The first time that I came across this modular ball, the book simply called it a multi-unit sphere. Since then I’ve run across in several places on the Internet where they are called sonobe balls; a much easier name to refer to them by. One of the first books that I bought to teach myself origami was by Steve and Megumi Biddle titled Essential Origami: How To Build Dozens of Models from Just 10 Easy Bases. An excellent book for beginners, it divides all of the models into 10 bases (hence the title; nothing gets past me) that are from the very easy to fairly difficult; some of the later ones I still haven’t attempted. Steve Biddle created his variation of the basic unit that is required to create these balls.
Each of the balls in these pictures was created from 12 basic units, though another more impressive ball can be made if you use 30 units. If you saw the post about the Floral Origami Globes by Tomoko Fuse, each of the globes were of the 30-unit design. In her book, Unit Origami, Tomoko Fuse has a couple of different designs for the basic units; a bird pattern and a pinwheel pattern. For these balls, I think that Steve Biddle’s design is my favorite; its a pinwheel pattern but its different from Tomko’s. The best type of paper to fold these out of is origami paper, even better to fold it from dual-sided origami paper. This is because if they are folded from paper that is the same color on both sides, there’s not much of pinwheel pattern to enjoy. Though if you are going to fold from paper that is the same color on both sides, its best to use two, three or four different colors to combine together.
One of my favorite things that I’ve done with these balls is fold them out of foil origami paper and attach hooks in them to make Christmas tree ornaments (pictured below). Once you get a hang of folding the basic units and assembling a couple, these balls are very easy to create over and over again. So, while they may not be terribly difficult or challenging, they are still very visually pleasing and fun to do. Something else that I love to do with these is to make several of them and put them in a container to display. The final model is about as around as a quarter. So, here are just a few pictures of the sonobe balls that I’ve folded.
Just a few of the 12-unit sonobe balls with Steve Biddle’s design from Essential Origami. The blue and white ball in the back row is the look you get when using regular origami paper. The rest were folded from dual-sided origami paper.
My wife holding the foil sonobe balls that we attached to hooks to use as Christmas tree ornaments. This gives a little better idea of how small they are.
When we bought our latest digital camera we decided to play with some of the features to get a feel for them. Here we are using the macro feature to zoom in extra close.
Another close up picture of a sonobe ball. I love how the picture is so close and clear that you can actually see where I tore (instead of cutting) the origami paper when I was dividing the sheet I used into 12 pieces of paper.
So, those are just a few pictures that I have. I actually used to have many more of the balls folded once upon a time, but before I took the time to take some pictures of them one of my children got a hold of them and wanted to see how they came apart. Oh well. Guess I’ll just have to fold some more Also, I think in the near future I’ll fold one of the 30-unit balls at this size to give some comparison of the two models.
Side note: the entire reason that I picked up, looked through, and eventually purchased Steve and Megumi Biddle’s Essential Origami was because of the dragon on the front. I love dragons. The dragon model was actually the first thing that I taught myself to fold out of the book (looking back there were probably easier models to start out with). Sadly, I don’t have any pictures of any of the dragons I’ve folded; guess I’ll just have to break open that book again and fold some more. Also, not only are you able to look through several of the pages in this book with the link to the side, but some Amazon user has uploaded pictures of a couple of the models that they folded; those pictures can be viewed there also.