Makers Love Cardboard: 8 Awesome Projects from Maker Faire Prove It

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Makers Love Cardboard: 8 Awesome Projects from Maker Faire Prove It

We love cardboard. It’s easy to work with, structurally sound (to a point), and recyclable. You can find it just about anywhere, or buy full sheets if you need pristine stuff. And we noticed, the attendees and Makers at Maker Faire do too. “It goes back to that old adage, the box is just as fun as the thing inside,” says NYSCI’s Michaela Labriole. From domes you can go inside of to games and instruments you can play, cardboard was everywhere. Here are our favorites.

Pinbox 3000


Vermont has a strong culture of cardboard pinball machines, says the Cardboard Teck Instantute, aka Ben T. Matchstick and Pete Talbot. They brought a bunch of mini cardboard pinball machines from Montpelier, all of which were big hits with attendees. They’ve been working in cardboard for some time, building large structures, but the increased availability of laser cutters means they can build games with a lot of variation very quickly. “The best attribute of cardboard, it’s not something you have to measure twice and cut once, you can just grab another piece,” says Matchstick. It’s cheap but strong, and accessible and ephemeral.

Obilab Cardboard Drum Kit


Romain Dilouya is a good drummer. He’s a professional musician, and worked with Obilab founders Patrick Obadia and Caroline Cullière to make a drum kit out of cardboard to make practicing, affording, and storing a drum kit easier.

It’s way more than just cardboard you bang on. Obadia and Cullière enclosed rice in the snare and high hat to get the rattle sound, and glued fiberglass to the ideal striking spots, not just to reinforce the cardboard, but to reinforce good practicing habits and the strike locations on real drums. The whole project was inspired by Dilouya’s struggle to find a way to have a drum kit in a city without annoying his neighbors, and because drum teachers sometimes recommend their students bang on cardboard.

This prototype, the team says, has been played by hundreds of people already, and though it shows the wear of kids playing it at Maker Faire New York, it’s still intact. Not bad for some corrugated paper. And it seems to inspire; One girl who played it said, “It gave me an idea. I can make a violin out of cardboard and see how that sounds.”

Kit Rex

Cardboard is recyclable. That’s great — except when your project made out of laser-cut cardboard gets recycled. Lisa Glover, inventor of Kit Rex, returned to her booth after setup on Friday night to find her entire project gone, picked up by the Maker Faire crew.

That project was Mouse and Benson, two wearable cardboard dinosaur costumes. Glover designed them in Rhino for a grad program at Lehigh University. “People basically harassed me until I did something more with it,” she said. So Mouse has been to three Maker Faires and many Halloween parties, and Glover now produces desktop-sized kit dinosaurs of different species.

As for Mouse and Benson, they were successfully rescued from the dumpster — at least, all but Benson’s back panel. But because they’re cardboard, Glover was able to cut a new back for Benson by hand.

NYSCI Village: Cardboard Creations

The New York Hall of Science had its own cardboard village, with an interplanetary twist. They provided cardboard, tape, and packing peanuts (and a few unusual cutting tools), and asked kids to build a model Mars settlement.

Cardboard is perfect, says David Wells, director of maker programming at NYSCI, because it’s recyclable, sustainable, simple, open-ended, and most of all, familiar. “When people are familiar with stuff, it’s easier to interact,” he says.

Opencreators Mannequin


Minhyuk Kang, Jongeon Choi, and Junhwan Kang built a 3D printer using cardboard. Metal can be dangerous, points out Kang, and this is safe, comfortable, and you can swap out the sides. “We want it to be used by children, for education,” he says. The South Korean pair were selling the kit, which takes about two hours to build, for a Maker Faire price of $899.

Giant Bear Head

Bartholomew Ting describes himself as a cardboard sculptor. His sculptures are typically large, and often inhabitable. Designed in 3ds Max, Ting first showed the head at Maker Faire Singapore. “It’s kind of like a jigsaw puzzle,” he says. Ting built it (with help from volunteers) during Maker Faire, and followed it up with a life-size F1 car.


Dreams and Apocalyptic Stories from Freud and Augustine


Cardboard is everywhere, free or cheap, and flexible, says Jody Culkin, a sculptor who has worked in the medium for years. She built two automata based on Freud’s Dream Analysis and St. Augustine’s City of God, and the figures are creepy, but the mechanism that makes them spin also makes them fun.

“Digital technologies have brought these other ways of working with cardboard,” she says. The boxes she cut with an X-Acto knife, but the figures on the top and sides were laser cut.

She calls it an inspiring material, and good for prototyping. “I think it has a lot of beauty on its own,” she adds.

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Nathan Hurst is an editor at Make. He loves anything having to do with science or bicycling. He tweets as @nathanbhurst.

View more articles by Nathan Hurst


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