jeweled platypus


sunday, february 03, 2008
Dan’s modular paper icosahedron and dodecahedron

A few weeks ago, Aaron Straup Cope bookmarked the paper sculpture on the left. It’s part of a photoset of work by Richard Sweeney that includes the partial one on the right.

twenty unit modular piece, approx 40 cm diameter paper, 26 cm

I showed these to my friend Daniel Walsh, a physics major in my college who enjoys polyhedra and making things out of paper. A few days later he’d busted out with his own small, beautiful versions:

the paper polyhedra in somebody's hands

Cody attempting to blow the dodecahedron into the air Dan succeeding at blowing the icosahedron into the air

Dan, on the right, has figured out how to blow spherical paper objects into the air in a way that suspends them for a few seconds as they rotate in place. Cody, on the left, is doing it wrong.

If you’d like to make your own icosahedron (the more elaborate one of those two), download this template (PDF) and print out ten copies of it. Here is what you do:

  1. Cut out one figure along the bold lines.
  2. Score all its curved dotted lines with a dead ballpoint pen or the tip of a lead-less mechanical pencil or something like that. Fold the tabs back and forth to make sure they’re flexible. Pinch gently along the scored curves to begin to form the curved module shape, with the dashes on the inside.
  3. Apply white glue or a glue stick to one of the module’s small tabs and connect it to its neighboring bit of paper, like this:
    the partially-folded shape
    That one actually has two tabs connected already. Do that. Repeat for third tab.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 for the rest of the modules (twenty modules in total).
  5. Glue modules together on the large tabs. Be sure to have five modules around each corner, i.e. flowers always have five petals. When you have a few modules together, you can insert a pencil or straightened paperclip through the holes to push tabs with glue together to make sure they stick.

This may take a couple hours to complete. It is more fun if you do it with a friend! The last step is taking glamour pictures and showing them off.

comments (3)

Hey Britt,
I showed this to all my friends and now we're gonna go make icosahedrons. Yay!
(I love you)
Lizzy on 2/4/2008 02:21:45

Hm, since I can't direct message you on Twitter... I'm following you and saw the Helvetica tweet. I was under the impression that it's tomorrow at 7:30. Or am I mistaken?
Brigitte on 2/5/2008 11:04:21

Britta: ILOVE YOU BLOG!!!!! Thanks for taking such great photos of Daniiel too!! I am very impressed with both of you- Jan Walsh, yes, I AM Dan's mom!
jan walsh on 2/10/2008 13:04:53

comments are off. for new comments, my email address is


I’m Britta Gustafson.

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