Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Cardboard Mailbox

You would not believe how excited I am to share the next series of posts.

Because finally: a cardboard tutorial. Three, in fact.

Here is a sad truth: there isn't enough cardboard on the internet. There is a lot of fabric, which manifests as tote bags and elasticized skirts and burp cloths and quilts and birthday garlands. And there is a lot of paper, which manifests as pop-up cards and origami and coloring sheets and airplanes. And then there is no end to slime, which is on youtube and in craft stores and Target and, well, everywhere.

Cardboard, though, is not everywhere. 😠 But it should be. Because it's free, and because it's amazing. 

In 2011, as part of my mission to Spread The Word, I wrote a post on how to work with cardboard, which Family Fun magazine adapted into an article a year later. I was thrilled that more than just my blog readers would get to learn all about cardboard. Whoo!

But still a tiny drop in the ocean. Nanotiny. 

Early in the summer, a company commissioned me to create some cardboard projects for their press release. I don't get cardboard commissioned work nearly as much as fabric, so this was an absolute treat. I designed three projects: a mailbox, a carousel and three townhouse-inspired display boards to showcase their new line of holiday greeting cards. 

Most of the cardboard projects on this blog are left unembellished so my kids could decorate them. Occasionally, I did take the time to fancy up one or two of them, like this tiffin carrier, and this Barbie dollhouse, and I loved the outcomes so much that I've often wished I'd dressed up more of my other projects. 

For this commissioned work, I got to do just that. Over the next few posts, I'll be sharing photos, as well as some deconstruction processes, to show you what we can make with just cardboard, a Sharpie and some paint. Enjoy!

The first project is a cardboard mailbox. I don't have the dimensions of the individual pieces; instead:

  • if you have access to one of these mailboxes in or around your neighborhood, you can measure it, which was what I did to make mine, or
  • you can make up your own dimensions to create a customized mailbox. You'll see in this tutorial how each piece fits against other pieces, and be able to determine related dimensions that way.

I began with the base and ends of the mailbox. One end was the Door, which was a stand-alone piece. The other End was integrated with the Base, which had additional flaps on the other three sides for attaching the Door and remaining walls.

The attached End was scored and folded up.

The curved Top of the mailbox started as a rectangular piece of cardboard. One side was the length of the mailbox i.e. the length of the Base. The other side matched the curved top and two parallel sides of the Door. The flutes of the cardboard ran parallel to the length of the mailbox. You will see this in the next photo.

Here was how that rectangular piece of cardboard was shaped into an arch - the center region was folded parallel to the flutes while the rest was left unfolded to form the straight sides.

For the sake of clarity, let's call this shaped piece the Top of the mailbox.

Attaching this curved Top to the base: I first glued one long edge of the Base,

then rolled the curved cardboard Top over the edge of the End, gluing it in place gradually.

I then glued the remaining edge of the Top to the other long edge of the Base where they met.

The Door was then glued to the remaining flap, creating a hinge.

Next, I made the fastener. There were many possibilities for this - hook and loop tape, a magnet, a button, a store-bought hasp, or even just friction from a tightly-fitting door. I used a magnetic snap. I folded a 1" strip of cardboard into this shape to make a mount for one half of the snap. 

On the portion that touches the door (this will be clearer later), I installed one half of the snap.

right side                               wrong side

Here is that mount again, and you can see where the snap is. I used paper fasteners to attach the mount to the mailbox. The two triangles in the photo below will cover both sides of the triangular-shaped hole in the mount once the fasteners have been installed.

Here is the mount attached to the ceiling of the mailbox Top - first with glue, 

and then three paper fasteners. The triangular pieces of cardboard were glued on next, and you can see them (just barely) in the photo below and in later photos of the finished mailbox. The prongs of the paper fastener were later concealed under a strip of decorative trim.

Here is the handle of the mailbox.

attached to the Door with glue and more studs/paper fasteners,

On the inside of the door is the other half of the magnetic snap.

Here is the snap system in action. You can also see the strip of decorative trim around the opening of the mailbox. It serves two purposes - one, to conceal the prongs of the fastener attaching the mount and two, to reinforce the opening of the mailbox.

