Introduction: The Card Bar - Functional Cardboard Furniture

About: I am 27 and engaged to my beautiful lady. She helped me out with my first instructable last week and is awesome. I don't ever want to pay anyone for anything ever again so I am learning how to do it all on…
This project is used nothing but Gorilla Glue except for the table hinges and height adjuster and took about 20 hours during this past week and cost about $100.    

It can hold 200 lbs and is solid as rock.  Hope you enjoy!

Folks,  this is my first instructable.   I AM PSYCHED!   I have been lurking here for about a year and a half and have read just about every 'able on the site.   I love it here.  A bunch of intelligent, motivated and fearless group of people make this stuff.   They lay in bed, unable to sleep dreaming about how to get their project off the ground.  I sift through hundreds of pages of content just to see how to soder a wire, cook a jar pie, fix a flat and even build a wind turbine.   So, I felt I had waited long enough and decided to throw my name in the hat.   

Moving into my 300 square foot apartment with my new fiancee was awesome till we realized we don't own much and don't particularly make enough money to improve our .... coolness.   So I started thinking about crazy ideas to improve our situation.   We don't own a kitchen table and eat on tiny little square tables usually knocking things over and making a mess.   So as these last couple weeks went on my idea of building my own cheap table started to evolve.  I wondered how I could save space but give my fiancee and I something cool.   Something to feel good about ourselves.  That first thought of building a table slowly mutated into my Card Bar idea.   A bar, made of piles of cardboard that also functions as a table.   If you are standing you might just want to sit down for this.   

Here we go. 

Step 1: ....With Secret Dinner Table

We only have soo much space in our apartment,  so we decided to put a dinning table on the front.   We used a basic but cool design and a very creative sliding mechanism to keep the pretty decorated side facing out with the table top facing the inside of the bar.   Hidden but accessible. 

Step 2: Gorilla Glue

I used 3 full bottles of Gorilla Glue for this project and half a role of duct tape.   Worth every penny.   Although it is a little expensive, I am 100% confident that it will stand up to all the abuse I can throw at it.   I had 200lbs of weights on top of the bar when it was being glued and it was solid as a rock.   U can't use too much in this application since the it just continues to make the materials more and more solid.   

I ended up spending about $100 dollars total on this.   Give or take a few.   I was fortunate enough to have a lot of supplies laying around the warehouse.   If I didn't, this whole project might have come out to about $150.  

Step 3: Supplies and Tools

I work in a warehouse with a handful of delivery trucks.   So over the corse of a couple months I collected a large stack of clean pallet sheets.   Pallet sheets are used to keep pallets from falling over.   They are usually 48 x 40 (or close to it).   Figured I would recycle them at some point and then the Ipad competition came along.   Along with some other material it should be easy to find.   When you think you have enough cardboard; double it, and then multiply it by pie.   When working with cardboard you could always use more.   

Equipment / Tools

Box cutter - PLENTY of new blades
T-Square - the t-square is your friend! 
Pencil / marker
Weights - or some way of putting lots of pressure down during glueing
Gorilla Glue - I used 3 full big bottles and a smidgen ( and yes smidgen is a word) of a smaller bottle.  
Hot Glue Gun and glue
Calculator - for working out distances from scaled up drawing
Graph paper - used to draw out 1st generation design.... then the 2nd and the 3rd and so on and so on 
Drill and various bits - for getting the table section ready
Circular Saw - or some sort of saw for cutting the two pieces of wood I used.
Wood Stain - buy a new can.  I didn't and it took a LONG time for the wood to dry and it discolored.   
Sponge - The bottle reads that you should lightly dampen one side of glueing surface. 
T - Square - THE most important tool used throughout this process.  Accurate, easy to use and saves time.  On here twice for a reason. 
Measuring Tape - good for measuring things. 


Cardboard - as much as you can pull together.   Clean undamaged cardboard is best although this is about recycling so..... use anything you see.   Larger pieces from appliances are great for finishing work so keep them handy for the end.   

Gorilla Glue - Like I said before, this is one of the only "purchases" for this project.   It is a little expensive but there is NOTHING better or stronger that will keep you confident in your building skills.   

