Pop-Up Airplane Card

Our youngest is having a birthday party soon and I’m doing paper invitations again.  It will be one of the last times as our elder children no longer have typical parties and would probably be mortified if I suggested they have an invitation.  Let’s be honest – it’s more a labor of love for me than a real necessity.

I’ve done pop-up Star Wars Jedi holocrons (a dodecahedron that had a rubber band inside caused it to pop open if it was forced flat), alethiometers, pirate ships, castles, etc.  Someday I should do a gallery of them!  This year’s theme is airplanes – tempered from warplanes to something a bit more generic – so the cards have planes.  I was a bit pushed to come up with plans as I couldn’t find anything that really suited my ability and time.

In the end, I came up with my own design.  First, I folded an 8.5×11 sheet into quarters.  I cut the airplanes out of this, with the cockpit held together by one of the folds.  A single sheet makes 2 airplanes.  You can use interesting paper or, like me, color the planes.  We ended up with 6 different plane color combinations.  I cut the planes free hand but you could just as easily create a template.  The folding is important so that you can have two wings at the end.  I glued the fuselage together but otherwise each plane is a single piece of paper.

The tail was pretty simple as well.   I didn’t glue the two sides together back there, so it is easy to see how to slot the tail in between those two pieces.  What about the rest?  I cut a slit in the fuselage.  Then I folded a small rectangle in half, and cut it about halfway up the fold.  The part that was still held together by the fold was the vertical stabilizer.  I bent the two lower pieces out, one to each side, to make the horizontals.  The vertical slid between the two pieces of the fuselage.  The horizontals slide into the slit that I cut.  A bit of glue held it all together.

Getting the plane to pop up is pretty easy.  The fuselage needs to be supported at the crease of the card.  I also placed small paper supports at the edge of each wing and each horizontal stabilizer.  I should have added a sixth – 1 in the forward fuselage, 1 on each wing, 1 on each horizontal stabilizer, and 1 more on the rear fuselage.  I eyeballed the height of these supports so that they were all essentially the same length.  This is not very pretty – there is sure to be a more exact method – but you get the picture.  The supports all pull in the right places and the plane pops up.  The rear fuselage sags without that support.

I placed some “clouds” in front of the supports to obscure them a bit – the paper is placed at a 90 degree (right) angle for optimal opening.  I had one at 90 and a second at a slightly wider angle.  If I was doing this again, I might place these clouds first and then place the wing supports inside; instead, I did the wings first and the supports required a wider angle for the cloud!

Here is another shot, this time of part of our 6 plane armada.  In the end, we’re having 4 guests so there are two cards left over.  It was one of the faster pop-up cards I’ve come up with.  I’m not entirely satisfied with the final look – I think it would have been interesting to have the clouds entirely obscure the supports (or replace them).

David Whelan

I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.