Scrap Paper Airplanes

Last week, at the Brookdale Library we hosted an event where we invited 3rd-6th graders to come fold and fly paper airplanes. 

A mass of airplanes that we tested.

We selected six different types of airplanes, trying to find ones that were easy to fold, flew well and were unique in some way. There were six tables, one per plane. Each table had a volunteer that was willing and able to teach the folds. There were also printed instructions so that the students could practice folding them at home. 

The students got to decorate their planes.
In an adjacent empty room, we put tape on the floor so that folders could see how far their creations flew. Some of them went all the way across the room. That's over 30 feet!

We competed for distance.
W also made personalized certificates for all the students that folded four or more different airplanes. I thought this had a nice touch, since it actually reflected what they did. Often, certificates like this overstate a participant's skills, but I honestly think that all the students who got a certificate can fold a paper airplane.
It's official, I'm a Paper Airplane Engineer!

All in all, this was an awesome event and was well attended. We had students running around for the whole time we had the tables set up. The testing room had airplanes flying constantly, too.

I think I'll suggest we repeat this event sometime in the future.


Hamdmade Paper

If you read the previous post, you'll know that I participated in a day of paper-making goodness with Origami Minnesota. We made several sheets, all by hand, and it was awesome!

I thought I would share with you some of the paper we made:

Some of the paper was thicker and some was really really thin. The one above was thick, especially because it is double layered, each layer being thick individually.


This is my favorite one out of all of them, mainly because of the color mixture. I thought it might be cool to look at close up. This is as good as my camera will do.

The one on the bottom right is an odd one. I was experimenting with shaped molds, which is how I got the star in there. To be clear, I realize it is the Star of David, but there is no intended religious symbolism in it. That one is also odd in that I used the blue fiber, which had been mulched too much. It had the consistency of snot, which made it difficult to use, both physically and mentally. When I strained it, I put it on a shelf because it took so long for the water to seem out and when I tired to lay it neatly on the yellow sheet below it, a glob flew off and landed on the black one that is above it in the photo.

The lesson is, do not over mulch your pulp!


Paper Making!

On Saturday, Origami Minnesota hosted a paper-making workshop! We took over some space at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and made ten sheets. The workshop was led by Amanda, one of the people at Cave Paper.

We had two fibers to work with: abacá and flax. Abacá is a banana plant that grows in the Philippines, Borneo and Sumatra. It also works well for paper. It does not require the harsh chemicals that would be necessary if we were using most tree fibers. That means that we only had three ingredients, all non-toxic: fiber, water, and dye. We also had a relatively small supply of flax which is grown from the Mediterranean to India. It is notably stronger than abacá, but can be thicker.

Before we got there, the fiber had been sent through a machine that tears it into bits. These bits are dyed to a preferred color and mixed into a pulp.

The pulp mixture sits in a large tub, and a mesh mold is used to scoop up the fiber.

Then the water is drained out. The amount of time this takes is variable, dependent on the fiber and how much it was shredded before mixed into the water. One pulp we made was shredded really finely and absorbed an awful lot of water, which took a long time to drain. It was also really gooey, like snot.

The mesh mold is then flipped over and pressed against a wet piece of felt.

More felt is placed on top, several layers, until it is large enough to be pressed.

Note, the press uses a car-jack. It is pumped up to 5000 PSI and then released. Then each sheet is removed from the stack and put on a rack to air dry.

I think that it is important for a folder to make paper at least once in his life. It has given me a better appreciation if the fiber and the quality of the sheets. It also makes me more aware of the fact that each sheet can be customized for the model that is folded. First there was paper-making, and then as a natural extension, there was paper folding. Now I have a better understanding of that progression that has led to my chosen craft.

I had a blast making paper! Thanks to Cave Paper and Origami MN and the MCBA!

[All pictures taken with my camera.]