Sturdy Randomly Shaped Paper Mache Box.




Introduction: Sturdy Randomly Shaped Paper Mache Box.

About: Experimenter, fiddler, pseudo-artist, loves recycling, hacking, you know, the whole shebang. My ultimate project will be one day building my own cob house. I'll make sure to write an instructable about it :-)

Hello there!

In this instructable I'll show you how to create a box made mainly out of cardboard and papier mache, in the shape of anything you like.

I originally made this as a present for my girlfriend, as a travel box for her ancient stuffed animal that by now is hanging together with nothing but spit and prayer, but she still insists to take it everywhere :-). So I needed something sturdy, and with a very specific shape (For  orginitality's sake, I didn't want to settle with just a rectangular box.)

This instructable is based on Bindlestiff's anatomical heart shaped box, so a lot of credit goes to him.

It took me about 10 hours to complete (but I went for the deluxe finish, with a felt sheet inside so the bunny is real comfy in there :-D)

So! Let's get started.

*cheers* Thanks a lot for the frontpage feature, guys!
This encourages me to post more of my random craftings to instructables.
My problem is that I usually just forget to take pictures along the way :-)
Thanks again for the recognition, I'm honored !

Step 1: Needed


- Cardboard.
I used a sheet of about 2mm. thick for the bottom and top of the box, and just cereal box carboard for the sides.
Just have a look at what you have laying around. The cardboard doesn't determine the sturdyness yet, the paper mache glue/varnish  will.

- Newspaper

- Paper mache glue / varnish / isolator.
I used this specialized product I found in the local hobby shop, it's a glue/varnish by a brand named "Artemio" ( It can be used both to glue the strips of paper to the cardboard and each other, and to add a finishing coat of varnish. It becomes very hard when it dries.
But I'm pretty sure wallpaper paste (or any other paste normally used for paper mache) will also work, just make sure that it hardens when it dries.

- Glue
Preferably something that dries quickly, like superglue.

- Paint
I used acryllics.

- Tape

- (optional) Some sheets of felt (or any cloth at all) to decorate the inside.

- (optional) A filling paste of some sorts, to smooth out the inside edges.


Very basic; drawing tools, a cutter, a ruler, a brush, and a stapler if you want to decorate the inside with cloth.

Step 2: Cut Out the Basic Shape

To start, draw the basic shape of the box on a stiff piece of cardboard (preferably not the air filled "containerboard" type that cardboard boxes are made of).
Cut out this shape with a sharp cutter.

Step 3: Cut Out the Sides

Cut out strips of cereal box type cardboard. Cut in the lenght of the cereal box so you have strips of about 30cm (12inch) long. The length doesn't matter that much. The width is more important; this should be the desired height of your box plus an extra 1.5 cm (0.6 inch).
Draw a line in the length of the strip on this position (1.5 cm (0.6inch) from the side).
Along your ruler, using your cutter, give the line a very VERY slight cut, just enough to make it easier to fold the cardboard along

the line (the cut is made in the outside of the fold).
In the smaller one of both zones on the strip, make transversal cuts about 0.5 cm (0.2 inch) apart, creating rows of smaller strips.
Anyway, the pictures should self explanatory.

Step 4: Attach the Sides

Now put some glue on the bottom of the small strips, fold them in, and glue them to the base. Superglue is the best choice for this, as the quick drying time will allow you to progress quickly. My glue was something in between, so I had to put tape on the strips after gluing them down, to hold them in place while the glue was drying.
To attach two side pieces to each other, use tape.

- If your shape has sharp corners, it's a good idea to cut your big side strips accordingly, so they meet on these corners. (See second picture)

- For the ones that are attached to very round (concave) parts of the shape, it's a good idea to cut the small strips to a more triangular shape, so they don't overlap too much, as this would reduce the strenght of the glue. (See fourth and fifth picture)

Step 5: Create the Lid

Once it's dry, turn it over and put it on a sheet of stiff cardboard, and draw a line along the edge to mark the shape of the lid. I believe I used an offset of about a millimeter to make sure the lid would fit.
Repeat the process of step 2, cutting strips for the sides etc. The height of the sides of the lid can be anything you like, but I went for about 1/3 of the height of my box.

