The Natural Laws of Origami

There are in origami a number of unofficial ‘rules’, e.g.

  • Start from a Square
  • Use only a single sheet
  • Don’t cut
  • Don’t Glue

Most of these are, at some time or another, broken (if not utterly smashed) by almost every folder.

It has come to our notice that there are other ‘rules’. However in their seeming inevitability, they are more like ‘The Natural Laws of Origami’.  In other words, where there is origami, these laws will be seen to exist. We present here those we have observed throughout almost 40 years of origami experience. Please feel free to submit any others you may have encountered.

  1. Right angles aren’t.
  2. For the purposes of origami, white isn’t a colour.
  3. The instruction you don’t understand will have the next step over a page.
  4. The book won’t lie flat or will close over at the point you need both hands to complete a particular fold.
  5. A picture is worth a thousand words , but a couple of lines of text is useful.
  6. Don’t expect a rabbit-ear to look like a real rabbit’s ear, and definitely don’t expect a double rabbit ear to look like two.
  7. Anything thicker than 4 layers will not thin down to a point, no matter what the diagram looks like.
  8. When teaching a model, the tricky bit is the bit obscured from view by your fingers.
  9. Model complexity can be defined as the probability of your first attempt going in the bin.
  10. You can fold foil. It’s unfolding it that causes problems.
  11. White paper is only good for sheep, clean geometrics and people who can’t fold accurately.
  12. Any particularly difficult sequence of folds will be followed by an instruction to either “Repeat behind”, “Repeat mirrored on the other side”, or worse, “Unfold Completely”.
  13. The number of hours spent perfecting a model is only exceeded by the number of guesses other people require to correctly identify the subject.
  14. Nice to Fold. Nice to look at. Easy to teach. Pick one.
  15. The number of identically coloured sheets in your paper stack will always be one less than the number of units that the model requires.
  16. Never eliminate the possibility that a mallet might be useful.

Written by Dennis Walker & Martin Quinn, first published in the BOS Magazine Issue 245 in August 2007.

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