How to save money by making your own archival boxes

So I know what you’re thinking. Why would you need to save money by building custom archival phase boxes? Archives are just rolling in cash, right?  Of course they are, but just to be on the safe side, I figure it’s a good idea to cut costs where possible. In the municipal environment, I like the idea that I can save the taxpayer upwards of $40 per box! And there is the added benefit of creating enclosures that are purpose built to house a specific record, ensuring there is no movement that might cause damage. Plus- it’s like arts and crafts time at work. Win, win, win!

I am definitely not treading new ground here. There are lots of instructions online for making boxes:

You can go super fancy like they do in Sweden:

There are a load of instructions on how to construct boxes for housing rare books.

There is a super helpful set of instructions from the State Library of Queensland on making a corrugated box.

I got the basic instructions from my friendly local conservator (FSR Conservation), however, I found that I needed to work out the steps to perfect the art of making a box. I have been learning to sew recently and I have found the step-by-step blog posts the most helpful. They walk you through each step with a handy photo reference. I thought this would be a great way to share my new-found skill of making archival boxes out of inexpensive Coroplast. Here’s what Carr McLean has to say about Coroplast:

“Coroplast® is an extruded virgin polypropylene, manufactured for archival applications. At regular temperatures, Coroplast® is resistant to oils, solvents and water. It can be easily fabricated and lends itself to die cutting, sewing, sawing, scoring, folding, drilling, stapling, nailing and spot or heat welding. Twin wall construction, 4mm thickness (0.158”). Coroplast® is inert with a nil pH factor. Coroplast® does not contain UV inhibitors and is not recommended for areas with UV exposure.”

Let’s Make a Box!

Here are the tools you will need:

  • Coroplast sheets
  • Tape measure
  • Box cutter
  • Awl (optional)
  • Needle-nosed pliers (optional)
  • Some sort of rivet attachment. I use EZE-Snaps
  • And the greatest invention of all time, the Coro claw (more gushing about this tool later)

1. Start by determining the measurements for your box.

Measure the length (A), width (B), and height (C) of your object. 

For the base:

To determine the dimensions to cut, add the length (A) plus the height (C) dimensions twice i.e. A + C + C

Then do the same for the width dimensions. Add the width (B) plus the height (C) dimensions twice i.e. B + C + C

The final formula is  (A+C+C) x (B+C+C) = dimensions to cut for the base

For the lid:

To determine the measurements for your lid, add 3 cm to the length and 1 cm to the width measurements.

The final formula is (A+3+C+C) x (B+1+C+C) = dimensions to cut for the lid


2. Cut the Coroplast to the right dimensions.

Here you can use the wonder tool – the coro claw! It just sounds badass, doesn’t it?  The Coro claw is designed to both score and cut Coroplast along its grooved tracks. I LOVE this tool! Check out how this guy uses the coro claw to get a clean cut on his super cool Spiderman 3 poster: 

3. Once you have the basic outline, use the height (C) dimensions to make squares in the corners. You will end up with something that looks like this:

4. Cut along the inner part of the corner squares 

5. Score along the entire length of the board along the other line of the square. Use the box cutter to score along the other inner edge as well to enable you to fold the Coroplast. Be sure not to cut all the way through.

6. Fold up the edges so that the short corner pieces are on the outside of your box.

This will prevent the edges from rubbing on the record.

7. Use the awl to poke a hole through both sides of the Coroplast

(Alternatively, you can use the box cutter to make a small incision, but I find the awl works better and makes a neater hole.

8. Use the needle-nose pliers to widen the hole

9. Pop the head of the EZE snap into the hole and then secure it on the other side with the round, flat bit

(Not sure about the correct terminology here. My rivet vocabulary is failing me)

10. Repeat steps 6-9 for each corner of the box, inserting 2 EZE snaps into each corner.

11. Now it’s lid time. Repeat steps 2-10 but make sure that the EZE snaps are not inserted in the exact same place as the base. Try to stagger them so they won’t cause problems when you put the lid on the box.


A box that is perfectly sized for the record that costs a fraction of the price of a standard archival box.

Also, this project comes with a guaranteed sense of accomplishment!