28 July 2006

Fun with cardboard

What is this, you ask?

I took a "cardboard carpentry" class this week at the Adaptive Design Association, and came away with a step stool that I made myself. I am now capable of reaching the next-to-highest shelf in my kitchen cabinets.

ADA works with schools and hospitals to design and build equipment and furniture for disabled kids. Why cardboard? It's cheap and available; it's easy to work with and more forgiving than other materials that require special skills to work with; it's lightweight; and, it's fast. That box that your computer came in could easily be turned into a set of steps that a child in a wheelchair can use to get down to the floor. And for a schools that never have enough funding and time to give disabled children the special attention they need - hell, there's not enough of those things for so-called typical children -- a chair that slips over a regular classroom chair to allow a child with cerebral palsy to sit comfortably is a big thing.

But really, it's just fun to make things out of cardboard. This stepstool, which holds my weight easily, is made from three-ply corrugated cardboard, Elmer's glue, nails made from chopsticks (sharpened in a pencil sharpener), and brown-paper bag to smooth out the edges. I plan to paint it soon, but if I get better at cutting the cardboard (I used a steak knife; others used a jigsaw), and making smoother joins, I could see leaving something unfinished.

After all, Frank Gehry didn't need to paint his Wiggle Chair, and those sell for $850, so clearly it's a good look.


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