Introduction: Cardboard Steampunk Top Hat in 10 Steps!

As you may or may not be aware, the steampunk artistic style is a form of retro-futurism based on the 'what if' idea that steam powers all technology. It was imagined by novelist K.W. Jeter in his 1987 novel Morlock Night. Steampunk design is futuristic-looking, but made from with steam power-related items of past, such as gears and pipes.

I thought that it would be fun to make a classy top hat and then 'steampunk-ify' it. The project took a lot of time and cardboard. I enjoyed the building process and believe you will too. If you enjoy this project, I encourage you to dive into the world of steampunk art. First, let's build our top hat.


You will need the following for hat-building:

  • A good deal of cardboard
  • The magical substance we know as duct tape (yes, it really is quite magical)
  • A hot glue-gun and glue sticks
  • Scissors
  • Paper in the colors black and white
  • Feathers
  • A marker
  • A toilet paper tube (optional, but recommended)

Step 1: Step 1: a Strip of Cardboard

First, you will need to cut, using the scissors, a piece of cardboard into one long strip.

Step 2: Step 2: Let's Make a Headband!

You will now take the strip of cardboard from step 1 and wrap it around your head. The objective of this wrapping is to get a rudimentary measurement. If you prefer, then you can use a measuring tape on both your head and the strip of cardboard. After taking this measurement, you will lengthen or shorten the strip of cardboard so it comfortably fits around your head. After finding this perfect length, tape the ends of the cardboard together to make a headband.

Step 3: Step 3: Make a Hat Brim!

All top hats must have a brim. Ours will be cardboard, like the rest of the hat. In the unlikely event that you have a large circle of cardboard, use that for your brim. If you don't have one, that is all right, then you just have to make one. This circle should be quite a bit larger than the headband made in step 2. Next, you are going to trace the inside of the headband from step 2 onto the brim with your marker.

Step 4: Step 4: Cut a Hole

Now it is time to cut a hole in the brim, so that the hat will fit on your head. You will take your scissor, fold the brim and cut along the marker line made in step 3. This cutting should leave a hole the size of your headband in the brim. You will then hot glue the headband from step 2 to the brim.

Step 5: Step 5: Building Up the Hat

Now it is time to make your cardboard creation resemble a top hat! In order to do so, we will find a tall piece of cardboard that has the same length as the headband from step 2. You must then take this piece and glue it to the headband. Make sure that this piece is well attached, so that it doesn't fall off.

Step 6: Step 6: Coloring Time!

Now it is time to color the hat so that it is recognizable as a black top hat. There are two ways to accomplish this task. The first is with a marker. You can color the whole hat. I found this coloring to be a tremendous waste of time. Therefore, I hot glued black paper to the hat's cylinder and brim. It was then necessary to trim down that newly-attached paper, so that the hat looked like a hat and not a mess of paper. If you choose to cover the hat in black paper, then you must make sure to cover any missed areas.

Step 7: Step 7: Decorations Part One: Feathers

Now that we have a nice hat, we can begin decorating it. I started by duct taping feathers to my hat, creating a decorated hatband. I believe the feathers look nice without detracting from our steampunk theme.

Step 8: Step 8: Decorations Part Two: Making Gears

Gears are always present in steampunk art, so we need to have them on our top hat too. Many of us (including me) do not have gears just lying around. Therefore, we need to make our own. The first step in the gear making process is to put silver duct tape on a piece of paper. We will then cut four circles from that paper. Make sure that all of your circles are covered by silver duct tape. Then, we will cut gear-teeth into these circles. Once we are done, we will attach the gears to the top hat with hot glue.

Step 9: Step 9: Decorations Part Three: Goggles

Goggles, like gears, can be found on many steampunk hats. Therefore, we must include them too. To make goggles, we will begin with a toilet paper tube. (If you don't have one, then you make a cylinder out of cardboard.) Cut the tube in half. Then, cover each half in silver duct tape. Next, cut an arch in each of the tube halves. The cuts are strongly recommended, as they will allow you to attach the 'goggles' to the hat more easily, but not essential. After this step, place your tubes on a piece of black paper and trace their interior. Cut the two traced circles of black paper and attach them to the top of tubes to form a goggle-like structure. The 'goggles' can then be attached to the hat with hot glue. After this attachment, connect the goggles to one another with silver duct tape. Then, connect the goggles to the hat's cylinder with more duct tape, so that they appear to be part of the hat.

Step 10: Step 10: Finishing Touches

Finally, cut a circle out of black paper and hot glue it to the hat's top. Now add some detail to the goggles. Now you are done!

I encourage further embellishment and details on the hat. I would like to see others add more to the hat design, resulting in more elaborate versions of this headgear.

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