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Make a Jacob's Ladder

Updated on July 29, 2012

How to Make a Jacob's Ladder - Create this Beautiful Moving Papercraft Gift!

How do you fancy making a moving papercraft project? If you want to create something unusual as a gift or toy, then look no further than a Jacob's Ladder! This is one of my most favorite craft projects to make, as it looks so effective and yet is very simple to make.

This is papercrafting in motion - you will wow your family and friends, who will want to know, "How did you make that??"

I will take you through the simple process of making one of these amazing Jacob's Ladders, step by step. All you need is some craft card or board, ribbons, double sided tape and scissors, and then whatever you wish to use to decorate it with! There are also additional tutorials and resources on how to make a wooden Jacob's Ladder toy and other variations.

This versatile craft can be used to create all kinds of gifts, from unusual greetings cards to miniature photo albums. Once made, you can have oodles of fun flipping and flicking your ladder! What will you use yours for?

Photo Credit: Vintage Shabby Chic Jacob's Ladder - copyright of the author (c) 2012

Old Jacob's Ladder Toy - image copyright of the author (c) 2012
Old Jacob's Ladder Toy - image copyright of the author (c) 2012

Mesmerized by the Jacob's Ladder Toy

If, like me, you had a Jacob's Ladder toy as a child, then you will understand my fascination with them! I used to love flipping them and watching each segment cascade down one after the other, utterly mesmerized by the tumbling motion. They are one of those wonderful things that not only mesmerize, but also make you wonder, "how does it work?"

I had this fun Jacob's Ladder on the right as a child, and while it is a little battered and worse for wear now, I still have it and entertain my daughter with it. I also had a very cool Jacob's Ladder book which told the story of a Chinese dragon myth.

You can have endless fun playing with one of these. On the surface they may appear complex and challenging to make. However, when I first got into papercrafting I treated myself to a Paper Mechanics Kit, and was delighted to find that one of the projects explained how to make these amazing contraptions. I was equally delighted to discover just how simple they are to create!

This main tutorial focuses on how to make a papercraft version of the toy, but you can also find out how to make a traditional wooden Jacob's Ladder toy further down the page, too.

What is a Jacob's Ladder Toy? - Not sure what a Jacob's Ladder is? Then watch this quick video to see it in motion and find out how it works!

Love the Jacob's Ladder?

Ever played with a Jacob's Ladder before?

See results

Make a Jacob's Ladder

Tutorial Part 1

Materials You Will Need

Materals for making a Jacob's Ladder - Copyright of the author (c) 2012
Materals for making a Jacob's Ladder - Copyright of the author (c) 2012

* Card or board

* Ribbon

* Doubled sided tape

(use acid-free craft tape especially if using photographs)

* Scissors

* Craft glue (optional)

I used 2.5 x 3.5 inch ACEO cardstock to make this particular project, and 3 different colors of 1.2m spools of ribbon. You can use 3 spools of the same color, all 3 different, or 2 the same at either side with a different color in the middle - your choice!

You can make your Jacob's Ladder as long as you like, but I tend to make mine six pieces long. In this tutorial I make a 6-piece vintage shabby chic Jacob's Ladder. To make a project like this you will need 12 pieces of card or board and 3x1m spools of ribbon.

Starting your Jacob's Ladder

Make a Jacob's Ladder Step 1 - image copyright of the author (c) 2012
Make a Jacob's Ladder Step 1 - image copyright of the author (c) 2012

Step One

Begin with one piece of card. Place a strip of double-sided craft tape on each side horizontally, leaving a slight gap from the edge. Then place a third strip centrally. Peel off the backing.

Positioning the Ribbons on the Jacob's Ladder

Make a Jacob's Ladder Step 2 - image copyright of the author (c) 2012
Make a Jacob's Ladder Step 2 - image copyright of the author (c) 2012

Step Two

The key element to making a Jacob's Ladder is the ribbons! Place them over the tape, ensuring they are straight, and smooth down to stick. You need to place the two outer ribbons going one way, and the central ribbon going the opposite way, as per the picture above.

