Introduction: Kaleidocycles: Amazing Dynamic Papercraft

An easy, fun, and unique paper construction project.

What is a kaleidocycle?

A three-dimensional ring, composed of a series of linked tetrahedra (pyramids). This papercraft design is truly unique due to its dynamic capability: the ring is able to be twisted in upon itself!

Kaleidocycles are somewhat similar to kaleidoscopes: they are both optical, circular, and dynamic. A kaleidoscope is operated by rotating the end of a tube. A kaleidocycle is operated by twisting itself. If you have never seen a kaleidocycle before, you are in for a real treat.

Let's get started!

Step 1: Assemble Materials.

Materials required:

~ 1 sheet of plain paper cardstock

~ Elmers glue

~ X-Acto knife (using a new blade is helpful)

~ straightedge ruler

Step 2: Print Out the Kaleidocycle Design.

This is a 4 segment kaleidocycle.

Use the design with the "Ocean Blue" colors if you want to get started right away.
Or try the blank design, then fill in your own color scheme. has terrific color combination libraries to choose from. Four color combinations work well with this kaleidocycle design.

Print the image at 100% size (a little over 8.5" wide).

Step 3: Score the Kaleidocycle Design.

Locate a flat surface that is safe to cut on.

Using your X-Acto knife, carefully score each one of the diagonal lines. The scores do not need to be cut very deep into the cardstock. Take it slow -- accuracy is important.

After that, score each one of the vertical lines.

Step 4: Cut Out the Kaleidocycle Design.

Now carefully cut out the design along its perimeter.

TIP: If you cut the design out carefully, you will be able to use the leftover cardstock frame as a template for future constructions. Just tape the template over a sheet of material and use it as a guide to cut out new kaleidocycles.

Step 5: Fold the Edges.

By pre-folding all the edges of the kaliedocycle now, you will increase your accuracy later on, during the gluing stage.

Start by folding all the diagonal lines outward (mountain folds).

Next, fold all the vertical lines.
Starting at one end, carefully fold the vertical lines inward (valley folds). Align the top and bottom edges as you fold. Take your time. These vertical valley folds are on the opposite side of the scored side, so they are slightly more difficult than the diagonal mountain folds.

TIP: Next time, try making the vertical scores on the opposite side of the design for a cleaner result.

Step 6: Preshape the Kaleidocycle.

Your kaliedocycle should now be in the shape of a long, concave shell. Gently fold this shell closed, into the shape of a tube. Let all the folds help you ease the kaleidocycle shape naturally into place.

After slowly assembling the shell, gradually turn the ends around, connecting them into a ring. Slide the tabs at one end into the slit at the other end. This will give you an idea of what the final shape of the kaliedocycle will be. But don't try to flex it yet: it is too fragile!

Step 7: Begin to Glue the Kaliedocycle.

Unfold the kaliedocycle back into the slightly-open tube shape.

Apply a thin layer of glue to one of the middle of the four sections marked "Glue Me." Fold this section over, placing the opposite pointed flap into place over the glued area. Carefully adjust the glued flap into position. Hold this section closed for about a minute, giving the glue a moment to set. After that, gently flex the section both in and out. Then set down the kaliedocycle and give it about 10 minutes to slightly dry.

Repeat this process for the remaining 3 sections marked "Glue Me," beginning with the other middle section. As you glue the sections, gently flex the vertical folds. This will increase the flexibility of the kaleidocycle.

After gluing all 4 sections, set down the kaliedocycle and let it dry for at least 1 hour before continuing.

Step 8: Finish Gluing the Kaliedocycle.

After the glue has dried completely, you can finish the gluing.

Apply glue to both of the small "Glue Me" flaps at one end. Turn the ends around, and carefully slide both tabs into the slit at the other end, closing the ring.

Gently hold the kaliedocycle together: this is a critical stage! Over the next several minutes, slowly flex this last joint in and out, little by little. As you do this, make sure that you also hold the ring together.

After about 5 minutes, the glue will be sufficiently dried. Set down the kaliedocycle and let it dry for at least 1 hour.

Step 9: Twist the Kaleidocycle.

After the kaleidocycle has dried, it should be safe to twist. Slowly break it in, gently turning it in upon itself.

If the kaleidocycle does not twist easily, or if it even rips apart after a few turns, do not despair. Sometimes the production of a "proof-of-concept" model is required in order to learn the ins and outs of this delicate construction process.

Regardless of whether your final kaleidocycle is perfect, barely funtional, or ripped apart completely, apply what you learned from this experience to improve make your next kaleidocycle even better.

Step 10: Final Thoughts.

Kaleidocycles come in many different varieties. There are 3 segment kaleidocyles, and 5 or more segment ones, but one or two segment kaleidocycles do not exist: they are physically impossible to create. One kaleidocycle design is even shaped into a mobius strip! All the various kaleidoscope shapes are able to be personalized by slight adjustments to the proportion of the original design.

In addition, kaleidocycles can be created from a wide variety of different material sheets. Plain paper cardstock works great. After finishing your first kaleidocycle, go ahead and experiment using other materials. Check your recycle bin for stiff material sheets such as cardstock advertising, or cereal boxes. Use materials that are out of the ordinary, such as a topographical map.

Check out examples of my art series "Kaleidocycle:", available for sale at I use CAD software to design my kaleidocycles, then I use an image editor to apply colorful patterns and images.

I hope that you have enjoyed this Instructable: my first one, but not my last. Stay tuned for future Instructables where I will introduce new kaleidocycle shapes, discuss methods to personalize your designs, and drop a few construction tips.