Build Project: Low tech, Upcycled Carton Wallets

One goal of Rebels Makerspace is to show that makerspaces don’t have to be high tech. Makerspaces don’t necessarily need circuit boards, robots, soldering irons, or any other special equipment. Instead, makerspaces can regularly build using simple, readily available materials. Makerspaces can be low tech. And, low tech is a beautiful thing. At Rebels Makerspace, we get excited when we see beautiful things made from simple materials. By focusing on the low tech, we hope to encourage students to make with what they have. We hope students learn that there are no preconditions necessary to start making. Just. Start. Making.


Carton Wallets is a good example of simple design from simple materials. Using an empty (and clean) juice carton, scissors, screwdriver, ruler, marker, and utility knife, a wallet can be made. The wallet is beautiful in its simplicity. For one thing, the wallet is one-piece, which means no gluing necessary. Also, it closes together using the bottle cap that comes with the container. And, it is big enough to hold change or library/bank/student cards. Simple and useful – it’s a great lesson to learn in makerspace.


Step-by-step instructions and juice carton template are on the Instructables website. The following are our lessons learned from running this workshop:


Lessons and Tips


  1. Start collecting juice cartons very early.

Milk and juice cartons are not that easy to find in large quantities. I assume it’s because (1) not many people buy drinks in cartons and (2) people don’t tend to use up their milk/juice quickly.


  1. Get people to donate.

Do a call out to staff and students. However, what worked for us was asking people who live in apartment buildings to help collect cartons. I live in an apartment building with over 200 units – that’s a lot of people. Still, I was only able to collect maybe 5 cartons a week. And, forget about asking recycling depots. Carton deposit money is like money in the bank for recycling depots.


  1. Go for variety

Students love unique juice cartons with some splashes of colour. Tropicana juice cartons were popular with our students. Silk soy milk cartons – not so much. Go crazy if you can.


  1. Rinse with soapy solution. Open. Rinse again. Dry.

The water does not fully dry out when rinsing cartons. Even if they dry out, there are no guarantees they’re clean. Rinsing with a soapy solution, then with lots of water, and then opening them up to pat dry ensures cartons are clean. Then, there are not sticky surprises on workshop day.


  1. Scoring lines requires multiple passes by the dowl or screwdriver.

The score lines are where students will be folding the carton to make the wallet. Deeper score lines will make it easier to the fold in the end. Therefore, multiple passes by the dowl or screwdriver is necessary. Even for me.


  1. The circle to be cut out out of the template is a little small.

At first, we thought this was just an anomaly found on one carton we had tested. Then, it started to show up in other cartons too. Thus, when cutting the circle out of the template, cut out a circle slightly larger than the one outlined.


Happy making! Please share your carton wallets with Rebels Makerspace, and check back every week for another blog post!

Posted on May 17, 2017 in Projects

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About the Author

Kent is one of the creators of the Rebels Makerspace, a design and science educator, and Science Department head at Burnaby South Secondary.
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