How to Construct an Ullagami Model


If you’ve already had some experience with kirigami and origamic architecture, then the basic instructions I typically supply to people who want to try my designs read as follows:

1. Print the template onto regular paper. 2. Tape or very lightly glue-stick one edge of the template to the card. 3. Through the paper into the card, score all the fold lines with an embossing point. 4. Cut all the cut lines with a scalpel or xacto. 5. Inspect the back to make sure it all looks right. 6. Remove the template from the card. 7. Using your fingers, reinforce all the scored creases in their proper directions. 8. Gently massage the piece into its final form. The whole thing folds flat when it’s finished. Good luck!

That’s really all there is to it. Sounds simple, right? And if you’re comfortable with that, you need read no further. However, having watched many people learn to cut my designs, with all different levels of experience and skill, I have seen many of the mistakes, pitfalls and missed intuitions that can naturally occur. One way to counter that is with a youtube video...

...but if you still want the most detailed, most complete description of (what I consider to be) the best methods and practices for constructing these designs, then please, dear reader, read on.


For teaching and diagrammatic purposes, We will use the “5x5 building blocks” model. You can download the template here. It’s simple enough to learn on, while just complex enough to reveal the techniques required by some of the more advanced designs. Once you get the hang of it, the basic method for all the pieces I design, regardless of difficulty level, is fundamentally the same.

Also it’s worth noting that the instructions that follow are not set in stone. Everyone has their own intuitions and preferences; here we’ll merely discuss certain tried-and-true methods that always work reliably.

Step 1: Preparation

Before you do anything else, make sure you have everything you need. These constructions require a little bit of focus and concentration, and having all your tools and materials assembled from the start is a good idea. Put a fresh blade in your scalpel. Wipe down your cutting mat. In fact (and here’s a really good trick), close your eyes and lightly feel the entire surface of your cutting mat with your fingertips. This is more important than it sounds: when tips break off of scalpel blades, they often lie in ambush, embedded in the surface of the mat, waiting for another scalpel blade to come along and break too. Feeling the mat with eyes closed helps you find any of these little land mines before they can get in the way of your construction.


With all the materiel ready to go, the next step is to photocopy or print the template onto a sheet of normal white copy paper the same size as the card you want to use for your model. My books are coil-bound for easy copying, and many of my models completely scalable, either vertically, horizontally, or entirely. The templates are in color, but photocopying is fine: they work equally well in black and white.

Then attach the template to the card, using whatever adhesive you prefer. A glue stick is the quickest, easiest method. It’s surprising how little glue you need: just the barest edge, a millimeter or two at most, across the top of the card will hold the template in place quite nicely. Some glue sticks even come in colors which dry clear, so you can see exactly how much you apply. You want to use enough glue to ensure that the template doesn’t slip, but minimal enough to allow the two sheets to easily separate later on. A single glue stick can last more than a year, even if you do this a lot.

Quick tip: never use your cutting mat as a gluing surface. A piece of scrap paper (or your most recently cut template) will protect your cutting mat from getting sticky.

Once the template is attached to the card, place it on your mat, and you’re ready to start.

Step 2: Scoring.

It’s worth mentioning at the start that the term “score” can actually have two meanings in this context. Scoring can mean “cutting lightly through the topmost layer of the paper’s surface” (some people even use the back of a scalpel blade, rather than an embossing pont, for this purpose); or it can alternatively mean “compressing the paper in a sharp line without breaking the surface of the paper at all.” This book uses the term in that second sense: it’s better to compress the paper than to lightly cut it, so it doesn’t split along the folds. And now we return to or originally scheduled program: