Introduction: A Cardboard Model of the USS Monitor

The model is based on a contemporary (to its time) plan of the ship. It represents the ship in its combat condition as it is depicted in an image of the Battle of Hampton Roads (took place on 8 and 9 March, 1862, see Reference).

The size of the model is chosen such that the flat pattern of the hull fit into A4 sheet and be easily printable; the other elements of the ship are scaled proportionally to the hull.



1 mm thick cardboard

0.5 mm thick cardboard

printer paper

thin steel wire (0.5…0.7 mm diameter) or pins



black paint

‘hull red’ paint

filler (acrylic or thick flour glue)


exacto knife



hard pencil

2mm diameter rod, e.g. a drill bit

brush for glue

brush for paint

wire cutters

fine sandpaper

Step 1: Upper Part of the Hull

The piece is made of 1 mm thick cardboard. You print the flat pattern attached here as it is, put it on a sheet of cardboard and cut the flat patter of the deck and the upper part of the hull. The dashed lines are bend lines; it’s advisable to make slight cuts on these lines to facilitate the bending; the same technique should be applied to make the tabs.

A pinhole will be made in the centre of the turret’s place.

Step 2: Lower Part of the Hull

The piece is made of 1 mm thick cardboard. The flat pattern of this part is made in the same way that the pattern for the upper part. However, some additional work would be necessary after the piece is assembled. The parts marked in the picture should be sandpapered to make them flat before fixing the piece to the upper part of the hull. The technique for thick cardboard is to glue a piece of fine sandpaper on a small flat and even wooden bar and flatten the edges of the cardboard piece. If you use some thinner cardboard, you could cut the edges with a knife or scissors. This flattening will be made both on the forward and backward ends of the piece.

The gaps on both extremities (a gap is marked in the picture) of the bottom part will be filled with filler before painting. The bottom part is glued to the upper part of the hull.

Step 3: Turret

This piece is made of 1 mm thick cardboard, according to the drawing. The total height of the turret is 14 mm, therefore, the side part will be 12 mm high. To make the round side part, it’s advisable to proceed this way:

cut a cardboard strip about 100 mm long (not less than 95 mm)

cut the openings for the guns

soak the strip in water

wrap the strip around a cylinder with the diameter of 28…32 mm and fix the strip with thin rubber bands

when the cardboard is dry, the strip will keep the round shape

cut the excessive length of the strip (if any)

glue the ends of the strip together (see picture)

The diameter of the top and bottom covers should be equal to that of the side part. A thumbtack is put in the centre of the bottom cover to serve as the turret’s rotation axis. Each gun is made of a 10 mm large piece of printer paper, wrapped 3 times around a rod with the diameter of 2 mm (I used a drill bit). The guns will be painted black before inserting them into the openings; they fit tightly enough to hold in place without glue.

Step 4: Pilot House

This piece is made of 1 mm thick cardboard according to the drawing, it consists of the side walls and the top. Once assembled, the piece will be painted black, and white strips (the sighting slits) will be drawn on each side of the piece. The pilot house will be glued to the hull at the marked position.

Step 5: Propeller and Rudder Support

The support consists of two halves made according to the drawing of 1 mm thick cardboard. As to the shafts mentioned in the drawings, they are made of steel pins. It’s advisable to make grooves (using a hard pencil) in each half of the support where the shafts will be situated. You could proceed as follows:

make grooves in one half

put two halves together

mark the positions of the grooves on the second half

make grooves in the second half

Once the grooves are made, the pieces will be glued together. Two side supports will be made according to the drawing of 0.5.thick cardboard and glued on both sides of the vertical ‘beam’ of the support. The assembly will be painted ‘hull red’ except the places where it will be glued to the hull.

Step 6: Propeller

This piece is made of 0.5 thick cardboard according to the drawing. A possible technique would be as follows:

make a pinhole in the centre of the future piece

cut the ‘cross’

cut the round edges of the propeller

The propeller is installed on its shaft with washers (see picture). Each washer is a 3 mm x 3 mm square made of 0.5 mm thick cardboard; it’s advisable to make small chamfers to the washers, just to make them look more round (at least, I made that). Both the propeller and the washer will be painted ‘hull red’ before their installation into the support. The propeller is supposed to turn around its shaft, that’s why the washers are needed: the first serves as spacer between the propeller and the support, the second (glued to the shaft) prevents the propeller from sliding on the shaft.

Step 7: Rudder

The piece consists of two halves made of 0.5 thick cardboard according to the drawing. It’s advisable to make a groove for the shaft in each half before assembling them; the shaft is made of a steal pin, the rudder is supposed to rotate around its shaft. Two washers will be placed under the rudder to avoid its sliding down the shaft; the washers are made exactly as those for the propeller. The rudder and the washers will be painted ‘hull red’ before their installation into the support.

Step 8: Anchor

This piece is made of 0.5 mm thick cardboard; four 2 mm wide strips are glued together and cut according to the drawing. Small chamfers should be made on the outer edges of the anchor (see picture). The anchor will be painted black before its installation on the hull.

Step 9: Flag and Flagpole

I downloaded an image of the Union flag, flipped it, printed the images in the necessary scale and glued them together to make a double-sided flag; its size is 14 mm x 8 mm. The flag will be glued to the flagpole.

The flagpole is a piece of 0.7 mm diameter steel wire painted in black (before fixing the flag to it). The flagpole will be inserted into a hole in the deck and glued to it; the length of the flagpole above the deck is 24 mm.

Step 10: Supports for the Model

The flat pattern for these pieces is shown in the drawing; the supports are made of 1 mm thick cardboard and represent equal sided triangular prism. They will be painted black out and inside before the installation of the model on them. The model will be glued to the supports after the hull is painted.

Step 11: Painting

The deck, the hull above the waterline and the turret are painted black; all parts below the waterline are painted ‘hull red’. I didn’t have this paint ready made, that’s why I made a google search, found a site (see Reference) that mentioned the RedGreenBlue content of this colour (72, 25, 33) and mixed the paints; I hope the colour is not very different from the needed one.

Step 12: Reference

The above images are from Wikicommons and Wikipedia.

The Battle of Hampton Roads:

More about the Monitor:


Cardboard Speed Challenge

Participated in the
Cardboard Speed Challenge