Box Making

I make boxes (and more) by reusing cardboard from other boxes. Actually it’s a bit of a love affair. For some reason I love making things from cardboard. Perhaps its reuse and recycling or perhaps cardboard is simply a damn good material to work with.

It all started when I needed some small shipping boxes for the Squirrel rubber band plane project. This can get expensive and complicated so I decided to make my own. It brought me great happiness.

I have gone from hand making boxes to using CNC equipment to cut the box (laser and rotary cutter). Here’s my old “box-o-matic” in action cutting some cardboard. I’ve since upgraded to a faster machine but you can get the idea.

I have some more designs I’ll publish this week (and a new machine for cutting) but in the mean time here are just a few designs to wet your appetite. Also there is a version 2 of the machine above I will post video the next time I use it. I will also detail the software as requested in the comments.

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Long live reuse. And Cardboard. :)

Zen Box

I love this box. There have been many different configurations of the flaps and pins that help speed assembly. I’ve made a lot of these boxes. I’ve reused a lot of cardboard. It’s easy to assemble and is VERY rigid. This box has been a staple for shipping Squirrel rubber band planes.

Flat Box

This is a great box for small shipments and it is under 2cm thick. That gives me a thrill.

Dayton Box

This one has been used to ship the Dayton Rubber Band Plane prototypes. It’s my only “limited run” box. :) Once I complete the Dayton rubber band plane design I will probably use the Scalable Box (below).

Jagwing Hangar

This box is for holding my Jagwing which is a walkalong glider. It’s a laser cut and as you can see it’s round.

Twenty Box

This is based on a two part cutout. I’m not that happy with this box as it’s a little tricky to assemble. But it’s very efficient with cardboard use. :)

DIY No-Bendelope

This one is so easy to make you ought to just make them by hand.

I make two slices to form the spline and border it with cardboard. With this system I’m using four folds and only adding the frame to two of the sides. Works very well and it considerably faster than the Flat Box. I think it’s lighter as there are less glue joints and less cardboard. Very rigid too!

This one has been very exciting.

Solar Box

I ordered a solar panel to power my cell phone with solar and the box it came with was really awesome!

It was  taped and not glued and depended on the panel itself and packaging for structure. So it was just a cover. But when I saw it I realized, “Oh my God! This would be highly structural with glue”! It turns out that box design with and without glue is really different.

So I got all excited and decided to make a box a bit like the solar panel box. The difference is that the top flaps will overlap 100 percent. My theory is that this will make the box very rigid and make it very easy to close since the glue surface will be maximized. Also, they will not need any pre-assembly so can be left flat.

So I started out by making a rough one by hand. It assembled it to identify any problems. I then used it as a template to make a second one reducing the defects and issues. I expected to take like five iterations but I hit something on the second iteration. Notice the second one has the measurements on it. The measurements are parametric so I can eventually scale this design.  Those measurements are recorded so if this box works out I can transfer it to CAD so I can make a bunch of them on my Box-O-Matic box maker.

Don’t be fooled. A rotary cutter is a great way to cut cardboard. Laser is awesome of course but a CNC router is fast, inexpensive and it leaves a lovely fuzzy cut that won’t cut you, your friends or the recipient of your shipment. Secret: If you have a high spindle speed you can burn through. Less dust. A better experience overall.

Scalable Box

I’m really falling in love here. This is a great box since the sides can be made any length. A single design can be “stretched” by changing one parameter in the design. I love this box and will make up some video of it in action.

Andrew and I completed the design yesterday using a paper cutout to model the ideas and Sketchup to  prototype for the laser. Today I cleaned the design up and ran a couple on my CNC cutter.

Mine is 12.5×3″ base and the height is scalable. If you want to make your own here’s how you can do it in Sketchup. 

This video is a little rough but I’ll make another when I do the videos of this box in action.

Tips For Making Boxes

If you can find a source of cardboard that has a consistent size of cardboard, it will save you time. You can slice them down to consistent “blanks” very fast. You can see my stacking method in the pictures below.

Be very careful with box cutters! The trick is that every time you thrust the cutter you must imagine what would happen if cutting resistance disappeared. Where does the cutter wind up? In your thigh?

Glue is the key. Tape doesn’t fasten parts well enough to leverage the true rigidity of cardboard. Don’t forget it’s made from wood so it is possible to make highly rigid structures. Tape can be used as a backup in case your box encounters moisture.

When preparing the blanks for the machine you may find the box cutter gets dull fast. You can sharpen it using a dremel with a grinding stone. An ordinary sharpening stone with oil works great too.

Notice my “box-o-matic” has a roller. This makes a huge difference when cutting flat material. Very worth making one if you’re going to cut cardboard.

Related: Porn for DIY Box Makers

Zünd cutter

Structural Packaging Design Software

Point of Purchase Packaging Design Software

GTX Cutter

Hand Cutting

Another on Hand Cutting, Youtube version of Hand Cutting

Check this puppy out.

Donek Drag Knife

5 Responses to “Box Making

  • Brilliant. Fascinating industrial design knowledge aside, what I love is the idea that ALL things are valued. Including the box it comes in. We waste nearly everything. It’s refreshing to see an art form that is the antithesis of that.

  • Wow, what a thrill! This post is in Hackaday! Thanks for all the comments and ideas! I’ve added the links I received to the bottom of my post!

  • Very nice, and interesting that you do model planes. You have a lot in common with my old friend and boss who created the Mac project at Apple and also designed everything from micro-lights to slope soarers. He also liked cardboard. Google “bloxes” and check the images.

    But the thing that ties it together is the “Western Wind” A complete plane for RC shipped as a 4-fold sheet of cardboard with the directions printed on it. About 36 inch length and much greater span. IIRC all you added was glue, a pair of bent pieces of piano wire for spars, and your Rx + servos. If you had a hard landing, the wings rotated forward and down without damage.

    I wish I still had some, or at least the dies and graphics to make more. We used them all up slope soaring for “Cardboard Combat”. They got some bad reviews but flew fine for me by hi-start or above Pacifica.

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