An Unusual Hobby: The Art of Cardboard Modeling

I have an unusual hobby. I build replicas or models out of cardboard. In short, I do cardboard modeling.

What are cardboard models? Cardboard models are replicas of things and objects that are made primarily from cardboard, paper or plastic card. They attempt to approximate the likeness of objects from which they are patterned. Subjects are range from simple paper cutouts, buildings, castles to ship and aircraft. They can come in colored pre-printed patterns for assembly or the model can be built entirely from scratch.

As far as can remember, I always built toys out of cardboard or paper. I have fond memories of telling stories to my classmates during my First Grade using cardboard cut-outs of “Superman” which I drew. I was often in awe of car crashes and explosions that I saw in TV shows so I built cardboard cars which, true to form, I burned. I often watched science fiction TV shows like Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers where I based and built models of the spaceships I saw. Japanese Anime characters were a source of subjects for my models. When I saw first saw Return of the Jedi [I watched the trilogy in reverse order], I built my own squad of storm troopers, R2D2 and C3PO. I remember building large versions of Airwolf, a Huey helicopter and the American Space Shuttle. During my entire childhood, I must have built close to a thousand models. All were eventually lost either gracefully like burning/explosions or sadly thrown out. When I graduated high school I abandoned this hobby. I thought that it was just a part of my childhood and had no part in a growing mans’ life.

One day in my late thirties, sick and jobless, I went online using my old computer. I accidentally found myself in a site for paper models. I was amazed in the number of people involved and the amount of creativity they possessed. This led me to ask myself, “Can I still build cardboard models after all these years?” I bought some glue and cardboard to find out. I finished two models based on popular Japanese Anime robots within that week.

I wondered if there is an interest in the internet with my childhood hobby. I developed an amateur site at The site provides information to those who want to know more about cardboard modeling and to see my simple models. Frequently asked questions regarding this hobby are:

What are the tools and materials used? The main material used is stiff cardboard or paper. The type and thickness of the cardboard depend on the kind, scale and structure of the model that is to be made. Larger models require thicker and stronger paper to support weight. Easily rounded and folded cardboard are used to build complex structures. Commonly used tools are scissors, cutters, glue, adhesives, compass, rulers, triangles, paint, pencils and markers. Cutting, scoring, folding and gluing the cardboard, forms the model.

Why bother with cardboard models? Cardboard models provide hobbyist another dimension for creativity. It incorporates basic engineering principles and geometric designs in forming the structures and making it strong. Unlike plastic models a cardboard model is very cheap. Repairs while constructing can easily be done together with improvements and adjustments in the final look of the model.. One built from scratch is always unique and one of a kind. It does not require big space in building or storing.

Where can I learn about and get cardboard models? There are a variety of books available that discuss cardboard and plastic card modeling subjects. A couple of titles are available regarding paper and cardboard structures. Sites dedicated to selling cardboard models such, also provide information.

Can I start to build cardboard models right away? Yes. Even children can build cardboard models and in fact they do. Many elementary schools incorporate cardboard models in art subjects. If you can cut patterns, you can do cardboard modeling. A model need not be complex. A simple model is always the best way to start cardboard modeling. Learning a little basic geometry and engineering techniques can eventually lead to more complex models such as ship frames.

Where can I get free cardboard models? Cardboard and Paper model sites often provide free downloadable models that you can print and construct yourself. Colored pattern cutout models, that you can purchase online, are also available. Freelance designers offer different kinds and versions of models.

Do cardboard models last long? Cardboard models by their nature and construction are very fragile and light. However, with proper design it can be very sturdy and strong. Just as in any collection, a serious cardboard modeler and/or collector must invest time and money to protect their models from the affect of constant handling and weather. Sealed containers or display cabinets are often used.

What I once abandoned and considered as just part of my childhood, now offers a sense of being and purpose. It was sort of coming full circle to what I once loved doing.

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