Origami is such a portable art and all I really need is some paper and my hands to create something special.
But when I travel, either near or far away, I always carry with me a small tool bag of special and useful tools that often come in handy. Having this little toolkit allows me the opportunity to realize spontaneous creative ideas.
To carry my tools I use two mesh bag pouches (5 inches x 8 inches). In one bag I put all the pens, pencils and scoring tools. Everything else goes in the second bag. There are so many bags to choose from it really is a matter of personal taste as to which is best. To get you started,I’ll share a recommendation. Find it >>> HERE.
Here is a list of the tools in my bag:
1. Colored Pens: So essential! My favorite pens are the Staedtler Triplus Fineliner (0.3mm). The line is quite fine and the pens don’t dry out if you leave the cap off. That’s good for me because I often forget! The six pack collection satisfies most needs but there are packs with larger color selections if desired. Find these pens >>> HERE
2. Paper Cutter – “I’ve had this useful tool (yellow rectangle in the photo) for years and I highly recommend one if it can be found. It’s called the “Envelopener.” Origami USA used to carry one but I see it’s not currently available in the shop. Maybe in the future. Though I haven’t tried this one HERE, it seems to be a possible alternative. If you know of a good tool and are willing to share your source, please let us know in the comment section, or in the Origami Spirit Fan Group Facebook page.
3. Paper Scorer: Save a ballpoint pen when it runs out of ink. Give your pen a whole new purpose scoring folds in card stock or thick paper for repetitive tasks. Your hands will thank you!
4. Pencil – For universal use. I’m partial to the classic yellow graphite Ticonderoga #2HB with an eraser. Find the pencils >>> HERE
5. Eraser – The eraser pen I have doesn’t have a brand name so I can’t recommend it in particular. But, this Pentel Retractable eraser might do the trick. Find it >>> HERE.
6. Scissors – For paper-folding rebels––and I do confess I’m one of these folders––I love and use these little scissors often. Packed with a whole bunch of other useful tools in a very pretty package, check out the Victorinox Classic SD 7 Function Pocket Knife ($21) and choose the color that suits you. Find it >>> HERE
7. Glue – Always useful and necessary. A few years ago I discovered this PH-neutral PVA glue. It’s a bookbinding and general paper project adhesive that is water-soluble, archival in quality, clear, and flexible. All you need is a small container to carry it around. I use glass a glass container with a metal twist top that holds about a teaspoon. One of those cylindrical perfume sample jars also works well. Use a toothpick as an applicator. The brand is LINECO and is available in quantities of 4 ounces to 1 gallon. Find it >>> HERE
8. Exacto Knife – For general use. The Exacto knife I use I inherited from my mother-in-law. It dates back to the 1940s and she used it when studying art at Parson’s in New York City. If I needed one I might choose the TIFICAL Exacto Knife ($7) because it’s retractable. Find it >>> HERE
9. Folding Tool – Great for creasing, getting into small corners, and pointing when teaching, these folding tools are very useful. The one in the photo is made from bamboo and is not currently available at Origami Spirit. As an alternative, this hardwood tool, hand-made in Argentina, is offered through Origami USA ($10). Find it >>> HERE.
10. Small Square – Perfect for marking out squares from pieces of irregularly shaped pieces of found papers like wrapping paper. Here is a square, ruler, and protractor set ($14) to check into. Find it >>> HERE
11. Miniature Pliers – Used to fold wire when making origami earrings. The pair I have measure 3 inches in length from the tip of the tool to the end of the handle. Perfect for fitting into the tool bag. Here’s a Speedwox Mini Flat nose pliers that should do the trick. Find it >>> HERE
12. Removable Tape – An alternative to clips, this tape is used when assembling modular origami components. I use tape that is about half an inch wide in 5 different colors. I don’t carry all these rolls of color tape with me but instead, wrap a ten to twelve-inch length of each color around a pencil and replace it as needed. You can find tape similar to what I use >>> HERE
13. Hole Punch – For earring making or for adding ornamental shapes and texture to paper. The antique punch tool I use creates a hole 1/16th inch in diameter (1.6mm) and is quite compact measuring 2.5 x 1.5 inches How it came to be in my possession can be read about HERE. At this time I have not been able to find a similarly sized tool to recommend. If I do I will update this item.
14 Tweezers – Used for making small and precise folds I use a pair of sharp pointed tweezers. Find it >>> HERE
15. Toothpick and skewer – Both are used to apply small dabs of glue, or to reach inner corners when making a squash fold in the paper. Both toothpicks and skewers will be found at your local market
16 Mini Clothes Pins – To hold modulars components together during assembly or fix something in place for gluing or drying. Find colorful pins >>> HERE. FInd natural color pins >>> HERE
17. Paper Clips – An alternative to clothes pins, clips can be used to holds things while drying or assembling. I use black, coated, paper clips. Find it >>> HERE
18. Needle and Thread – To make any origami piece into an ornament that can be suspended.
When I first wrote this post I was preparing to travel to Bellevue WA, near Seatle, in 2011, to attend the Pacific Coast Origami Convention also known as PCOC. You can be sure I took my set of tools along for the ride!
REMEMBER: If you are flying pack the sharp tools in your check-in luggage or TSA might take them from you!
What creative tools do you carry when traveling? Please let us know in the comments.
post updated: January 2023
14 thoughts on “Eighteen Tools For an Origami Traveler”
Thank you for excellent ideas always
You are always welcome, Yeribel. Happy to see you with us in Origmai Spirit!
Hole Punch: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09G9ZGGPH/ref=sxin_13_pa_sp_search_thematic_sspa
This letter opener is really good: https://www.amazon.com/Midori-Letter-Opener-Cutter-49849006/dp/B06X9P7XZX/ref=sr_1_1?
These look great. Thank you for your contribution, Iana!
I would really like to get a bamboo folding tool but I can’t seem to access the page on your website. It just says page not found. Have you stopped selling them now? It’s quite hard to find things that are non-standard when it comes to origami in the UK. *sad face*
Hi Jo, the tools are out of stock, but we are working hard to bring them back. I’ll let you know when they become available again!
were can I get the envelopener
Origami USA sells the envelopener http://origamiusa.org/catalog/miscellanous/cutters
What brand of color pens do you use?
The brand name of the pens I use is STAEDTLER. I love them. Their point is very fine, and the colors are vibrant, but do not bleed through the page. I use them daily on my journal. Another advantage is that if you forget to put their cap, they won’t dry out.
Here I place a link to Amazon (affiliate).
Hey.. well I won’t be making it to PCOC.. but have fun! Hmm.. I usually carry in my tool kit, my scissors, bone folder and most importantly my paper cutter. I haven’t reached the projects that really would need as much tools yet. But I definitely noticed that some of my friends/fellow folders have interesting tools such as a ‘unusable’ pen with a cap, and a little water spray bottle, among other tools.
I use a ‘half-unfolded’ paper clip to get into the corners – but I like your bamboo tool! Where do I find one fo those (without going to China or Malaysia…LOL)?
I will be with you and all the other folders in an “Origami Spirit.”
Thanks for this list, Leyla! Great items – I need to get some of those in my arsenal. I like to use a steel crochet hook (2.1 mm) for scoring paper and getting in small spaces – the tip is not as sharp as some empty pens so it is easier for me to make smooth scorings (I don’t think that is a word :)) and to not accidentally poke holes in the paper. I haven’t used it much yet but those miniature pliers are better than tweezers for lots of things.
Have fun at PCOC!