Introduction: Homemade Cardboard Rocket Ship

About: Beginner Woodworker

This is my first project like this... and it seems to be a never ending one, at that! But, I had a lot of fun, drank quite a few beers during the week of making this, and my son loves it!

NOTE: I didn't create this rocket with the idea to make an instructables how-to. So, some of the steps don't have photos to go along with them.

You can do this! Let's begin!

Step 1: Step 1: Supplies You Need

I went to Home Depot over the course of a week asking if they received any fridge deliveries. You have to be there at the right moment if they do because they break down the boxes almost immediately. On the fourth day, I got lucky and a lady found me a large fridge box!

What you need:
[Items below are what I use in the creation of the rocket in these photos. Feel free to alter the list below to suite whatever your plans are for making the rocket.]

    • large refrigerator box. unbent cardboard is best, as in the panels of the box haven't been abused.
    • other thick cardboard boxes for interior panels
    • box cutter with several new blades
    • hot glue gun and a couple of extra bags of glue sticks
    • measuring square
    • long straightedge (I used a 1x2x8 I had in the garage)
    • marker/ sharpie
    • spray adhesive
    • duct tape (I used black)
    • aluminum foil (I got it at Dollar General. It's paper thin. But, that's fine for this project.)
    • 4 saw horses
    • 4 - 1x2x8 board
    • AA Battery Power Operated Fairy LED Lights String (Cool White) [on eBay]
    • paper egg cartons
    • chrome spray paint
    • hammered meal spray paint

    Step 2: Step 2: Measure Twice, Cut Once... Maybe Twice

    I decided on a hexagon shape for the rocket, thinking it would be a little bigger feeling on the inside and would give me more area to put on the various control panels and gadgets for the interior. Also, I thought it would be more stable than a four sided box. As you might can see, I did this in my living room. NOTE: I also asked for a washer box so I would have something underneath the rocket box as not to cut into the hardwood floors! But, I'm sure the garage or driveway would work fine, too.

    1. open/ unfold the box to lay fully flat
    2. Measure the total width of the cardboard; divide by 6
    3. mark a straight line down each of the 6 "panels"

    Step 3: Step 3: Beginning the Roof

    Making these next few steps is hell, just to be honest. However, it'll be worth it when it comes to stability.

    You're going to make equilateral triangles for each panel. Take the width, divide by half and draw a vertical line to the top of the box. Then take the width measurement and draws lines to make a triangle so that B, and C are the same length as A.


    Step 4: STEP 4: Roof Tabs

    Roof tabs and tab slots are what holds the roof together and are the most difficult to make.


    Draw four equi-distant lines across where you drew the lines to outline the roof triangles. This will give you the tabs and the tab slot cut-out lines. To insure you don't F this part up (like I almost did), mark and "X" on the cardboard you will be cutting away so you DON'T cut off a tab. You can look at the photo above and see how I left two tabs in the middle of the triangles. Adjacent to the tabs on the other side of the triangles, draw two short, thick lines for the tab slot cut-out lines.

    NOW you can begin cutting, and cutting, and cutting.

    Step 5: STEP 5: More... Cutting...

    Notice the tab receiving holes (green) from the previous step. Note to Self: Make them a little wider than the tab thickness. It's a pain in the ass to try to re-cut the hole larger, only trimming bit of cardboard (that sucked).

    So, now that I had given myself carpal tunnel syndrome, I added a cockpit window* (blue) and door* (red) and some roof windows (yellow).

    * I measured how tall my son is to get a good window height and door height.

    Step 6: STEP 6: ASSEMBLY

    As in assemble, not assembly code. ugh.

    This is where I test fitted everything. I did get my wife to help me hold the cardboard while I inserted all the tabs. That is, after I struggled for 20 minutes, and drank two beers, that I asked for her help. LOL Remember that you needed to cut the insert holes wider? This is when I figured that out.

    Now, take it outside. Oh yeah, this thing is like moving a dead body - not that I would know anything about that.

    Step 7: STEP 7: Shiny!

    Set up the saw horses with space enough to cover the length of the cardboard. Put the 1" x 2"s over the saw horses and lay out the cardboard on top of all that.

    I cut "cockpit panels" from the corners of some other boxes, keeping the preformed box corner intact. That 'preformed box corner' fold was made on a machine and is aligned straight - a lot better than I could do bending the cardboard by hand. See the last 2 images for examples. Paint all the cockpit panel pieces silver or metallic black or both. Paint the egg cartons with several layers of paint. Now they begin to look like buttons or knobs panels.

    Apply the aluminum foil

    Cover one panel at a time, including the roof triangle, with spray adhesive. Then, roll out the foil to cover the panel and triangle. Rub your hand over the foil to ensure adhesion. Repeat until it's covered. Take the box cutter and cut out the window holes and outline of the door. Let it dry in the sun a while. Drink a couple of beers... I mean, you ARE working outside...

    Bring the contraption inside. Prepare for final assembly.

    DUCT TAPE TIME! I put tape on each tab inside the roof. Tape the 'floor' overlaps on the inside and outside. I put tape on the vertical panel opening, inside and out.

    I also added tape on each panel intersection and bottom of the roof line. I thought it would look cool and and add more strength to the vessel.

    Step 8: STEP 8: Make It Kool!

    I Googled for 'rocket control panel' and looked for images that I liked, colored them up some in I had to pay homage to Mike Okuda. So, I did print a mock-up of an Enterprise D control panel. I found other Star Trek stuff I liked, too. I found a website that would replace the NASA wording with any text you want. I found a United States flag and South Korean flag on Wikipedia. I glued a printout of earth right above the main control panel. I told him he can always look up and find home.

    Spray adhesive on one the part of each of the panels and put on the control panel stuff you printed (see photos). Let dry.

    Plug in the hot glue gun. This was only the second time I'd ever used on of these - the glue WILL burn the hell out of you if it gets on your fingers. When the glue was hot, I held a panel to the inside at the bottom of the main window(see photos). Then hot glued the top and bottom of each panel I put in. I also added a couple at the top of the interior. Hot glue the egg cartons to the inside. I glued labels all around the inside and outside.

    I took the LED lights and taped them to the interior roof lines and put the on/off box by the cockpit upper panel (see photos). When my son is playing with his buddies, he'll turn it to the lights to the 'flashing' mode and pretend they are under attack or in a meteor storm or just make loud booming noises. LOL

    Step 9: STEP 9: Final Notes

    Lessons learned.

    • After playing with my son in the rocket ship, it got HOT in there! So, I cut some vent holes along the bottom of each panel. Makes a big difference!
    • The foil will tear and sometimes come off after the kids go crazy in it. No biggie. Just glue it back on.
    • This project continues to grow. Always seems there's something new we're adding. The "boosters" on the outside are new. Plastic water bottles, spray painted, with felt "fire."