Here is the flag. I used one of the earlier-version Makedo connectors but you could just as well use a good paper fastener, or a short bolt and nut.

Here is the flag, with its edges taped (to cover the flutes) and then painted. Holes were punched into the bottom end of the flag 

and the corresponding installation point on the mailbox,

and put together. You might also have noticed that the edges of the Door were also taped. By "taping", I mean that narrow strips of kraft paper were cut and glued around the thickness of the Door, to cover the flutes. Cardboard flutes are beautiful, but there are times when I will choose to tape over them for a smooth finish, and for strength. The back (inside) of the Door has also been lined with the same kraft paper for a clean finish.

Some finished shots. Because this mailbox was designed to showcase holiday cards, I chose to preserve as much of the natural brown of the cardboard as I could, and so added only a little line art and paint.

This way, the cards are the main focus.

Check back soon for the other two projects!

Monday, October 2, 2017


Hello, friends!

Thank you for all your email messages and comments to my last post. I think I'm all caught up now with replying to everyone, but I'm going to keep responding to anyone who writes to me or leaves a comment, even if it's weeks and months from now, because I love hearing from you guys so much. 

I get it that sometimes when people are asked for advice, they don't know if it's an earnest request or some flippant sideways compliment, so it's no wonder they sometimes choose to laugh it off in supreme awkwardness. So I appreciate that you guys stepped up to share your stories with me, because this is parenthood, isn't it - standing with other parents to build them up and make it safe to ask for help? Brava, ladies!

More recently, I've been watching another child let go of a part of her childhood.

Kate and I have been in negotiations (for want of a better word) over Bunny for some time now. Bunny is 4 years old and Kate's best non-human friend. Bunny is also the project for which I've received the most requests for a sewing pattern. Whenever I'd broached the idea to Kate however, the answer had always been No There Cannot Be More Than One Bunny In The World. This wasn't selfishness speaking; this was sheer terror of losing something precious to the internet (teenagers would do well to learn this, actually).

At the same time, Kate loved the idea of other children having a bunny they could love at least as much as she does. And while she drew her boundaries (we don't sell our friends, Mom!) she'd often ask  - quietly, and when all the hubbub had died down - if people really liked Bunny and wished they had her, and were there many who said so? 

And so we waited; perhaps there might come a time, I thought, when she'd be ready to share this priceless friendship with the world. And when that time came, we'd be glad we hadn't hurried it. 

This year, she said yes.

(But with conditions!)

Example: the new bunny had to look quite different than Bunny herself. And it couldn't be exactly the same size. 

Very fair, I thought. So we've been making bunnies since - bunnies of all colors and textures and faces. And Kate has loved coming home from school each day to the newest iteration, of which there are many, because of all the tweaking that happened before this final version emerged.

All the photos are taken and I'm starting to write the instructions this week. It's always a toss-up between which stage feels more laborious - the writing, the prototype-drafting, or the photo-documenting of the in-progress construction. I'll just say that I'm glad the earlier parts of the process are over because for too many days there was a gigantic light tent in the sewing room, the floor itself of which was scattered with uncountable piles of furry, shedding fabric, bags of stuffing and spilled poly beads that were a menace underfoot. And the inside of my car is still covered in white fluff from when I was stuffing rabbit limbs while waiting in the pick-up line at the kids's school. 

I'm thinking I might put out a call for alpha testers soon, so look out for a post on that later this month, if it's something you'd like to do for me, okay? Don't decide now, friends - it's just a heads up for the moment; when I have more details on the time frame and the scope of the task, you'll be better able to choose then if it's something you'd be interested in and can commit to.

The seamstress part of me is ecstatic about populating the world with bunnies with whom kids can begin having their own adventures the way Kate and her Bunny have these past four glorious years. But the Mother part of me totally feels the poignancy of this moment - I am glad and sad that we're moving on from that stage in childhood when the world has walls we can see, because we were the ones who'd made them, and painted them in the colors of our imaginations.

Glad and also sad. Holding on and also letting go. Also. That is the refrain of motherhood, isn't it?