Repurposing Some Cardboard

Finished BoxesThe second leg of the South From Alaska trip is an airplane flight from Missoula MT to Prudhoe Bay AK. Getting a trike and all of my gear up there safe and sound is a challenge. Trikes don’t fit in a standard bicycle box, even when disassembled, and Alaska Air will only handle a box measuring a total of 115″ (linear height + width + length) and no more than 100 pounds. After some research and a lot of measurements I finally decided to build my own cardboard boxes; one for the trike and the larger panniers, and a smaller one for the remainder of the gear and food items.

ToolsBuilding cardboard boxes is not that difficult if taken one step at a time. All you need is a little patience, some accuracy in measurements, some used cardboard, and a few readily available tools.

The first step involves getting a supply of large cardboard. I used a refrigerator box and two small washing machine boxes. Most appliance stores trash their boxes quickly so you need to contact them several days in advance.

Other items included a sheet rock square, a framing square, 1 quart of contact cement and throw away chip brushes, a box knife and a supply of blades, a black felt tip marker, a tape measure, a hammer, and a 1/4″ steel rod. Cardboard dulls knife blades quickly so don’t be afraid to change them out; they are not that expensive, and a sharp blade is an absolute necessity.

I used the sheet rock square to insure that all cut edges were straight and individual parts were square. The cut lines were marked off using the square and a marker and the square was used to guide the knife while a light cut was made. I always marked the line first so I could tell if the square was shifting as the cut was made. To protect the tip of the blade I lifted the cardboard up and ran the blade back down the cut to separate the two pieces. Remember: measure twice and cut once.

Scribe The BoxCut The Box

Making folds and corners is pretty easy. The first step involved marking where the fold lines are located. Next, place a 1/4″ rod over the fold line and tapped it every 3-4″ with a hammer. The key word here is tap, not hammer. The cardboard only needs to be dented, not mashed flat; with a little practice you will get the feel for how hard to tap it. With a little pressure the cardboard can be easily folded up. On longer folds try bending up a little all along the edge then go back and complete the fold. Two edges need to be marked and folded to make corners.

Scoring The FoldFold The Edge

After both edges are scored and folded one part of the fold must be cut to form a flap for gluing the corner together. The corner can now be folded up and the flap glued in place. I used brush on contact cement, rather than spray glue, because it was easier to limit where the glue was applied. I used a disposable chip brush to apply the glue; one brush lasted all day long, even though it tended to dry out between usage.

Cut The FlapFinished Corner

Since the trike box was rather large, 49″ L x 20″ H x 30″ W, and will hold about 70 pounds, I elected to double the cardboard thickness by placing additional panels on the inside of the sides, top, and bottom. The ribbing in cardboard runs in one direction, and to add the most strength I glued the additional panels with the ribs at 900 to the original box. The box was a lot more stiff after doing this.

Making the boxes was fun and only took a day to do it. In my case the only cost was the glue and chip brushes: $16. Try repurposing some cardboard by making your own specialized boxes; I bet you will have fun, too.

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