by Arsalan Wares
Edited by Jane Rosemarin
The Austere Box. Designed and folded by Arsalan Wares. See PDF diagrams.

Origami is an old artform in which square sheets of paper are folded into three-dimensional objects. Among many things, origami teaches us how to enjoy simple pleasures in life, how to play with creative ideas, and how to think mathematically. In this article we will learn to fold a simple origami box made from four identical rectangular sheets. We will also discuss some mathematics related to the box.

The Construction Process

A picture of the box we will be making is shown above. This a simple box that is stable and reusable. It is perfect as a small gift box. This box looks great when folded from plain sheets. Four sheets of two contrasting colors also look great.

We will need six 11-by-8½-inch rectangular sheets. Two of the sheets will be used as measuring tools. These measurement sheets will be discarded and will not be a part of the constructed box. Four of the six sheets must be origami sheets, with one fancy side. In the video, I chose to use origami sheets instead of plain sheet to enhance communication. The four origami sheets will constitute the entire box. The top of the box requires two sheets, and the bottom requires two as well. You will find a video that shows how the box is made at the end of this article, or use this link.

The video is about 22 minutes long, but it will probably take about 40 minutes to make a decent box. No prior experience in origami is needed to make the box, but a little bit of mindfulness and patience can only help make the box more crisp and beautiful. The box shown above was made with 20-pound regular printing paper. We can also use 65-pound cardstock to make a sturdier version. However, I would encourage the readers to make their first box with regular printing paper, which is easier to fold than cardstock, especially for beginners.

Two printable patterns: Cone and Magnolia, see PDF; and African and White Daisies, see PDF.

Some Mathematics

We used 11-by-8½-inch sheets to make the box. By analyzing the crease marks on the sheet, we can establish that the height of the constructed box is 21316 inches and the base of the bottom piece of the box is a 4⅛ inch square. Can you explain why? The figure below will give you an idea about the volume of the box. With slight modifications, six 14-by-8½-inch sheets (US legal) or six A4 sheets can be used to make a similar box. Of course, the dimensions of those boxes will be different from the one we made. There are many variations to this box. Feel free to play with different sheets: The world is your oyster!

The box as a container for truffles.

Video Instructions