Introduction: Build a Cardboard Tank

Picture of Build a Cardboard Tank

My buddies and I were trying to think of something we could build out of cardboard and duct tape. We came up with a tank. It was a little more costly than originally estimated, but it was fun and the end result is amazing. It'll blow your friends away! This instructable will go through each step in the process, and hopefully you'll be able to build your very own tank for you to play in (or your kids/pets/neighbors/neighbor's cat to play in). BTW, please hit the vote button for the cardboard and duct tape contest!!!!

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools

For this job, all you really need is cardboard, duct tape (regular gray, dark gray, white, and black), and something to cut with (utility knife works great). We also used a few power tools along the way, just to speed the job up--they're not required. Also, get as much cardboard as you can get your hands on. We went to or called every appliance store in town begging for cardboard. Ask for fridge boxes, washer/dryer boxes, anything big works great. Also, be sure to ask for the extremely hard cardboard used to protect the corners of the appliances. These are a must in a first couple steps. And, as for the duct tape, I think we ended up using about 60 rolls.

Step 2: Build the Frame

Picture of Build the Frame

Take those tough corner pieces, the strong tubes, the duct tape and start putting it together. We cut slots in the tubes to help support the corner pieces, then wrapped the joint in duct tape in a X shape.

Step 3: Begin Adding the "Skin" and Other Supports

Picture of Begin Adding the "Skin" and Other Supports

Once the frame is built, grab some of the fridge boxes and start piecing it all together. At this point, it doesn't look much like a tank at all, but remember, this is just the skeleton! You have to keep the vision in your mind. 

Step 4: Create the Turret and the Wheels

Picture of Create the Turret and the Wheels

The turret is made the same way as the main body of the tank (frame and skin). The wheel are cardboard concrete forms used for footings in construction work. They are 16" in diameter, and 10" deep. There's 7 wheels per side.

Step 5: Tape It Up With the Colored Tape!

Picture of Tape It Up With the Colored Tape!

We were going for a snow camo look. And of course we wanted to do the new digital camo styling. So, we taped the whole body in white, the tracks and behind the wheels in cheap gray tape, the wheels were black with a white hub, and we used multiple shades of gray and black for the camo patterns.

Step 6: Go Have Fun With Your New Tank...

Picture of Go Have Fun With Your New Tank...

We took ours down a tube run. It was a blast.


Stealth_invader (author)2016-01-11

im making a cardboard tank for a miniature army with my friends. im gonna add holes so i can stick a nerf gun through.

beasthunter (author)2015-06-13

Wow! I'm going to make a cardboard tank for a movie I'm making. That tank helps a lot ! Will send pic of it when I'm done!

tomgerg (author)2014-07-27

although not nearly as grand as the one shown here, I made a full size 2d M1 tank out of cardboard for my son-in-law when he retired from the marines. I had quite a lot of trouble finding a group that wanted it when I was done. (finally found one, but I don't know if they ever used it)

captain mustache (author)2013-04-07


captain mustache (author)2013-04-07

That is awesome! Are you willing to sell it? If yes how much?

joshabgvghn (author)2013-04-04

I want one with my bed in it always ready

knocknock (author)2013-03-23

Try building an airplane next!

Ringer1633 (author)2013-03-22

does it move?

jimmycorrao33 (author)Ringer16332013-03-22

No, doesn't move. But I think you should build one and make it move!

Loric (author)2013-03-21

What a great job!! You were most deserving of the grand prize award.

shotgunshane (author)2013-02-26

so, what other contest was this in, hmm? i see other cardboard cars in the background of your pics.

that's the reason for all of the 330 stuff on it. the name of the group is 3-3-0. it stands for john 3:30 "He must become greater; i must become less."

HollyMann (author)jimmycorrao332013-03-19

I love it! John 3:16 is so well I'll remember John 3:30

it was originally built for the youth group at my church. that's why we took it down the tube run. it's called the boxsled blitz at hume lake Christian camp.

Ok cool, i wish it could roll, then I would build one. It would be really pointless though.