Making the First Segment

Make a Jacob's Ladder Step 3 - image copyright of the author (c) 2012
Make a Jacob's Ladder Step 3 - image copyright of the author (c) 2012

Step Three

Next, you will need to create your first "sandwich" by attaching another piece of card over this one to conceal the ribbon and create a double-sided segment of the ladder. You can either cover the card and ribbon with craft glue or continue using double sided tape as I have done here. Peel off the backing ready to stick.

Completing the First Segment of your Jacob's Ladder

Make a Jacob's Ladder Step 4 - image copyright of the author (c) 2012
Make a Jacob's Ladder Step 4 - image copyright of the author (c) 2012

Step Four

The first segment is completed by carefully placing a second piece of card over the first, matching edge to edge.

Connecting the Next Segment of the Jacob's Ladder

Make a Jacob's Ladder Step 5 - image copyright of the author (c) 2012
Make a Jacob's Ladder Step 5 - image copyright of the author (c) 2012

Step Five

Carefully fold the ribbons back over the first segment, aligning them as before. However this time, DO NOT use any tape or glue!

Don't fold the ribbons over too tightly, or the ladder won't work. However they mustn't be too slack, either, or the ladder will keep slipping out of place when you use it. The key to this is to fold the ribbons right over but don't pull them tight.

Adding the Next Segment

Make a Jacob's Ladder Step 6 - image copyright of the author (c) 2012
Make a Jacob's Ladder Step 6 - image copyright of the author (c) 2012

Step Six

Hold the ribbons in place with the fingers of one hand, whilst positioning a third piece of card over the top.

Preparing the next Segment

Make a Jacob's Ladder Step 7 - image copyright of the author (c) 2012
Make a Jacob's Ladder Step 7 - image copyright of the author (c) 2012

Step Seven

Add your double-sided tape. If easier, add the tape before putting the card on top of the last one. Peel off the backing.

Creating the Second Segment

Make a Jacob's Ladder Step 8 - image copyright of the author (c) 2012
Make a Jacob's Ladder Step 8 - image copyright of the author (c) 2012

Step Eight

Fold the ribbons over as before - again not too tight or slack - smoothing them down firmly over the tape.

Add glue or tape to the card and ribbons, and place another piece of card over, smoothing down to stick.

You now have your second segment of the ladder.

Rinse and Repeat!

Make a Jacob's Ladder Step 9 - image copyright of the author (c) 2012
Make a Jacob's Ladder Step 9 - image copyright of the author (c) 2012

Step Nine

Repeat this process for each segment until you reach the penultimate piece of card,

Fix the ribbons to the tape as before, then trim away any remaining excess.

The Final Piece of your Jacob's Ladder

Make a Jacob's Ladder Step 10 - image copyright of the author (c) 2012
Make a Jacob's Ladder Step 10 - image copyright of the author (c) 2012

Step Ten

Cut away all the excess ribbon to leave the card looking nice and neat like this.

Finishing the Final Segment

Make a Jacob's Ladder Step 11 - image copyright of the author (c) 2012
Make a Jacob's Ladder Step 11 - image copyright of the author (c) 2012

Step Eleven

Cover the card and ribbons with tape or glue, ready for the final piece of card.

Your Jacob's Ladder is Complete!

Make a Jacob's Ladder Step 12 - image copyright of the author (c) 2012
Make a Jacob's Ladder Step 12 - image copyright of the author (c) 2012

Step Twelve

Add the last piece of card, smoothing down carefully over the tape. You have completed your final segment!

Check that your Jacob's Ladder works, before moving on to the decorating stage.

Image copyright of the author (c) 2012

Will YOU Have a Go?

Could you make one of these Jacob's Ladders?

See results

Make a Jacob's Ladder Toy Video Tutorial - If you're a visual learner like me then you might find it easier to follow a video tutorial like this one!

