Introduction: Make a Paper Fan

If you're old enough to remember what churches and funerals used to be like before air conditioning, you probably remember those old-fashioned paper fans that used to be embellished with religious or patriotic images. You can still find suppliers for them if you're willing to pay.

But I was needing a much cheaper solution for the July 4 (hot! hot! hot!) Fun Fourth festival booth of Funeral Consumers Alliance of the Piedmont, a nonprofit organization in Greensboro, N.C. So I crafted a handmade paper fan. It's cheap and easy -- and a snap to create a hundred or two. Think of the possibilities for paper fans to be used: weddings, picnics, outdoor festivals....

The image below of a paper fan reminiscent of the 1950s is by Calsidyrose. It has a Creative Commons license on it that permits this use. Thank you, Calsidyrose!

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

Here's my list for 200 paper fans:

200 7" x 9" white paper mailers (the thick cardboard type)
40 sheets of 10-up white 2"x4" printer labels
100 sheets of 2-up 5.5" by 8.5" white printer labels
200 14" paint stir sticks (I found some online for 17 cents each)
2 rolls of 1 in wide double-sided foam mounting tape (about 2.75 yards total)
scissors, ruler and a pen or pencil

Step 2: Think Inside the Box

Now here is something your paper fan can do that the old fashioned kind can't -- carry a message inside!

Stuff your paper mailer with something you want to give away with it. We used a membership application for Funeral Consumers Alliance of the Piedmont! Then close and seal your mailer as you normally would.

Step 3: Make the Hole for the Stick

The paint stir stick will serve as the paper fan handle. To make your paper fan as sturdy as possible, you will want to insert it as far as possible. Here's the way to do it:

1. With the back (sealed) side of the mailer facing up, position the sealed mailer in landscape view.

2. Using your ruler and pen, mark the halfway point at the bottom (which is 4.5" in from the left on a 7" by 9" mailer).

3. Position your stir stick vertically atop the center mark, then mark the mailer on each side of the stick at the bottom of the mailer to show where you will cut the mailer in Step 4 on this page.

4. Using two diagonal cuts as shown, cut the bottom of the mailer away to make just enough room for the stir stick to slide into the mailer. You will end up with an "M" if you did this right.

You won't accidentally cut what you put inside the mailer in the previous step as long as your M cut doesn't go far beyond the sealed edge.

Step 4: Apply the Mounting Tape

Cut two small strips of the 1" wide mounting tape, no longer than about three-fourths of an inch. Remove one side of the backing. Apply one of these tape bits to the plain end of the stir stick (not the handle end that has the notches). Apply the other tape bit about 4 inches further down, as shown here. Then remove the film on the exposed side of the mounted tape.

Step 5: Insert the Stir Stick

Carefully insert the stir stick, tape side up, being careful to insert it all the way to the other side by pushing down on the stick a bit as you insert it (so as not to rub the exposed tape to the inside top of the mailer).

If you stuffed the mailer with a document, be sure your stir stick goes in ABOVE the inside document. This is really much easier than it sounds!

If you push it in as far as it will go, you should have about 7.5" of the 14" stir stick exposed.

Then press firmly on the mailer to adhere the stick to the inside top of the mailer.

Step 6: Cover the Cut-Outs

Use two 2" by 4" white printer labels to cover the "M" slits on both sides of the mailer as shown. This provides another point of adhesion for the stir stick while also making the fan look neater.

Step 7: Prepare Your Art

Use one sheet of paper to create two 8" wide by 5" tall images for the front and back of your fan (landscape view). To achieve this, set your document margins at exactly .25" (one-fourth inch) on all sides. Print this out on 2-up label paper such as this label paper from Compulabel. You could also use regular paper, then cut out your design and glue it down on the fan, but that is more work.

In the next step is a hourglass-shaped template, in case you want your art to look like a traditional paper fan from the 1950s and 1960s (like the lower label in the image below), but that is up to you.

If you placed a document inside the fan, be sure to mention your outside art mentions it.

Step 8: Optional Traditional Fan Shaped Template

Below is a template you can use, if you want your fan design to be hour-glass in shape, like the traditional fans of yesteryear. It is sized to be 8 inches by 5 inches, which fits twice on one half of a regular sheet of paper with margins set at .25" on all sides. This also will print out perfectly on 2-up half-sheet label paper. Leave the outside background white to match your white mailers.

Step 9: The Finishing Touch!

Now is the fun step: Apply one half-sheet label to one side of the fan and the other half-sheet label to the other side of the fan, being careful to center the label as best you can. You'll find this easy to do after the first time or two.

There now! You have a paper fan! Stay cool!