(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Kaleidocycles, by Doris Schattschneider and Wallace Walker (1977, Box edition 2004)
I’ve long loved M.C. Escher’s works, but very few of the people I’ve talked to here in Japan seem to have heard of him. So I was surprised to see this book on the shelves at Junkudo. I ran home and did a net search to get a price check on it, and to look at the reviews on Amazon. One person complained that the authors had stamped their names all over the cards, but otherwise most of the other comments were positive. That, and the U.S. price was $14. The Japanese sale price was 1,200 yen ($13 USD including tax), so I went back and bought a copy the next day.

(Booklet cover.)

This is actually a large boxed coffee table book set. The box contains a 58-page booklet with examples of Escher’s most famous cyclic drawings, explanations of how the authors went about making the Kaleidocycles, and a detailed discussion of how the Kaleidocycles tie into geometry. Then, there’s a stack of printed, pre-cut, pre-creased sheets that you use to make the 6 different geometric solids and 11 Kaleidocycles.

(Back of booklet, with an example solid.)

A Kaleidocycle is a chain of polygonal objects that has one of Escher’s works crawling along the outside surface. They’re designed so that the creatures or patterns in the artwork are endlessly repeating as you rotate it through the center. The objects are all papercrafts that you punch out and glue together. This is really why I wanted to get this book – I want to make more papercrafts.

(Punched-out pieces for the Cube.)

I started with one of the easiest regular solids – the Cube. It has two punched pieces in one sheet of card stock. It’s a simple task of gluing the two pieces together to make a cube.

(The Cube, Tetrahedron and Octahedron.)

Because the Cube went so quickly (only ten minutes total) I checked the assembly list to see what else I could do in one sitting. I discovered that there was also a Tetrahedron and Octahedron. The Tetra was made up of only one sheet, but because of the way the glue tabs were laid out, it was kind of hard to reach inside to press down on the inner sides of the tabs to set up the glue. The Octa used two sheets and was somewhat easier to assemble because it didn’t want to close up until the very last side was put into place. But, what I didn’t like about the Octa is that it had registration problems. The punch out lines were offset from the artwork about an 1/8″, leaving a white strip along several of the edges. The fact that the white strips are in the middle of the dark red creatures makes them stand out even more. Although that’s the way the sheets were printed, it looks to the casual observer as if I made it wrong. Not happy about that…

(Same objects, just showing different faces. The key is to look at the corners to see how each of the creatures in that image have points of rotation, and at the edges to look for reflections.)

I’ll work my way through the other objects in ascending difficulty.
What I found interesting was that the bookstore employees had taped a photo of the finished objects to the front of the box so the customers could get a feel for what’s in the package, and there was a second small sheet taped on with a short biography of Escher in Japanese, explaining who he was. And, as for the one complaint on Amazon, the co-author’s initials are printed on the punch-out sheets in a relatively small corner or edge of the patterns to discourage people from scanning the artwork and printing out free copies. It’s something you kind of have to expect, and it isn’t that obtrusive into the artwork, for the most part..

Recommended if you like making papercrafts and you like Escher.

Now listening to: L’univers De La Mer

Dominique Guiot – L’univers De La Mer (1978)

Earthquake Papercraft

Having just finished the guitar papercraft project, I kind of felt that it would be better if I held off on building anything else for a while (partly because I’ve got no place to keep anything new, and because of how much time these things take). But, as I was writing up the blog entry, I got wrapped up in finding out what other papercrafts the Canon site has. The science kits in particular caught my interest, and I downloaded the patterns for the moon, the sun, an observatory, and a couple other things. Then I got to the Principle of Earthquakes…

I have two students, brothers, at the English school. They are currently reading from a British book on geography and Earth sciences. I figured that it might be interesting to build the earthquake papercraft to show it to them as part of their present studies. Since I had plenty of paper left over from the guitar project, it was easy enough to print the patterns out. Unfortunately, Canon kind of went overboard in forcing people to use up paper and ink in their plans to generate sales with these papercrafts – fully half the page for each sheet was completely wasted white space, and there’s 16 sheets in the pattern. That was disappointing. It would have been very easy to rearrange the pieces to only take up 7 A4 sheets. The instructions were obviously translated from the Japanese original, which mostly wasn’t too bad, but there were a few places where the steps were confusing and could have used more explicit descriptions. But otherwise, this wasn’t a very hard project to make. I work slow, so it took me about 6 hours from start to finish.