Gorilla Tape - used to hold pieces of board together while drying.   Also used to clean up mistakes after the bar was painted.

Step 4: Design Phase

Use the graph paper to start to design your bar.   Assign each block to a specific distance.   In my case I used on square to equal 3 inches.   So four squares would be a foot.  This helped make measurements easier and sped up the cutting process.

Draw out each dimension.   Draw what you want it to look like from the front, side, back and a view from on top.   Drawing out this design will keep you on track as well.   

Also, acknowledging the size of the bar through proper measurements will help you set aside space and set up shop.   I was fortunate enough to have access to our tech room after hours.   

Step 5: Cardboard Lumber

Cardboard on it's own is not as strong as normal wood.   (big shocker I know!)  But if you glue pieces together in a certain pattern a stronger layered board can be achieved.   I originally used this instructable for my cardboard gluing process.

Directions to glue cardboard.  

A) Pre-cut all pieces of board you plan to use during a glueing operation.  

And for the love of all things holy USE THE T - SQUARE!!!!

I am a firm believer in prepping your operation.   Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.  As soon as you start the gluing process, time starts winding down.  You have to be able to move quick to finish each step. 

B) Layer Rotation - If you were to glue a 6 layer 2' x 2' square  -   you would cut out the 6 pieces of board.   As you stack them up make sure the "grain" of the board is switched between each layer.   This creates all sorts of reinforcement for your 2 x 2 square.   If you did not rotate the boards on each layer, it would have the same longitudinal (wow big word) weaknesses as a single board.   Think of it as plywood.   You are glueing down layers to reinforce the smaller weaknesses.     

C ) During the gluing process, place one piece of cardboard down.   
Apply a large amount of Gorilla Glue in a crazy wacky zigzag pattern on the board.  

Use a small square of cardboard as a spreading device.   You will have plenty laying around. 

There is no such thing as using too much.  As the glue dries it will expand and foam up.  If any comes out you can cut it off with a razor blade.   

D )  Spread the glue to about a quarter inch of the edge of the area you are glueing.  This will ensure that the glue reaches all edges equally improving the strength of your piece.   

E ) After the glue is spread on the board take a lightly dampened sponge and quickly rub it on the other surface you are gluing.   The bottle says that it helps improve the glueing properties.   

F ) Firmly place the layers together and apply the next layer of glue and board.   The more layers of board the stronger the piece.   For example, I used pieces for my upright "Studs" that were 8 layers thick with each layer rotated.   They are hard as a rock and can hold a couple hundred lbs. 

G ) After a desired amount of layers have been glued, place them on a flat surface and add some weight.   Gorilla Glue takes about 2 hours to harden (24 hours to fully cure) but it is CRITICAL that you keep the pieces pressed together with as much force as possible.   I would stack as many weight plates on tope of my "Studs" in order to ensure the strongest bond possible.   

H )   Every piece of board you glue will be glued using this process.   It is the ONLY way to ensure strength and rigidity.  

Step 6: Bar Frame 1

The Bar I built is 5 feet long on the back side and 4 feet long on the front.   There is a 45 degree angle moving from the front of the bar to a side support wall.   My Graph paper picture was never saved ( I will update when I get a chance )

The frame consists of 7 vertical "studs."    Each stud is 8 layers thick for strength and rigidity.   

The two outside walls were 1 foot wide and 38 inches tall.  They were made using Gorilla Glue and rotationally layered cardboard.   

The 5 inside layers were each made of 8 layers of board and gorilla glue.  They stood 38 inches high and 1.5 feet from front to back.   The bottom of these pieces had an extra 3 inch x 3 inch square coming off them.   The original design called for a bar to be placed along the bottom as a foot rest of the bar.   In retrospect, the extra portion should have measured 8 inches long by 4 inches high.   

Important - On these inside layers.  The number 1 layer and 8 layer should measure 38" x  20".    The reason for this is to use the two outside "flaps" of each stud as a glueing platform.   

A ) Use one large piece of double layered cardboard.   It doesn't have to be 8 layers thick but should be more than one, 2 - 4 layers would be sufficient.      Place this piece on a table or flat surface. 

