Build Your Own New York
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Paper modelling is a simple and easily accessible hobby. All you need to get started are a few tools:

  • Small scissors. Small craft or manicure scissors work best.
  • Hobby knife. Put in a sharp new blade, such as X-acto #10 or #11 for best results.
  • Sturdy tweezers. Tweezers with rough edges or teeth will mar the surface of the pieces, so find a set with smooth edges.
  • Straightedge or ruler. Preferably a metal one, to guide your knife in making a straight cut or score.
  • Toothpicks or blunt dental tools. For reaching into tiny corners and spreading drops of glue.
  • Tacky glue. Elmer's white glue, Alene's tacky glue or PVA all work well.
  • Cutting surface. You can use a self-healing cutting mat, but a piece of masonite or heavy cardboard will also work fine.

Basic tips for paper modelling:

All the Build Your Own New York models use similar symbols to indicate how to cut out and construct the model.

Mountain folds (fold the sides back) are indicated with a dashed line (- - - - - - -)

Valley folds (fold the sides forward) are indicated with a dotted line (. . . . . . . . .).

Cut out individual pieces along the black line around their edges. Some pieces may require cutting slots toward the center of the piece: look for a small scissors symbol or a fine white line indicating the length and width of the slot.

Score the fold lines to make a crisp corner in a straight line. The smallest pieces especially should be scored before folding. Place a metal ruler along the fold line. You can use a dull point to compress the paper on the fold line, or you can use a new sharp blade to gently and evenly slice the top 1/3 of the paper.

For valley folds, score the reverse side of the paper. First, mark the ends of the fold lines by poking through the card with a pin or the tip of your knife. Flip the card over and connect the marks in order to score the fold line.

Use glue sparingly on the tabs. To set the glue quickly, use a flat tweezer to squeeze the tabs together tightly once you have them in the right position.

Keep a chopstick or blunt toothpick ready to push small pieces into their correct positions while the glue is still tacky.

This technique is quite useful when pushing the roof pieces inside the small cylindrical sections of the Water Tower and Tribune Tower so that they are level and correctly inset from the top of the cylinder.

If you feel that the Build Your Own New York models are just to small to assemble, try enlarging them on a color copier to a larger scale. Copy the artwork onto cardstock, or glue the copies to thick paper to make them stiffer.

Advanced tips to improve your models:

Small and thin pieces, such as the small buttresses of the Woolworth Building, may be difficult to fold straight and evenly. For better results, cut out a larger area around the small details or small pieces. Score and fold the larger piece carefully on each fold line. Flatten the paper again, then cut out the small details or individual pieces. Use a tweezers to fold the small pieces or glue them together.

Thin or projecting details such as support columns and flagpoles are easily damaged when assembling the model. Strengthen the tiny details with a drop of super glue (cyanoacrylate) on the back of the paper. Squeeze the smallest amount of super glue possible to the end of the nozzle and then touch the drop to the back or edge of the card. The glue will soak through the paper and stiffen the piece in its current shape, so be sure to straighten out the dings beforehand. The glue may leave a glossy mark on the paper, so it's best to touch it to the back of the paper.

Most paper cylinders are made with the tab glued under the end of the cylinder:

To make a smoother cylinder instead, cut off the tab before assembly. Glue a scrap of paper wider than the tab behind one edge, then match the two sides of the cylinder to make a smooth seam.

Scoring the folds with a knife will make sharp corners for your model but it will also reveal the light color of the inside of the paper. Use a colored pencil, preferably a soft watercolor pencil, to color the interior of the fold before you assemble the piece. Do not use water color paints or markers on the Build Your Own New York models -- the matte paper will soak up the ink too quickly and stain beyond the fold lines of your model.

When assembling tiny cupolas and domes without internal support, insert a small wad of tissue paper soaked with a drop of glue to give the rooftop sections something to attach to. Push the tissue paper up from the bottom with a toothpick or blunt stick, while holding the rooftop in place until the glue dries.

For many more helpful general instructions on paper modelling, see the tips and techniques sections of the Card Modelling FAQ and Paper Paradise.