I have a confession to make. For many, many years, I have been somewhat condescending about those who use tools to flatten creases, although I’ve tried not to show it. Part of this was the use of “bone folders”, which as a vegetarian, I found entirely inappropriate – why would you fold with a dead cow? The rest was a belief that all you really needed to make origami was your fingers. However, I’ve slowly been converted to the stage where I use them more frequently now.

This unlikely turnaround began a few years ago in America, where I was honoured to be one of the Convention “special” guests. I was given gifts by a great many people and one of them (sorry, I can’t remember who it was from) was a “Martha Stewart” plastic folding tool. It stayed in its packet for almost a year, when I had a commercial bulk folding job and thought it might save my sensitive musicians fingertips. In fact, it allowed me to fold much faster and to produce neater, crisper folded edges.

The plastic tool, whilst effective and elegant, has recently been replaced by a custom made wooden version, given to me at a convention in Weimar by my good friend Hans-Werner Guth. He is an extraordinarily creative man and fills his time with not only paper-folding, but also constructing wooden puzzles and many other things besides. He had a series of 20 or so folding tools and I tried them all before settling on one that fitted my hand perfectly.

Since then, I’ve slowly expanded the range of situations that I use it in, mostly for models that I fold to photograph for a book, where clean lines are essential. It’s also handy for modular designs, where crisp edges are essential. It’s especially useful for multi-layer folds made from thicker paper, where folds can prove difficult to flatten accurately. It can also be used to opening small layers for squashing and extricating flaps from deep inside a model. A lot of my designs require softer creases (or wet folds) where the tool is not required and I don’t want to give the impression that I can no longer manage without it (although age is taking its toll), but my opinion is certainly different to earlier times. And if you’ve not used it, I recommend you give it a try sometime.

I have a limited supply of HWG tools for sale in my shop, every one unique and will last a lifetime…

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