Something that did not occur to me until recently was my admiration of papercraft- scale models of thick paper or cardstock glued together; this excludes origami which relies on singular pieces of folded paper. Papercraft could range from easy block figures only centimeters tall, to sailing vessels with details so complex you would have mistaken them for a plastic kit from afar.

As a young boy my earliest memory of papercraft was actually mass-produced: small packages of animal crackers shaped like a touring bus, with die-cut wheels that were folded out. Each time as I was done eating the crackers I would tape the box closed again and treat it as a toy vehicle until it was shortly worn out and thrown away.

Around this same period I was a fan of the westernized anime show Battle of the Planets (Science Ninja Team Gatchaman for you purists out there). With the lack of toys available, I wanted to make my own figure of the leading hero. But all I had on hand was a stack of flimsy white lined writing paper. I studiously drew orthographic views of the character from memory, planning to fold up the figure in six-sided dimensional form. However it was apparent before I reached for the safety scissors and cellophane tape that a structure made of writing paper would simply collapse.

Nowadays, artists design 3D models of popular subjects, and use software to unwrap the geometry so they can be printed out on cardstock to assemble. And now I get to indulge in something that started decades ago. Lately I’ve been perusing many websites to collect files of models I have an itch to see in my own hands, focusing on models I do not have among my (plastic) toy collection.

My very first attempt was the Travel Pod from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which Scotty uses to bring Kirk aboard the Enterprise. This went well, with the only difficulty being the docking ring having no assembly tabs to support itself. I added thin sheets of balsa wood to the roof and floor so as to not let them bow inward. I suppose this wasn’t necessary because the pieces were glued together on all edges but I was just being cautious.

Travel Pod

papercraft Travel Pod of Star Trek: The Motion Picture


papercraft Workbee of Star Trek: The Motion Picture

The second model was the one-person Workbee, also of the same movie. As Kirk and Scott travel in the pod, various workbees float about the Enterprise, towing trailers of cargo or bringing last-minute hull panels with their front loading claws. I modified the file to display a different emblem and change a component color, just to make the model uniquely mine. This should also have been as easy to build as the first. But I erred in gluing the top body shell to an internal brace unevenly by 1/8″. While lining up the printed detail when gluing the bottom half, I discovered the body shape to be warped severely. So I printed another copy of the page for a new attempt.



This illustrates a great benefit of paper modeling: no error is too great a setback that it would cause any anguish, unlike plastic/resin/vinyl models where a mistake may ruin the rest of the project unless you bought another kit.

To round up a trio of ST:TMP models I’m hunting for the Starfleet Air Tram, which speeds Kirk across San Francisco Bay to Starfleet HQ early in the movie. However I can’t wait to tackle the spheroid drone from the Tom Cruise movie Oblivion. I specifically bought semi-gloss photo paper to imitate the drone’s exterior surface. Certainly a far cry from the flimsy paper I tried to use as a kid!