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How to Make a Shipping Box From Free Materials

By Edited Aug 27, 2016 2 7

Finding the Right Sized Box

When it comes to shipping gifts whether it is to family or to your customers, shipping can often cost more than the item did.  Using a box that's too large will raise the cost of the postage even higher.

Finished Product

If you can find a box that's the proper size, you're in luck. Sometimes that's hard to do.

With a little patience, a couple of office supplies and a few minutes of your time, you can create a shipping box the exact size you need. It will lower your postage cost to use one that's not too big.

The following instructions will guide you in creating your own shipping box out of materials you may already have at home or can find nearby for free.

Here are some things you'll need to begin:

  • Shipping or packing tape
  • A Utility knife
  • Magic marker
  • Sturdy ruler
  • A cardboard box that's too big

Finding the Raw Material You Will Need

The next time you're at the grocery store or the pharmacy, take notice of where the clerks are restocking the shelves. New merchandise arrives in all sizes of boxes. Usually, the clerks will break these down flat and you'll see a stack of them wherever they're working.  If you ask, most stores will give you a couple of these flattened boxes free of charge.

The cosmetics or electronics departments are your best sources to find good clean boxes of the right weight. Try to avoid the heavier fruit and meat packing boxes as these will be too heavy and the odors may be strong. Every ounce of unnecessary weight cuts into your profit margin if you're running a business or adds to the cost of your gift giving efforts.

Creating a Pattern

Then, visit the Post Office and ask them to give you a Flat Rate or Priority Box. These are free at the counter just for the asking. They're great to use if you're mailing items out by priority mail. But if you're shipping items by parcel post or to a customer who won't pay for priority shipping, you'll need an unmarked box. Although you can't use these priority ones for parcel post, you can use them as a pattern to create one the same size out of unmarked cardboard.

Instructions for Making The Box

  1. Place the disassembled priority box on the flattened larger box from the store. Where possible, align folds with the grain of the cardboard.
  2. Use a marker to draw around the outline of the smaller box.
  3. Be sure to mark all fold lines, tabs and perforations.
    Box 003
  4. Place extra cardboard underneath your pattern to avoid damaging the surface where you're working.
  5. Carefully use the utility knife to cut out the pattern you've drawn.
  6. Keeping the printed side of the box toward the inside, place the ruler along the fold lines on the new pattern you've cut out. Fold using the ruler as a guide to bend the cardboard, matching the folds on the original box when possible.
  7. Cut out any perforated lines where the tabs need to be inserted.
  8. Compare your cut-out version to the original pattern. Assemble your new creation following the guidelines on the original.
  9. Use packing tape on the inside and outside edges as needed for assembly.

Allowing Enough Room for Packing Material

Be sure the box or cardboard you intend to use is the proper weight according to shipping standards.  Keep in mind, some cardboard may be too flimsy for mailing.

Making the Box

When shipping, allow enough room between the product and the edge of the box to protect your fragile items, and be sure to use good packing materials like bubble wrap or crumpled newspaper. A three inch boundary between the exterior cardboard and the item is suggested for breakable items. 

Never expect the carrier to heed your warning of fragile that you've written on the box. If you can't drop the finished package without it breaking, it won't make it to its destination in one piece. You'd be surprised at the rough handling most parcels receive during transport.

Why pay extra to mail a heavy cardboard box that's too big when you can create a properly sized one and save on postage? It's easy!



Apr 6, 2011 6:22pm
Very clever. Well written article!
Apr 7, 2011 12:17pm
Thank you divaonline. That means a lot to me. Thanks for stopping in. Peg
Apr 8, 2011 12:35am
Wow! This is very impressive. I am a power seller on eBay and I've been buying boxes. This will cut my shipping cost down considerably... saving money by not buying boxes and cutting down on the weight. Thanks a million!
Apr 9, 2011 2:23pm
Hi cosmo, I hope you are getting your boxes for free from USPS. Every nickel counts. They used to offer joint packaging with eBay and free priority boxes on line. I sold quite a few things at eB some time back. Thank you for commenting here.
Apr 25, 2011 6:32pm
I'm a shipping super for a small company, we do this a lot. Very cost effective.
Jul 22, 2011 11:15pm
This is so creative and such a great idea. Wonderful idea and well put together. Easy to follow instructions too. Nice work!!!
Jul 23, 2011 10:34am
Lynsuz - I'm so glad to see someone who is cost conscious for their company. It all counts toward the bottom line and helps to save jobs!

Kims3003 - Thank you so much kims. I'm glad you found it useful.
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