How to make a box

Take a flat piece of cardboard (just cut up an old box in good condition) and cut out the square or rectangle in your choice of sizes. Cut out the small corner squares so the sides fold up and meet. Be sure and score the cardboard so it folds neatly. Cover the entire surface with cheap masking tape while you sit watching TV or let your kids do it. Torn pieces are the best but neatniks can cut the tape. It still works fine. You can get all kinds of patterns for box shapes in the library or design your own. After the box is covered with the masking tape, apply a couple coats of gesso. When dry, paint it.

When you make the lid be sure to make it slightly larger than the base. You can make an attached lid by getting a larger piece of cardboard to make the box. Cut the back wall and the lid in one piece. Score the line between the back wall of the box and the lid. Fold the piece over to make the lid. You can attach a pretty ribbon or tassel as an opener or do a button and loop closure. The loop can be masking taped on when you are first covering the box.

I have pieces that I made from 25 years ago that still look great using this method. Be sure and varnish well after painting and antiquing looks great over the torn and gessoed tape pieces.
Antoinette Cox
Fresno, California

Instructions for Making Boxes from Recycled Materials
by Donna Lanen

I know boxes can be expensive and this may prevent some members from making as many memory boxes as they would like. I make all of my boxes from recycled mat board that I get free from local frame shops. I like the lighter colors, and use the backside, on the inside of the box. This keeps the inside a uniform white. If I use darker colors I use those pieces only on the bottom. I complete the following steps to make my boxes.

  1. Use a utility or mat knife or a mat cutter to cut out the box. My boxes are 9 inches square and 5 inches high.

  2. Cut one bottom 9 inches square and four side pieces 5 x 9 1/8 inches. Cut one lid 9-1/4 inches square. (This gives the top room to fit over the bottom after it is papered. You may change this as you work with your materials.) Cut four pieces 1 1/4 x 9 1/4, for the lid sides.

  3. Use artist tape* to construct the box by taping the four side pieces together around the bottom, trimming where needed to fit securely. Stand the box on its side with the bottom fit into place. Measure out four, 5 inch pieces of tape onto a self healing cutting mat. Run the tape along each edge where the side and bottom edges meet. When all edges are taped the bottom is complete.

  4. Lift the paper** up along one side and crease the corners. Do this to all four corners, which will result in creased squares. Next cut 1/2 inch along the outside of the crease on the first side.*** Paste the first box side panel and brush the edges of the paper, so the top overlap will adhere along the inside edge. Bring the paper up and smooth it out. Clip the top edge corners so you can fold the top over and smooth the inside edge. Clip the bottom sides at each corner to allow the side edge to lie flat.

  5. Turn the box and cut the outside edge of the next side paper panel (only one side needs to be trimmed) and repeat the process until you have done all of the sides. You will have a smooth box with edges flush. When the box is dry you have a white clean, tight surface to use with watercolor, color pencils, or any other medium.

  6. This might seem like a long process, but once you get started it goes quickly. When using the products mentioned, the boxes are best done at one sitting. I cut enough pieces to complete at least three boxes at a time. I have learned by trial and error.
    After I have my design completed, I cover the all surfaces, inside and out, with one coat of Mod Podge. When this is dry I follow with one coat of Anita's varnish. This is done using a foam brush. The finished product is wonderful and can be made for a fraction of the cost of buying them.

    All of the products mentioned can be found at Michaels Arts and Crafts.

    I hope this has been helpful. After you get started you will find your own way of working with the materials and finding products that are just right for you. Good luck

* Regular masking tape will work as well, I just like the artist tape as it is acid free and of a better grade than regular masking tape.
** I use end rolls from the book printing process; most of this is acid free. You could purchase large rolls, like they use in school art classes. You could go to a restaurant supply place and get the white rolls used on tables, or see if a restaurant will let you have some.
*** I have tried spray adhesive and Elmer's glue mixed with some water, but I find they had their drawbacks and, yes paste works well. It is best applied with a stiff rubber spatula or old plastic card. It can be thinned a bit and brushed on for the edge overlap.

Other Box Making resources:,1158,CRHO_project_13561,FF.html

If those links don't work for some reason, put "gift boxes" (without the quotes) in the search field (on the upper left side of the page), choose "Crafts/Collectibles" from the pull down box where it says "search the entire site" and then click the little oval button that says "search".