Cardboard: In Praise of an Underappreciated Material

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Cardboard: In Praise of an Underappreciated Material
The outdoor cardboard Adirondack chair
The outdoor cardboard Adirondack chair

You might not be aware of it, but your home has an infestation of the most abundant, versatile, free and under-utilized crafting and prototyping material ever made.  A gift from the consumer driven economy we overlook everyday.

This material is sitting cluttered in scattered piles in the basement and in crawl spaces, is buried within dusty mounds in the garage and is waiting to be discarded while overflowing in the recycling bin.

The material I am referring to is good old grade-A cardboard!  Be it thin ‘paperboard’ boxes that housed our store bought board games or the thicker corrugated variety that kept our large screen TV safe from the harmful elements of the outside world, cardboard is overly abundant and sadly not appreciated for its potential practical inventive uses.

When we think about combining cardboard and creation, the first general view that usually comes to mind involves crafting for young children. The joyous imagery of a toddler walking around with a box on his/her head, dioramas for school projects, doll houses or a makeshift battle fort for our kids is in the forefront of our understanding of why scrap cardboard is useful. It is less common for more adult professional minds to see cardboard as the go to material for large-scale expressions of our inventive needs.  Well, I think it’s time for us adults to explore the awesomeness of cardboard for the inexpensive and unconventional practicality it can provide to our artistic pursuits on multiple levels.

When I started the Homemade Game Guru You Tube channel in 2008, I too started with the mindset that cardboard was best suited to demonstrate simple children’s crafts. I greatly enjoyed playing with cardboard during my adolescence and those fun memories led to the original idea of making how-to videos to utilize cardboard to entertain children exclusively.  For the first year of my channel, I made purely simplistic crafts like picture frames and bean bag toss games geared to parents who wanted to use scrap cardboard to entertain their kids. But then in 2009, my eyes were opened to a new dimension of innovative thinking that changed my prospective on how to demonstrate cardboard’s usefulness to an older demographic.

It was in 2009 that I decided to make a water balloon bazooka out of scrap cardboard and elastic bands. It was a crazy random idea that seemed impractical on the surface and nonsensical in its combination of a water-based projectile with cardboard — yet it eventually became a viral success garnering over a million views and numerous comments of support from educators, weapons enthusiasts, retirees, and adults who enjoyed a challenge. I discovered people were open to the idea that cardboard can be used in imaginative and unconventional ways. And unconventional is where I decided the Homemade Game Guru had to go.

My channel now pushes the boundaries of what cardboard can be used to create. From practical board game prototyping applications and weapon designs, to ostentatious feats of WTF like cardboard swimming pools (I’m dead serious!), rotating video game lamps and outdoor waterproofed Adirondack chairs.  I have learned that cardboard can be made into practically anything you want for next to nothing in cost. It is an amazing building material that has earned its due of respect!

So, to all the crafting enthusiasts, inventors, innovators, designers and artists out there, I hope we can journey together to discover just how useful cardboard can be in your creative endeavors. I know there is already a growing community of crafty individuals who appreciate the versatility cardboard provides, but lets grow that community around the world.  If you are on a tight budget, have a plethora of creative ideas and your mind is open to ‘practical creative madness’, let’s get that cardboard working for you!  Tell the recycling guy to wait a week…or month — that blue box is gonna be empty for a while.

I look forward to sharing some of creations in the weeks ahead and would like to hear from you about what you’ve created out of cardboard.

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As a fanatic crafting fan, inventor, author and designer, I just enjoy making new things for the fun of it! I operate an award-winning how-to You Tube channel called The Homemade Game Guru to share my love of creation with people worldwide. Utilizing cardboard in grandiose ways is my specialty.

I also run an unique online design class to help anyone create a Personal Family Tree Board Game. You can sign up for that class here.

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