B ) For my project I would a piece of cardboard at least 8 feet wide by 38" high.   I found a furniture shop that had just gotten an order in so they were about to throw these boxes out.  (and in case you were wondering, they didn't have any spare furniture they were giving away) 

C ) Measure the board and make a mark in the middle.  USE THE T-SQUARE ! ! !
The T-Squar is YOUR FRIEND.  use it, use it, use it, use it.  !!!
This center line is going to be where you glue the number 4 stud (center stud)   

D ) After you mark the center of the large piece of board measure out the positions for the remaining studs.   They should be 1 foot spread apart.   Don't worry about whether to keep them centered  (like 12 inches on center) ,  this is a bar made of cardboard.   OSHA isn't coming to check it out....................or are they?     Just be consistent on each side.  

E ) At the bottom edge of the large board, mark out a spot for the "foot rest" to go into.   You can eye ball it if you want or measure.   Just make sure it is big enough to slide over the "foot rest" when you are glueing.   Cut out with a razor.   Repeat for each stud position. 

F )  Place each stud into its position and mark the outline of where the flap will rest on the cardboard.   This will help you spread the glue.  It also will be helpful to mark the location of each stud so everything fits correctly.   Not totally necessary but but helpful.   

G ) Pour the Gorilla Glue on each stud line on the cardboard.   Spread it out using the same method as mentioned before.   Place the Stud into is correct position and weigh down each flap with weights.   

Helpful Hint : It is helpful to use paint cans to hold up the boards from falling over.  

H ) Let sit for 2 hours to completely harden

I ) Glue on the outside two walls flat to the large piece of cardboard.   This will help bend and wrap the large piece around the bar at a later step.  Measure the distance of the angle portion and it should be roughly 9 inches from the next stud.   

Step 7: Bar Frame 2

Continued .......

J ) Slide the whole unit onto the ground and do a dance..... cause its probably 3 a.m.

K ) If your large front piece of cardboard is as larger than the 38 inches, score the outside layer with a box cutter.   Careful not to go all the way through.   You want it attached but able to fold down onto the studs.   

L ) Score the four points of the front that make up the 45 degree angles.   Again, be careful to only score the outside.  You want the cardboard to bend but not break.    This will allow the outside walls to pull back to the same level as the 5 other studs.   

M ) Start to cut any extra board hanging over the back of the bar.   It should meet at the ends of the Studs.  Cut and match all the pieces underneath so they fold up nicely on top.   It takes patients but worth it.    My Piece was 8 feet 9 inches so it was actually able to reach all the way around the back and connect the two vertical studs on each side.  

N ) If you had a larger piece then you can take this time to glue the folded over pieces to the top of the studs.   Place weights on top to ensure a good connection.   

If the piece was not as big then you can move onto the next step which is setting up the floor board.  

The Floor Board

A floor board was used to really give this bar strength and the ability to add wheels later on.  I wanted to do the ENTIRE thing out of cardboard but time was running out (I think it was thursday night and I have a wedding this weekend)    

1 ) Find a piece of wood (or buy one)

2 ) Measure out the appropriate dimensions .   Remember the back side is 5 feet and the front side is four.  A foot up from the back on each side is a 45 degree angle leading to the front....... I know it doesn't make much sense but just look at the picture. 

3 ) Cut the wood with a circular saw (or any type of saw you have) 

4 ) Make the same markings you did on the cardboard but on the wood.   Line up each line so it will match up with the stud.  

5 )  Apply glue to these 7 lines.   Use as much as you want because this joint is very important.   The Outside walls should meet up right along the sides of the wood.   Your goal is to make the outline of the bar on the wood so it is easier to glue.   ( pictured below ) 

6 ) Apply the weights as you did before paying special attention to keeping the weight ON the studs.   IN this picture I have about 200 total lbs on the bar.   

Congratulations.   Your Frame should be mostly completed. 

Step 8: Painting

Several things are painted in this instructable.   You should take care to work in a very well ventilated area or at least have some sort of respiratory system in place.   I spray painted the outside of the Bar with a black epoxy paint used for appliances.   It is thick, makes a waterproof seal and was free.  

