water pressure, the rock coating began to crack. It wasn’t a big deal when the pool was a ¼ full. However, once I got it to ½ full, the cracks gave way and the thin back wall ripped open. The good thing was my lawn, plus my two neighbor’s lawns, got a great watering.
This time around, I made the pool smaller (6×8 feet) with thick 6x corrugated walls (twice as thick as the 2011 pool walls). For the coating mix, I stumbled onto Liquid Rubber while doing a Google search for bendable waterproof paints. I found that Liquid Rubber dries smoothly and expands and contracts with the cardboard. Oil-based varnish on the exterior ensures the pool is waterproof on all sides.
The pool includes water pump attachments to circulate water. A metal drainage spout is present to drain the pool using a hose.
In my 2011 attempt, I tried to fill the pool without giving much thought to water pressure. That was a huge mistake on my part!! With this new pool, there is no need to fill the water to the top of the 3-foot-tall walls. At a third full, the pool can withstand the volume of water. It’s also safer for my 4-year-old daughter who is still learning how to swim.
If the pool is no longer needed or if the season changes, simply cut apart and recycle. Zero waste!
People still ask me, “What is the point?” or “Why waste time and money on something you are going to ‘trash’ after a few uses?” Both are valid questions and I still continue to provide the same answer since 2011.
The point of the cardboard swimming pool is to showcase ingenuity, upcycling, and experimentation. I want to showcase the versatility of cardboard. Demonstrate how ideas considered ‘impossible’ or ‘impractical’ are anything but! Nothing stops us from taking cardboard’s use further when it can be designed to hold water! Cardboard is free and overly abundant! There is no excuse for not using this material to create amazing things.
Many of the inventions used today were once experiments considered ‘foolish’, ‘utter failures,’ and ‘wastes of time’ by experts. The Slinky toy, the television, and Post-It Notes are examples.
This cardboard swimming pool might not be for you and you still might find the whole idea foolish. However, if its existence gets you thinking just a bit about making your own crazy invention, then the concept has done its job. My family plays in the water while you start making the next great insane innovation/invention.
Happy inventing and stay cool whichever way works for you!!