Paper Automata

Updated on August 6, 2016

Our Paper Automata Experience

First let me say that we are NOT paper automata experts! We are only beginners and if you are a beginner too you might enjoy reading about our first paper automata experience.

I stumbled upon this paper craft completely by chance. I was searching Amazon for another item when I saw a book entitled Paper Automata by Rob Ives. I knew right away that I would order it. Not only because the projects looked amazing, but because I have a 12 year old paper craft aficionado on my hands and I'm tasked with finding projects of increasing difficultly to keep her challenged.

As you can see from the above photo, we have successfully completed one of the projects in the Paper Automata book. Here's our story.

I'll Go Ahead and Show You Our Finished Product First — We Think the Sheep Are Really Cute

Here's the Book We Used — It Contains Four Working Models

Paper Automata: Four Working Models to Cut Out & Glue Together

Amazon price: $10.20

Here's the product description from Amazon: "A collection of working paper models to cut out and make. As the mechanisms are operated, the hopping sheep hop energetically and the pecking hen pecks into its feeder. The motley man bows and acknowledges the applause he has earned and the flying fish flaps and undulates its wings. Each of the mechanisms uses a different principle to generate motion."

Book by Rob Ives Paper Automata
Book by Rob Ives Paper Automata

Getting The Book and More

For starters we ordered the book and, surprise, it was on backorder. We waited two weeks to get it. My child asked me every day if I had checked the mail. After lots of "No" answers, I was finally able to say "Yes". Apparently, this is a popular book. And I can understand why. Here's a picture of the book.

There are 4 projects in the book. There's the Jumping Sheep pictured on the front (the one we have made), The Flying Fish, The Pecking Hen and a Motley Man. I'm not sure what a Motley Man is. I need to look that up.

Automata directions
Automata directions

First Look At The Patterns and Instructions Causes Deer-in-the-Headlights Reaction

From our previous paper crafting experiences, I knew we would have the initial deer-in-the-headlights feeling at first glance at the instructions and paper automata patterns. Yes, I was right — but at least I knew what was coming and took a deep breath first.

Did it look intimidating? Yes! But like all intricately detailed paper crafts, I knew we would just take it one step at a time. Here's a picture of the inside cover giving basic directions that apply to all four projects in the book such as how to fold dotted lines etc.

Paper Automata pattern example
Paper Automata pattern example

The Patterns From the Book

Cutting these out perfectly is very important.

Note: I took photos of the actual jumping sheep patterns BEFORE we cut them out, but my camera deleted them. Just for an idea of what to expect, here's a picture of similar patterns of The Flying Fish.

Some notes...

Cutting: There's a lot to cut out! Four pages to be exact. We used plain scissors for some cuts, and my favorite tools of all time - a metal ruler and my X-Acto knife for more detailed cuts. Cutting out the insides of circles were the hardest cuts we made.

Scoring and folding: All dotted lines indicate folds. These lines must first be scored. You can use a lot of things to score the paper. The book suggests using a pen that's out of ink. Getting just the right pressure when scoring is important. Too hard and the paper will tear, too little pressure and the paper won't fold on the score line.

Glue: As far as the glue - the book suggests "UHU All Purpose Glue" the gel version. It says "Bostick Clear" also gives good results. However, we used regular 'ole craft glue because it's all we had and I didn't know beforehand to purchase it. I don't suggest using regular glue since too much can cause the paper to warp. So if you order the book, pick up the correct kind while you wait for it to arrive.

Here Are Some Of The Stages Of Cutting and Gluing — All Of The Patterns and Instructions Are In The Book by Rob Ives

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Click thumbnail to view full-size

Hopefully This Information Will Help You If Decide To Give It a Go

How long did it take to complete? We worked on the sheep for about 3 or 4 days, one hour or so at the time. Since we used regular glue (see my notes above), we had to wait on the glue to dry between some steps. Note that in one of the photos above you'll see where I used a loose rubber band to hold the paper tight together while it dried.

What was the hardest part of the project? Gluing the parts together! A LOT of thought went into every single part of the printing of the patterns - this became very clear as we started gluing pieces together. Rob Ives went to great lengths using colors and labels to make assembly as clear as possible for the crafter. Still, we had to be very careful to fold tabs the right direction and to not glue things backwards etc.

Will we make the other projects? Definitely! And I'll post the photos here when they are complete.

Here's Our Sheep Again From a Different Angle

More Amazing Paper Automata Toys

As I've been looking for more paper automata,

I've found several kits available (see below).

These are by Rob Ives as well. I've also

searched out and added videos for

those products showing their motion.

Cow Automata "Ruminations" — Ordering Information Below Video

Sheep Rows a "Ewe Boat" In This One — Ordering Information Below Video

Have you heard of Paper Automata before reading this article?

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    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Welcome to the wonderful world of paper automata. Your entries here have only begun to touch the tip of the iceberg. I have been doing this craft for many years now. Half of the experience is seeking out that which you currently do not know. Use the internet to your advantage. Search. Find. Learn. The models shown here are by Rob Ives. Start by checking out and Then, let your journey go from there!

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 

      10 years ago from UK

      Looks like you did a fantastic job with your paper automata! I'd like to give this a try.

    • emmaklarkins profile image


      10 years ago

      So cute! Congrats on reaching 50!

    • Charlino99 profile image

      Tonie Cook 

      10 years ago from USA

      Love paper art! Especially functional paper art! Congratulations on your 50th lens. This is adorable and informative.

    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image


      10 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      This looks like so much fun!

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image


      10 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      Congratulations on your 50th Lens. I haven't seen this paper craft before but it looks fun for kids. :)

    • KarenTBTEN profile image


      10 years ago

      Congratulations on getting to 50. The projects look like they'd be fun for kids to complete.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I've never heard of this although it has similarities to origami which can be made to move too :) 5* Keeping my fingers crossed for you for Giant Squid!

    • joanhall profile image

      Joan Hall 

      10 years ago from Los Angeles

      Congratulations on your 50th lens!

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      10 years ago from United States

      Totally awesome! The videos really do bring this craft project to life for all of us. Wonderful! Congratulations on publishing your #50. Angel Blessed and added to my Squid Angel Mouse Tracks

    • Grasmere Sue profile image

      Sue Dixon 

      10 years ago from Grasmere, Cumbria, UK

      No. I'd not heard of it either, but it looks great! Hope you make Giant now you've got the 50!


    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 

      10 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      no, but it looks fascinating! Congrats on 50!


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