Decorate the Jacob's Ladder

Tutorial Part 2

Materials You Will Need

Decorating your Jacob's Ladder - Image copyright of the author (c) 2012
Decorating your Jacob's Ladder - Image copyright of the author (c) 2012

* Photographs / Printed Images / Collage cuttings / artwork

* Card Toppers / Embellishments

* Ribbon or decorative adhesive trims

* Adhesive diamante gems

* Rubber stamps and ink

* Glue or doubled sided tape

* Scissors

TIPS

Aside from the tape/glue and scissors, all of the above will be optional depending on how you want to decorate your Jacob's Ladder. You can add photos, vintage pictures, decorative trims, embellishments, odds and ends, text using rubber stamps, stickers or transfers - the possibilities are endless.

Just remember, for the ladder to work properly, make sure all the décor that goes inside the ladder when folded is flat. You can add more 3D décor, such as large diamante gems, shells, charms etc to the two ends that make up the front and back covers of the ladder when folded.

A Note on Positioning Photos

If you are using photos, art or images you will need to choose wisely depending on which segment you are fixing it to. A central image will suit segments which have two ribbons at the side, such as this one:

While an image that is off to the side or that has two elements either side of the central point will better suit the segments that have the ribbon going down the middle, like this:

The following photo gallery demonstrates how I decorated this vintage Jacob's Ladder using the four simple elements of rubber stamps, vintage images printed onto parchment paper, peel-off lace trims and adhesive gems.

Decorating the Jacob's Ladder - Interior Segments

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Finishing the Jacob's Ladder - End Covers and the Completed Ladder

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Watch this Jacob's Ladder in Motion! - The Finished Project

Ways to Use your Jacob's Ladders

The possibilities are endless for this versatile papercraft! Now you know how to make this moving piece of art, what exciting goodies can you make?

  • An extra special birthday or greetings card with images and wording
  • A photo album
  • A themed album - e.g. shabby chic. vintage, retro, pop art, sci-fi, films, TV shows and so on
  • A papercraft toy for kids (big or small!)
  • A cool display album for ACEOs (make the ladder out of your ATCs!)
  • A baby or memory book
  • A wedding keepsake gift
  • A unique holiday gift - tell the story of Christmas, play hunt the tumbling Easter egg, create a special love note keepsake for Valentine's Day or showcase vintage Halloween images!

Jacob's Ladder in a Box - Here's the first Jacob's Ladder I ever put together. I made an accompanying box to put it in, making it ideal for gift-giving!

Click thumbnail to view full-size

How to Make a Wooden Jacob's Ladder Toy - Step by Step Videos using Wood Blocks, Ribbons and Nails

Buy a Jacob's Ladder

Toysmith Colored Jacobs Ladder
Toysmith Colored Jacobs Ladder

Of course, you can buy a Jacob's Ladder toy too, if you wish! These colorful old-fashioned toys bring back great memories and are lots of fun for kids young and old!

 

Did you Enjoy Learning How to Make a Jacob's Ladder? - Leave your Comments and Feedback here!

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    • irminia profile image

      irminia 4 years ago

      Have made one, It's a wonderful toy!

    • Lisa Remmick profile image

      Lisa Remmick 4 years ago

      This is really cool.... they would make really touching gifts for family and friends.

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 5 years ago from Australia

      I just noticed your Purple Star for this lens. Little wonder! Congratulations.

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 5 years ago from Australia

      This is such a beautiful toy and you have demonstrated it's beauty and creation so well. Blessings.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 5 years ago

      I enjoyed this so much and congratulate you on the purple star too.

    • irminia profile image

      irminia 5 years ago

      Very, very enjoyable, thank you!

    • profile image

      HouseBuyersOfAmerica 5 years ago

      Yes I did enjoyed your wonderful lens. I am gonna try to make a Jacob's Ladder...

      thanks!

    • GeorgeneMBramlage profile image

      Georgene Moizuk Bramlage 5 years ago from southwestern Virginia

      Yes, this is an amazing lens...clear, concise and colorful! I have ideas for a new craft, and ideas on how to put together a craft lens. Thanks a million!

