After folding Origami for quite some time, I thought I show you my personal Origami Essential Tools. I actually don’t really use anything too fancy – and even substitute some Origami tools (that others might use – like bone folder) for items you could find in your own home. You might even have most of the items that I show you in this article – and you can obviously chime in, if you use other items, in the comments below. By the way, I numbered all of my personal origami tools according to their importance in Origami up to what you might expect to use anyway in everyday life. So let’s get started!
1. Folding Tool – Bonefolder or substitute
As you might have guessed from the picture above, I don’t use a bought bone folder, but use a blunt butterknife I found in my home. I rated this Nr. 1 overall as important Origami tool. According to preference, you might use your fingernails too to make strong creases, but I prefer to use a tool. If you prefer to use a proper bone folder, you can find that online on Amazon for less than $5.
2. + 2a. (Paper) Craft Knife & Cutting Mat
Not all Origami models start from the square ratio, so sometimes there is the need of cutting your paper to a certain measurement (ratio) before you can start. As you can see from the picture below, I use both the craft knife and cutting board for my Origami projects. These two items actually go together, as I don’t recommend you using the craft knife without a cutting mat – for obvious reason as it will damage the underlying layer (e.g.table). These two items are probably the most expensive one’s from my list [ok, not that expensive 😉 ], but you might be able to substitute the craft knife for a regular Stanley knife, which is probably found in most homes. And the cutting mat does not need to be too large as well, mine measures only 30 cm x 45 cm / 12 in x 18 in. For most casual Origamists, this is sufficient enough, especially if you don’t require to cut large pieces of paper for large tessellations all the time. Online, I found these choices: craft knife and a self healing cutting mat – $16 both items together, at time of writing this article.
Some people prefer to use a paper trimmer, that actually combines both items – and which is also not expensive at all any more – found for $18 online.
3. Metal Ruler
Every time you cut your Origami paper to a measurement, you will need a metal ruler to guide you. This is also a tool that I had laying around in my home, even before I started Origami – my beloved and really old Japanese made, metal ruler. I would advise you to use a metal ruler over a regular plastic ruler especially if you are planning of using a craft knife. If you use a plastic ruler, the blade will sooner or later cut into your ruler and damage it, which in turn will make it not accurate. Another advice, better get a metal ruler that is not too thin. You will realize if you have the right one, if it will not bend as much as a very thin one, when you try to put pressure on from opposite sides. It is also great if it has both, the metric and imperial graduation. I guess the metal ruler is easily found in any local craft store, but can also be found online here.
4. Scoring Tool
Sometimes you get to do a step during an Origami project that requires an awkward fold. That’s when I use my scoring tool to get the fold more accurate. You might have already guessed it again from the picture, I am using a substitute for a store bought scoring tool. I use an empty 0.4 mm Gel pen – that does the job as well as any designated tool. If you don’t have at the moment something suitable laying around, you can find a scoring tool stylus online – for about $5.
5. Wooden Craft Clothespins
Especially certain kusudama assemblies require some kind of help, so your work does not fall apart. Most of the time I will use wooden craft clothespins, which I prefer over paper clips. You might also use paper clips, which you certainly find in any home. From my own experience, paper clips sometimes tend to damage the paper (dent & rip). Be sure to check if the craft clothespins are relatively smooth before you buy them. You can find wooden craft clothespins in any craft store & online for about $4 for 50 pieces.
6. Crafting Tweezers
When you fold tiny (miniature) Origami, there comes a time, when your fingers are simply to large to fold and crease your Origami paper. That’s when I use my crafting tweezers – and suddenly all problems disappear. There are two kinds of tweezers that people tend to use for Origami work: straight ones or with a bent tip. I personally (as I had them laying around in my home :), use straight ones. Mine are about 6 inches long & have tiny teeth on the inside of the tip and look very much like the one’s I found online for less than $8 (2 pairs).
Every now and then, especially when you are folding tiny Origami or just have a fold which is tricky to reach, you might need to use a toothpick to lift a fold. I use both, the crafting tweezers and the toothpick for this exact purpose. Sometimes, when a kusudama assembly does not work out and requires glue, I use a toothpick: one drop of glue on a scrap piece of paper, then I swirl the tip of the toothpick in the glue (so not to get too much onto my work). Then I gently rub it on the fold that needs the glue to hold it together. It is always best to use less glue than more, as it not only stains the paper from the outside (looks wet, but never disappears), but also takes way longer to dry if you use more glue.
8. Mechanical Pencil
In Origami, I use my mechanical pencil for marking a spot, where I need to cut to measurement. I don’t mark the whole line, but simply place one tiny dot on both ends. Sometimes when the light is bad, and you don’t know exactly where the line is, you need to fold to, I also mark a tiny dot with the pencil. I prefer mechanical pencils any time over regular one’s, as they don’t need sharpening.
10. Scrap paper
I use scrap paper (what’s left from cutting paper to measurements – especially A4 copy paper for test folds) for sketching diagrams, taking notes while folding or calculating measurement ratios.