Text-Only Instructions

Various sites show how to fold this famous cube. See, for instance,

Paper to be used: 6 squares of similar size; use large paper to practice with at first.

Thicker paper or thin cardstock is strongly recommended.

Note squares will also make nice, small models, but only use these when you are comfortable with the folding and assembly of these units.

Folding level: Beginner/Intermediate

Steps: 26

Description:

The finished model is a closed, three-dimensional shape with 6 faces, 12 edges and 8 vertices or corners, which makes it a cube or a regular hexahedron.

All 6 faces are congruent (similar) and shaped as squares.

Being constructed using Sonobe units, the flaps and pockets will also cause the surface of each face of the model to be divided into 4 small triangular parts, giving the model a very interesting texture.

If you are interested in finding out more about these and other kinds of 3D shapes, you can go to the page below.

Very small cubes can be used as jewelry components.

These models also look beautiful displayed in a large, flat bowl or see-through jar or vase, or use them as party favors or hanging decorations.

To use as a box, small objects can be added before the last module is inserted.

Extra help:

You could try the following to help with assembling this model for the first time.

* You can use something small and heavy, or what I call a "Heavy Helper" and position it on top of the central unit once you have added two units to it. The Heavy Helper will serve to anchor the first three units so that you can work more easily on assembling the rest of the cube.

* Use glue tack to help until you can manage without it; no glue is needed to hold your cube together, but it is very helpful when you are learning how to construct modular objects; once you get to know how a model goes together, you will no longer need the glue tack.

* After folding the units, make a square of modelling or similar clay by using the size of the folded units as a guide. Wrap the clay cube in thin paper so it will not stick to the paper you are folding with.

The clay cube does not have to be perfect. It will only serve to help you when forming your cube in the early stages.

* Alternatively, if you can find a small box that is more or less the size of the cube, you can use this as a prop on the inside of your model to fold against.

* You could even fold some scrap paper into roughly the size of the folded units, stack them on top of each other and secure with tape or a rubber band to use in the same way.

* You can keep your prop for future use.

* You could ask a human to help you hold a unit or two in place.

Warning: Do not try to enlist the help of any pets with this model. It has been observed that especially cats and/or dogs find this model very interesting, but they may want to play with or chew on some or all of your carefully folded modules, which will be a real problem since you need all 6 pieces for the finished cube. These animals are also not helpful during the assembly phase since their noses, paws and tongues tend to get in the way a lot, generally resulting in a somewhat damp, crumpled heap of unrecognizable blobs that may still be identifiable as paper, or if you have made the mistake of leaving your assembly unattended, you might find nothing left but some minute paper pieces.

PHASE 1: CREATING THE UNITSYou will be folding 6 similar units to form your cube.

It is recommended that you fold all 6 pieces before attempting Phase 3, which will explain how to fit the pieces together to form the finished model.

If using two-sided origami paper, lay your paper with the patterned or colored side down before starting to fold.

NOTE: This phase describes how to fold the basic Sonobe unit. If you are able to achieve this without instructions, fold 6 Sonobe units and then go to Step 9.

Step 1

Place a square down with its edges to the left and right, top and bottom.

Step 2

Fold the top edge down to meet the bottom edge to form a horizontal center crease line.

Crease and unfold.

Step 3

Now fold the top and bottom edges in to meet the horizontal center crease line.

Crease and leave folded.

You will have a figure with an upper and a lower rectangular flap meeting each other along the horizontal center line.

Step 4

Now, fold the top left corner, all the layers, diagonally down to the right as far as it will go. It will line up with the bottom edge of the paper and form a triangle on the left side of the unit.

Crease well and leave folded.

Step 5

Repeat this fold with the bottom right corner of the rectangle.

There will now be 2 triangles that have formed next to each other, pointing in opposite directions.

The outline of the figure will be a more or less rectangular shape, but with points on each side.

Step 6

Unfold the 2 triangles so you have the rectangle again.

Step 7

Notice that you will now have short diagonal valley fold lines at the bottom left and top right corners of the rectangle.

These lines extend only halfway from the corners to the central slit of the rectangle.

Reverse the valley creases so they become mountain folds by folding the bottom left and top right corners inwards so they are hidden within the layers of the paper.

It should look as if a small corner is now missing at the left bottom and top right of the rectangle.

Step 8

Refold and tuck the large left triangle you created in Step 4 under the small corner just below it and then do the same with the large triangle on the right, tucking it in under the small top right corner just above it.

This will lock your Sonobe unit securely so it stays closed.

Important: Always start to fold your large corners in the same way; in this case, the top left and bottom right corners. If you make a modular model and one or more of the units are created with the opposite corners folded in, the units will not fit together.

You will now have a securely locked, long, skinny diamond shape, or to be more accurate, a parallelogram.

Keep the unit with its points at the left and right and with the smooth side facing the table for the explanation that follows:

Step 9

Explanation

In order to use your Sonobe unit to make modular origami figures, it will help a lot if you can identify the main back and front parts of the unit and familiarize yourself with its features.

Depending on which type of modular figure you want to make, you will fold your Sonobe unit slightly differently, so for the purpose of this short explanation, the parts of the units will first be described in general terms.

(A) The Slits or Pockets

If you consider the surface of the module, which we will call the front, you will notice 2 diagonal folds with two loose flaps that face in opposite directions.

These folds are actually openings, slits or pockets where the points of other modular units will be inserted.

