Friday, September 23, 2011

Slow Living: A Cardboard Rocketship In 12 Easy Steps

Although there are (fairly expensive) cardboard rocketship playhouse kits you can buy online, there's really only one good DIY post. (There are also a couple of cool make-your-own recycled rocketship toy tutorials, and a ridonkulously awesome photo on DeviantArt.) So I thought I'd better take a few photos and write up our modest improvised attempt. It was a bit time-consuming, but both super fun and really fairly easy...

Step 1: Gather your supplies. You'll need one huge cardboard box, a bunch of smaller cardboard boxes, and miscellaneous stuff from your recycling bin (or the reuse centre, if your city has one) for decorating the thing. We collected ours over the course of a couple of months. You'll also need scissors and a box-cutter, industrial-strength glue, 2 (or more) cans of silver spray paint, and 3 (or more) rolls of silver duct tape... as I discovered after I had already started.

Step 2: Use the duct tape to tape up the bottom for a solid base, repair any tears, and tape the top flaps of the box to each other in the open position. Start to construct roof; run out of duct tape.

Step 3: Box-cutter time, for grownups only. Slice an upward-opening hatch door into one side of the box. Cut the flat lip off a round clear-plastic cover (from premade graham-cracker-crumb crusts and the like) and trace around it where you'll be placing portholes, then cut the cardboard out with the boxcutter. Ditto with any other openings you'll be making.

Step 4: Now that you have an opening you can get through, add duct tape to the inside of your giant box to make the 'floor' stronger and more tear-resistant. Also, glue a handle onto your hatch at this time to make the door easier to open. Ours is a square block of styrofoam with a larger flat square of high-density foam glued to the top.

Step 5: Spray paint the cardboard silver, inside and out. (You'll notice I did this in an area where our lawn was already mostly dead from drought and in dire need of repair.) Realize that the styrofoam you used for part of the hatch door handle melts when the solvent from the spray paint touches it. Run out of spray paint. Let dry at least 30 minutes - preferably much longer since it will reek to high heaven of the solvents in the spray paint.


Step 6: Since it's looking like rain, move the whole thing into the garage, and head to the store for more duct tape and spray paint so you can complete the project later.

Step 7: Rain stopped? Great, move back outside and resume roof construction. Basically the idea is to cut cardboard into triangles, like the segments of an umbrella, and attach them to each other with duct tape, to create a cone or dome for the roof. I'm not entirely happy with how ours turned out - it looks more like a house roof than anything - but the kids are thrilled regardless.

Step 8: Make it look more rocket-like. Add cardboard fins (my kids decided against these) or 'thrusters' (ramen soup bowls) to the exterior of the rocket, and a 'control panel' (egg carton) and other widgets that will need spray paint to the interior of the rocket. Let any glue used dry thoroughly.

Step 9: Finish spray painting outside and inside. (Since the kids will be adding lots more colour themselves inside, we decided not to worry about the fact that we ran out of spray paint again before it was done.) Let dry at least 30 minutes - or in our case, overnight in the garage.

Step 10: Fancy windows! Clear plastic 'portholes' (graham-wafer pie shell covers) and 'viewscreens' (plastic from a large box a toy was sold in) can be glued and duct taped into place at this point.

Step 11: Add the details. Draw on rivets, identification numbers, and so on using black permanent marker acrylic paint. Paste on printouts of space agency logos (NASA's meatball is via Wikipedia). Red and orange paper can be glued to the thrusters to make 'flames' now - or if you have a mouthy puppy like we do, red and orange paint. If you're really clever you might be able to add moveable dials inside the rocket as well - if you do figure out how to do that, leave me a comment so I can add one to mine, mmkay?

(DARS = Boychild Girlchild Rocket Service)
Before we painted the rivets and thruster flames.
Also, notice how it's leaving glittery dust on everybody's clothes, presumably spray paint dust? Give it a quick vacuum or wipedown. Preferably before adding the details, instead of afterward like I did.

Since markers weren't showing up,
we went with stickers for the numbers on our buttons.
Painted rivets and knob instructions.
The more detail you add the better it looks!
Step 12: Set up in its permanent (indoor) location and let playtime commence!

Boychild couldn't wait for me to finish painting the rivets and move it.
"Mummy, clone troopers wear their helmets in outer space." Alrighty then.
The adorable astronaut costume was a gift a couple of years ago.
PS: I'll add another photo in a couple of days to show the results of further customization by the kids with acrylics and puffy paint, and repairs since while I have been writing this two thrusters have already come unglued!

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