How to Make a Mummy Coffin from a Shoe Box

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Make a sarcophagus -- a coffin -- for a doll-sized mummy for a playtime Halloween scene or to help teach kids about ancient Egyptian burial practices for royalty. A shoe box or similarly sized cardboard box serves as an ideal starting point, cutting down on the amount of building you need to do, but you could also make the coffin from scrap cardboard, card stock or construction paper.

Plain Shoe-Box Sarcophagus

Select a shoe box that is narrow and long enough to fit your mummy model, such as a gauze-wrapped Barbie or large action figure, for the most basic sarcophagus shape. Young children can decorate the box with paint or construction paper to make it look more like a sarcophagus, while more skilled hands can cut the box down to make a coffin that more closely fits the figure.

Custom-Shaped Sarcophagus

Things You'll Need

  • Shoe box
  • Scissors
  • Doll or action figure as mummy
  • Pencil
  • Tape
  • School glue
  • Water
  • Shallow bowl
  • Paintbrush
  • Markers or acrylic paints

Step 1: Flatten the Box

Deconstruct the shoe box, tearing or slicing apart glued seams to fold the cardboard flat. If the cardboard tears along the seams, it can still be used.

Step 2: Trace the Mummy

Set the mummy, doll or figure along the former bottom panel of the shoe box so the figure's feet touch the former narrow side flap. Trace loosely around the figure, mimicking the shape of many ancient Egyptian coffins. Keep the sides fairly straight and the head area slightly rounded; the traced shape should leave at least 1/2 inch space all the way around the mummy figure.

Step 3: Cut Out the Shape

Cut out the traced shape, leaving the bottom flat part -- near the feet -- attached to the flap that used to be a narrow side of the box.

Step 4: Cut Out the Sides

Cut the two former side panels -- the long sides -- out from what remains of the box bottom. Cut them along the seams where they meet the bottom of the box.

Step 5: Prepare for Assembly

Bend one long edge inward 1/2 inch on each of the long side panels, then do the same to one of the two short sides on each. Flatten the cardboard again and cut a fringe-like pattern every 1/2 inch or so up to the new folds. This fringe helps hold the finished coffin together.

Step 6: Start Shaping the Sarcophagus

Fold the flap up along the area designated as the foot of the coffin -- this is still in place from the original box shape. Hold one long piece of the cardboard vertically next to the flap as if reassembling a shoe box. The non-fringed long edge should face the top. Tape the cardboard fringe to the vertical piece near the foot, along the inside of the box. Do the same with the other piece of fringed cardboard.

Step 7: Finish the Coffin Shape

Bend each piece of the cardboard side walls to conform to the mummy cutout shape on the bottom so the fringed short edge bends and conforms to the flat vertical edge at the mummy's foot area. Tape the fringed tabs to the bottom of the sarcophagus, inside or outside -- whichever you prefer. Bend the two cardboard pieces around the head area of the coffin and tape them together to complete the coffin form.

Step 8: Decoupage the Coffin and Make a Lid

Trace the coffin shape onto the lid and cut it out 1/4 inch or so beyond the lines. Cover the entire outside of the coffin form with bits of torn, plain brown bags. Coat the back of each paper piece with equal parts water and school glue for a homemade decoupage medium. Cover the lid with the paper as well, adding longer strips to make the sides of the lid so the coffin lid fits the coffin much like the shoe box lid fit the shoe box. Allow the coffin to dry completely, with the lid off.

Tip

  • The coffin or sarcophagus can be made out of card stock or construction paper as well -- whatever materials are readily available. Coating the finished piece with the paper bag strips turns it into papier mache, making it stronger and giving it a natural beige stone look. Crumple the paper first, if you like, for a wrinkly effect.

Decorating the Sarcophagus

  • Add decorations to the finished piece such as copied hieroglyphics or your own fake hieroglyphics. Draw on or paint designs to mimic the look of actual ancient mummy coffins displayed in museums or pictured on history sites. 
  • Add a few objects inside the coffin that may be the mummy's personal belongings, such as accessories originally offered with the doll or action figure.

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