Cardboard Cranes

There is a construction site near our house with a huge crane. We like to watch it. I had been thinking about how we could make our own crane … and I finally came up with a solution. NOTE: This project contains materials that require adult participation and/or supervision… but it’s worth it!


  • two thick cardboard rolls (we used old rolls from cling wrap)
  • thick cardboard box, i.e., from FedEx or Amazon
  • one paper towel roll
  • rocks
  • tape
  • hot glue (for adult use only)
  • sharp knife (for adult use only)
  • stackable cup (optional)
  • string (optional)


  1. crane 1Cut a circle in the top of the box so that with a bit of pushing and squeezing, the paper towel roll fits tightly into the hole. Because of the tight fit, I didn’t need to secure the roll to the floor of the box, but you could apply a little sticky tape or use hot glue. I filled the box with rocks (to weigh it down) and sealed it up. Then I slipped one of my cling wrap rolls into the paper towel roll, and it rotated very nicely.
  2. For the top of the crane, join the two cardboard rolls together. With a sharp knife, cut four shallow incisions at the top of the vertical roll. crane 2Then you can push down the edges in between, toward the center of the roll, and create a little nook for the horizontal roll to sit in. This also gives you more surface area to apply hot glue.

    Spread glue on the pushed-down bits, place the horizontal roll on top, with one end sticking out to be the neck of the crane, and hold it in place while the glue dries. For extra strength, you can tape the rolls together with packaging tape. crane 3Because one end is short and one long I decided to glue (with a hot glue gun) a rock into the short end to act as a counterbalance. (If the rock isn’t enough, you can use little weights or little concrete blocks.)

  3. To make a bucket for the crane, make two holes on opposite edges of one of the stackable cups, cut a piece of string, and tie one end through each hole to make a loop. I made a small cut in the top of the horizontal roll for the bucket’s string to sit in, and so to reduce the chance of the bucket flying off as the crane gets swung around.crane 4
  4. Happy building!