Thanks for your reply... it all makes perfect sense. I might try some paper bellows with various forms of taper to see what I think of the idea.
Having use of CAD which can then be used to directly run the laser cutter certainly helps. I wouldn't want to be doing it all by hand.
All of the high schools around here have laser cutters, they probably have near you too so that could be an option if you wanted to try som laser cut stiffeners.