Note that the face or central square of each unit will seem to have 4 diagonal openings, all facing in the same direction and arranged in a kind of pinwheel formation.

You will always be using the 2 slits that are opposite from each other and that have a single layer of paper.

So, it is worthwhile checking that you can distinguish between the double-layered openings, which will not be used, and the single-layered slits which will be on opposite sides of each unit.

(B) The Central Square

Turn the unit over from left to right and place it so one of its long sides is facing you. The surface of the unit, which we will call the back, should now be smooth.

With the unit in this position, you will be able to identify the central square, with the left triangle forming a point nearest you and the right triangle forming a point furthest away from you.

This orientation of the parallellogram is important and all your modules should have the central square and points folded in this way.

(C) The Points or Flaps

With the central square placed straight in relation to the edge of the table, you will have a triangular flap on the left, with its pointy end nearest you. On the right, there will be a similar flap, but this one will have its point furthest away from you.

Put in another way, the left triangle will seem to slope downwards from the left side of the central square while the right triangle will seem to slope upwards from the right side of the central square.

These points or flaps will be inserted into the slits or pockets of other similar units.

This completes the explanation of the basic Sonobe unit.

Three more steps are necessary to prepare the unit for using it to fold our cube.

Step 10

Place the unit down again, so it has a smooth surface. Position it so you have the central square with its bottom edge horizontally or lined up with the table.

You will have a triangle on the left of the square, sloping downwards and another on the right, sloping upwards.

Step 11

Fold the left corner straight over to the right and the right corner straight over to the left so the bases of the triangles meet each other diagonally across the square.

The folded triangles will thus meet each other perfectly and cover the central square.

Make sure that all 4 edges of your square are straight and really creased well at this point. Press extra hard since firm creases will make the assembly of the model much easier.

Step 12

Gently unfold the last step and set aside.

PHASE 2: FOLD MORE SIMILAR UNITS

Repeat steps 1 to 12 5 more times so you have 6 similarly shaped units to work with.

Make sure you follow the instructions for all the squares precisely since all units should be alike in order for the modular pieces to fit. In particular, the pockets and slits of all modules need to face in the same direction on each piece. If some of the units are folded with the slits and pockets facing in the opposite direction, the points of the other units will not fit.

The parallelograms should also be folded in the same way, corresponding to the description in Steps 9 to 11 above.

PHASE 3: ASSEMBLING YOUR MODEL

Step 13

Explanation:

First look at your folded Sonobe unit. It has a square with two flaps that seem to point in opposite directions. The square itself has a smooth surface on one side, but various pockets or slits have been created on the back side. These pockets are where you will be inserting the flaps of the units of the cube.

The smooth sides of the squares will thus be hidden on the inside of the model while the points will fit into the pockets on the outside of the cube.

Don't be afraid to use a fingernail to open the pockets. You should be able to figure out where the pockets are and how to slide the flaps of the new units into them once you start assembling the model.

Step 14

Start by placing one unit down with its flaps at the top and bottom. The square part of the model will lie flat while the flaps will point towards the ceiling.

The smooth side of the central square will be facing up, so make sure the side with the pockets is facing the table.

Step 15

Now take two more units, place them on the left and right of the first one. The two on either side should have their flaps out to the right and left, also with the side with the pockets facing the table.

Step 16

From hereon, you might have to pick up the model in order to assemble it. Don't be afraid to turn it during the assembly. You can lightly hold it in your hand. The more units you add, the better the cube will hold itself together.

So, lift the first unit from the table and insert the point of the left unit, into the nearest pocket you will find on the back of the first unit.

Slide it in all the way. The point will disappear and the first two units will be loosely joined by their sides.

Step 17

Then, take the right unit and insert its point in a similar way at the back of the first unit.

After you have connected the first 3 units you will have a loose structure with many points just hanging around. Don't panic at this stage. It might now be time to call in the assistance of your heavy helper object.

Place the heavy helper on top of the first or center unit. It should anchor the three units for the next steps.

Step 18

Place the next two Sonobe units above and below the first unit with their flaps pointing left and right.

You will notice that there are still two points open at the top and bottom of unit 1.

Step 19

Insert the top flap from unit 1 into the pocket at the back of unit 4.

Step 20

Similarly, insert the bottom flap of unit 1 into the pocket at the back of unit 5.

You now have 5 units connected loosely, still with lots of loose flaps, which will be dealt with next when the sides of the cube are completed.

Step 21

Before tucking in the sides, gently pull all 4 loose flaps to the outside of the cube so you will be able to get hold of them. There should be no loose points or flaps when the cube is completed.

Step 22

Start on the left side and tuck in the flaps into the pockets that are nearest them. Always feel for the opening of the pocket near the edge of the units. These are the correct pockets. Avoid sliding the flaps into the folds at the center of each unit.

There will be two flaps to tuck in on the left side.

Step 23

Now do the same folds on the right side of the cube.

Once done, you will have a five-sided shape with two flaps still standing up and unconnected.

Step 24

Complete the assembly by adding the last square by inserting its points into the sides of the cube in the same way you did before.

Step 25

Lastly, take the two flaps left unattached and tuck them into their slots that you will find on the last, top unit of the cube.

Step 26

Gently press the corners and sides into a final cymmetrical cube shape and marvel at this beautiful modular creation.

Making origami accessible to visually impaired crafters through text instructions.

for non-commercial use only.

Compiled by Lindy van der Merwe, October 2021

Revised, July 2023

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