Ahoy there–how to make this nautical explosion box

Ahoy there–how to make this nautical explosion box

Nautical Explosion Box created by Paper Calliope

Nautical Explosion Box Level of Difficulty: Advanced

I have to admit, this is one of my favorite projects. It’s also one of the most time consuming. For starters, while I love, love, love the outcome of this project, it’s not for beginners or for someone short on patience. In fact, there are a lot of much easier explosion boxes out on the web that are quite nice. If you want something easier, just Google “explosion box tutorial.”

Part of the reason this is so complicated is becauseI based the basic structure on a kit I purchased some time ago from Pine Cone Press. I used the kit earlier, but saved the dimensions to make future explosion boxes. Pinecone designed a lovely kit, but the company didn’t intend for people to recreate it using their own measurements.

I chose a nautical theme, simply because that is something I always loved. From cute little sailor outfits in which I used to dress my kids to cabin decor–I’m a sucker for anything nautical. You, however, don’t need to stick to a nautical theme. Once you create the base for your explosion box, you can choose whatever theme you desire. The sky’s the limit.


Figure 1–You will want to use pretty cardstock. This is just the pattern I use again and again.

Step 1. To construct the box you will need four sheets of 12″ x 12″ coordinating cardstock. Start by preparing the box base. Score one of the pieces of cardstock into nine even 4″ x 4″ squares. Then score each of the corner squares diagonally. (Figure 1)

Figure 2--Large Pockets Bottom Tier

Figure 2–Large Pockets Bottom Tier

Step 2. Trim the next sheet of cardstock to 11 3/4″ x 11 3/4″ for the Large Pockets Bottom Tier. Score this sheet into nine squares with four extra tabs. On each side of the cardstock make a mark at 3 15/16″, 7 11/16″ and 11 7/16″. Carefully score these into nine squares and four tabs. Then make four cuts in the places indicated by Figure 2.

Figure 3--Small Pockets Top Tier

Figure 3–Small Pockets Top Tier

Step 3. For the Small Pockets Top Tier, trim the next sheet of cardstock to 11 1/2″ x 11 1/2″. Again score this sheet into nine squares with four extra tabs. On each side of the cardstock, make a mark at 4″, 7 1/2″ and 11 1/8″. Carefully score these into nine squares and four tabs. Then make four cuts in the places indicated by Figure 3.

Figure 4--Taping the pocket tiers

Figure 4–Taping the pocket tiers

Step 4. Apply two-sided liner tape to both the Large and Small Pockets Tiers as shown by the pink lines in Figure 4. I used Wonder tape by Ranger Inkssentials.

Step 5. If you want to add any scalloped or lower edges to the top of your pockets, now would be the time to make those cuts. By folding along the score lines, you can easily see where the pockets will soon form.

Figure 5--A tier coming together

Figure 5–A tier coming together

Step 6. For each tier, remove the liner from the tape and fold the tabs over the scored section to create a pocket. Each tier should look similar to Figure 5.

Assorted papers

Assorted papers

Step 7. In case any of your folds or measurements are off, measure each of the eight pockets and cut enough coordinating paper in these sizes to decorate both sides of the pockets.


Figure 6–Additional Pocket



Figure 7–Pocket Flap and Tag “Band”

Step 8. Using your preferred adhesive, adhere the papers to the pocket envelopes. If you wish, you can add additional layers of pockets, envelope flaps and tag “bands”  like those demonstrated in Figures 6 and 7 by attaching extra papers with adhesive or brads.

Step 9. To make the pop-ups, cut four 3/4″ wide x 5″ long strips of transparency material. For each transparency, adhere a mirror image of your decoration to each side of one end of the strip. Score the other ends at varying lengths and fold at a 90 degree angle. Depending on how many buttons and embellishments you plan to use in your box, you may want to limit the length of the transparencies since they tend to catch on things.

Step 10. Cut a 3 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ square of paper that coordinates well with your Small Pockets Top Tier. Temporarily place it in the center of the tier to ensure proper fitting. Trim if necessary. Determine how you want to place your pop-ups. Remove the paper from the tier and place on cutting surface. Using an X-acto knife, cut four 3/4″ slits in the square of paper. Slide the ends of the transparencies (the end without the decoration) into the slits until you have reached where the plastic is scored. If you are pleased with the placement, secure the transparencies with packing or duct tape on the back of the paper.


Figure 8- Pop-up transparency

Step 11. Adhere the square of paper to the center of the Small Pockets Top Tier.


Figure 9–Placing two-sided tape

Step 12. Place two-sided liner tape on both the Large Pockets Bottom Tier and the Box Base as shown by the pink lines in Figure 9.

Step 13. Remove the liner from the tape on the Box Base and adhere the Large Pockets Bottom Tier to the Box Base. Repeat this step to adhere the Small Pockets Top Tier to the Large Pockets Bottom Tier.

Paper Calliope explosion box close up

Step 14. Use coordinating buttons, tags, ribbons and embellishments to decorate each of your pockets to your liking.



Paper Calliope explosion box close up





Figure 10–Box Top

Step 15. I think the Box Top was one of the hardest parts of the project. Then again, I was always terrible at origami. Hopefully you will find it easier. With the last of your original 12″ x 12″ cardstock sheets, make a mark along each side at 3″, 6″ and 9″. Using a straight edge, connect the lines as shown in Figure 10. Then score along all lines. Make cuts as indicated by the orange lines.

Figure 11--Box Top Fold 1

Figure 11–Box Top Fold 1

Step 16. Fold the two ends in as shown in Figure 11.


Figure 12–Box Top Fold 2

Step 17. Fold the two ends in again as shown in Figure 12.


Figure 13–Box Top Fold 3

Step 18. Fold the four corner triangles inward as shown in Figure 13.


Figure 14–Box Top Fold 4

Step 19. Fold down the two triangle pointed ends as shown in Figure 14.



Figure 15–Box Top Fold 5

Step 20. Fold the two sides up and in as shown in Figure 15. Bring the ends up and over, tucking them into the inside. Decorate the box top to your liking. Ta-da! Your explosion box is now complete.

Paper Calliope Nautical Explosion Box

Paper Calliope Nautical Explosion Box

Paper Calliope Nautical Explosion Box Interior


Stuff I used

  • Wonder tape by Ranger Inkssentials
  • Adtech glue runner
  • Avery Inkjet Transparency
  • Clear duct tape
  • Cardstock by numerous manufacturers
  • String, ribbon, tags, buttons, beads, sticker and other embellishments collected over the years




3 Responses »

  1. O.K. So, after I got over my initial intimidation for the complexity of this box, I have taken it on as a challenge! This box is just too amazing to not try to make. I am telling my self that I can do it, just like the little engine that could. This is amazing! I have never seen anything like it! It takes a fold out greeting card to a whole new level. I am going to attempt to make one for my daughter’s high school graduation, so I better start now. I am gathering paper and tidbits in all of her favorite colors and paterns to commemerate all of the phases of her growing up. This is going to be complete with Pink Netting from her preschool ballerina phase. I have to start now because this project is going to take me a while, because I am new to this, I may be messaging you for advice as I get underway. Thanks for the inspiration.

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