More Time Than Money
A TENbyTEN special assignment
by Don Guss

What follows is a step-by-step guide to building a modest-sized but very sturdy sidetable. It'll hold your TENbyTENs snugly and has a couple bonus hiding places, too. I wanted to create something that could be made during the course of a Saturday afternoon by readers who may not have tools, a workshop, or much experience in object-making. For affordable and flexible material, I turned to cardboard, that great under-utilized, inexpensive stuff. Good design does not have to be expensive--this is said all the time but never taken too seriously. With this table, you may be able to do it yourself for free! It's a straightforward solution for small spaces and even smaller budgets.

Before you begin, make sure you have a good place to work. You don't want to cut the cardboard on a nice surface such as a hardwood floor, tile, or linoleum. Good surfaces to work on include an old piece of plywood, workbench, or more cardboard--the blades can only cut so deep.

Download Patterns
click to download: 284k .zip file

" In print window make sure the "fit to page" option is turned off. If not done the prints will be scaled.
" Check to make sure the "1 inch" scale measure correctly.
" Tape patterns together.
" For "D" panel - change page option to landscape.

Build the panels
Step 1 Use the A pieces to make 2 panels 5 plies thick. Spray one side of each piece with a heavy coat of 3M Super 77 spray mount. The other side will only need a light coat. Spray one piece and side at a time. DO NOT spray either of the outside surfaces. Build the layers one at a time.

Step 2 The B pieces make 1 panel 2 plies thick. Repeat the spraying process described above.

Step 3 The C and D pieces make 2 panels 5 plies thick. Same.

Step 4 Place these newly-sprayed panels under some weight; books, toolboxes, and paint cans all work well as weights. Allow the panels to dry for a minimum of 3 hours.

Start cutting
Step 5 Download patterns from and put them together. Place the A form over one of the A panels you just built. Punch a hole at each corner of the form with the drywall screw. Remove the pattern and cut the inside voids first. With the X-Acto, cut the small areas where the top folds in and is held in place. Make sure to do this with the knife blade completely vertical for a perfect, square cut. When the inside voids are finished, move to the outside cuts. Repeat this step on the second A panel.

Step 6 Cutting the B panel is a little more difficult since you don't have a pattern to work from. The outside dimensions are 37" x 15". Cut it to size and set it aside for later.

Step 7 Cut out the C panel using the C pattern.

Step 8 Measure and cut the D panel.

Put it together
Step 9 The A panels will form the sides of the table. Insert panels C and D into the appropriate openings to make the shelves.

Step 10 Now you are ready to make the cuts in the top (panel B). Push panel B into the openings in the front of the A panels as far in as possible. With the pencil, make a line for cutting at the end of the openings in each panel A. Make a line at the same point on the other A panel. With the straight edge, connect the two marked lines and continue on to step 11.

Step 11 Make the fold cuts in the cardboard top with the X-Acto knife, cutting between the 2 lines made in step 10. IMPORTANT: ONLY CUT INTO ONE OF THE TWO PLYS! After you make this cut and clean all of the loose pieces out of the groove, fold along the cut and place the panel back into the openings in the A panels, folding the top piece toward the next fold/corner.

Step 12 Continue the cut-and-fold steps as you "roll" the top panel around the top of the table. When you get to the openings on the other side of the table, remove the top panel from the front openings and cut and fold one last time. Trim the end of the panel to make a tight fit.

Step 13 Finish putting the table together by sliding the top through the opening in the A panels.

Step 14 Customize your table however you would like: glue wallpaper on the surfaces, spray paint it, or apply the polyurethane spray.



" Pencil

" #5 X-Acto knife

" Standard utility knife, with blade fully extended.

" 1 drywall screw

" 1 large can of 3M Super 77 spray adhesive

" Large straightedge (I used a 4' x 1.5" x 1.5" aluminum angle for a straightedge, available at any large home improvement store)

" 10 sheets of cardboard at least 27" x 18" - for panel A

" 2 sheets of cardboard at least 40" x 18" - for panel B

" 10 sheets of cardboard 18" x 10" - for panels C & D

" Optional: 2 cans of clear satin polyurethane spray or spray paint, wrapping paper, or wallpaper for decoration. I prefer the polyurethane spray.