Cardboard Units

Throw away your bricks and trowels, your costly cement walls and that old-fashioned “built to last” idea. This is the era of the disposable! Storage saving and penny pinching is in.

Okay. Suffice it to say not all of us can afford to build a real castle for filming purposes. That is the real kicker of making a medieval movie. That, and no horses… or huge landscape shots…or a really good camera and large crew… anyway. I’m going to walk you through the process of creating a “cardboard wall unit.”

Step One — Paperwork

Before any, well most, of your prop projects, draw it. Or at least measure and write down the measurements. iSundae II called for a turret set (the top of a tower on which the hero and villain fight amid thunder and lightning). So, silly me, I said we could use our cement driveway, along with these wall units, a cardboard door, and green screen to simulate a tower. I also got smart and made the units a size where we could use them for the dungeon and miscellaneous walls as well.
I went out on the driveway, did some measuring, and came up with a number of units. If I remember correctly, it was twelve 6 feet by 2 feet units and fourteen 4 feet by 2 feet units.

Step Two — Assemble Materials

Friends, that’s a whole lot of cardboard. Praise the Lord, JoAnn Etc. gave us their empty cardboard fabric bolts for free. We got a couple cartloads, plus our wonderful grandparents had some boxes from their patio furniture.

Step Three — Cut

Until your arm aches. Then cut some more. You build up great arm and finger muscles doing this. I’ve said before, I use a rotary cutter and mat. It helps to stack your pieces in piles according to unit. A top, two sides, and the front (or the pieces thereof) in one pile, etc. Although, you might run out a space. I piled all my tops together and sides together, then put the tops on the sides to conserve space. (A craftroom shrinks amazingly when you get this much stuff in it.) Please watch out for your fingers during this stage.

Step Four — Glue

This procedure does use a ton of hot glue. Trust me, by the end of this project, I could touch 380 degree glue and not blink. (Unless my finger actually plunged into the glob. Then it was painful.) This is not something you need to be proud of! It is a safety hazard. I should investigate a pair of gloves.
(Ha, I can see Ruth coming down to the craftroom. “Hey, how’s it going?”
Me: “Well, I’m on my fifth pair of gloves.”
“Where’d the others go?”
“Well, one’s glued to that wall unit over there, one’s stuck to this stalactite frame, one’s…”)

Step Five — Bring a Fish Friend

Oh, wait. Guess I’ve seen Finding Nemo a few too many times. The correct next step would be Painting. We found a great paint in the Oops Bin at Home Depot or Lowes. I can’t remember which. We went to both on the same day and got something at each. It was the neatest paint, gray with granite flecks in it so it was textured kind of like stone.
The units looked great. That is, the few we were able to do. Dry cardboard soaks up paint like you wouldn’t believe. So we had to mix up some gray paint and try to match the color. It turned out rather blue, but hey, it happens.

Step Six — Use It

Well, I ran out of patience, paint, cardboard, and storage space long before my planned quota. We ended up with eleven short units and eight tall units. You’d be surprised how much you can do with those. They are not recommended for controllable fire scenes, hot weather (the glue melts), termite areas, or people who are allergic to dust. And be aware that a large cardboard piece will blow over, given a small amount of wind. We learned this the hard way.

If you can make sense out of these rambling instructions, good for you. Have fun prop-making and watch out for cardboard cuts.

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2 comments on “Cardboard Units

  1. Hello, Rebekah. you did a fine job of your description of how to make a turret…actually, I thought that was a smallish rodent type animal. Hmmm, maybe I am mixed up! you do a good job on whatever you do. When I was a Sr. in high school, I helped with the Sr. Play…don’t remember what it was, but I had to make a mummy case, so i guess working with cardboard must be an inherited trait!. Love and misses, Aunt Debbie (forgive my typing, it is late!)

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