I did not even pay attention to the 330 stuff, but i see it now.

HollyMann (author)2013-03-19

You are awesome and ambitious! Congratulations on deserve it!!!

tylernator (author)2013-02-25

Nice job, great detail. I made a 1:1 M1Abrams out of cardboard, duct tape, pvc, and zip ties. I actually built it around a truck and drove it around. A video effects friend of mine used it to make Cardboard Warfare, you would probably like it.

jimmycorrao33 (author)tylernator2013-02-26

hahaha i'll have to check that out...sounds awesome!

shazni (author)2013-02-25

wow!! do we see a winner here??

samsoltan (author)2013-02-25

Great instructable... Have you ever heard of Jasper Maskelyne a British magician who worked on deception including fake tank, trucks and pipelines.

DaveB13 (author)2013-02-24

BTW - Coroplast
It's the plastic cardboard political posters are made of. Take them Aft er an election. Upside: free, waterproof, you remove unwanted posters from the streetscape. Downsides: test paint on front & rear sides, paint may not stick see coroplast FAQ (GOOGLE) , Transmits some light unlike cardboard, "corugations" (square sections) do not run at right angles to edges as they appear.

kage_no_mozaiku (author)2013-02-24

good god man! did you happen to get any footage of the launching? that would be ace to watch.

scooter76 (author)2013-02-24


agis68 (author)2013-02-24

greate jop....any plans to share? does it planed to roll also?how?

stremblay (author)2013-02-24


shotgunshane (author)2013-02-24

How many rolls of duct tape did you use for this?

digitalmonkeyman (author)2013-02-24

Very cool! Great job! So what was the total cost?

All the cardboard was free, so it was just the cost of duct tape. I think it ended being about 300 or so.

rhino (author)2013-02-24

My cats would totally love that! I would have to make the barrel bigger so cats could climb inside it and look out though.

sockeye101 (author)2013-02-24

Any idea how to make the turret rotate-able?

jimmycorrao33 (author)sockeye1012013-02-24

Yes, we cut a hole in the top/middle of the main body, and attached some of that 16" concrete form to the bottom of the turret. It was about 12" deep into the main body. We had no problems. Hope that helps.

plasMad62 (author)2013-02-24

Well done gentlemen! Very nice job!

Bochiechio (author)2013-02-24

How heavy is it?

searx (author)2013-02-23

why isn't this in the cardboard and duct tape contest?

jimmycorrao33 (author)searx2013-02-23

I've tried to enter it a couple times, but it says that its a moderated contest and has to be reviewed first, but I still haven't heard anything. Oh well I guess. I want it to be in the contest!

Patience, young jedi. It takes a few days or more for the contest moderator to moderate. They don't do weekends so you will have to wait at least until Monday California time for them to get back to work.

oldsod (author)2013-02-23

You guys are Duct Tape HEROS.!
You HAVE to enter this in the Duct Tape / Cardboard Contest.
It is everything that a DTC project should be:
1 - bigger than you thought
2 - more expensive than you thought
3 - much more complicated and more work than anyone thought
4 - Totally WICKED
and did I mention - I WANT ONE ON MY FRONT LAWN!
I going to talk some of the EMTs at my hospital into building one inspired by you for the children's rehab unit. I think we'll try to design it "down" a bit - a little smaller, lighter and simpler so it can be replaced easily when the kids are too hard on it...

jimmycorrao33 (author)oldsod2013-02-23

Lol! It did turn out to be a little more expensive than thought, but its almost exactly half scale to a real tank. So, in that aspect, we figured it would be a little large :) and I've tried to put it in the contest a couple times, once when I made the instructable, and once yesterday, but I haven't heard anything back.

Btw, I'm glad we can be an inspiration for you. Post pics if you build something!

camping crazy (author)2013-02-21

That is awesome!!!

caitlinsdad (author)2013-02-21

Was this built inside a community center? It would be great to put one up at a veteran's association, lodge or old folks home. I bet you came across the "how are we going to get this blasted thing out of the door" conundrum.

Yeah, we asked ourselves that question pretty often.

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