Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Cardboard Popper - a tutorial by Kate

Hello friends! I hope everyone's surviving the winter and finding ways to enjoy the sun (when it turns up).

We've just come out of a cold snap here in Minnesota. Negative 20s and whatnot. Not pleasant at all, but we stayed in and did virtual school and tried not to let cabin fever make us too cranky. 

Kate has been making fidget toys. Too many Zoom classes at school, perhaps. Sitting still in a physical classroom is not nearly as odious as being hyperattentive on a videocalls for hours on end. Especially when there aren't any physical friends to sit next to, or when half the attendees' screens are dark and muted. Big hugs to all the kids out there who are showing up anyway, and doing their darnest to make it work. We see you, we're proud of you and we can only imagine how tough it is. 

Anyway, Kate spent several afternoons making an assortment of things to play with. Some were inspired by pre-existent toys she'd seen online. This one, the Simpl Dimpl, was actually an infant toy she discovered last summer when we met up with her baby cousin for the first time. It's curiously addictive to play with!

This popper is Kate's cardboard and paper version. She named it after the original toy and, as you can see in the photo below, it's version 2.0, the more robust iteration of her prototype.

Here it is in Kate's hands, to give you an idea of its size.

And here are a couple of videos of Kate popping the colored dimples.

There are so much I love about this design. The circles, foremost, because they're round and all those colors make the whole thing look like a happy artist's palette. And also because it's brilliant in its simplicity. Finally, it's cardboard. And my kid combined art and Physics, using stuff around the house to invent a workable version of a commercial plastic thing. 

Too good not to share with others, I thought. After all, who's to say there aren't other kids with time on their hands, going slightly bonkers at virtual school, missing friends and all the other good things from the World Before?

Shall we make a popper together? Here is Kate's tutorial - she made this Two- Dimple popper for ikatbag and walked me through the steps. I watched her, took photos and asked a lot of annoying questions.

We made a template for you to download if you're disinclined to freehand the shapes the way she did for her prototypes. There are two frame templates:  "The Two" and "The Eight". The Dimple template will work with either frame.

Click HERE to download the template.

This is what you'll need for "The Two":

  • 1 x "The Two" frame in corrugated cardboard (we cut ours with the flutes parallel to the longer axis of the frame)
  • 2 x "The Two" frame in white card stock 
  • Narrow strips of the same white card stock to cover the edge of the project
  • 2 x Dimple circles in paper or card stock. We found that while thick printer paper gives the most satisfying "pop", construction paper and card stock also work.

plus (not shown in the photo above):

  • clear tape wide enough to cover the Dimple circles (packing tape works well)
  • high temperature hot glue gun
  • scissors and X-acto or craft utility knife

Here's a tip for cutting out the frame: cut out the circles inside the frame first, and then cut around the outline of the frame - cutting something out of big shape is easier than cutting it out of a smaller shape because the bigger shape is more stable and moves less. This is true for both the card stock and cardboard, but is especially helpful for the cardboard. Here's why: when cutting stuff out of card stock, most people work on a cutting mat (or stack of newspapers) and use a slicing action to cut through the card stock with one hand while holding the card stock flat and stationary with the other hand. The thickness of the corrugated cardboard requires a sawing motion to get the blade all the way through the hollow flutes to the underside, and most people will hold the piece of cardboard away from a cutting surface to allow the blade to move freely in and out. If you'd cut around the outline of the frame first, there'd have been a lot less cardboard to hold on to while you were sawing out the inner circles - not only is this less stable, there's also a higher likelihood of the frame itself bending or being overly manipulated by the time the circles are liberated from it.

Let's begin! 

First, cover both sides of the circles with clear tape,

leaving enough tape around the edges

to "bubble cut" a border of at least 1/8" around them.

You don't have to do this beforehand, but we cut a slit (see next step) as a visual guide so we didn't have to draw on the plastic later.

You can eyeball this next step without actually drawing the radial lines (like in the pink circle above), but we included them in the green circle for clarity.

Cut along ONE of the lines to make a slit,

then bring that cut edge to meet the second line, overlapping the segment between them.

This should give you a very wide and shallow cone. 

Tape the edge down with a small piece of clear tape.

Invert the cone and flip it over. The cut edge will pop out on the underside. Tape that down with a piece of clear tape as well.

Make two of these shallow cones.

Fire up the hot glue gun. On one side of the cardboard frame, apply glue over the entire surface.

Stick on one of the white card stock frames. This side is finished.

Flip the frame over. On the other, bare side of the cardboard, apply glue around one of the inner circles

and stick one of the cones over the circular hole. It'll be mostly the clear 1/8" border around the paper that gets glued on.

Repeat this to stick the second cone over the other circular hole.

Now apply glue to the rest of the frame around the cones,

and stick the other card stock frame on. 

Here's a photo of Kate using the stub of a marker to press the card stock more firmly to the cardboard surface, because it was too hot to use her fingers.

You can declare the popper finished at this point, or you could keep going and cover the bare edge, too (we did!)

Apply hot glue to the edge in a short section at a time, and glue on the narrow strip of card stock, pressing it carefully (here's the fingertips-saving marker again) to ensure it adheres fully.

Here's the completed popper: The Two.

The dimples should pop in and out easily.

Kate made "The Eight" the same way, except with Dimples in eight colors. 

Happy making!


  1. Oh, I love this! Going to show my son tomorrow. I know he'll want to make one. Thanks for the tutorial, Kate!

  2. Oh how clever, Kate! I am teaching middle school over Zoom all day and knowing how tired that makes me means I have tons of empathy for the kids on the other side of the screen. Emma and Johnny both have zoom school all day and they will love this! Lily and Anna are lucky enough to just homeschool this year, although it does mean they have to get up in time to do math with me before I start teaching for the day.

  3. i love it very clever


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