Introduction: Make Furniture With Cardboard!

Picture of Make Furniture With Cardboard!

A small end or occasional table is always handy to have around. so I decided to make this project and will enter it in the Gorilla glue contest as well.

Step 1: Draw the Design

Picture of Draw the Design

I just do a rough drawing, saves time, and no need for a CAD program.

Step 2: Gather the Cardboard and Other Materials

Picture of Gather the Cardboard and Other Materials

From my stock of cardboard (I always replenish my supply as I make things), I select the pieces I will need for the end table.

Step 3: Design Is Transferred to Cardboard

Picture of Design Is Transferred to Cardboard

I use a pencil to draw my design. For circle cuts, I use a plate or saucer or any other round object of the correct size. Straight lines are drawn with any available straight edge.

Step 4: Cut Out Pieces

Picture of Cut Out Pieces

The bandsaw is my main tool for cutting cardboard! Of course, I have scissors, box cutter knives, mat cutters, and my own cutting tool. What ever works, the goal is to make clean cuts that are accurate.

Step 5: Glue Pieces Together As Needed

Picture of Glue Pieces Together As Needed

For the side pieces, I glued 4 pieces of cardboard together. Alternating the "grain" of the cardboard will increase the strength considerably. For the lower shelf, 4 pieces were used as well. For the top, I used 4 layers. The back is made up of two pieces.

Step 6: Test Pieces to See That Your Design Is Valid

Picture of Test Pieces to See That Your Design Is Valid

Try to put the pieces together to make sure everything lines up properly. With the "dado" groove for the bottom shelf, the pieces should hold together to check alignment.

Step 7: Glue All Pieces for Final Assembly

Picture of Glue All Pieces for Final Assembly

Glue the project together. I use a T-square as shown to check for squareness, and insure that the piece will be assembled to true square.

Step 8: Finish Edges of Exposed Cardboard.

Picture of Finish Edges of Exposed Cardboard.

In this step, I just cut strips of craft paper (actually a grocery bag) that fit the edge exactly. This is glued on and allowed to dry.

Step 9: Choose a Finish for the End Table/Magazine Holder

Picture of Choose a Finish for the End Table/Magazine Holder

Any of a number of finishes can be used, depending on the look you want to achieve. Acrylic paints are an excellent choice. Using basic painting techniques, a faux-wood look can be achieved quite easily. Or, you might want to cover it with colored papers, cloth, oil based stain, etc. That choice is up to you!


jonno51 (author)2017-11-13


Onixgato (author)2016-04-19

It looks to me that you can make pretty neat speaker enclosures this way. What do you think?

FliteStudent (author)Onixgato2017-01-21

That has promise, with lamination that provides strength. Have you had a chance to try this?

sunnydays140 (author)2016-09-21

middle top of gorgeous wood table with curved antique solid maple legs.the top edges got wet inside the solid wood border of a huge dining table. i went to chip off the veneer and found freaking paper or cardboard underneath. please dont make cardboard furniture with veneer. people who refinish furniture waste money on stuff like this thinking we can strip paint fix veneer and make it look good again. what am i going to do with a solid maple table with ruined middle paper top covered with chipped veneer...

efgal (author)2016-01-26

This is so nice, amazing it's "just" cardboard! One question I have it regarding weight. Do you have an idea of how the weight of such a piece would compare to something similar made out of plywood or MDF? And thanks for the clearly done tute!

Creativeman (author)efgal2016-01-26

Thanks for the comments! It;s very light, maybe 1/5 the weight or even less, than lumber would be.

ArnaudM (author)2015-08-02

Nice job! What kind of finish/paint should I use if I want to make smooth but solid surface for a desk? Thanks!

Creativeman (author)ArnaudM2015-08-02

I would do it the way I finished this piece. Desks usually have desk pads to protect the surface, anyway. good luck and thanks for the comment!

handydan57 (author)2015-06-19

cool! can't believe its made of cardboard!

butterfly_5 (author)2015-05-14

@prinncess00 look on Pinterest they have a couch.
Now instructions, but if you can do this then I'm sure you can draft a plan. I challenge you to do it and share here!! Make sure you send it to me!!!

butterfly_5 (author)2015-05-14

This is awesome!!! Please send me more things you have made with cardboard.
Such as cabinets, shelves, even a magazine rack??
This will be awesome to put in the waiting are of my interior design business. Thanks!!!!!

evacooper (author)2015-03-17

how would i put in a drawer?

