The T-word

The T-word

The T-word 640 480 mathgrrl


It is not allowed. Origami models are traditionally made with one piece of paper (see Robert Lang‘s site for some amazing examples) that is only folded – never glued, taped, or cut. Modular origami follows the same rules – no glue, tape, or cutting – but allows multiple pieces of paper (for example, Tokomo Fuse’s beautiful modular designs). Part of what makes origami models so compelling is precisely this lack of tape:  with just a piece (or pieces) of paper,  you can create immensely complex structures.

But guess what, I’m not Tokomo Fuse or Robert Lang, and neither are you.

photo 1 (6)

We’re in the middle of a worldwide battle to build twenty Level 3 Menger cubes by this weekend in order to make the first Level 4 modular origami Menger cube in human history. We’ve already stretched the rules to allow our Level 4 to be distributed around the globe, both for structural stability and because of the immense cost that would be involved in shipping twenty 160-pound Level 3’s from places like Finland, New Zealand, China, the UK, and the US to some central location. Using a few pieces of tape to keep us on track would be the least of our sins. I don’t know for sure that we are going to need it, but I’m not above using a few judicious strips of tape to keep our hard work from collapsing, if necessary.

So where do we put this tape?

The Level 3 building instructions at MegaMenger has a suggestion for how you might add bits of clear tape at structurally-important edges, for example the vertical edges that hold up overhanging Level 2’s in a Level 3 construction. Notice that this tape placement keeps all tabs free for paneling and attaching to other cubes, and that external paneling cards would cover up all but a tiny sliver of these pieces of tape:


Tonight while constructing the second (!) Level 2 that is currently taking up all of the space on our dining room table, we came up with another method. We’ve been building our Level 2 using the “fractal” method, in other words, by making twenty Level 1’s and then attaching them together. Attaching a Level 1 into a corner like the one below is tricky:

photo 3 (6)

In particular, it’s pretty much impossible to hook in all the tabs, especially along the seam shown in the center of the picture. Here’s our new hack. Even though this is WRONG we are going to insert tabs into pockets along this seam, before even adding the corner Level 1 into the assembly. The reason this is WRONG is that these tabs are supposed to go into the corner Level 1, but we’re putting them across the seam instead. Compare the next picture with the previous to find the three tabs that have been pocketed:

photo 2 (8)

This cheat alone will add a good amount of stability once the corner Level 1 is put in, but to shore things up we can add some tape before putting in the corner. We used ugly blue tape so you could see it in the picture, but you can use clear if you like. In this case none of the tape will show after we put on the corner Level 1, so it actually doesn’t matter:

photo 2 (7)

The final step is to attach the corner Level 1; we do this by putting it in place with no tabs attached, and then pulling out and hooking in tabs all around the new seam created by that corner Level 1 until all outside tabs are correctly attached.

Of course these pictures showed how to use the tape when attaching a corner Level 1 to an in-progress Level 2, and in this case the tape isn’t actually necessary at all. In our last post we made a perfectly good Level 2 by zipping up Level 1’s with no tape at all. This tape suggestion is really for making things stronger one level up, when we will have to attach a corner Level 2 to an in-progress Level 3.

Good luck with your Menger builds, everyone! Join us at for live feeds of builds around the world as well as video check-ins from all of the Level 3 sites on Saturday and Sunday.

P.S. The T-Word is also the name of Laverne Cox’s documentary that aired last week on MTV about the challenges faced by a group of transgender youths. You can see some clips and an aftershow forum at LogoTV.



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