Shaper and Maker

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Basics of cardboard modelling

What is this tutorial for?
This tutorial teaches you how to cut cardboard accurately and safely. If you want to do some cardboard modelling, you should read this page as will give you some invaluable information. Did you know that large amount of cardboard modelling can even cause you permanent neural damage if you don't do it right?

CuttingCutting cardboard and measuring are more difficult tasks than they might appear. When making models, even small differences in size and shape can be seen, especially in the smaller scales. 

 
 
Equipment 

ToolsFirst things to get are of course the knives. I have two differend knives I do the cutting with, one pen-knife with switchable blades and one snap-blade knife. The next thing is a metallic ruler. Aluminium isn't good as the knives carves it, at least it should have steel reinforcement. My ruler has a straight angle in it, which is also a neccessary tool, but on the other hand, it limits the usability if the angle isn't in the level with the rest of the ruler. You should avoid dropping it as it can alter the angle. The next item is a cutting board. It's not neccessary, I used layers of cardboard for a long time, but they get worn out pretty quickly. You should ask for those in hobby stores, artist's stores or hardware stores. 
  About materials,I mostly use 1mm cardboard (1/25") for my models. It's easy to cut, it's quite firm and easily available. For glueing I use normal glue for wood. 

Cautions 

First I want to remind you that BE CAREFUL. Those knives are REALLY sharp, and when keeping the ruler firmly the fingers may be in danger... And you should also always keep your knives sharp. Dull blades may cause wrinkles in the cutting edge of the cardboard, and may also cause slips which may cut deep wounds to fingers or other body parts. I mean that you need a lot of power when cutting, especially if cutting thicker than 1mm cardboard. If the blade is dull, it may get stuck, and when you use more power for it, it may be suddenly relased and hit even your leg. 

Measuring 

As I said, measuring usually has to be very exact. When cutting pieces, first measure and draw them, then cut them. Be sure that it is a straight angle you start with if it needs to be one, not just something like that. Also a lot of pieces have found their way to the garbage very soon after discovering that there has been cuts or some other unwanted feature on the other side. You should keep in mind that when marking the lines, the pen marks the line a little away from the ruler, so keep the ruler a little closer to the other end. You can always re-measure after drawing the lines. 

Cutting 

Cutting
This is maybe the trickiest part. First remember, that by standing you get more power more easily. You may also try to move your whole body when cutting. It is always a good thing to be able to cut a line in a single draw, as for the second draw, the knife may be in a little different position and may cause uneven face. You should be aware of the pose of the blade in order to get level cuts. Also, the knife is not on the ruler but little aside of it, although not as far away as a pen. You should also apply a lot of pressure on the ruler, for if it moves during the cutting, the piece is probably ruined. It is very difficult to cut small slices off the cardboard so be careful with the measuring, but if you'll have to cut little, it is easier to cut it sloped, and then level it. 

Cutting Sloped 

Cutting sloped edge
It is also possible to cut the borders sloped. You'll need to do that when creating roofs and other items that are not in straight angle. Pen-knife is a better tool for this, because snap blade is not as rigid and will bend when cutting.Beginning may get uneven easier, so it's better to cut sloped sides before straight ones. Remember that it may be difficult to figure how far the border will be on the other side, and that the closer side may also be several millimeters away from the ruler, so if the other border will be straight, cut it also after the sloped one. 

Putting it together 

Reinforcing
You should always use reinforcing structures when putting the pieces together. They make the pieces mode durable, prevent bending of the surfaces and helps keeping the surfaces straight when gluing. It is also a good idea to check if the pieces fit together before glueing. And check that the piece is firmly on it's place when the glue hasn't yet hardened, and has not sled aside from it's intended position. And look out for the stains of glue; Do not use too much of it! 

Round Shapes 

1/2 mm cardboard may be used to make round shapes. Just make the reinforcing piece's edges round shaped and bend the thinner one around it. Sometimes measuring may be difficult, but measuring reinforcing pieces and remembering how to use Pi, you should be able to get close to the right result. Just remember that the surface is again a little further away from the center (or whichever kind of piece you wish to make) and thus needs to be a little larger. 

Well this should let you get started. You can begin to make models of your summer cottagestar destroyer, or whatever you wish... I hope I can bring more material here later, but I never know when I have time and inspiration to get to it. 

 

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