Origami as Survival Skill

When I was quite young (elementary school, or before?) my grandmother gave us an Origami kit consisting of a small instruction book and various sheets of colored rice paper. I was never very interested in the flat designs, preferring the 3-D pieces, especially if they were functional in some way (e.g., paper airplanes).

One design in particular has stayed with me over the years, because it has repeatedly served me well in innumerable situations: the Origami Paper Cup!

There are few things more basic, yet more essential, than being able to transport water to your mouth or another location without dribbling. Yet how often do you find yourself in a place where water or other cool liquid is ostensibly available but lacking a drinking/carrying utensil?

The great thing about this skill is that it can be done with ANY piece of standard paper (I don’t suggest newsprint) – just drink quickly if forced to use one that is printed to avoid soaking off the ink! This week I was in dire need of a drink while at a bookstore reading where they had bottles of fruit drinks but were out of cups. A quick perusal of their free handouts/flyers shelf provided a suitable piece of paper for accessing the liquids.

Here’s how – whenever you are told to fold something, make a good sharp crease of the fold:

  1. Here’s a US standard 8.5×11″ piece of paper from my desk.
  2. This works best starting with a square piece, so fold down the long side of a rectangular page by a couple inches.
  3. Fold one corner to its opposite corner to make a triangle. NOTE: if the paper is printed only on one side, fold it with the blank side INSIDE the triangle so that in the end the ink will be outside.
  4. With the creased side of the triangle down and the fully open point up, take one of the  other two points and fold across the body of the triangle so that the point touches the other side (see photo below).

    Origami paper cup steps 1-4

    Origami paper cup steps 1-4

  5. Take the other point and fold across in the same way. The two points have now crossed each other (see photo below).
  6. Fold down one of the two pieces of paper forming the open point over the crossed points.
  7. Turn the cup over and fold down the other open point in the same way.
  8. Pinch the folded sides to open the cup, and voila!
    Origami paper cup steps 5-8

    Origami paper cup steps 5-8

    With appropriate materials you can extrapolate this method, e.g., make a larger cup/bucket, line the paper with a plastic bag, or use aluminum foil to make a more durable container.


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