Useless Box




Introduction: Useless Box

I decided to make this useless machine as a gift for my little nephew. I had a lot of fun making it and he really liked it. It took about 22 hours to make and if you would like to make one too then here goes:


  • glue stick
  • 2 x 3mm MDF (mine were 305mm x 305mm MDF sheets)
  • wood glue
  • 200-300 lollipop sticks
  • 2 hinges
  • 8 M3 bolts and nuts
  • 2 x Futaba S3003 servos
  • hot glue
  • toggle switch
  • power bank
  • ON/OFF switch
  • Arduino mini (or wannabe in my case)
  • 10K resistor
  • wire
  • heat shrink
  • plush toy
  • vlecro
  • black felt sheet
  • acrylic paint
  • spray lacquer


  • jigsaw (+modelling jigsaw)
  • sander
  • mitre block + hacksaw
  • small chisel
  • files
  • clamps
  • drill
  • screwdriver
  • hot glue gun
  • scissors
  • needle + thread

Step 1: Cutting

First of all I made a cardboard prototype, just to see how everything would fit together. Following this I proceeded to create a template for the box and arms. Feel free to skip this and just print out the template I provided.

Attach the template to the MDF sheets with a glue stick and cut out the pieces with a jigsaw. Sand the sides of the box and glue it together with wood glue. Sand again once dried.

Step 2: Lollipop Lollipop . .

Take a bunch of lollipop sticks, place them into a mitre block and cut off the ends. Apply wood glue to the bottom of the box and start placing the lollipop sticks tightly next to each other, just like you see in the photos. Let it dry. In the meantime you can carry on with the top of the box in a same way. Once fully dry, cut off the edges with a hacksaw.

Step 3: And More Lollipop

Cut a bunch of lollipop sticks at an angle in the mitre block for the corners and carry on attaching the sticks around the box. Glue one row of sticks on the sides of the top part of the box. Let it dry.

Once dried remove the excess sides of the sticks with a small chisel and sand the box.

Step 4: Hinges

Mark the position of the hinges and cut the gaps with a jigsaw. Close the box and put the hinges in their places. Use clamps to keep the box shut and drill holes for the hinges. Clean the holes.

If your bolts are too long like mine, shorten them with a junior hacksaw and file them afterwards. Place the bolts into the holes and tighten the nuts.

Step 5: More Gluing and Sanding

Join the two arm and hand pieces together with wood glue.Once dried sand them over and glue together. Find a central position for the toggle switch, drill a hole and screw the switch in. Sand again all of the pieces including the box with a fine grit sandpaper.

Step 6: Servo Time

Drill a hole in the arm and door opener and attach the servo disks with hot glue. Place the servos into the MDF holders and glue them in. Glue the holders together with the spacer just like you see in the photos.

Screw the arm and door opener into the servos. Position the whole construction in the box and glue.

Step 7: Power

Remove the top and insides of the power bank and mark the position for the USB cable hole. Using a ruler transfer the measurements to the outside of the box. Drill a couple of holes in the marked position and file until you can fit the USB cable in comfortably.

Drill and file another hole for the ON/OFF switch.

Step 8: Arduino

Upload the code to your Arduino mini using the CH340G USB to Serial adapter.

I'm not very good at coding so I borrowed and adjusted the code from Riachi (thank you ;) ).

Step 9: Circuit

Step 10: Connecting It All Together

Solder two wires onto the ON/OFF switch and push it in its place. Apply heatshrink to all of the solder joints as you go. Solder one of the switch wires onto the positive battery line (should be marked on the power bank PCB, if not find out with a multimeter) and the second to the Arduino VCC pin. Solder another wire onto the negative battery line and Arduino GND.

Attach another two wires onto the toggle switch and solder one of them to the Arduino VCC. Join the end of second with a 10K resistor and another wire going to the Arduino pin 2. Attach another wire to the end of the resistor and Arduino GND.

Both servos are powered from the Arduino itself, so strip and solder the positive to the VCC pin and negative to the GND pin. The arm servo signal wire is connected to the pin 10 and door servo to the pin 9 on the Arduino.

Now would be a good time to test everything and make sure the code doesn't need adjusting.

Tidy the wires around the box and glue them in place. I wanted to paint over the Arduino so I placed a piece of transparent sheet over and glued it in.

Step 11: Tiger Surgery

Take your plush toy and detach the limbs. Remove the stuffing. My plush toy was one of those microwavable toys so I only had to remove the stuffing from the limbs. Join the two arms together into one longer "sausage".

Step 12:

Pull the fluffy cover over the arm and add some stuffing to make it look a little more natural. Stitch the bottom shut. Do the same for the door opener.

Later on I decided to make use of the tale and sewed it over the top of the door opener.