SamaA1 (author)2015-01-08

very nice

narendra.rathore.33 (author)2014-11-13


narendra.rathore.33 (author)2014-11-13


narendra.rathore.33 (author)2014-11-13


prinncess00 (author)2014-08-12

now i need a couch

starwarsgeek1 (author)2014-07-09

this freakin awsome um going to have to make one of these for definite for my brothers birthday

rnel1 (author)2014-04-16

You are a genius. Thank you for sharing, love it

DBBGBA (author)2014-04-05

Clear tutorial thanks

bathsheba_everdene (author)2013-09-07

Very nice. Do you know of a way to get perfect cuts on the cardboard without using a bandsaw?

Thanks, I use the bandsaw because it's easier...but cardboard can be cut with box cutters, craft knives, other types of cutting etc. I even saw where one guy was doing it with a jig saw. Good luck.

ozkr (author)2013-03-22

Impressive stuff!

rockerchandru (author)2013-02-07


Feelthbrz (author)2012-09-24

This is very clean! It looks great.

Feelthbrz (author)2012-09-24

If you cut the cardboard pieces a little wider, you can put a screw through the center point of the circle and rotate the unit as the blade cuts a perfect arc. Totally worth it if you're making several things that all need to be identical. The bandsaw would also be powerful enough to cut through quite a few layers of laminated cardboard, with an identical cut on all of the pieces together.

Feelthbrz (author)2012-09-24

If you cut the cardboard pieces a little, you can put a screw through the center point of the circle and rotate the unit as the blade cuts a perfect arc. Totally worth it if you're making several things that all need to be identical. The bandsaw would also be powerful enough to cut through quite a few layers of laminated cardboard, with an identical cut on all of the pieces together.

misfit7707 (author)2012-08-28

I love this idea! Inexpensive, and readily available, too. A pessimist might view it as a fire hazard. Any thoughts?

raviolikid (author)2012-03-03

Beautiful! I love doing things with cardboard, but I've never come up with something that would fit right in with decor! Congratulations on a great 'ible!

Sam the Wizer (author)2011-03-30

Brilliant! I have a small studio apartment and am poor, and think I might employ your techniques to build a large room divider/shelving unit. My only fear is that it might be a fire hazard to have such a large cardboard structure in such a small space. I think if I go with fire retardant paint I should be ok. Not that I expect to have open flames or heat sources near this structure, but it would help to put my mind at ease.

HandyMummy (author)Sam the Wizer2012-01-08

The answer to fire safety as well as strength is here:
1 part to 5 parts of water will do ;-)

deathbyvolt (author)2011-06-17

lol i wonder if anyone has used this method to make a guitar?

Schober (author)deathbyvolt2011-07-16

Making a guitar out of cardboard like this would be next to impossible. You would have a hard time making the cardboard strong enough to support the tension of the strings. Not without some extremely well designed supports on the bridge and (assuming you are thinking of using a wood neck) where the neck meets the body. Even then the tension might still be too great to keep the body from folding over on itself.

reptedjess (author)Schober2011-07-17

What if you used epoxy between the layers?

Kryptonite (author)2009-09-17

That's amazing, you can still just see the small corrugates in the picture, I almost couldn't believe my eyes that it was cardboard. I definitely know what I'm pimping my house out with. Any ideas in terms of strength for largest size? For example, how large was the top of your little table, how far apart were the supports and how much can it carry? Not that you'd want to try break it just see how strong, but still...

CyborgGold (author)Kryptonite2010-09-06

you could make it pretty strong, much stronger than it is already in fact, by adding some fiberglass to it. You might even be able to make patio furniture using the fiberglass method, layering the card and fiberglass should provide enough support.

Kryptonite (author)CyborgGold2010-09-17

Yes, but that's not using just cardboard! Maybe I'm just a perfectionist.

reptedjess (author)Kryptonite2011-07-17

That's being a purist, not a perfectionist. Maybe if you can use an epoxy finish instead of a varnish. That would definitely make the entire project stronger

spanner1969 (author)Kryptonite2011-01-27

Whilst what I am about to suggest does not constitue 'just cardboard' I would like to say that a really thin wood veneer on top would make the functionality (strength) of the top much better in terms of taking on point weight.

