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Honeycomb Cardboard Suppliers

E. Ward

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Hello Blueroom,


This is my first post so please be gentle! I've been reading here for about a year and have found it to be an invaluable resource: I hope to be able to repay the debt in future.


I'm production managing a university tour of A Midsummer Night's Dream which we are taking to Japan in September. The design of our set has been a thorny issue however and the designer would like to create the forest using honeycomb cardboard along these lines. We are trying to track down the raw cardboard material used in the above and so far I am struggling to find a fire retardant version. We have found www.dufaylite.com but they have told us that their honeycomb products are not treated to retard fire.


In short, could anyone recommend a supplier of fire retarding honeycomb cardboard (a long shot!) or a next step for trying to track some down. Failing that: would there be a way to Flamecheck the honeycomb sufficiently?


Thanks in advance,



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Not an expert, but I would expect that the Honeycomb stuff will be quite absorbant, and so easy enough to treat with flamecheck. Best thing to do would be to get a small bit and spray it then test it.


It might be worth checking what Japan will need in the way of certification, I know they can be quite strict and if they need a certificate this will be more difficult than if they are happy just to test it after you have treated it.


Do bear in mind though that flambar etc only lasts for a while, so you should take extra with you to re-treat periodically.


Hope that helps


(welcome to the Blue Room!)



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Hi there Elliott - welcome.


I don't think you will find a cardboard product which is inherently fire retardant. You may therefore be required to add flamecheck.


Richard correctly states that the Japanese are particularly hard on building standards, and it has been made even stricter after 2005, due to a number of buildings collapsing because of an architect falsifying structural data for his buildings.

It is therefore absolutely imperative that you get certification agreed by the Japanese.


Not entirely helpful, but I remember there was an exhibit in the Millennium Dome made from cardboard by a Japanese architect called Shigeru Ban. See this Wikipedia link

He has used cardboard as an approved building material in Japan which is useful as it sets a precedent for discussions with the authorities. He has also used Cardboard for a stage set in Tokyo - See this link


I would try emailing his offices and asking who they used as a supplier in the UK and also for advice regarding certs for Japanese theatre use. What have you got to lose if you don't get a response?


Good luck with this and please report back on the result,



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Just an update:


I think that batch of information proves what an excellent resource this is!


Thank you for both underlining the Japanese regulations and certification point: I have requested our Japanese speaker contact the theatres we will be visiting to confirm their requirements. If there is any question over the responses I will press for listed standards, possibly using a (convoluted!) contact at the Fire Protection Association if Ban's practise does not get back to me.


I looked up Shigeru Ban, thank you for the links Piers, and it turns out a building inspired by his cardboard work was constructed a few miles down the road from me (Westborough School). Dr. Andrew Cripps who was involved in the project wrote an article on the problems faced and advances in cardboard technology made in constructing a robust and outdoor building in the UK ("Building Research & Information", (May–June 2004) 32(3), 207–219). Essentially, the fire retarding quality (and waterproofing) came from additives to skin boards that had honeycomb cores between them. I can find no present activity of the firm that made these boards (Paper Marc Ltd.). Given the scale of our requirements however I do not think we would be in a position to have a pulp formula made up to the specifications required.


Having said all of that, on Friday the set designer and I visited the Dufaylite factory in St. Neots and were met by the supremely helpful Roy Kitto. It turns out they are the only honeycomb cardboard manufacturer in the UK (apparently the company name was therefore used for a number of years to denote 'honeycomb cardboard'), and therefore they probably are the only firm with whom we can deal face to face. Helpfully, they are prepared to cut to any design shape etc. and their 'Size D' honeycomb appears to be about the same cell size as the furniture I linked to in the original post. It is a dense card, not like egg boxes, but similar to several layers of very high quality brown envelopes. Apparently, although not tested to prove, it is inherently difficult to set alight as a result. We now have a sample and will be testing with Flamebar in light spray layers to reduce any warping to a minimum.


I will let you know what the outcome is with the regulations and our testing but if anyone has more advice please feel free to impart it!


Many thanks,




PS - Now we would like to work out a way to light it to make the individual 'tree stumps' almost glow… I think some more experimenting is on the cards!


(Edit - clarified day of visit to Dufaylite!)

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  • 2 months later...

I just thought I would post a final follow-up now that the tour is complete.


I acquired a sample of the product from Dufaylite and tested it with a naked flame: the product catches light well. Adding Flamebar N5 produced a product that simply charred, as was hoped. The issue was of course ensuring that the honeycomb received a sufficient covering of chemical which led to several tedious hours with a spray gun and three people holding open the cells of the product. While it went rather soggy, as long as gently handled when in this state it regained rigidity well.


With regards to fire regulations in Japan, I was surprised that not one venue asked about the fire retardancy of what was clearly a cardboard set. Admittedly most venues were university run but even the professional theatres (atop department stores rather bizzarly) did not enquire in advance or on the day of performance.


For anyone embarking on a tour of Japanese theatres a point to note is an apparent fascination with internally wired bars with paired sockets, either along the lines of:








The fun part being that few theatres appear to have this information written down on their blank lighting plans! It made for some interesting get-ins however.


Thank you for all of your help and advice: it certainly ensured I was thinking in the correct direction.




PS - Here is a photograph of the cardboard on stage. The lighting isn't quite right here as we had one or two technical 'issues' in this theatre.

<script src="http://shots.snap.com//client/inject.js?site_name=0" type="text/javascript">

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