Introduction: Home-made Postcards From Recycled Materials - FREE

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Letters are great.  But let's be honest, we don't always have time (or enough to say) to write an entire full-length letter to everyone.  But what we do always have are old cereal boxes, magazines, and calendars.

Being as I currently live in Japan, thousands of miles from my friends and family, writing postcards has become somewhat of a weekly tradition. It's great for keeping in contact with far flung friends, and ensures that I usually have a healthy flow of mail coming into the house as well.  In this instructable I will show you how to make postcards from recycled materials (something I learned from my dad) as well as a simple tool to make the whole job easier (a bit of my own innovation, if you can call it that).

*Note: Although I live in Japan, this instructable will show how to make postcards of standard American sizes.  The method can obviously be molded to fit any nation's postal requirements.

Step 1: You Will Need

For this instructable you will need:

an old cereal box, or similar source of thin cardboard
an image you like, such as a magazine or old calendar page
a gluestick
a marker
a ruler
and a sheet of thin plastic, such as the front cover of a spiral notebook (for making the simple tool)

Step 2: Postcard Sizing Tool

The USPS website states that the range of acceptable dimensions for postcards is 4.25" x 6" maximum to 3.5" x 5" minimum.  (8.9cm x 12.7cm Min. to 10.8cm x 15.25cm Max. for our metric friends).  Now I've mailed postcards successfully that were outside these boundaries, but in general the mail carrier is under no obligation to allow you to do so, they're just being nice.

So the first step is to make a postcard sizing tool.  Using your ruler and marker, draw an 'L' shape (make good right angles) on your plastic sheet.  The interior angle of your 'L' will be 3.5" x 5" for the minimum dimension, and the exterior angle will be 4.25" x 6" for the maximum.

Now use your scissors to cut out the 'L'.  This is your postcard sizer.  With it you can make postcards of any size within the legal dimensions.

Now let's make a postcard!

Step 3: Postcard Backing

Once you've made your plastic doohicky, actually making the postcard is super easy.

First make the stiff backing of your card by using your sizing tool and a marker to trace a rectangle of the desired size on your cardboard box [Pics. 1 & 2].

Then cut out the rectangle with your scissors [Pic. 3].  This is your postcard backing.

(Side note for lazy people: you can technically stop here and just send this piece of box as a postcard, especially if you used an interesting or attractive box.)

Step 4: Postcard Image and Putting It All Together

Now repeat the last step with your calendar or magazine or other image.  Trace out a rectangle on your image source just slightly larger than your backing rectangle, and cut it out. [Pics. 1 & 2]

Now apply glue with your glue stick to the entire inked surface of the backing, paying special attention to the edges (you don't want your postcard to de-laminate because of poor gluing).  Then press your image firmly down onto the backing and rub until it is firmly attached [Pics. 2 & 3]

There will be a bit of a rough edge caused by overlap [Pic. 3]. 

Step 5: Trimming and Finishing

Take your scissors and carefully trim the excess overlap from around your finished postcard. [Pic. 1]

Now your done!  You can write on your postcard.  Make sure to leave room for the address, the stamp, and the space at the bottom where they print the routing number/bar code thing (and sometimes they put a Par Avion sticker here as well).  [Pic. 2]

With your new sizing tool and one practice postcard under your belt [Pic. 3] the door is open to make an infinite variety of recycled cards [Pic. 4].  Collages, drawings, photos, maps, even subtle textures (but keep 'em subtle, they need to be machine processable) can all be made into attractive and appreciated pieces of postal correspondence.  Have fun!  I've made hundreds of these things.  :-)

BONUS 'ibles:  Make a duct tape pocket in the back of your address book specially designed to hold your postcard sizing tool!  I put my stamps in there too.  But I'll leave this one to you guys to figure out!  [Pic. 5]

Also feel free to check out my:
   -  postcard/letter hybrid.  It's a letter for the price of a postcard.
   -  transparent postcard.  It's like a window inside a postcard.

Happy Mailing!