Make a Jacob's Ladder
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
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?
Make a Jacob's Ladder
Tutorial Part 1
Materials You Will Need
* Card or board
* Doubled sided tape
(use acid-free craft tape especially if using photographs)
* 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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
Cut away all the excess ribbon to leave the card looking nice and neat like this.
Finishing the Final Segment
Cover the card and ribbons with tape or glue, ready for the final piece of card.
Your Jacob's Ladder is Complete!
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?
Jacob's Ladder Project Supplies
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
* 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
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 SegmentsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Finishing the Jacob's Ladder - End Covers and the Completed LadderClick 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
More Ways to Make a Jacob's Ladder - Paper Ladders, Ring Ladders, Wooden Ladders...
- Make a Ring Jacob's Ladder Toy
Video tutorial on how to make a Jacob's Ladder out of rings. Looks very cool when tumbling!
- Make an Origami Jacob's LAdder
Video tutorial on how to make an origami Jacob's Ladder out of paper
- How to Make a Traditional Wood Jacob's Ladder Toy
History and illustrated instructions on making a wooden Jacob's Ladder