DIY Props: Vintage Cigarette Packs




Introduction: DIY Props: Vintage Cigarette Packs

About: Props mistress, maker, fond of burritos

I make props for theater productions. As such, we strive for something that looks authentic to the audience from a few feet away and feels appropriate to the actor. I am not necessarily obsessed with technical historic accuracy - if the actors and audience believe it, we're in good shape.

A recent production required multiple packs of cigarettes. Because (a) we were working with high school students, and (b) we were producing a show set over 50 years ago, use of store-bought cigarettes was not appropriate.

This instructable reproduces the PACKS, not the cigarettes themselves.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

For the outside:

  • High-resolution scan of flattened cigarette pack (multiple excellent examples from WWII era, including the one used in this example, may be found here*)
  • High-resolution scan of cigarette tax stamp (try googling "cigarette class a stamp")
  • Tinfoil

A note about photo scans: Be sure that your scans are high resolution and appear clear when printed. Often scans that may look fine on your computer screen look fuzzy or pixelated when on paper.

*These outstanding high-resolution scans were created by Squirrely of the 90th Infantry Division Preservation Group. Be sure to review their fair use policy before downloading the scans. Kudos and thanks!

For the interior block:

  • Corrugated cardboard OR Block of wood OR Block of Foam

To assemble:

  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Good quality 1/4" double sided tape (my favorite)
  • Contact cement if laminating cardboard to make interior block (my favorite)

Software and Hardware:

  • Basic photo editor (optional)
  • Printer

Step 2: Print and Cut Scans

Print out the high-resolution scan of the cigarette pack and the high-resolution scan of the tax stamp. Be sure to print them true-to-size (often printers will by default resize to fit the page). It may be necessary to resize the tax stamp slightly before printing in order to cover any stamp that was on the pack.

Carefully cut out both the scan of the pack and the scan of the tax stamp.

Step 3: Determine Pack Measurements

Use a ruler or photo editing software to determine the length, width, and depth of the pack.

Using software, one approach is to use the fold lines that are often viewable at the bottom of the scan as a guide and draw a rectangle around an estimate of the front. Then, copy that rectangle and slide it right to frame out the back. Draw a second narrower rectangle to frame out the side, then copy it and slide it right to frame out the other side. Be sure that your four rectangles are touching, but without gaps or overlap as per the blue lines in the photo. Note that the four rectangles do to cover the full scan - there will be extra on one side where the wrap overlaps and extra on the bottom (but not on the top) where the wrap covers the bottom of the pack. With everything lined up this way, you can be confident that your measurements are accurate. Be sure to hide or delete any guidelines or boxes before printing.

Step 4: Cut Interior Block

Cut out your interior block using the length, width, and depth measurements from Step 2. The example uses multiple pieces of corrugated cardboard cut to size and then laminated together with rubber cement to achieve the correct depth.

Step 5: Prepare Foil Top

Create a piece of tinfoil just large enough to wrap around the interior block and overlap by 1/2". To get a nice clean edge, it is easiest to rip off a larger piece of foil, then fold over your top edge and run your fingernail along the folded edge to straighten it. Try to have your seam hit in the middle of the box so that the tax stamp will cover it.

Wrap the foil around the block to check your measurement and trim so that you have 1/2" overlap. Unwrap the foil and slide the block down the foil to a point just short of the depth of the block so that the foil extends beyond the block top. Affix foil to block with double sided tape. See the picture for where to place your tape.

Step 6: Fold Foil

Fold the foil around one narrow end of the block similar to the way you would wrap a present, first pushing in the narrow sides, and then folding down one side and the final side. Attach with double-sided tape running the full length of the final folded side.

This end is now the TOP of the pack.

Step 7: Attach Pack Scan to Interior Block

Align the top of the scan of the pack with the top of the block leaving the foil end of the block exposed. Align the front of the pack with the front of the block, centering the design as appropriate. Wrap scan around block and crease on all four edges.

Identify where the scan overlaps with itself when wrapped around. Using double-sided tape, attach the scan to the block, being sure (a) to add a length of double sided tape along the final seam, and (b) to hide the part of the overlap that was originally on the inside.

Fold the bottom paper the same way you folded the top.

Step 8: Attach Tax Stamp

Wrap the tax stamp over the top of the box and affix with double-sided tape.

Step 9: ​Admire Your Handiwork

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    4 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Thank you for this instructable. If you please upload the image of the stamp too.


    Reply 3 years ago

    The stamp image isn't my original work, so I felt it wasn't appropriate to upload. If you google "cigarette class a stamp" though you will find options.


    3 years ago

    Congratulations on your first Instructable and welcome to the community. They certainly do look authentic, I like the attention to detail with the addition of the tax stamp.