Origami is the Japanese art of paperfolding. Believe it or not, I was interested in this before I went to Japan, but my trip turned a casual pasttime into a wonderful hobby.

A current obsession of mine is unit origami. Instead of making an object, like the tsuru (traditional crane), out of one piece of paper, many units are folded the same way and assembled in various ways to create many different geometric shapes. One of the first shapes that I learned is the Sonobe Cube, a simple cube made with six units. This unit was designed by Sonobe Mitsunobu, thus the name.

Here's my attempt to show through the wonderful two-dimensional world of CRTs how to make this cube. I will apologize, up front, that some of this might not make alot of sense. I have done my best with the technology I have to make these instructions as clear as possible. Enjoy.

The Paper

Almost any type of paper can be used. You do not need to go out and buy origami paper. As long as the paper is square, it can be folded. Any size of paper will do, but, for starting, paper of 150mm × 150mm is best; folding and assembly will be easier. With experience, certain paper types will be preferred. I do use origami paper because the paper comes with a colored side, is square, and the folds are clean.

Take care in folding - your patience will be rewarded in crisp folds that make assembly much easier and the final object neat in appearance.

The Symbols

I have attempted with my limited artistic ability and the fact that drawing with a mouse is much like drawing with a bar of soap except without the precision to include the internationally accepted symbols used in my pictures. I have not included the full set of symbols here: only the required ones for what I am presenting. They are reasonably self-explanatory.

Abridged Origami Symbols

The Work

The Units

To make the Sonobe Cube, six identical units must be folded. It is important to do all the folds the same way. Reversing/mirroring step three will change the unit so that it will not fit with the others. After identically folding the six units required, fold one more unit and mirror step three by making the corner folds on the opposite corners and continuing on with the folds. You will find that this unit will, in no way, fit properly with the other six units you have folded.
Step One:
Step Two:
Step Three:
Step Four:
Step Five:
Steps Six and Seven:
The completed Unit:

The Assembly

About the only thing to note here is that the units are at right angles to each other. I hope this drawing gives enough detail into the assembly. It is so much easier to be shown this in real space.

The Sonobe cube

Click on the cube to see a real picture of the cube. 


Kanayama Izumi and a young woman in Japan whose name eludes me for the moment (gomen nasai!) deserve special mention. Their kindness is greatly appreciated.

The following books were used in the creation of this page:

Fuse, Tomoko. 1990. Unit Origami. Tokyo: Japan Publications, Inc.
Mulatinho, Paulo. 1995. Origami. Oxfordshire: Transedition Books.
Original page written by shase@unibase.com.
Original html code and drawings done on an Apple IIgs computer. Really.  forever.