Step 13:

Stitch the limb holes shut. Saw a piece of velcro to the animals head and glue the other piece onto the top part of the box.

Attach the bottom part of the plush toys body to the bottom of the box with hot glue.

Step 14: Anti-scratch

Apply a layer of wood glue onto the bottom of the box and attach a sheet of felt. Cut around it.

Step 15: Painting

Cover the animal in cling film to prevent any accidents while painting. Paint the inside of the box with a black acrylic paint.

Step 16: Finishing

Find a few easy to paint pictures online, print them out and transfer them onto the box with a carbon paper.

Colour in with acrylic paint. Start with larger areas and finish with small details. Once the paint has dried spray the box with a lacquer.

Step 17: Final Thoughts

Something I didn't realise before I started is that the power bank that was originally designed for a mobile phone has an overcharging protection circuit. Meaning when I leave the box for a few minutes switched on without pressing the button it will shut itself down completely. I would then have to press the ON/OFF switch to reset the circuit in order to bring the box back to life. Even though this could be a little annoying for my nephew I quite like it. There will be plenty of times when he won't be playing with it and I doubt anybody will remember to turn it off when not in use.

Edit: I now believe the shutting down issue could be solved by replacing the charging board in the power bank with a TP4056 battery charger.

Box Contest 2017

Runner Up in the
Box Contest 2017

1 Person Made This Project!


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5 months ago

Great design and explanantions. I did it using my 3D printer (designed some and modefied others) , posted in Thingiverse with link credit to your work. Well done. Thanks a lot !


Question 2 years ago

how did you find an angle for your hand ?. I have an MG90S servo and I can't find the right angle.


Answer 2 years ago

There was a whole lot of messing about and code tinkering involved, I'm sorry I can't be more useful


Reply 11 months ago

Love the project and my grandkids will too if i can get it to work correctly.
The code in this instructable makes the servos rotate opposite to what was shown in your video. Is there another revision of the code that you used?
Please let me know before I start modifying the code and getting myself in BIG trouble.
Thanks, AutoSol


Answer 1 year ago

you can do it the easy way, or the i-need-more-coffe way:
in the lines 34/35 you have a set up positions,
doorServo.write(80); //set door to hiding position
handServo.write(0); //set hand to hiding position

those numbers are the setting positions for the servos,
from this point you can do this
- easy way: upload your routine, but disassemble your arms(both servos), and press your switch; arm switch will set up on 0 position then you can install your firts arm, and door arm will set on close position then you can install your other arm.

- hard way: change 0 and 80 till they approach to your current position, but this mean that when you find your correct positions, youll need to change this numbers on the lines from 88 to 511, and believe me, once you miss one line, youll get some gas, some matches and set the entire box on fire.(this is my third box).


i hope it helps, english is not my native language


Reply 11 months ago

Built the project and the MG90 servos I used do rotate in the opposite direction. How do i fix this?
Thanks, AutoSol


4 years ago


I'm making mine, but I have a problem

I checked all the wiring and everything is good

My problem is the servomotors that turn in the wrong direction

Would anyone have an idea where the problem is coming from and how to solve it?


Reply 4 years ago

Would you mind sharing a photo of your project? ;)


Reply 3 years ago

Hi. We have the same problem. The door servo is turning in the wrong direction. We are having a shcool project and we have to turn it in in one week. Please help us as soon as possible.


1 year ago

Hi, NerdyKat, I'm new with arduino but I like very much your project for my grandson.
Though I have a question, the schematic doesn't show the power supply circuit.
Do you happen to have how the power bank is connected to arduino. I'm planning to use arduino Uno. Thank you

super late here, but i have to say, amazing job Kat, made one myself, but i cant achieve the artistic degree you have reached here, i will try to make another but, since i am a lazy guy i will try to cut and draw with laser some wood directly, do you have any *.cad archive for the box and arms?? very thankful in advance.

Roddy Scott
Roddy Scott

2 years ago

Excellent Instructable and I will make one for my daughter's birthday.
Could you tell me what brand the stuffed lion was?
It looks like a JellyCat Bashful Lion, 31 cm but I am not sure it is.



Question 3 years ago

Did you have any problem with the power bank shutting off on you? Most of them will power down within a minute or so, if not charging. Does this machine draw enough at idle to prevent that?


Answer 2 years ago

how did you solve the powerbank shutdown problem? I am using this powerbank and i have this problem. After a few minutes it shuts off and returns only if you press the box's on / off button again, or the powerbank's on / off.

Reply 2 years ago

I abandoned this project some time ago, for reasons that now escape me. Didn't pursue the powerbank issue. Sorry.


Answer 3 years ago

Yes there was a bit of a problem which I addressed in the last step. The box works fine whiles someone is playing with it, it would only shut down once it was left alone but I don't think it's a problem ;)