The Lister List

Wrinkly folding

Chris Miller (4th May) raises some interesting points. His informant, who told him that repeated crumpling of paper made it feel like toilet paper, was obviously too polite to tell the whole story. But since we have descended to the earthy bottom line, I will not shirk my duty to throw light on a hidden subject so relevant to our art.

I (and ,no doubt, a few other older subscribers to Origami-L) am old enough to have been young before the introduction of modern soft tissue toilet papers. The better-off used what purported to be suitable paper, but which was, in fact hard, harsh and unyielding. Over here the commonest brand was "Izal". Poorer people used newspaper threaded on a string, (Perhaps they still do), or a magazine or an old mail-order catalogue. These latter had the additional use of providing reading matter. Perhaps not many people seized the opportunity to practise their paperfolding, but magazine folding is an off-beat branch of origami that does offer immense and novel possibilities.

From an early age I was taught to crumple the paper several times before using it. I always did, and in an emergency, when the tissue runs out, I still do. It makes hard paper much softer and kinder.

So much for that topic. My excuse is that it makes an introduction to what follows.

By repeated crumpling of a currency note (Pound Note or Dollar Bill or whatever), it is possible to make it shrink to a half of its true size. Al O'Hagen includes the trick in his short, duplicated routine called "Bill Folds", dating from 1945. The following is what he writes:


1. Take a New bill and starting at one corner, crumple the bill a little at a time until the bill is gathered in a small ball.

2. Open bill up but do not stretch it out, as doing so will remove the creases in the bill.

3. Repeat this process several times.

4. The bill will now be full of thousands of tiny creases which will make it appear to be much smaller than a regular sized bill.

5. Place the bill between the pages of a book to press it flat without removing any of the creases. A bill treated this way can be shrunk to almost half its original size.

Martin Gardner also includes the trick in his "Encyclopedia of Impromptu Magic" (1978), page 16, where he writes:

A Bill can be made to shrink a surprising amount by crumpling it into a ball and rolling it several times between the palms. If you can procure an old type large bill, finish trick by switching shrunken bill for it and pretending to stretch it to a size larger than ordinary.

I doubt if there are many old type large bills about nowadays, but it's a nice idea.

Would that amplification of money really was so easy! Minimalisation comes all too easily!

David Lister

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