I’ve discovered a new craft obsession! Karakuri, which refers to “mechanism” in Japan. It’s also the name of the book from which this new love sprang–Karakuri: How to Make Mechanical Paper Models that Move by Keisuke Sake.
Initially, while flipping through the book, I was in awe. Especially at the sections featuring photographic examples of karakuri designed by Japanese high school students. Then awe quickly turned into intimidation. The diagrams. Extensive instructions. Explanations about paper crafting, definitions of various “mechanisms” that I would learn to make out of paper–cranks, levers, cams, gears, linkages…
I’m not one to shy away from mechanics (my stepfather, now retired, was a hydraulics engineer who often brought out his ohmmeter whenever I came to him with a broken something or another). But was I up for this particular karakuri challenge? I was leaning toward “not right now, maybe later” and was ready to shelve the book when I discovered the full-color pull-out pages with all of the parts I’d need for constructing the four models pictured on the book cover. There’s a Tea Serving Robot (oooh!), a Peek-a-Boo-Playing Teddy Bear (so cute!), a Train that goes around a track and through a tunnel (you’ve got to be kidding me?!), and… a Penguin perched on an iceberg trying to fly?! How could I not attempt to make a penguin?!
When turning the nob, the wings and body lift up and down, creating the illusion that the penguin has just started initial rotation before take off. Really quite brilliant.
There were a total of 15 steps to follow. I used scissors, a box cutter (I couldn’t find my exacto knife, which would’ve made cutting the circles and smaller parts easier), glue stick, cutting board, and metal ruler. I also highly recommend finding something like a bamboo skewer (if you don’t have a thin glue paint brush) which I used to apply glue to the smaller tabs, of which there were many.
I won’t detail each step. The book does a much better job than I ever will. But I do have a few things I discovered that I wish I’d known before starting the penguin project. Since you’ll be building the cam-axle mechanism and the base first and building the penguin head and body at the end, start by cutting pages three and four, build these parts, then move on to cutting and building pages one and two. Use the bamboo skewer (or fine paintbrush) to add glue to smaller tabs and parts. Wait for the glue to completely dry before attempting to put the separate pieces together. Finally, pay careful attention to the stars on each piece–they’re tricky visually but it’s critical they’re lined up the way the instructions show.
Ta da! Click the image below and watch the 10 second video of how Penguin moves.
Okay, so I’ve been bitten by the karakuri bug and I can’t stop. Next on the agenda… the teddy bear! Join me. The book’s available at your favorite retailer.
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