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What Is a Paper Model?

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  • Written By: Andrew Kirmayer
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 25 August 2016
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Building a paper model involves cutting out shapes from paper, folding them, and gluing each piece together. Paper models are popular in Japan and Europe as well as in the United States, and are also known as pepakura, the Japanese word for papercraft. Unlike origami, in which pieces of paper are only folded, a card model requires a few inexpensive supplies to build, such as scissors, hobby knives, paper, and glue. Avid hobbyists sometimes add more sophisticated measuring tools and cutting boards. It is possible to build miniature buildings, vehicles, ships, aircraft, animals, and video game characters out of paper.

The basic supplies needed for a paper model are white glue, a sharp hobby knife, and the right paper for the project. Regular printing paper is usually fine, but many models are more stable when heavier cardstock is used. Making paper models is cheap, and many times they can be downloaded for free online. A computer printer can be used to print out the pages of the model, and the task of building it can begin as soon as the ink dries.

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A paper model can be a house or a miniature of any building. Sleek sports cars and vintage cars are seen in paper form, while spaceships, boats, and robots are also popular. Paper models are three-dimensional, so all of the parts are flattened out on the paper when unfolded. The model is built by cutting out these parts one at a time. At the end of an adjoining side there is usually a tab that is folded and used to glue one side or part to another.

Folding a paper model is done by following instructions and any lines and symbols on the page the piece is cut from. To make folding easier, the part can be lightly cut with a hobby knife while following it along a ruler or other straight object, which is called scoring. Gluing the parts together and repeating these simple steps for each part completes the model.

Sometimes a paper model has just a few parts and can be completed in a short time. Other paper models are more complex and can take many days to complete. They can have complicated parts such as curves, cones, and small pieces that need to be held together with tools such as paperclips. There is also software that people can use to design their own paper models.

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NathanG
Post 2

@nony - I had no idea people did this for a hobby. The last time I saw a paper model was in high school, when someone was modeling a set of buildings for a science project. It actually looked pretty neat.

I always wondered if the models would have been sturdier, however, if you could use something like wax to put on the paper so that it’s not so flimsy. Of course I suppose in that case you can just start out with sturdier material like cardboard, as mentioned in the article.

nony
Post 1

As a hobbyist, I’ve built models from balsa wood, plastic and paper. Each material has its own distinctive quality that it brings to the experience, but by far paper modeling is the easiest.

What’s best about paper models is that you can download paper models free online. When you do this and print it out you have everything that you need for the complete project – both the design and the material!

However, while paper is easier to work with, you still require a lot of patience. Quality models are intricately designed and in that sense the diagrams are no different than what you would find if you were working with balsa, except of course you can bend paper

without tearing it.

I like the space shuttle paper model the best. You can find this design online and it will explain how to build everything from the payload to the rocket booster. It does take time to build it, but I think it’s worth it.

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