Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell


The Sanbo on Legs and its derivative designs
This page attempts to record what is known about the origin and history of the origami design which I call the Sanbo on Legs (to distinguish it from the Sanbo). Please contact me if you know any of this information is incorrect or if you have any other information that should be added. Thank you.

Sanbo is sometimes found written in the paperfolding literature as Sambo or Sanbow but I believe that Sanbo should be preferred.


In Japan


The earliest evidence I am aware of for the Sanbo on Legs design is from 1734 where the design appears in a Japanese book by Hayato Ohoka called 'Ranma Zushiki' which contains prints of decorations intended to enhance sliding room dividers. One of these prints shows a group of folded paper objects, among which are the Sanbo on Legs, the traditional crane, the boat now commonly made from a newspaper hat, a tematebako cube, and komoso.

The drawings of the Sanbo on Legs are not particularly clear but the identification of the design has been confirmed by Koshiro Hatori in his on-line article 'History of Origami' (https://origami.ousaan.com/library/historye.html) thus: '"Ramma Zushiki" (1734) shows pictures of Boat, Sanbo, and a modular origami called Tamatebako, besides Orizuru and Komoso.'



There is a note in the Kan No Mado, written in 1845, which lists the Sanbo among those designs which are already well known and which are therefore not included in the ms (in order to spare the writer's brush). It is not clear whether this note refers to the Sanbo or the Sanbo on Legs.



A drawing of the Sanbo on Legs appeared in 'Kindergarten Shoho' (Preliminary Kindergarten) by Iijima Hanjuro, which was copyrighted on October 4th Meiji 17 (1884) and published by Fukuda Senzo in August of Meiji 18 (1885).


In Western Europe / USA


As far as I know the first appearance of the Sanbo on Legs design in the West was in the August 1887 issue of the American children's magazine St Nicholas under the somewhat surprising name of 'Nantucket Sinks'.

The issue of St Nicholas for January 1888 contained a reader's letter, in the Letterbox column, describing how the long version of the design could be achieved and varied.



The basic design also appeared in Murray and Rigney's 'Fun with Paper Folding', which was published by the Fleming H Revell Company in New York in 1928, where it is called the 'Work Table'.



The design also appears in 'Winter Nights Entertainment' by R M Abrahams, which was first published by Constable and Constable in London in 1932, under the title 'A Paper Tray On Legs'.



The design also appears in 'Paper Toy Making' by Margaret Campbell, which was first published by Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons Ltd in London, probably in 1937, although both the Foreword and Preface are dated 1936, which argues that the book was complete at that date, under the title of 'Box On Four Feet'. This book also includes instructions showing how to adapt the Sanbo, using cuts, to produce a Cow, Lemur and Horse.

The Cow

The Lemur

The Horse



The 1955 Rupert Annual contains folding instructions for the design under the title of 'Paper Work Basket'. Note that in this version the flaps have been tucked in.



'Paper Magic' by Robert Harbin, which was published by Oldbourne in London in 1956, contains the Sanbo on Legs, here called the 'The Kitchen Sink or Four-Legged Container' and three simple variants.

The Sanbo on Lregs


The Trough


The Norseman's Helmet


The Spaceman's Helmet (which Robert Harbin says is his own design)