Cardboard Bookshelf


Cardboard, measuring tape, utility knives, hot glue gun, glue gun sticks, wide packing tape, & brown and red spray paint.


  1. Collected our old moving boxes and picked up cardboard from Barnes & Noble.  Traced out back panel and tall arches from a single large box without having to worry about bends in the cardboard that could cause buckling.
  2. Sketched out a plan with measurements based on an existing wooden bookshelf.  Measured out and adjusted dimensions of smaller pieces (e.g. tabs, shelves, etc.) to fit the bookcase skeleton.
  3. Traced out the components with a measuring tape and a ruler.
  4. Cut components with a utility knife. Padded floor with extra cardboard to avoid cutting through the floor.
  5. Cut slots and tabs that fit together for interlocking design. Affixed the component pieces together using a hot glue gun.
  6. Placed heavy books on the bookcase to see if it supported their weight. Sprayed paint onto the bookcase and allow it to dry.  Applied second and third coats for touch up.

Congratulations, you’ve made yourself a Cardboard Bookshelf!!!

Lessons Learned:

  1. Avoid old or flimsy knives. A utility knife with a solid handle and a fresh blade significantly contributes to both safety and efficiency.
  2. A hot glue gun affixes the components better than glue intended for paper or wood.
  3. Avoid using a lot of plastic-based tape since it can come off during painting. Use paper-based packing tape instead.
  4. Spraying paint is much faster than using paintbrush. However a paintbrush may be useful for smaller areas or detail. Avoid paint fumes by wearing a face mask.
  5. We were surprised that a cardboard bookcase is sturdy enough to hold several heavy books.


Anuja Chockalingam, Adriana Fuentes, Supraja Narasimhan


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