How to Build an Old West Town With Cardboard

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Incorporate place such as stables into your Old West town replica.
Incorporate place such as stables into your Old West town replica. (Image: Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Making a replica of a town in the Old West can introduce kids to the related scenery. Cardboard is a sturdy and versatile material that is optimal for such cutouts, since the material can stand upright and be painted to look more realistic. As you set out to create an Old West town, think about the types of storefronts they used to have -- such as banks, saloons, parlors, jails and inns.

Things You'll Need

  • Four, 3-by-3-foot cardboard sheets
  • Yardstick
  • Pencil
  • Scissors or a utility knife
  • Black marker
  • Assorted acrylic paints
  • Paintbrushes in assorted sizes -- from fine point to 3 inches wide

Set the four cardboard sheets flat on your working surface. Use a yardstick to measure from the bottom of the first cardboard sheet to 4 inches above the bottom edge. Turn the yardstick ruler horizontally and use a pencil to draw a straight, horizontal line from one end of the cardboard to the other. Draw horizontal lines on the remaining three sheets of cardboard at the same distance from the bottom edge.

Draw the outlines of Old West town buildings onto the cardboard sheets, with a pencil. For instance, you might draw a bank on the first sheet of cardboard, a saloon next door to an inn on the second sheet, a stable on the third sheet and a parlor on the fourth. Outline the walls, doors, windows and roofs for each structure that you draw, making each building a different size. Draw some roofs flat and others pointy. Do not extend the drawing below the horizontal line that you drew in Step 1.

Cut out the shapes of the buildings, with scissors or a utility knife. For instance, if you drew a bank with a pointy roof next to a saloon with a flat roof on the same sheet of cardboard, cut out each exterior outline while keeping the two buildings connected in the middle on the cardboard sheet. Do not cut along the horizontal line at the bottom.

Trace over any windows, doors, signs and other details that you drew, using a black permanent marker. Add more detail to the buildings now that their outlines are cut out -- such as shingles for the roofs, bricks on the buildings or wooden planks on the walls.

Paint the scenery on the cardboard sheets with assorted acrylic paints. Use fine paintbrushes to fill in smaller details, such as window panes, and larger ones for painting the outside walls of the buildings.

Allow the paint to dry for 1 hour. Acrylic paints will typically dry within 30 minutes, but it's better to wait a full hour, to be on the safe side.

Fold the cardboard along the horizontal line so that the 4-inch section folds back and behind the sheet of cardboard. Make a sharp crease and allow the back-folded section to lay flat, with the upright section of cardboard sitting on top of it. This creates a stand for the cardboard structure so that the buildings can stand up on their own.

Arrange the four standing cardboard structures all in a row, to create the scene of an Old West town.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you have trouble keeping the top portion of the cardboard upright, glue one end of a wooden skewer to the flat, folded part and the other end of the skewer to the back of the cardboard structure, to serve as additional support.
  • Embellish the cardboard cutouts with materials to make the town more realistic. For instance, you can use scraps of fabric to make miniature curtains to glue in the windows of the inn, or create jail bars for the jail window out of wooden skewers that you paint black.
  • Acrylic paints are effective for cardboard craft projects, and dry very quickly.

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