How to Make Origami Chess Pieces

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Making your own origami chess pieces is a lot cheaper than buying an expensive set made out of wood or glass. And if you lose a piece, you can simply make yourself a replacement instead of discarding the whole set. These instructions require you to use some standard origami folds, so practice these basic folds before attempting these chess pieces. Make your folds as precise and sharp as possible.

Things You'll Need

  • 16 pieces white paper, at least 8.5 inches square
  • 16 pieces black paper, at least 8.5 inches square

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The Base

Fold one piece of paper in either color in half vertically, horizontally, and down both diagonals. Holding the paper so that the corners are at the top, bottom, left, and right, bring the left corner to the right corner. Bring both corners on top of the top corner, and bring the bottom corner on top of all the corners. Fold along the existing creases so that the paper lies flat, with two flaps meeting in the middle. This is called the "bird base."

If you're using paper that's only colored on one side, bear in mind that the color facing down when you start will be the color of the chess piece.

Fold two inside reverse folds on both sides of the paper: fold the left corner (just the top flap) in towards the center crease so that the top left paper edge is on top of the center crease, then unfold and tuck the corner behind the top layer of paper along the fold lines. Repeat on the other side, and then repeat behind.

Valley-fold both side corners to the center so that your fold is parallel to the center crease. A "valley fold" is when the fold is down and away from you, so that it looks like a valley from above.

Repeat behind.

Valley-fold and then unfold the bottom corner up to meet the left and right corners in the center.

Rabbit-ear-fold the top layer of paper. Start by folding the top layer of paper, which is still inside the valley folds from Step 3, so that the crease begins at the valley fold, at the same height as the left corner, and bisects the center crease about two-thirds of the way up the paper. The crease should run parallel to the top left edge of the paper, and should butt up next to the outer flap from the previous step. Unfold, and then mirror on the other side.

Holding down the left valley fold, fold along the crease you made, folding the top layer over the bottom layer of the valley fold flap so that the new flap lies flat. Unfold, and repeat on the other side.

Fold both sides at the same time so that a flap of paper sticks out, perpendicular to the rest of the paper. That is the rabbit ear. Fold the rabbit ear down flat on both sides so that it can lie flat on either side. Fold it to the right for now.

Repeat behind.

Fold the top flap on the left side over on top of the right side, as though you are turning a page in a book. Repeat the rabbit-ear fold, using the folds behind the top layer as a guide.

Repeat behind. The paper should resemble a rabbit, now.

Squash-fold the rabbit ears. Open one rabbit ear so that you can see inside the flap that can flop from side to side. Bring the top tip of the flap down so that the it meets the center crease. You must fold the flap over the part where the two inner creases touch. Crease the flap down so that it lies flat. Repeat on all the rabbit ears. The Pawn and the King start here.

Squash the flaps upward: the flap starts out shaped like a kite. Create a crease that runs horizontally from the left corner to the right corner of the kite. Unfold and then open the kite so that you can see inside it. Fold up along the crease, opening up the kite, squash folding it so that the creases are perpendicular to the first fold in the kite. Repeat with all the flaps.

The Pawn

Start from Step 7 of the base. Pull the tip (bottom corner of the "kite") of one flap up so that you can see inside it. Gently press on the top corner of the kite while pulling the tip back so that the kite inverts. Tuck the tip behind the flap, folding along the reverse side of the top crease of the kite. Repeat on all flaps.

Mountain-fold the left and right corners of each flap behind the flap itself. A mountain fold is the opposite of a valley fold: the crease is popping up towards you. Repeat for each flap.

Push the bottom of the piece up while pulling opposite edges of the piece out. This should cause the base to expand to a square, inflating the piece so that it can stand up on its own.

The Bishop

Start from Step 8 of the base. The top part of the piece should be shaped like a pentagon. Crease the pentagon from the top left corner to the top right corner. Unfold, and repeat on all the flaps.

Fold and unfold all the flaps parallel to the top edges of the pentagon, along the edge where the center fold bisects the fold from the previous step.

Rabbit-ear all the flaps.

Mountain-fold each rabbit ear over the right side of the flap so that the rabbit ear is holding its own flap and the adjacent flap together.

Inflate the bottom, as with the pawn.


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