Behold the original Shellraiser.
This little toy van — along with Donny, Mikey, Leo, and Raph — have maintained most-favored status with Hank for most of a year. He’s actually slept with it a few times. And I get that, because when you push it, the wheels are calibrated to spin out. Grown men have assured me that this is awesome.
Hank has no idea he’s coming home to a full-sized Shellraiser, and he is going to be pleased. If you have a tiny ninja in your house too, here’s how to make your own play van.
40″ x 60″ Foam Core, 5 sheets
Masking tape, about 3″ width
Large binder clips, 2
12″ x 1″ Styrofoam Discs, 4
A foam paint brush
*Optional time-saver, paint tray and roller*
Green flat house paint, 1 pint
Gray acrylic paint or spray paint
Hot glue gun and glue
Small orange plastic cups, 15
Acrylic cups, 2 pint sized
Black masking tape
A roll of yellow craft paper
Paper dessert plates in yellow, 4
The gyst is this: We’re making a box with the foam core, folding in the front and back edges, adding a front wall where the headlights would go, and then decorating it. Here’s the step by step.
FORMING THE BOX
We’ll use four sheets of foam core to form the “walls” of the van, this first part is just some tips on making the box pictured above. Note, put tape on the ugly, dinged up sides of the foam core, because the tape will end up inside your van, where kids will draw on it and get peanut butter everywhere.
• Lay two pieces of foam core with the long edges touching, and ugly sides up.
• Run a line of masking tape up the seam where the two pieces meet, and then secure it in place with Xes of tape.
• Repeat to add the third piece to the first two.
• Bend the foam core to form a box, adding the fourth piece to form your last wall. The taped bits will be inside the box.
• Climb inside to secure the final piece. I placed a few strips across the seam for stability, then added the center seam of tape by folding it in half (non-sticky sides touching, durr).
• Fit the sticky side of the fold into the corner, and then run your fingers along the non-sticky side to push tape into the corner.
At this point you should have a box with no ends, but it won’t be structurally sound. Lean it against something so it doesn’t flop around.
FOLDING THE ENDS IN
Now we’ll fold in the front and back of the box to make it look more vantastic, and to add interior reinforcement so the box stands on its own.
• Grab a pencil, your measuring tape, and black masking tape.
• Make a mark 20″ down from the top front corner, and a mark 10″ in from the top edge. Use tape on the side of the box between the two marks to form a triangle.
• Repeat on the opposite front corner, and connect the top marks with a strip of tape over the top of your box.
• Now repeat the whole process on the other end of your box.
• To make the fold seam for the side triangles and the top rectangle, you’ll cut just the first layer of the foam core, not all the way through. Use your box cutter to score lightly along your tape lines.
• Once your fold seams are established, cut through any interior tape preventing you from folding in the two triangles and top rectangle.
• Grab your binder clips, and fold in the triangles, then the top rectangle. Clip in place.
• Climb inside, tape the new pieces in place, and remove the clips.
• Repeat the whole process to make the other end of the box look the same.
FORMING THE FRONT OF THE VAN
We’ll leave the back of the van open, so kids can climb in and out. For the front, we need to measure and tape a piece of our remaining foam core in place, so it looks like this:
• Cut out a 20″ x 40″ piece of foam core
• Climb inside and tape it in place to form the front of the van.
We used a pint of flat green house paint for the base, and it took about four hours to dry completely. The roller saved time and helped the paint dry faster, but you could just brush paint it too.
I used acrylic paint to paint the styrofoam discs that make the wheels. The styrofoam sucked up a bunch of paint and took forever to dry. In fact, it wasn’t dry the next morning. Spray paint would probably work better, but if you do use acrylic, don’t dilute it much, and try to dab with a mostly dry sponge brush to spread the color around.
Once the green paint is dry, you can cut your windows.
• Tape off two side windows on each side, measuring about 8″ x 12″. If you don’t feel like measuring, you can tape around a couple pieces of binder paper.
• Cut the windows out with your box cutter.
I did this with black masking tape I found at the hardware store. It’s cheap, it makes a clean line, you can move it if you mess up, and you don’t have to wait for it to dry. Plus, you can remove it later and use the structure for something else.
• Start in the middle of one side, make a hexagon, then just radiate out from there. Keep your pattern big or it will take dramatically longer. I kept mine abstract to hide imperfections.
• Should you worry about matching up the pattern on the sides and the top? Eh. I didn’t.
• Heat up your hot glue gun, this is the fun part.
• For the headlights, glue an acrylic cup to a paper plate, then glue a smaller colored glass inside for the light. I also glued a small roll of yellow paper underneath to suggest a grill. Just roll enough paper off your craft roll to form a pretty solid tube, and cut to fit.
• I glued five orange cups to the top to suggest lights, and a couple rolls of yellow paper for a rack.
• I also glued a couple of tail-light cups on each side in the back.
• The mirrors are paper dessert plates covered in aluminum foil, and taped in place inside the car (though you could also hot glue those).
Are you wheels dry yet? Good.
• Cut four slits in sides of your remaining orange cups and flatten them.
• Hot glue the cups to the middle of the wheels to make a hubcap.
• Glue the wheels to the van. I did a big glob of hot glue in the middle, and a star-pattern around it so there were plenty of fix points.
Shellraiser. Leonardo is driving.
Hank has no idea this will be waiting for him in our living room when he gets home from school tomorrow. I’m going to leave some chocolate chip cookies inside, and blow his 7-year-old mind.
Being a mom is fun.