    • Christian DuBois profile image

      Christian DuBois 5 years ago from New York

      Yes I did. This is so cool. I have at least a half dozen theme ideas for them. I can see this easily becoming an educational tool and toy in one. Thank you!

    • texan203 lm profile image

      texan203 lm 5 years ago

      Fantastic tutorial. thank you

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Interesting. The closest I've come to a "Jacob's Ladder" was watching the movie, but that's not quite the same thing. Thanks for the tutorial. My children are starting to get into crafts; I will have to show them this idea! Thanks!

    • weakbond profile image

      Nnadi bonaventure Chima 5 years ago from Johanesburg

      It is really fun

    • Missmerfaery444 profile image
      Author

      Missmerfaery444 5 years ago

      @TwistedWiseman: It's the Photo Gallery module. Have fun!

    • HealthfulMD profile image

      Kirsti A. Dyer 5 years ago from Northern California

      Wonderful tutorial. I love the believe ladder, very inspiring.

    • LynetteBell profile image

      LynetteBell 5 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      Great fun!

    • TwistedWiseman profile image

      TwistedWiseman 5 years ago

      What's the name of the module with multiple pictures in it? I want to use it!

    • SheilaMilne profile image

      SheilaMilne 5 years ago from Kent, UK

      I certainly did and I can't wait to try. I think it would be an ideal way to display and use not valuable but pretty postcards.

    • SheilaMilne profile image

      SheilaMilne 5 years ago from Kent, UK

      I certainly did and I can't wait to try. I think it would be an ideal way to display and use not valuable but pretty postcards.

    • MrInfopreneur profile image

      MrInfopreneur 5 years ago

      omg. This toy is really awesome

    • zigpop lm profile image

      zigpop lm 5 years ago

      Nice lens, very informative. Thanks for sharing!

    • Close2Art LM profile image

      Close2Art LM 5 years ago

      that was really neat, loved it, Angel Blessed

    • profile image

      NC Shepherd 5 years ago

      Fantastic! Thanks for these instructions. I've always been mesmerized by the Jacob's Ladder toy. I never thought of making one myself, but now I have all kinds of ideas.

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 5 years ago

      Yes, very much so; I enjoyed your Lens. Kudos!

    • LizMac60 profile image

      Liz Mackay 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Ingenious lens. I shall certainly have a go at this. Blessed.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      Finding this lens here reminds me why I like to spend time on Squidoo: so many creative people, Great instructional lens with lots of personal touches - Squid Angel Blessed.

    • suzy-t profile image

      suzy-t 5 years ago

      Thanks for teaching me how to make these. I am going to use this idea for Christmas cards this year.

    • lucky izan profile image

      lucky izan 5 years ago

      i used to make this when i was a child

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Congratulations on winning a well deserved purple star for this lens. Your instructions are very good.

    • WildFacesGallery profile image

      Mona 5 years ago from Iowa

      I love all the pictures of in progress construction. Nicely done. Blessed.

    • kburns421 lm profile image

      kburns421 lm 5 years ago

      This is possibly the coolest thing I've ever seen! I was mesmerized by the video. Very cool lens :-)

    • kburns421 lm profile image

      kburns421 lm 5 years ago

      This is possibly the coolest thing I've ever seen! I was mesmerized by the video. Very cool lens :-)

    • StephanieMangino profile image

      Stephanie Mangino 5 years ago

      Wonderful tutorial!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Yeap!! Thanks for sharing :0)

    • PaulWinter profile image

      PaulWinter 5 years ago

      Very clear instructions on making a Jacob's ladder

    • profile image

      MaggiePowell 5 years ago

      What a great project.. your directions are clear and easy to follow. Thanks!

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      I had a wooden Jacob's Ladder as a kid. It would be fun to make one as an unusual "memory book" or "grandma's brag book" kind of photo album.

    • Kumar P S profile image

      Kumar P S 5 years ago

      Nice lens ! Useful. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      candy47 5 years ago

      Great lens! The instructions are clear and concise, and the photos bring it all together.