Simple Knock-down Cardboard End Table (flat Pack)




About: I am a freelance translator living in Japan. I like to create furniture and signs etc. using reclaimed wood. See my blog for photos of other projects, and a link to my 3D models on the 3DWarehouse. My "How t...

This is a relatively easy to make, knock-down (flatpack) end table made from one cardboard box (it could also be made from multiple boxes or pieces as well). There are four pieces held together with slots, as well as simple mortise and tenon type holes.

I am posting this as I could not find any other cardboard tables on Instructables that can be taken apart (for storage or transporting). I made this one temporarily for my  kids to use prior to a recent move, and it has now been repurposed as a smaller end table for a spare bedroom.
*I have uploaded a Sketchup 3D file used for the diagrams.

Materials used
- One large 3-ply cardboard box (80W x 64H x 23D cm)
- Wood glue (any normal glue should suffice)

Tools used
- Pencil
- Straight edge (solid metal ruler)
- Utility knife (boxcutter with breakable blades)
- Cutting mat (I used the self-healing type)

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Step 1: Fitting the Layout Onto the Cardboard Box

I used just one large box ((80W x 64H x 23D cm), but this table could also of course be made from multiple boxes or pieces of cardboard.
This particular box was made from 3-ply cardboard which is quite heavy duty (7.5 mm thick). Doubled up it was 1.5 cm thick.
If you are using thinner cardboard (e.g. single layer type), I would recommend using at least 3 layers so it has some strength.
*For the legs, make sure the corrugated "flutes" are vertical (if they are horizontal it can collapse easily).

In the first illustration (front of the box) you can see two tabs at the bottom of both leg pieces.
The tabs will fit into holes in the bottom of the table top, like a mortise and tenon system (see the second illustration, shows the table top, with holes for the tabs). *I did not cut out the holes for the tabs until immediately before assembling.
The horizontal support piece slots into both legs.
You can adjust the length and width of pieces to accommodate the box or cardboard pieces you have available.

Step 2: How the Cardboard Table Fits Together

Here you can see the four pieces in the orientation that they fit together.
The leg pieces are narrower than the table top so the tabs on the leg pieces can fit into holes on the bottom side.
(You can make the table top the same width as the legs, but you will need to leave space on either side of the tabs so they can fit into the holes.)
I used wood glue to bond the two layers of 3-ply cardboard. Make sure you spread the glue around (applying glue in a zigzag pattern is better than straight lines).
The second illustration shows the table assembled.

Step 3: Details of Tabs and Slots to Assemble the Cardboard Table

The first photo here shows the horizontal support fitted into the slot at the top of the leg.
I would make the tabs on top stick out at least 5mm, to ensure that they fit tightly into the holes in the table top.
With the horizontal support slotted into the leg pieces, I flipped it over and traced the location of the tabs onto the bottom of the table top.

I would recommend cutting the holes last as cardboard will have some movement, and this ensures that the tabs and holes line up.
Just be careful to only cut through one or two layers of cardboard, then peel off the unneeded pieces.

The second photo shows the leg piece and horizontal support firmly inserted into the bottom of the table top.

Step 4: Recycling the Cardboard Table Into an End Table

After my kids no longer had any use for the table, I cut off about 20 cm from the end of the table top.
I then added a new slot to the horizontal support, and carved out the leg pieces for a slightly more stylish looking end table (for use in the spare bedroom).
If you are going to put food or drinks on the table, waterproofing it would be advised. I do not know how well cardboard can handle varnish, but I imagine that acrylic or latex paint should do the job.

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19 Discussions

In response to constructiveMedia and BartholmewH regarding possible weight capacity, it depends on the cardboard used (2-ply, 3-ply, etc.), but if the grain of the leg portions is vertical, it should support at least 2kg (4.5 pounds), maybe more. It is definitely not strong enough to sit or stand on.

It depends on the thickness of the cardboard, and the size. I used triple-ply cardboard which is quite strong, and folded it over so it's six layers in total. It could probably hold 10 - 15 lbs (4 - 7 kg) I suppose.

Hi Tweetyb1,

Feel free to use this design for your project.
If you don't have 2-ply or 3-ply cardboard available, I would recommend at least gluing two layers together, as one layer of cardboard will not provide sufficient strength. Good luck!

5 replies

I see dimensions and measurements for the box, but not for the individual pieces? Also the sketchup file, is this just for 3d reference or is there some type of dimensions available in the file? I opened it but it just seems to be a fancy 3d look at the pieces with no real-time reference to the size of each piece ? Please do help me to figure this out, I'd love to make the table but I am clearly missing something here. Thanks. :)

@Saiber77 - The Sketchup file is just for reference. I put dimensions of the box in
the illustration to give an idea of the box size that I used, but if you
have Sketchup, you can use the tape measure tool to get the exact

LoL, my bad... I just realized I was using Sketchup viewer.... eyeroll....
No wonder I could not find the tape tool.


4 years ago on Introduction

hello @canuckinjapan i am currently in school and am required to produce a science fair project. would you mind if I used your concept of a cardboard desk and embellished on it for my project. (I will acknowledge you of course)

Please reply as i need your permission to do so otherwise i can be accused of plagarism.


5 years ago



7 years ago on Introduction

EXCELLENT project and I love the additional picture of the crayon holder added by another. LOVE cardboard furniture (is it a disease?)

Thanks. I try to recycle whenever possible.
Here is another example of a cardboard box that got new life as a pencil crayon holder for my daughter's 500 piece set.