Cardboard: An Affordable Building Material

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When lumber prices skyrocketed through 2020 and remained there, many woodworking projects that were once affordable quickly became out of reach for many people. Some types of lumber were not even available to buy at any price.

This was a big challenge for us as a small, independent website. We had plans to create all kinds of woodworking project tutorials – but we operate on a shoestring budget and the high prices of lumber made this cost prohibitive.

While there are many creative ways to source wood and upcycle the material, it presented another challenge: time.

If you are upcycling wood from something else, there’s a lot of time involved to get it ready for building something new. You could spend days going around to collect wood from different people – not to mention all the time spent sanding, dismantling and cutting to get what you want and need to build something new.

We also thought about our readers: If we couldn’t afford to make a lot of these projects, we knew that the majority of our readers would also struggle with the same problem. If you’ve read our posts about makerspaces, you know that inclusion and accessibility are something we value greatly.

And so, as makers who love to create and build things so we asked ourselves: what material could we build with that’s not wood?

This is where cardboard entered the picture as an affordable building material. Sure, it is not as strong or as nice looking as a beautiful piece of maple or cherry, but it is readily available and in most cases you can get cardboard for free.

To be clear: Cardboard is not always a viable alternative to wood, especially if you were building something like outdoor patio furniture or kitchen cabinets. But for many hobby projects, cardboard is the perfect solution for being able to make awesome things without the high cost. It’s also great for prototyping projects that you do eventually want to build with wood!

Here are some of the main advantages to building with cardboard:

  • It’s free! (If you can’t get it for free, it’s definitely very cheap at different moving companies who sell boxes!) See our post on how to get free cardboard.
  • It’s easy to cut: You don’t need a single power tool to work with cardboard. If you have a box cutter or precision cutting tools, you can easily cut all kinds of shapes – you could even use affordable cutting machines such as a Sizzix, Cricut or Silhouette machine.
  • You can bend it easily: With cardboard, you can easily create unique shapes – whether it’s a rounded top or something with curves.
  • Flexible joinery techniques: Glue and duct tape are always a viable option, but you can also use several other easy cardboard joinery techniques for more stability in your projects.
  • Unlimited Finishes: Here is where you can really get creative with your projects, as you don’t have to feel guilty about covering up the look of natural cardboard like you would if you were painting wood. You can use paint, paper mache, decoupage – all of these things are great finish options to explore!

We are excited to open this new chapter of cardboard projects on our website – we already have several fun and easy project tutorials in the works!

Our next few posts will have many tips for working with and building with cardboard – and we hope you stay with us as we explore all the different things we can make together with cardboard.

If you have any project tutorial requests or ideas for things you can make with cardboard, please do let us know! You can share your requests in the comments below or get in touch via our contact form. We are so excited to bring the accessibility of cardboard to our website and can’t wait to create with you!

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