You could use really cheep 2mm ply wood or you might even be able to recycle some wood scraps from somewhere.

So in essence this is a fantastic instructable which I will attempt to make this weekend if LOML (aka SWMBO) lets me have some shed time by my self! LOL.

Keep up the great work.

karlpinturr (author)Kryptonite2011-01-22

Your main problem, strength-wise, is that the corrugations cannot take a point-weight. Basically, they are the first point of contact for anything, and your top layer will collapse, despite (or because of) the number of layers beneath it.

A spread weight is better, but can still be affected where the 'top' meets its supports.

I have found that brown (wrapping/parcel) paper over a layer of wallpaper-paste (essentially creating Papier Mache) can add strength

bigjeff5 (author)karlpinturr2011-06-17

You can significantly increase the point weight (and spread weight) strength with nothing but cardboard, kraft  tape, and glue, but it is tedious.

Instead of using flat pieces of cardboard for the horizontal sections, cut the cardboard across the grain at the thickness you desire, then glue the individual pieces together end-up.  Once done, use the kraft tape (or the parcel paper) to cover the entire piece - wrapping the tape parallel to the vertical pieces.  Make sure it is nice and tight.  Note that the tape (or paper) is critical to the integrity of the shelf, and it is important to have pieces of tape that wrap all the way around the shelf.

This provides incredible stiffness to the pieces by simply reconfiguring the grain in a more ideal direction.  In order for an object to break the table it must be heavy enough to tear the tape by tension only, which is pretty difficult.  You could probably break it by pounding on it with something, but less than that wouldn't likely cut the mustard.  Basically, if you can tie one end of craft tape to the object and lift it, it won't deform the shelf.  You'd probably be surprised what you can lift with that tape, and in most cases you'll have four or five pieces of tape resisting, not just one.

You can do this one better by placing another layer of cardboard on the top and bottom - again with the grain parallel to the vertical strips.  This is more difficult to plan out but is a little less tedious to build and is even stronger than just the tape - and it looks better.

Cobalt59 (author)2011-04-21

Lol. CAD stands for Communal Arduous Duties. LOL.

bigjeff5 (author)Cobalt592011-06-17

I googled CAD - I could not find "Communal Arduous Duties" (I got bored after four pages).

By far the most common result was related to "Computer Aided Design", followed by the comic "Ctrl+Alt+Delete", followed by the Canadian Dollar, followed by the Welsh word "cad".

In other words, I do not think that word means what you think it means.

Cobalt59 (author)bigjeff52011-07-10

*sigh* It was a joke.

jasmineconrad (author)Cobalt592011-06-17

No it doesn't...

ddarkeststar (author)2011-06-19

Superb. I think I'm going to be looking for a cardboard mine now :-).

MandingaRes (author)2011-06-17

Esta idea es excelente!! Justamente hoy me regalaron varios empaques de unas motocicletas alemanas que están compuestos por un esqueleto de madera (que ya tiene destino) y todo cubierto por un inmenso cartón, para el cual todavía no encontraba utilidad y me da mucha pena tirar a la basura.Tengo suficiente cartón para copiar tu diseño (o algo similar) y me sobra para hacer algún gabinete para guardar todo tipo de cosas...
Prometo fotografiar el proceso de fabricación de los muebles y mostrarlos con mucho orgullo. Muchas gracias por compartir la idea!!

Creativeman (author)MandingaRes2011-06-17


star_above_the_clouds (author)2011-06-17

This is absolutely amazing! I could not believe that this was made of cardboard! Thanks for sharing, now I know what to do with all the extra cardboard that is laying around my house. (:

seabee890 (author)2011-06-17

It has probably already been said, but I think that I would have more confidence in his hightstand than some of that ICEA (spelled intentionally wrong to avoid slander or copyright violations) Beautiful project.

About This Instructable




Bio: Retired, doing art work now. Great. Have the time and the money to spend doing what I want to do.
More by Creativeman:How to Make Fairy Doors/Fairylands and Open Up a Whole New World!SKULL STAND(S) FOR BUDDING ARTISTSThe Art Of Reclaiming Oak Flooring:Upcycling Shop Workstand
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