The only difference is when gluing them in place, I glued them to the opposite side of the cardboard, so the sides stick out on the outside of the shape (See third and fourth picture) . This to be extra certain that the lid will fit nicely over the box. It's also a good idea to check regularly as you're attaching the sides, that the lid still fits.

Step 6: (Optional) Smooth the Inner Edges

To "break" the sharp inner edges a bit, I figured it would be a good idea to put some filler paste in them. In the end it didn't matter because I decided to upholster the inside anyway, but if you don't plan on doing this, and if you have some of this stuff laying around, you can still do it. Even though paper mache also allows you to smooth out edges.
So yeah. Forget everything I told you about filler paste. Go to the next step, nothing to see here anymore *shifty eyes*.

Step 7: Add a Nice Border to the Lid

To make it a bit fancier, I glued an extra (thick enough, but this can be containerboard) piece of cardboard about half a centimeter (0.2 inch) smaller than the shape of the lid, on the lid.
But first, I glued some pieces of the same cardboard used for the side strip to the lid, so it would be level (See first picture).

Step 8: Apply Paper Mache

Simple step, but it takes time. Fun to do with kids I bet, but I did it all by my grown up self :p.
Prepare a big amount of newspaper strips, and then start by brushing on some paper mache glue, put a strip of newspaper on it, and brush some more of the glue on and around the strip, put the next one on, etc.
Put the strips on randomly, not taking the edges into account, they should run over the edges and definitely not stop there.
The firmness of the edges of the box is provided by the paper mache.
You can add as many layers as you want. If you allow it to dry between 2 layers, it will become even firmer.

Step 9: (Optional) Upholster the Inside

To make it even better looking, you can provide the interior of the box with a cloth of some sort. I bought a few A4 sheets of felt in the hobby shop.
There's probably a better way to attach them than I did, involving thread and needles, but I kept it simple: I just glued a sheet to the bottom inside of the box, and glued strips of felt to the inner sides, overlapping about half a centimeter (0.2 inch) over the top edges, so those are also covered. Then I stapled the felt to the edges, not leaving much space in between the staples. The result looks as if it's sewn with a metal thread :-).
Those overhanging flaps of cloth on the outside should then be covered with an additional layer of paper mache, that stops right below the edge on the outside, and covers a big part of the sides, so the transition on the heightened strip of cloth is smoothened out (see fifth picture).

Don't worry getting some of the paper mache glue/varnish on the cloth near the edges. It will also stiffen up (in case of felt at least), so the edges will become more resilient).

On a side note, I noticed that brown felt stiffened with this stuff, turns out to be an excellent fake leather. Definitely going to keep this in mind when I need this in a next project :-))

Step 10: Paint It!

Acrylics, oil paint, doesn't matter. Slap on a ground layer and a coating or 2 of any desired color (allowing it to dry in between), so nothing of the newspaper is showing through anymore, and you're done!

Well at least, I was done. But by all means, continue to decorate it as you see fit. Because I realize that a plain colored box might look a bit boring. I'm thinking of putting a stencil on mine (following the outline), and perhaps applying one last coating of the paper mache glue/varnish (without newspaper of course), as a protection coat.

My girlfriend and her bunny were very pleased with the result, and especially the outlook that they can now yet again carelessly travel together :-).

Good luck!

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    10 Discussions


    7 years ago

    Love it


    8 years ago on Introduction

    *reads the part about wallpaper paste* Good, finally, I can finish the stupid thing off.
    Cynicism aside, this looks awesome. I can't wait to try it!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Hey, do show me when you make something of it !

    Sawowie XD
    Sawowie XD

    8 years ago on Step 9

    I've seen felt with a sticky back on it that might work instead of stapling the felt, i've never used it before. just a suggestion. otherwise this is definitely something i'm going to try in the future, i always loved paper mache as a kid


    Reply 8 years ago on Step 9

    Ah, felt with a sticky back would've been very helpful and time saving :-).
    Still, staples provide the strength for attaching the felt the way I did, folded over the top edges.
    At first I was struggling to find a way to hide the staples on the inside, but then they turned out looking quite okay, because I put them regularly.
    Please share pictures of what you'll be making with this !


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Fantastic. I think your last picture would make an even more compelling intro image. It's so sweet!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Good idea!
    I also uploaded a bunny-in-the-box picture to the last step :)

    The bunny fits in so perfectly! Awesome! I thought it was the doughboy at first. A bunny is much better!