Fold Origami Boxes

group of finished boxes What do you do with all the beautiful greeting cards you receive at this time of the year? Many people display them, but when the season is over, most of the holiday greetings are thrown in the trash. You can give the cards new life and help save landfill space by reusing them to make origami-style boxes. A little girl showed us how to make this box many years ago. Thanks for the art/recycling tip, Rachael!

The ancient art of paperfolding originated in China in the first or second century A.D., and by the sixth century, it had reached Japan. At first, paperfolding was practiced only by the wealthy, because most people couldn't afford to buy paper. The material was scarce in those times, but by the 1300's, it was plentiful. Paper became available to everyone, so more and more people began making what the Japanese called origami (ori means to fold, and gami means paper).

At the same time the Japanese were practicing this art form, it was developed by the Moors, a Muslim people who lived in northern Africa. In the eighth century, they invaded Spain. Besides having a great influence on the country's architecture, the Moors introduced paperfolding to the native people. The Moors, who were able mathematicians and astronomers, emphasized the geometry of paperfolding. Today, origami combines the beauty and simplicity stressed by the Japanese and the mathematical correctness and elegance emphasized by the Moors.

You will need:

assorted cards to make boxes snowman card box

How to:

True origami does not make use of scissors or glue. This art form depends solely on paper cut into a square, a variety of folding techniques, patience, craftsmanship, and imagination. Still, the word origami seems to best describe this activity, so following are instructions for making an origami-style box, With a few simple folds, and a cut here and there, you can make just the right box for small gifts or treasures.

To begin, separate the front of the card from the back by cutting along the fold. The front will become the top or lid of your box. To make the top more colorful, make sure the most interesting part is in the center of the card before you do any measuring or cutting.

Origami always begins with a square, so measure the shortest side of the front of the card, and make the other side the same length. For example, if your card measures 5"x 7", make the square 5"x 5". The front will become the top or lid of your box. To make the bottom, again use a square, but make it 1/4" smaller than the lid. In our example, the paper for the bottom will measure 4 3/4"x4 3/4".

repeat marking on card for box bottom
Step 4
finished marking card for the lid
Step 3
second mark for the lid
Step 2
marking box card for the lid
Step 1

Step 1: To make the lid, turn the front of the card face down. Place the ruler diagonally on opposite corners, and lightly draw a pencil line between them.
Step 2: Repeat for the other two corners. An "x" will result from connecting opposite corners with the pencil.
Step 3: Lid portion of the box ready for folding.
Step 4: To make the bottom of the box, repeat steps 1 and 2 using the backside of the card. Draw the guidelines on the inside of the card or the side with the greeting printed on it.

Fold once more to the center line
Step 8
Fold again in the same direction
Step 7
fold corner to first crease
Step 6
fold corner to center
Step 5

Step 5: Being careful to keep the corner on the line, fold one corner up to the center of the "x".
Step 6: Unfold the same corner and refold the corner up to the resulting crease.
Step 7: Keeping the corner in this folded position, fold the card again.
Step 8: Fold it once more so that it touches the center line.

Repeat marking again
Step 12
Mark to the crease
Step 11
All corners folded and unfolded
Step 10
Unfold back to the starting point
Step 9

Step 9: Unfold and repeat this step for the other three corners.
Step 10: Now you're ready to cut and assemble the box's top, which will be formed from the four squares in the center. To make it easier to see the folds to be cut, go over the creases with a pencil.
Step 11: Mark until you reach the crease, as shown.
Step 12: Repeat again on the opposite side, stopping at the crease.

This is trianular area used for the sides
Step 16
Repeat on all pencil marks
Step 15
Cut to the crease following the pencil line
Step 14
Repeat marks on the other opposite sides
Step 13

Step 13: Repeat the marking on the opposite sides. As the image shows, you should have four marks on the card. The four squares in the center of the card will become the box top, so stop at that point.
Step 14: Now you're ready to cut and assemble the box's top. Cut on the pencil mark, stopping at the crease.
Step 15: Now make the other three cuts on the pencil marks, being careful to stop at the creases that run across the card, as shown.
Step 16: The pointed tip of the triangular-shaped side will be folded to make the box sides.

Fold the other end in
Step 20
Fold small triangle corner in
Step 19
Fold again to next crease
Step 18
Fold tip of triangle to first crease
Step 17

Step 17: Working with one “uncut corner,” fold the pointed tip of the triangular-shaped side down.
Step 18: Fold again.
Step 19: Fold in the triangular tab.
Step 20: Repeat folding in the opposite triangular tab.

Fold upright to make box end
Step 24
End should stand up at right angles
Step 23
Fold opposite end over
Step 22
Fold ends up to a right angle
Step 21

Step 21: Fold in the triangular tabs, and stand the card up. Fold in the legs to make the side of the box.
Step 22: Repeat the fold on the opposite end.
Step 23: The ends should stand upright at right angles to the end.
Step 24: Fold the end up with the ends extending into the inside of the box.

Repeat folds with the other end
Step 28
Fold down over the ends-fold point up
Step 27
Bring unfold side up to the sides
Step 26
Fold other end up to a right angle
Step 25

Step 25: Fold in the legs to make the other side of the box. Bring the opposite legs together.
Step 26: To make the box shape, fold one of the other sides up and over the first two legs.
Step 27: Turn the point up and slide the fold back to hold the legs in place.
Step 28: Repeat on the opposite side.

Slide the lid over the box bottom
Step 32
Finished box bottom
Step 31
Cover the inside of the box lid
Step 30
Glue liner to cover the fold inside
Step 29

To make the bottom of the box, repeat steps 4-28 using the back of the card. Remember to draw the guidelines on the inside of the card or the side with the greeting printed on it (see Step 4). To assemble the bottom, fold as we did the box top.
Step 29: To make the inside of the box neater, glue small squares of paper or felt over the inside of the box top and bottom.
Step 30: This is the covered inside of the box lid.
Step 31: Finished box bottom.
Step 32: Slide the box lid over the bottom.

Tips and Tricks:

other finished boxes

When making origami, it's very important to work with squares of paper. If possible, use a paper cutter to make the squares, but have an adult do the cutting. If you don't have a paper cutter available, work with a T-square or a triangle to keep your corners square.

It takes lots of practice to become proficient in origami. There are many preconsumer and postconsumer waste papers with which you can practice. Try squares of newsprint, newspaper, phone book pages, and used copy and computer paper. For finished work, save small scraps of wrapping paper or used gift wrap.

You can make origami boxes out of any paper of cardstock weight, so use the idea to recycle other cards such as birthday greetings and get well cards. Also, this idea may be adapted to any other paper of cardstock weight. You can make much larger boxes, if you have old poster board or other lightweight paperboard available.

Check your school or public library if you're interested in seeing some of the many excellent books about origami which are available. Also, there are several web sites which are devoted to paperfolding. Joseph Wu's Origami Page is an excellent site, and it has lots of information about origami as well.

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