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Picture of collapsible box
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Box: a small package or container
Boxes are useful things, they can keep all your treasures safe or help you stay organized.

Collapsible: to fold up; put away; pack up; fold down; or to minimize
Having collapsible items minimizes space when not in use, and can provide a tidy solution to otherwise bulky items.

So, what happens when you combine them? A collapsible box, of course!

This box uses a bamboo placemat as the rigid outer shell, with scrap wood for the sides. The box retains its shape with the use of hook & loop fasteners (Velcro) along the sides, which also allow the box to be collapsed when not in use.

Enough talk, let’s collapse some boxes!
 
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Step 1: Tools + materials

Picture of tools + materials
    tools:
  • hammer
  • wood saw
  • staple gun
  • needle + thread         
  • sandpaper
  • measuring tape
  • drill + bit (3mm [1/8"] )
    materials:
  • bamboo placemat ($dollar)
  • hook & loop strips ($dollar)
  • scrap denim
  • short nails
  • button
  • fabric elastic
  • scrap wood

Step 2: Measure box dimensions

Picture of measure box dimensions
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This bamboo placemat has thin slits of bamboo oriented in the same direction abutting each other at their sides; this gives the placemat flexibility and allows it to be coiled up lengthwise. The idea is that the placemat will wrap around each end piece and double back on itself creating an enclosed space, a box. As such, the lengthwise distance measurement of the mat will match the sum of the edge perimeter.

A simple method to create a square-ended box would be to measure the length of the placemat and divide by four, giving a box which has equal depth and height. However I chose a design which created a box slightly higher than it is wide. To complete this I wrapped the placemat around several paperback books until I found the right combination to allow the placemat to be wrapped once with a slight overlap where the ends met. Then, I traced the dimensions of the books to a scrap piece of plywood and cut each end out.
Remove any burrs and sand edges of end pieces smooth.

Step 3: Bisect mat

Picture of bisect mat
Bisect placemat lengthwise. This bamboo placemat had a fabric mesh on the underside to hold together the bamboo slats, along with a decorative thread on the topside. The mesh underside allowed the placemat to be cut in half and still hold together.

Gently sand the sharp edges created from cutting the placemat, giving additional attention to sanding the ends of the placemat. When box is collapsed the ends will stress against the fabric applied later, to minimize the chance of tearing the fabric make sure there are not sharp edges and the ends have a small radius curve.

Step 4: Hooks & loops

Picture of hooks & loops
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With the end blocks cut out it’s time to attach the hook & loop strips. I used hooks on the mat and loops on the end pieces. As shown in the picture, the strip needs to be placed in strategic positions to allow the box to have an operable lid when in box form, yet not inhibit collapsing when desired.

The strips I used had an adhesive backing, but that will not be enough to keep them attached to the surface of the wood and bamboo. Using a staple gun the loop strips were attached to the end blocks, and the hook strips were attached to the underside of the bamboo mat with strong thread.

Step 5: Drill pivot points

Picture of drill pivot points
To allow the end blocks to be tucked in when collapsing the box, they need to be able to pivot and lie flat. Each end block has a hole which corresponds to a hole in the bamboo mat, a short large-diameter nail will act as the pin on which the end blocks turn.

Before any drilling, test fit your end pieces and the location of the hook & loop fasteners. Measure where the pilot holes are to be drilled, then double check. Using a 3mm [1/8"] drill bit , drill a pilot hole through the placemat, and drill about 12mm [1/2”] into each end block.

Step 6: Sew flexible membrane

Picture of sew flexible membrane
Time to join the bisected bamboo mat with a flexible membrane which will allow the placemat to be folded over while remaining joined together. I chose denim, as it is durable and has a pleasant finish once applied.

The denim will need to be hemmed on both sides to stop the fabric from fraying. Start with a hot iron to create the edge, the finished strip measured 38mm [1.5”] wide. Then sew the denim to each side of the placemat where it was bisected. As mentioned earlier, the inside edge of the placemat will be stressed more than the rest, so an additional scrap of denim was placed over the joined ends (under the denim strip) for additional protection (as highlighted in picture).

Step 7: Add some feet / pivot axles

Picture of add some feet / pivot axles
The end blocks are attached to the bamboo place mat with short large-diameter nails. Line up the pre-drilled holes in the end blocks with the place mat, then gently hammer in the nails. Do not hammer nails home, leave about 5mm [1/5"] of each nail head exposed. This will give the box some space to maneuver when collapsing and reduce the stress at pivot points.
When assembled as a box each nail head will act as a front foot.

Step 8: Collapse

Picture of collapse
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To keep the box from springing open when collapsed, a small button was sewn into the inside of one of the denim ends with an elastic loop sewn into the other denim end. The elastic loop fits around the button and keeps the package tight and collapsed. Also, each nail head was coated with sugru (or hot glue) so the metal feet do not damage surfaces the box may be placed on.
veiledvenus2 months ago
I have heavy duty clear vinyl on order, along with the heavy gauge wire I need to make the frames - This have my free some great ideas on how to make the boxes collapse even more than my original plans - I'll post a link here (and on my own post to this Instructable as well) when I have finished my prototypes & finished boxes done and instructions typed up - thank you for this post!
stepli3 months ago

greatt work

malgon3 months ago

awesome

howardjackson3 months ago

Great Idea

davidramirez54 months ago

Awesome

earlcollins4 months ago

Really good work

jiajunwang4 years ago
Brilliant!!
neologik4 years ago
it's tottaly amazing,.
very useful!

congrats

i will try it..

greets
laxap4 years ago
Very very nice!
Ninzerbean4 years ago
Brilliant!
jrossetti4 years ago
If you didn't need it to be 'ultra' collapsible, I suppose you could do away with the cut down the center of the placemats, and have the end pieces simply fold down, then roll up the mat around them.
mikeasaurus (author)  jrossetti4 years ago
Yup, that was the original design. This iteration pushes the collapse aspect a little further.
ChrysN4 years ago
Cool idea!
Quite clever. Please excuse me while I make a quick stop at the patent office.
gmjhowe4 years ago
The animated gif makes for a perfect demostration. Good job on everything, a delightful little box.

I love the final feel and look of it.