Introduction: Five Cardboard Hacks - Woodworking & Plastic Bag Storage

About: I've been designing and building things out of wood since high school -- many moons ago! I currently spend most of my woodworking time on the lathe turning bowls, platters, vases, pens, bottle stoppers. That…

I use cardboard in my wood shop to protect my work surfaces; to collect plastic or wood shavings from the lathe; to produce a test runs on my laser engraver. These hacks saves me both time and money. Most of my cardboard is source via dinner purchases from my favorite pizza store, however, at Christmas the UPS/FEDEX deliveries become a main staple! I use the lid of the pizza box only if there is no grease on it, which is most of the time. At my house this source of recyclable material is plentiful, and free if you count the total cost of the purchase the pizza!

In addition re-purposing pizza box tops, I also recycle paper towel cardboard tubes and plastic grocery bags. I store the plastic bags from my purchases (actually my wife does 95% of the shopping) inside the paper towel tubes until I (or my wife) return to the grocery store. Putting the bags in the tubes conveniently keeps them together until they are taken to the recycling bin.

Step 1: Cardboard Uses in My Workshop -- Lathe Related


I ALWAYS put down a section of cardboard onto my workbench when using CA (cyanoacrylate adhesives) glue or epoxy. Most of the time I use CA glue is when I'm going to make a pen. The process of making includes gluing a brass sleeve into the pen blank, CA glue holds this tube in place. CA glue is a quick drying glue (sometimes referred to as super glue). A small amount of glue often runs down the face of the pen blank and if I were to put that directly down on on my workbench those two will become one when the glue dries! To prevent this I place a piece of cardboard under my gluing efforts. If the pen blank has a bit of glue on it and it adheres to the cardboard I just rip the pen blank off the cardboard and small section of cardboard will be attached to it. If the pen blank were to have become glued to my work surface I will either destroy the my workbench or the pen blank when attempting to separate them. The first picture above shows a pen blank that would have been attached to my workbench had I not used the cardboard - note the glue on both the cardboard as well as the pen blank.

CAUTION: CA glue should be used in a well ventilated area. Also take care not to get it on your hands as you can easily become attached to something...or you might get "webbed fingers" lol I do keep a bottle of the CA glue debonder on hand for any glue accidents. is another Instructable that I have created that provides instructions on making a pen out of plywood.


Most of the time I turn wood on my lathe, however, sometimes I will turn acrylics or plastic. I keep a pizza box top under my lathe to catch either the wood or plastic shavings. When the pizza box top is nearly full of wood shavings I dump them in to a 5 gal bucket I keep near my lathe, and when that is full I dump that into my compost heap. I also use the lid to collect plastic shavings from my lathe as well, however, those go into the trash. I leave the cardboard under my lathe all the time to make clean up easier.

The second picture above shows the pizza box under my lathe collecting wood shavings. The third picture shows a golf ball being drilled and the plastic waste being generated, while the fourth shows the plastic pieces that have been captured by the pizza box from the drilling.


When I turn acrylic pens, or use CA glue to apply a layer of finish onto my pens. I wet sand during the final coats them to give them a top quality finish. The problem is that water and iron (the bed of my lathe) don't "play" nicely, if water gets on the bed produces rust! Wet sanding is done with the lathe on and the spinning pen will spray water or possibly drip water onto the bed of my lathe if I don't protect it. I use a small piece of cardboard placed on the bed of my lathe to protect it from water from my wet sanding. The spray from the spinning pen is caught on the cardboard preventing it from landing on the bed and rusting it. I use these pieces of cardboard used over and over, if when the cardboard wet I just make sure it doesn't become soaked through. If any water seeps thru the cardboard or drips on an unprotected section, I wipe it off quickly. I also spray my lathe bed with WD-40 to prevent rust from forming from the humidity.

An added benefit of an application of WD-40 is that it lubricates the bed making the banjo and tailstock easier to move.

Step 2: Cardboard Uses in My Workshop -- Laser Engraving


Unlike many lasers, my laser engraver does not have a secondary "red" laser is used to see where the engraving would be ie does a test engrave without burning the wood. So to simulate that red light I use a cardboard pizza box to create reference marks to aid in placing the wood precisely were I need it.

When I first got my laser engraver I would estimate where the wood should be located and fired up the laser. However I quickly realized I was wasting time and wood from slight errors with the placement of the wood. I realized I could "test engrave" on cardboard so that I didn't have to sand any errors out of my wood plaques!

Before I engrave a piece of wood, I make test run on a piece of cardboard and make sure that the size and placement of the engraving will fit on to the wood that my final design will be applied to. I measure the wood that I'm going to engrave and correctly size the engraving using the software that drives the engraver. I then will add lines to mark the boundaries of the area to be engraved (ie a box that simulates the edges of the wooden plaque). These lines are then cut into a piece of cardboard, and those lines become reference lines. These reference lines essential in aligning the wood so that the engraving is perfectly centered on the final product and has reduced my "errors" to nearly zero percent.

To cut on the cardboard I reduce the power of the laser by 50% so not to start a fire, and then send the art work to the laser engraver. The cardboard is "engraved" with the image, and the boarders are marked with the reference lines (you dont need to engrave your image if you dont want, just the reference marks). Make sure you don't move the cardboard after you engrave it with your artwork/reference marks or you wont be able to accurately utilize the reference lines. Using the reference lines I'm able to place the wood to be engraved on the cardboard exactly where I want so that the art work is centered. Before engraving the wood I re-adjust the power setting up for the laser for the type of wood I'm going to engrave (different woods require different power settings -- see ).

The first picture above shows a horizontal reference line that I engraved on a pizza box. This marks the bottom and width of the artwork. In the second and third pictures you can see the reference line at the bottom of the coaster I was making for a customer, and that is my signature on the bottom of the coaster. In the fourth picture you can see a bird call that I made that was just engraved with the customer's name. The jig was aligned using reference marks as well that you can see to the right side of the bird call.

NOTE -- the brown "stain" on the wood near the engraving is from the sap in the wood, I clean that off before finishing any project.

If you are interested in laser engraving and would like me to create an instructable about it, let me know. Or if you are interested in having something laser engraved visit my web page.

Step 3: Storing Plastic Bags


Our recycling company does not permit plastic bags to be placed in our curbside collection as they clog the recycle sorting machine. Most grocery stores in our area have recycling receptacles near the entrance to the store specifically for these bags. The problem is how to conveniently and efficiently store these bags between grocery store visits. I use a paper towel cardboard tube, or wrapping paper tube to store the bags. I ball the bags up and stuff them into one end of the tube. A single paper towel tube can hold approximately 10 bags, while a longer wrapping paper tube can hold 30-50 bags. The paper towel tube compactly and efficiently stores our plastic bags between trips to the grocery store. Just remember to take the tube to the store with you and drop them off.

The picture above shows the bags being stored in the tube.

Step 4: Conclusion

I hope that this Instructable was useful for you. Please let me know if you have any thoughts about it. If you like these ideas, please vote!

Maker Olympics Contest 2016

Participated in the
Maker Olympics Contest 2016

Wood Contest 2016

Participated in the
Wood Contest 2016

Cardboard Contest 2016

Participated in the
Cardboard Contest 2016