Make: Paper Inventions Review (make #5)

Make: Paper Inventions is a book about things you can do with paper. This is a very practical book with projects going from actually making paper, to paper machines and even a bit of origami. It took me over 10 months to get through this book. Read on to find out why.

I started reading Make: Paper Inventions somewhere in the Fall of 2015. I figured I would quickly go through it, select a few projects that I wanted to make and be done with it in maybe a month or so.

Things went a little different. Lets start with an overview of the projects I did.

Paper Electronics

The book has a great idea of combining paper with conductive tape, LEDS and a small cell battery. This is a solid idea and the possibilities are endless.

My son choose the first thing to make: a car with headlights. In this version we choose to make the conductive tape visible.

Car on paper with bronze conductive tape around it.<figcaption class="wp-caption-text">The lights light up when you press the round thing that represents the steering wheel (some imagination required)</figcaption></figure>

I searched around but could not located a local supplier for the conductive tape. Eventually I ordered everything  from AliExpress. For about $10 you have supplies for many many projects.

Which brings us to the second design: it was Christmas time, so we made something seasonal. This time, I put the tape on the back side of the paper:

Christmas tree with LED lights<figcaption class="wp-caption-text">If you move your finger from left to right and back, the lights will blink.</figcaption></figure>

These are great projects to do with a kid. No matter the age. They can choose the design and color it. Afterwards, you can add the lights.

And if this is too easy, there are a tone of idea out there to make it more complicated. Just Google.

Geodesic Dome

Next, its paper structures. Since we don’t have a newspaper it took us some time to collect the required paper for this project. You need a lot.

The initial step is to create paper struts, which is pretty tedious work.

Afterwards, building the dome starts out easy, but about halfway through, you really need an extra set of hands. I’m sure happy none of that was video-taped.

The end result, though, was pretty cool and certainly larger than we expected:

A paper geodesic dome<figcaption class="wp-caption-text">Although the structure is inherently very sturdy, the struts were a little too fragile. If I’d do it again, I would use extra paper (as is suggest in the book BTW)</figcaption></figure>

Most of the construction work for this project was a bit too tedious for my 3 year old son. But he loved the end result. Just a pity we didn’t make it stronger (use double sheets for your struts!).

Paper Machines

This is the project where I spend a lot of time. A lot of time. I actually wanted to give up on this project, but eventually I did finish it. Sort of.

The chapter on paper machines describes how you can animate a Mars rover. It’s a great idea and it looks awesome, so I printed everything out and quickly figured out this was a major and seriously difficult project.

It requires a tremendous amount of attention to details to get this working properly. There are many small parts with almost no margin for error.

In a word: frustrating.

The parts for this project spend a lot of time in the cupboard, waiting to be completed. Eventually I gathered all my courage and ended up with this:

A paper Mars rover<figcaption class="wp-caption-text">When you turn the knob in the bottom right, the Mars rover is supposed to move and turn his head. It sort-of works, but it fails half of the time. It’s very brittle and certainly should not be operated by small children.</figcaption></figure>

This project was, in my opinion, too difficult. I don’t know much about paper machines, but I think there should be something easier to get started. I’m sure, if you do get it working correctly, you will be very satisfied (you should be!)

Some Origami

The final chapter of the book is on art. It shows a few ways to make artwork with paper. One being origami.

I’m not really an “art guy”, but I did enjoy origami in the past, so I folded the origami worm, which was a nice and relaxing project after the previous one:

An origami worm<figcaption class="wp-caption-text">Because the book compared this to the very well known crane bird, I was expecting it to be a bit more interactive. It is not, but it’s a nice object anyway.</figcaption></figure>

I’m not sure if this is the best origami project to choose, because the end result is a bit disappointing. But the folding itself is nice and it is neat to see it all come together.


Make: Paper Inventions contains a very wide range of paper projects that are going to keep you busy for a very long time. I only did about a third of the projects and it took me 10 months.

The book should be seen as an introduction: you get to sample all kinds of different things. By the end of the book, you’ll know what you like and what you want to do more of.

I personally really like the electronics and will most definitely do more of these.

If you even have a remote interest in paper, go get this book. It’s cheap and it will entertain you and your family for a long long time.