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DIY Wrecking Crane for A Construction Birthday Party

2014 March 19
by Becky


One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone posts something awesome, they’re all “Look at what I did, isn’t it cool!?” usually throwing in a “It was SO easy” or “It was practically free!” yet they don’t explain how they did it.

It’s this pet peeve that brings me out here on the blog today to explain how we built the Wrecking Crane for Ethan’s Construction Birthday Party. I’ve gotten plenty of emails and Pinterest comments…I sincerely apologize for being one of “those” people who completely forgot to explain myself.

Because people, you SHOULD make one of these for your little boy or girl who loves construction sites and wants to wreck some stuff with their buddies. It was a HUGE hit at the party and is now living in our play room because we couldn’t bring ourselves to tear it apart (and because we had several people ask to borrow it in the future).


It all started with a special christmas request from Ethan, “A crane with a dinosaur bone”, which was straight out of the book Dig Dogs, Dig. Then there were boxes. Big ones. Arriving almost daily before the holidays. The biggest box came from our artificial tree on which I pulled the trigger this year. As I painstakingly “fluffed” each faux-tastic branch, Ethan played in the box. He could lay in it and close the flaps, perfect for SURPRISE!-ing us every five minutes. It was a great box, sturdy and huge so I threw it downstairs thinking it could come in handy someday. I was heavily considering a team of cardboard construction vehicles like these.

Then the triangle box arrived. I can’t remember what it contained, but it just LOOKED like the top of a crane. So I started testing and taping and folding…a plan was coming together.

Here’s what I used: 

  • 1 LARGE narrow-ish box. Mine is 14″ by 50″. It is very sturdy, thick cardboard.
  • 1 Less large (but still…large) narrow box for the top support, preferably shaped into a triangle and taped excessively, or you can just leave it as a square. Mine is 11″ by 35″
  • extra piece of cardboard (optional)
  • Heavy duty packing tape (duct doesn’t stick so well to cardboard)
  • Weights (hand weights, milk jugs filled with sand, bricks, whatever. You just need about 30-40 pounds)
  • Large roll of yellow paper (got mine at Hobby Lobby but Michael’s or any teacher supply store will have it too)
  • Black paint (anything but oil-based…it’s a mess)
  • Soft bristled paint brush, smallish in size
  • Newspaper, like one medium sized publication (I used Sauce Magazine)
  • Black duct tape
  • Chain, about two feet
  • Molly Bolt with long screw

I didn’t get this all to work right away. There was wrapping and unwrapping involved, taping and retaping. Let’s just say I watched the whole movie Casablanca in the background while I completed this project.

I hope these “instructions” will help reduce the assembly time for you!


Here’s How I Did It: 

I taped up both boxes very securely (AKA lots of tape) so no flaps would come open and tear the paper wrapping. Once all sealed up, I cut a hole in the lower back area of the “support” box and inserted the weights. You could skip this step and just drop the weights in the top, but I wanted to be able to adjust CHECK THIS.

When it seemed pretty stable, I wrapped the “support” in yellow paper, very carefully, making sure my seams were in the back. I also left the top a little loose to cover the tape from the “arm” attachment (in the next step). I didn’t worry about hiding tape, since I was using the clear packing stuff, it didn’t show much anyway.

Once the bottom was wrapped I tested out the top “arm”. I positioned it so there was some overhang at the back and cut an extra piece of cardboard to fit in the front hole of the arm…totally unnecessary though, you could leave it open. I did make sure there was an extra layer of cardboard attached at the front of the triangle, right above where I’d be drilling through for the wrecking ball chain…made it more secure. I cut the yellow paper and loosely draped it around the “arm” for sizing purposes, but secured the arm with lots of BIG strips of tape, going all the way from one side of the “support” over the top of the “arm” and down the other side. Once tight, I finished securing the paper on the “support” (to cover the “arm” tape) and covered the “arm” with the pre-cut yellow paper.

Once everything looked neat, I painted on the black criss crosses. Just using whatever black paint I saw on our shelf, not really paying attention to what it was, I ended up using oil based paint which is NOT ideal. Latex would be much better. Mine ran and dripped causing many a stressful moment, hence my “thick outline” on Ethan’s crane. Not a design element, just covering a mistake.


My dad helped with the wrecking ball. I had taken the newspaper and crumpled it all together, mashing the small crumpled balls into a bigger ball and taping the crap out of it. Then I continued wrapping paper and tape around the ball until it was heavy and big enough to knock over some light blocks. We covered it in black duct tape (which added more weight) for an authentic look (ha). My dad drilled a long screw down into the ball to attach the chain. He drilled a hole in the “arm” underbelly and inserted a Molly bolt, which has a clamp-like mechanism (illustration #3 on this site) that was perfect for grabbing on to the inside of the cardboard. He attached the chain to the bolt and…

a crane we had.



Knocking over the light cardboard Melissa and Doug blocks worked great, but I’m sure it could handle something a little heavier. Other options would be empty soda cans (for older kids…these have some sharp-ish edges of course), red plastic cups, empty milk cartons, Styrofoam blocks, Legos (though they would go everywhere…this is not advised)Jenga blocks, or the regular old wood blocks, just watch those toes.

I’d say this project cost me maybe $15…most of what we used was laying around the house.

Not a true “step-by-step” but it’s here, on paper, and I hope it helps make someone’s construction party dreams come true!

13 Responses
  1. March 27, 2014

    Woah this website is fantastic i’m keen on examining your site content. Remain up the great work! You know, plenty of people are looking rounded in this information, you may assist them to enormously.

  2. March 15, 2016

    This is fantastic. I am featuring this on my Birthday Parties roundup if you don’t mind.

  3. June 3, 2016

    Just curious where you got the chain at ?

  4. November 28, 2017

    Good Idea.

    This types of activities make Children’s mind sharp instead of playing with dolls.

    Great post :)

  5. Tashionna permalink
    August 19, 2018

    Hey could you please make a video of the steps showing how to make this

  6. October 8, 2018

    Hi, where did you get your boxes and the molly bolt? I am totally trying to make this!!

    • Becky permalink*
      October 8, 2018

      Molly bolt is from the hardware store, boxes are from amazon deliveries (his birthday is just after christmas so we always have plenty of boxes around that time!) Good luck!

      • October 9, 2018

        Thank you so much!!! Looking for boxes
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      • October 9, 2018

        Thank you so much!!! Looking for boxes , Becky how did you fold that box like a triangle? and looks like you have an extra box on the top of your support part. Really inspired, just looking the right boxes

        • Becky permalink*
          October 9, 2018

          Ha, I think I just cut the boxes and used lots of tape to make them the shapes I needed. It doesn’t have to be a triangle, a rectangle would work too! There’s lots of ways this can come together with whatever you can collect. Rope instead of a chain, paint instead of paper rolls to cover. Just make sure you have good tape! :)

  7. December 29, 2018

    I just visited your current post through your one other page. I am happy to know new points and also have suggested it to my all 4 family members as a new concept of birthday crane constructions, waaao.

    Actually, my kids always try to go for the birthday celebrations of their friends and each time I have to spend a lot. But your post has given me some new points to consider and enjoy within our home.
    Umar craig recently posted..New Birthday Wishes for your Mother In Law 2019My Profile

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