Thursday, June 16, 2016

Cardboard Castle

Today, I suddenly remembered this post that's been sitting on my dashboard for what seems like forever. A bit ashamed, seeing as it's one of those rare posts (these days, anyway) involving my favorite crafting material. As promised, here is Emily's cardboard castle!

This was a group research project that Emily and four other classmates worked on over several weeks. Two groups each researched and built a castle that could theoretically both provide offensive assault on, and defend itself against, enemies. Apart from size specifications and being allowed to use "materials found around the house", there were no other limitations. Emily's team met primarily at our house (reason: we have a lot of materials 'lying around') and together, they furnished and equipped the castle with all kinds of fun details.

I found it interesting that both teams worked on all these fun details first and left the actual castle structure to the very last minute!

I loved the outcome. Not only because it was cardboard, but also because the kids used so many different materials and thought up some pretty ingenious designs for many of the moving parts. No adults were allowed to help, Emily kept reminding me each time I attempted to join in. It is hard to resist cardboard! She only let me go shopping for supplies - paint and glue sticks and other non-cardboard items :(

Come along on the grand tour!

First are the soldiers -

36 of them, as required in the assignment (not sure if they are all here in the photo - I didn't count). The kids recycled old peg dolls that had been casually painted by my girls when they were toddlers and preschoolers. We saved some of the more charming ones and let Emily's team silver-wash the rest. I love that there are girl soldiers as well as boy ones.

Soldiers need food, so the team built a representative plantation. Here is a small allotment, made of popsicle sticks and toothpicks,

divided into 36 lots. The green foundation is cardboard partitioned by chenille stems, painted green.

There were three kinds of crops. The wheat was yellow yarn treated with Stiffy and glued in short bunches to the ground. The carrots and lettuces/cabbages were polymer clay.

Next is a well for water. The base is the rim of a red Solo cup, glued to a circle of cardboard. The water was a circle of blue scrapbooking paper glued into it. The cone of the well was duct tape wrapped around cardboard and painted to look like stone, attached to the base with popsicle sticks. The bucket is again polymer clay, suspended from the roof with yarn.

Inside the castle, the floor was painted grey and marked off into flagstones with black Sharpie. Rooms were partitioned off with bottomless shoeboxes. This is the royal chamber - here are the king and queen,

with their bed and bookshelf,

and a working fireplace that vents into a chimney tower. Emily wired the fireplace with a simple LED circuit - AA batteries (hidden under the bed), an LED and a switch.

Here are the soldiers' barracks -

36 pallets  

and double-bunks in rainbow colors.

The bunks are cardboard slabs embellished with fleece mattresses and cotton ball pillows, and toothpicks for bedposts. Here is a purple bunk posing with a castle maid, atop one of the towers (cardboard tube). This tower has a viewing platform made from a CD jewel case.

Here is that maid with her friend, another maid.

Here is another tower with a viewing gallery made from the bottom of a red Solo cup stuck with duct tape for battlements.

This is the keep, which is a reincarnated oatmeal container.

It contains a bench and barrels of cider and ale root beer.

The door at the bottom hinges open and shut on an ingenious mechanism involving a toothpick and pony beads. You will see another cunning use of pony beads in the next feature -

The drawbridge! And portcullis! Made with popsicle sticks filed sharp with sandpaper!

This drawbridge has an elaborate portcullis that raises and lowers. Behold - RS:

and WS:

I adore the frame and pulley mechanism which Emily designed - more pony beads!

Finally, here is the secret passageway for spiriting the king and queen away from danger.

It is a little circle of cardboard over its hole,

It connects through a tunnel (paper roll in zig-zag configuration) to an exit to the outside, under the moat.

The route was assiduously fine-tuned with test marbles to be sure it ejected its contents smoothly. 

The moat itself was cardboard strips overlaid with more blue scrapbooking paper, and buttressed with popsicle sticks and cardboard triangles.

Voila! Cardboard masterpiece. I am very proud, even though I didn't make any of it. One of the boys in Emily's team made a working wooden trebuchet - sadly, I don't have a photo - that reportedly shoots its projectiles to 17 feet.

A devastating weapon indeed, although not as formidable as a glue gun in the hand of an 11-year-old; with it, she - or he - can build wonders.


  1. That's amazing!
    Just looking at pictures and reading your descriptions make me want to make one (although it would surely not be that nice!)
    Congratulations, Emily (and friends), you rock!

  2. That is impressive!!! I was crafty when I was little but it was rare for me to actually finish anything. My cardboard castle got as far as the cut-outs around the top with taller corners for towers before it became a toy/junk box.

  3. All the way through this post, I kept shaking my head in wonder! How amazing! How elaborate! Way to go, Emily & Co.! Some great thinkers you are!!

  4. What a fantastic creation. It's incredible what kids can do when let loose with a mission.

  5. Wow! I especially love the buttressed moat, and the hinged door!

  6. I am so impressed! These children did a fantastic job!

  7. A+, Team Emily! Keep up the good work!

  8. Wow,this has taken me back to when my girls were young, nothing ever as elaborate as this, now shedding a little tear for those moments past. What a beautiful creation!

  9. waaauw, this looks soooo great!!! i LOVE it!! They put so much effort in it, and so much detail!! really great!

  10. Oh, these years do blow by so quickly. You'll find remnants of this project in subsequent projects (like the peg dolls recruited for soldier duty) for years to come.
    Thank you so much for sharing this. I like bags and stuff, but this is my secret heartfelt love.
    (said by the mom of a teen she's up late waiting for)

  11. Amazing! I can totally wee why you are proud. I can only dream that my kids one day will come up with something half this creative.

  12. LOVE this. Who knew pony beads could be so useful?

  13. I love you you and the school have made an environment for children to be creative in problem solving.

    1. Sorry that should have read 'I love how you' - didn't preview it before posting :(


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