The finished box is 21 cm x 10 cm x 8 cm (8″ x 4″ x 3″), not including the subduction strip. The section with the ocean is designed to be raised up to reveal the mantle movement as illustrated by pulling on the subduction strip. Not really all that earth shattering visually, but fine as a teaching tool for young children.

Guitar Papercraft, part 2

(The guitar is about 95% finished now.)

Ok, done. Total assembly time (including cutting out the pieces and pre-creasing them) – 50+ hours. The stand alone took 5 hours.

(Next, tackling the stand. This thing represented 4 A4 sheets.)

Not much to say abut the assembly process itself. There were a few places where I had trouble understanding the pictures in the instructions (like, with folding the internal spine for the neck and head stock, making the tuning peg key pieces, and the base of the stand), and it would have been nice to have written instructions, but those sections weren’t insurmountable. Probably the biggest problem was with figuring out how to apply the glue, and by how much. If I got too finicky with the toothpick, the glue would dry before I finished applying it. Too liberal smearing out the glue with the glue stick and the paper would get too soft and pulpy, and the pieces would take several minutes before they’d stick together. Largely, I’d say the main root cause for most of my problems was in using card stock. 0.22mm is just too thick. 0.12 would have been a lot better.

(Back sides of the stand pieces.)

If I do this again, I’d say that the go-to tools are: toothpicks, tweezers, white gloves and black dry erase markers.

(Parts for the stand head assembly.)

Before starting this project, I’d knocked my toothpick holder off the table, and spilled about 30 toothpicks all over the floor. Picking them up, instead of tossing them in the trash, I suddenly said “I can use these,” and put them in my tool bin. They’re invaluable for applying a small amount of glue precisely to small paper tabs. I must have used 20 toothpicks for the guitar and stand.

(Stand and stand head.)

Tweezers are good for holding small pieces of paper, of course, but they’re also useful when it comes to creasing the fold lines. The instructions recommend using a dried up ballpoint pen, or game stylus for pre-creasing the folds, and I picked up a spare Nintendo DS stylus from the 100 yen store ($1 Shop), plus a couple small straight edges. In most cases, I ran the stylus over the fold lines of the paper pieces, and used one of the straight edges to help support the paper as I made the folds. But, with the smaller pieces, and the glue tabs, it was easier to make the folds with the tweezers. Having the paper pre-creased, then really, really creased before applying the glue helped a lot in keeping the folds straight and strong.

(And reverse sides.)

My hands tend to sweat, and that can make the ink fade or smear when I handle the paper. Since the paper I’d gotten had a matte finish and was naturally tacky anyway, I realized that I’d really better get some kind of soft cotton gloves like you see art experts wearing when they handle stuff. The 100 yen shop had cheap white cloth gardening gloves, and I bought 2 pairs. The first eventually got gunked up with glue and black ink particles, so I switched over to the second pair when I started the stand. And I can definitely say that the guitar would have looked a whole lot worse if I’d handled the pieces with my bare hands. The only drawback was that the little corners on the smaller glue tabs of the paper tended to catch and grab the cloth threads of the gloves. Otherwise, they saved this project.

(Tuning peg box pieces. The tuning pegs are designed in two separate parts. The pins that hold the strings are placed in holes in the front of the head stock. Then, the gear boxes and tuning keys are glued to a “mounting bracket” at the back of the head stock.)

Using 0.22mm paper had several pitfalls, one of which was that the thickness of the paper became evident at the seams of pieces that were otherwise solid black. That is, the face and side of the stand are black, but places where you can see the edge of the paper would have this bright white line running along it. I noticed this as I was building up the face of the guitar right at the beginning of the project. Couple this with the paper getting all pulpy and the black ink flecking off the paper, I was coming very close to throwing everything in the wastebasket. In desperation, I grabbed a black dry erase marker and tried blacking in the edge lines of one piece as a test. The marker color matched the black ink perfectly, and I ended up using it for touch-up on both the guitar body and the stand. In fact, the combination of the matte paper, glue and marker gives the guitar body the right kind of gloss and feel.

