Arts & Crafts Page


It is not difficult to make some pretty good looking toys, props & stuff using inexpensive materials and simple techniques and tools.

Its just a case of being a little bit careful; and thinking things through first - particularly the choice of materials and the build technique.

Lets have a look ..!

Building - Tools and Materials

My favourite combination is cardboard and a glue gun.  With these you can make almost anything!

The 'Action Man' outpost made from the cardboard box a microwave oven came in. Two outside walls were covered in rolled up paper tubes for a log-cabin effect and the other two walls whit scrunched up papier-mâché for a stone wall effect.  The corrugated iron roof was made by cladding it with cardboard that had been soaked in water to uncover its corrugations.  The lookout tower was built from a smaller cardboard box that had been cut in two (for top and bottom) and  separated by four strips of wood.   A hot-melt glue gun was sued to stick it all together.  All was given a good coating of watered down PVA before priming and painting.

Note that the doors and roof open to allow for photography.... and play!

Built like this the model will stand up to the rigours of play, The hut has lasted four years already

If used carefully a glue gun is great for arts and crafts; it is easy to work with and sticks stuff pretty quickly.  The glue can used to fill gaps, which can be handy.   But do be careful or a sooner or latter you are likely to get burned by hot glue.    Ouch.

Glue guns work by melting solid glue sticks and extruding the glue liquid out of a nozzle.  When the glue cools it forms a pretty strong bond to whatever it is stuck on.  Glue guns come in two general types - hot or cool, meaning the temperature at which it melts the glue stick, and different types of glue sticks can be used accordingly.  Many glue guns have dual heat control so they can use hot or cool glues.  I prefer the hot type, and the hotter the better; around 200 degrees Celsius , runnier hotter glue makes a good bond.  The heat teaches you some respect for what you are doing, so you are probably less likely to burn yourself than when using the low temperature gun.  There will be times when you need to hold pieces together while the glue cools; take care and keep your fingers out of the way - it is surprising how much heat can be transmitted through cardboard.  A good idea is to hold the hot object between blocks of wood or similar until cooled.

Other favourites include mastic guns that squeeze a variety if different mastic glues.  These are handy when working with polystyrene foam and other materials.

PVA glue is useful for gluing wood & paper, and is particularly useful when mixed with a little water for papier-mâché, for sealing and strengthening other materials, priming before painting or using with sand to give a textured surface.

Corrugated iron... err.. cardboard.

Other Top Tools




Close up on the lookout post, taking advantage of a good camera angle and sunlight.

Inside the hut.  Add some details for realism .

Other Materials

Just about anything can be used,- polystyrene foam, foam-core-card, wood, paper & newspaper, cloth, textured wallpaper, packaging, etc.  Keep a scrap box for any items that may come in useful.

Painting & Artwork

Household emulsion paint is just great for most models; the hardwearing type even better.  BUT remember to prime the surface first with quick drying primer of watered down PVA.  This will make the surface stronger and will take the final paint better.  Many DIY hardware stores sell sample pots of different colours - these are great way to get the colour you want for little money. 

The trick in painting is to keep things fairly simple but to add highlights or detail just where it matters.  For the more advanced, try making the material's texture work for you by painting it in a basecoat of one colour, then dry-brushing over it with another to bring out the texture.  Maybe add some highlights and shadows - note that in general things at the top are lighter than things at the bottom - but don't overdo this.

Projects Examples

Building a Command Bunker

Following from the success of the command hut, this bunker seemed like a good idea at the time.

This was built from 2 inch thick polystyrene insulation board, glued together with 'no-nails' mastic and covered in wallpaper.

First draw up some basic plans, then select a foreman.

"This polystyrene block is a bit heavy.  Come and give me a hand will you?"



"A bit to the left old chap!"


Take care when cutting the foam with a sharp knife


"Not a bad job so far.  Where is my cup of tea?"


Cut some holes for the windows


Don't believe the glazing salesman!

The bunker apertures were built up in a cardboard frame and glued into position 


"The wind will blow straight through this stuff?"



"Are you sure that PVA, wallpaper and foam will be as strong as reinforced concrete?"



At last, the finished job.  And not bad too.



Build a World War One Landship Tank.

This was inspired by a trip to Bovington  Tank Museum where they have a collection of WW1 tanks .

Models built from polystyrene foam blocks cut to shape and covered with PVA & newspaper.  Tracks from corrugated cardboard. 




One Easter the school set my son a homework project for the school holiday.....

................ "make a 'Roman Shield'".


I guess they had in mind something made from a cereal box packet.

Not an actual Roman Shield.

Here, with a little guidance from me, is what we came up with.

A big sheet of cardboard, bent into a curve with some cardboard ribs glued to the back with hot melt glue.

The silver ironwork on the front is simply some more cardboard and half a ball cock float stuck on with hot melt glue.


Great fun.