Introduction: Aircraft Carrier Toybox

With the Air Traffic Control Training Table converted to a diaper changing table, we needed an alternate landing strip for the toy airplanes.  The kid-allowed airplanes are currently kept in a shoebox.

In this Instructable, we build a cardboard aircraft carrier that has room to slide the shoebox inside and out of the way for easy cleaning.

The carrier is loosely based on the Nimitz-class carriers, for those who are into that sort of thing.  Also, I can't be held responsible if Maverick does a flyby and makes someone spill their coffee.

NOTE: I won't be very specific with measurements in this instructable, though there are some in the picture notes.  The size of everything really depends on the available cardboard and the size of the shoebox. I did most of it by laying out the pieces, marking where they would sit, and trimming to match.

Step 1: Materials

Shoebox (for the toys).

Cardboard for the main components

Tag board (like cereal boxes) to attach the main components

Wood glue

Wax paper

Utility knife or other implements of destruction

Paint pens and/or markers for detailing

Colored construction paper to make it all one color (I didn't use this, maybe when it goes back to dry-dock)

[Edit: added sealant later] Mod Podge (or a substitute) to seal in the paint/marker lines and prevent flaking and smudging

Step 2: Main Components

The main components are:

Flight deck

2x side walls

1x main wall

floor piece

nose assembly

I used graph paper to draw out the largest flight deck that I could make using the available cardboard sheets.  Using a ruler and pencil, I drew and cut out one copy of the flight deck, then used that to trace and cut out another copy.  The cardboard I used was double thickness, so there is a total of four layers used on my flight deck.   I used wood glue to seal the two layers together.

There are three walls around the box, two on the side, one in the middle. See the notes in the images for placement. The walls were made in a similar manner to the flight deck, with several layers glued together. I used the bottom of the flight deck to lay out the shoebox and determine the lengths of the three walls.  NOTE: When cutting cardboard for the walls, it is probably better for structural integrity to have the lines on the walls go up an down, not lengthwise.

The floor piece is one sheet of cardboard.  More information on cutting the floor piece will be toward the end.  I did not cut this piece until I was just about finished, it was only one layer thick, as it only has to keep the shoebox from falling out the bottom of the carrier.

The nose assembly construction will be described in the next step.

Step 3: Nose Assembly

The nose assembly is mostly just for looks, it does not really support any weight, other than to keep the front third of the flight deck from buckling.

The nose is a few triangles of cardboard with a cross-piece, finished off with a trapezoidal cover.

The images show the various pieces and how they fit together.

A piece of tag board (taken from the corner of a cereal box) is used to connect the nose assembly to the bottom of the flight deck. Edges of cardboard don't glue very well, so I used the tag board with some wood glue as though it were tape holding the nose assembly to the flight deck.

Step 4: Gluing and the Floor Piece

Before you start gluing, wrap the shoebox in wax paper to keep it from getting glued to the carrier. My shoebox had a hole in one side that was handy to pull it out of the carrier, if it doesn't already have one, you may consider cutting one out.

I used tag board from leftover food boxes to connect all the walls and the nose assembly, see the images below for notes on placement.

The floor piece was simply a rectangle of cardboard to cover the bottom of the shoebox compartment. It should be just a bit longer than the length of the side walls, and just a bit wider than the width of the shoebox.

Step 5: Finishing

For the flight deck details, I penciled in the lines first, then I used paint pens from an earlier project to color them in. Markers would probably have been fine, but the paint shows up very nicely.  Hopefully it doesn't peel off too badly.

Remove the wax paper from the shoebox, and there you go!

In future efforts, I may add a layer of gray construction paper to cover up the unsightly tag board on the sides and bottom of the carrier.

Step 6: Preservation

3.5 years after I built this thing, it is still going strong. It doesn't get used all the time, but I've witnessed some rough carrier landings. The paint was starting to flake away in spots, there were some holes poked in the deck, and there were some water smudges on the marker lines.

It was time for drydock. A quick touch-up on the marker and paint brightened those right up. I used some leftover wood filler paste to fill in the holes on the surface. Then, to seal the top in its refreshed state, I applied four coats of Mod Podge, which I only recently discovered.

The shoebox got a little reinforcement, too. I added cardboard to the inside walls and floor. I cut the cardboard so the corrugation was all vertical for the walls, to better withstand toddlers sitting on it.

The toothpaste logos don't bother me so much anymore, so I never applied construction paper to cover up the sides. Mod Podge (or a homebrew substitute) would probably work well for that, too.

As an aside, when I first built this thing, I would put the girl in the picture above on it and push her around the room, to her delight. Time flies. Go make something.