(The assembled boxes. Just cutting out the paper and putting them together took 4-5 hours.)

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find other markers for doing touch-up for the brown neck tones or silver metal pieces. I did get a silver marker, but it was way too bright and shiny, so I only used it for signing the back of the guitar. One last note – when I printed out the patterns, I put 14 sheets in the paper tray mainly because that was all that would fit. When I got the “out of paper” alarm, I put the remaining 4 sheets in the tray, but I put them in backwards. This meant that all 4 sheets for the stand were printed on the back of the matte sheets. Turns out that this was a good thing, because the stand came out looking more like anodized aluminum this way.

(The boxes glued on the mounting bracket.)

(The finished project.)

(“Some day, I’m going to grow THIS tall!”)

Overall, I’m not too unhappy with the way the guitar and stand turned out. I did make a number of mistakes, and I can see them first thing when I look at the guitar. On the other hand, it turned out a lot better than I’d thought it would. So, I’m glad that I didn’t give up prematurely.

Guitar Papercraft

(Literally, the patterns cover my bed.)

The last really big papercraft project I took on was for the Himeji Castle. It’s been a while, and I was thinking that I’d like to try making the electric guitar from the Canon printer papercraft site. It’s 18 pages for the pattern, and 14 pages for the instructions. While the instructions are in English, they’re missing what I consider the most important information – the recommendation for paper thickness. I have a Brother printer, and Bic Camera doesn’t carry paper specifically from the Brother. Instead, I used Kokuyo paper. All they had was photo glossy and matte, when what I needed was plain card stock. I settled on matte, 0.22mm for the thickness, which I thought might still be on the flimsy side. Turns out that 0.22mm is actually too thick, and I would have been better off with 0.12mm, or there abouts. The other colors printed out fine, but black flaked off of one sheet, and ran like paint on another sheet. It tended to fleck off a lot when I cut along the lines with a cutter knife, making for a mess on the table. I also used a clear envelop glue that gave me problems by turning the paper pluppy if I used too much. Some of the problems almost seemed insurmountable, and I came close to giving up and scrapping everything several times. It’s taken close to 40 hours to get this far, and I still have a few pieces of the guitar to finish, plus the stand. I have some contract work that suddenly cropped up with a short deadline, so I need to do that now. I’ll get back to the guitar when I get the chance.

(The internal skeleton.)

(The main faceplate with components.)

(The faceplate, assembled.)

(The top half of the guitar body, plus the faceplate.)

(The same parts from the back.)

(The front half of the guitar body, with the faceplate and whammy bar mounted.)

(The front half of the body from the back, with the skeleton in place.)

(The neck and headstock components, partially assembled.)

(Same parts, from the back.)

(Finished neck, with body.)

(Same parts from the back. Notice the body has the back sheet in place.)

(With the neck attached to the body.)

Left to document – Adding the string anchor block next to the whammy bar, the tensioning pins, and the tuning pegs, plus the stand. Total length – about 22″.

Metal Legend Dragon kit

I had a few minutes this afternoon, so I swung by Junkudo bookstore to check whether they had the new “Metal Legends Dragon” kit, and they did. I’d said that if it was under 2,000 yen ($20 USD) I’d get it, but the actual list price is 2,400 yen, plus 8% sales tax. I thought about it hard for about 10 seconds, then bought before heading for work. The box is kind of small for the price, at about 5″ square and 1″ deep, and it’s not very heavy. But the finished dragon is advertised at 37 cm (14.5″) from tongue tip to tail, and it looks to be a fair amount of work to assemble. Again, it’s made of soft metal, probably tin, and supposedly has a number of movable joints (the other metal insect kits I’d put together before weren’t really designed for the legs or wings to swivel freely very much).

I’m going to hold off on building this dragon for a few weeks, but I am looking forward to being able to start on it eventually.