Mom-Made! DIY Upcycled Cardboard Laptop Computer

I had no plans to do a DIY project today, but a housewide decluttering session threatened the stash of old cardboard boxes that I'd been saving for "some project, some day". Use 'em or lose 'em was the ultimatum. The decluttering also unearthed an old iPad case that I'd also been saving for a rainy, nothing-to-do day (this day, by the way, was neither). So, I got to work.

What you need

  • Old iPad case (I used the type with a front cover that doubles as a stand)
  • Old cardboard boxes (or illustration board, if you're not a pack rat or the upcycling type)
  • Sticker paper (or regular paper and glue)
  • Black art paper (not needed if you're using illustration board)
  • Heavy duty scissors 
  • Heavy duty adhesive (ex. Mighty Bond) or a glue gun 

What to do 

Step 1
Using the iPad case as a guide, cut out 3 pieces of cardboard to match the size and shape of the front and back covers.

Step 2
Using one cardboard piece as a guide, cut out a piece of black art paper. If you don't have a cardboard stash, you can skip this step and simply use a piece of illustration board. 

Step 3
Print out 2 copies of the keyboard template on letter-sized (8.5 x 11) sticker paper; one will be for the body, the other for the keys of the keyboard*. I used one piece in matte and one in high-gloss. Stick each piece onto a piece of cardboard. Trim off the excess cardboard around the body for a cleaner shape. 

* To save yourself some time, effort, and finger pain, you may also use just one piece and have a flat (not raised) keyboard. 

Step 4
If you're Type-A, a glutton for punishment (like me), or just super crafty with a lot of free time (unlike me), cut out the individual keys for the keyboard. (If after the first row your fingers start cramping up like mine did, see the step above. Seriously, it's not too late to turn back now.)

Step 5
Using the keys on the body as a guide, stick on the individual keys using your adhesive of choice. I started with double-sided tape then switched to Mighty Bond because squeezing the tube was easier than cutting out the tape, plus it allowed me to reposition and straighten the keys a bit before the glue dried and they were permanently stuck on. 

Step 6
Using super strength adhesive, stick the cardboard screen to just the bottom section of the inside of the iPad cover to allow the cover to fold into media-viewing mode. This allows your screen to stand upright. Allow to dry  following the time specified on the adhesive's tube. When secure, stick your keyboard body onto the inside back cover. You may want to fill the space between the cover and the cardboard with extra pieces of cardboard glued on so the keyboard has more support and a larger surface to stick to. 

Not bad for the first attempt, right? Now it's time for you to have fun and get creative! (Me? I'm going to get some coffee and take a break. Ouch, my fingers!)

A Few More Things You Could Try!

You could...
  • Paint the cardboard screen piece with blackboard paint or cover with a blackboard sticker.
  • Cover the cardboard screen piece with a whiteboard sticker.
  • Cover the cardboard screen with a plastic screen protector and tape down 3 of the 4 sides, then slip photos or magazine cutouts inside as a customizable desktop wallpaper.
  • Let your toddler have her way with it! By this time tomorrow, I'm sure this laptop will be covered in stickers or glue or marker scribbles (or all of the above).  

Have a few lazy weekend hours to spare? Download one of the keyboard templates and make your own version of this project.

I'd love to see what you come with and hear suggestions for how to improve this project for the next "product launch"!