I also had to paint the variable height adjuster ( I will explain what that is later )

We also stained the table top.   This was a mistake since we used really old stain that had been laying around for a couple years.   Didn't fully dry for a long time.  

Step 9: Variable Height Adjuster

We needed a device that would allow us to have height adjustment options.    After trying to use my brain and think my way through it, I gave up and started climbing through the garbage in our warehouse.   I found a white metal rack system for hanging items on a wall.   I cut off the 1 inch piece on the end with a Saw-all so it was flat.   I then painted it black. 

This is going to catch three little "hooks." when the table slides into position.   This allows us to have height options should we decide to put on wheels or if its on a carpet in the future. 

I will end up strapping this device to the front of the Bar to catch the table hooks when lowering into position.   

Step 10: Table Channel Tubes

The Table Channel Tubes were two pieces of metal I bought from Lowes.   They are square tubing that have been cut open on one side.   I use two of these facing each other attached to the front of the Bar.

These two channels accept a wooden down that keeps the table a specific track attached to the Bar.   This is how I am able to slide the Table up and down and allow it to catch its "hooks" onto the Variable Height Adjusters.   


The Table is 24 inches wide and about 3 feet long.    A wooden dowl is attached to the end of the table.   This side is going to be permanently attached to the bar via the Channel Tubes.   The Dower will ride the inside of the tubes up and down allowing for variable height adjustment.   Each tube is attached to a small strip of wood.   That piece of wood is drilled into the front of the bar into a piece on the backside.... pretty much sandwiching the front of the bar.   It gives it a little more structure that way.    Three "Teeth" are drilled on the dowel side of the table.   These curved pieces of metal catch the slits of the variable height adjustment thingy and hold it in place.   

On the reverse of the table are two hinges.   They serve as the latching point for the legs of the table.   The two legs hang down and appear to be just decoration when the table is not in use.    As you pull the table up and out the legs automatically drop down since they are on a hinge.   

The Variable Height Adjuster is also secured to two strips of wood on the inside of the bar as well.   (I forgot to take pictures of these two inner pieces of wood but will update when I get a chance)  

Step 11: Vinyl Decorations

We purchased 6 yards of turquoise Vinyl from a fabric store.    We cut and glued a bar top of 6 layers of cardboard and then wrapped it in the vinyl.   92 95   

We also made smaller 2 inch lashings to glue underneath the main part.  It looks like vinyl molding.   (I think it is pretty cool)

The Bottom side of the table also has two strips of turquoise vinyl.   It gives it a little something extra and isn't so boring. 

To Make anything in vinyl, you take the piece you are covering and cut an amount that will fit around it.   You can either us spray glue or staples for the next part. 

1 ) Place the Vinyl face down.  

2 ) Spray the inside of the vinyl with spray glue.

3 ) Spray the side of the item you are covering with the same glue and wait a couple seconds.  The glue gets real tacky.  Carefully place the item down on top of the vinyl and wrap excess sides to the back of the item.   Thats it.   It will take you two screw ups to get it perfect.  This was actually the easiest part of the build.  

The design for the bar top is the same shape as the bar plus 2 inches.   That gives it a little overhang which I think looks pretty good.   After wrapping the large piece of vinyl for the bar top, we used gorilla glue one more time.   We doused the top of the bar with a heavy layer of glue.  We carefully placed the bar top down and placed the weights on top.   A good connection was needed for it all to look and feel good when you touch it or lean on it.   

Step 12: The Card-Bar

We weren't able to put the finishing touches on a couple things.   I quickly glued in some shelves in the back of the bar.   I need to strengthen them up but they will be just as strong as anything else.  

1 ) We also didn't get a chance to put the foot rest on the floor so it looks a little sloppy.   

2 ) If I can get more vinyl I will make some more of the decorative panels for the front. 

3 ) I will be putting a couple layers of clear coat on the inside to protect from spills and whatnot.   The vinyl will do well at protecting the bar on top but I do need to clean up the backside a little bit.   

4 ) The stain we used on the table legs is just awful so we will be fixing that next week.   

This is our first attempt at improving our lifestyle through design and form.   I hope you all liked it and start shooting some questions and I will respond as soon as I can. 
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