Creating props out of cardboard

by | May 25, 2018 | Art Direction, Props


Japanese toy company Kotobukiya hired me to direct a commercial for their Samurai Sword Chopsticks. The commercial features a “magical machine” that transforms regular chopsticks into Samurai Sword Chopsticks.

We made the machine out of cardboard, and here is how we did it;

  1. Sketch what I wanted the machine to look like.  I dug around on the internet for machine ideas, took bits and pieces from each, then sketched my own.


2. Decide what you want to make the machine out of. Cardboard was the most budget-friendly and aesthetically fitting material to sculpt with.  My art direction team of Elizabeth Richardson and Travis Kragh went to work measuring and cutting pieces out.

3. Measure out how big you want it to be. To get a sense of scale for the buttons and knobs on the machine, we first measured out and created the box.  We then placed objects that were roughly the same size as the buttons and levers to eyeball scale.  A paintbrush was used for the lever, and a cassette for the display screen.

3. Make it. We used Exact-O Knives and metal rulers to cut straight, even lines. I recommend using very sharp blades so the cardboard doesn’t tear.  You may need to use several blades for a project like this. This step involves measuring pieces, cutting and putting it all together. This part takes the most time.  Turn on some music and have some fun.


We traced plates of various sizes to create the circular ring which formed the drop hole for the sword and chopsticks. Green construction paper that matched the Kotobukiya company colors were added as trim.

The “display screen” and lever used multiple pieces of cardboard.

One secret about the lever; we never really attached it. It was thick enough to stay in place using friction from the cardboard it was sticking out of.

Next came the addition of the “oven door,” knobs and dials.

And there you have yourself a completely functional magical machine.

If you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future blog post or would like to hire me for personal consultation on a video you’re making or if you’d like to hire me to make a video for you, feel free to contact me via the CONTACT page and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Thank you and keep creating.