The Lister List

Glue And Origami

To glue or not to glue..

Dorothy Engleman asks: "But why is a dab of glue considered intrusive and impure but not wet-folding, which dramatically alters the internal and external structure of a sheet of paper?". A good question, indeed! The answer must depend on how pure you want your origami to be. If you are a purist, water as well as glue will be taboo. Both add to or vary the mechanical stability of the model, if not its structure. But there are degrees of gluing. I think that the rule was originally conceived with the vision in mind of a model made by gluing several pieces of paper together to make a model that was no more than a composite structure - a kind of paper construction. That is not at all what we understand paper folding to be. Very from this different is the appliction of a dab of glue to prevent a model from falling or springing apart.

There are, of course degrees in this. It has for long been recognised in the BOS that it is permissible to use a little glue on exhibition models which are on display for some time and subject to the ravages of heat, damp and paper fatique. But if you prefer your origami to be pure and folded from a single uncut white square without cuts, glue, staples or any other added devices, then carry on: this is your choice and your privilege. But you cannot dictate to other people. As far as i know, the rule was first enucnciated by Robert Harbin in his seminal book "Paper Magic" (1956). On page 13 he wrote: "Paper-folding is: 'The art of folding a piece of paper so that it takes on a desired shape, to be known as a model.' Experts insist on certain simple rules:

(1) The paper model must be achieved by folding only, without the aid of scissors or glue.
(2) The shape of the model should be easily recognisable without the addition of colours or special markings.
(3) The model should be capable of folding flat after it has been displayed"

Harbin continues: "As with all rules, certain exceptions have been acknowledged. There are standard models in existence which, with a small scissor-snip, become so perfect in appearance that the end is held to justify the means. The models of the Elephant and the pack Mule are examples of this" Harbin doesn't say who these experts are and it is difficult ot think who they could be. This was in 1956 and not only did Robert Harbin know hardly any experts, but at that time there were very few experts on Paper Folding in the world. And even some of thom (Dr Solorzano, for instance) obviously wouldn't have agreed with him, especially about cutting. Perhaps the most curious of the Three Rules is the third, "The model shoud be capable of folding flat after it has been displayed". I have seen this rule stated in on Japanese source, but I haven't the reference in front of me.

But where did this idea come from? Who laid it down? It has apparently been abandoned becuse it would exclude virtually all of the three dimensional modles that are so popular today. Even in 1956 it would have excluded the Chinese Junk, several varieties of which Robert Harbin includes in "Paper Magic". And as for "The Art of folding a piece of paper" (not, you will notice, one or more pieces of paper, but A piece of paper ) where would this leave modular folding?

Do read John Smith's "Origami Profiles" if you have not done so. It is easily available on his own site "Bits of Smith" and on the BOS site and there are leads from many other sites. It is by far the best guide to help you to focus on what paperfolding is and what it is not.

David Lister. Grimsby, England.

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