Jacob's Ladder

Jacobís Ladder is one of the oldest toys in the world, rivalled only, perhaps by the spinning top. Nobody knows where it was invented - as examples have been found all over the world - or how old the idea is, one having been discovered in Tutankhamunís burial chamber in Egypt!

It is really a very a simple toy, only being made of wooden blocks and tape, but these are put together in such a clever and complex manner, that it is hard to ever really understand what it does - even when you have made one!

It is suitable for all ages, being able to fascinate an adult quite as well as a baby, but children wonít be able to make one by themselves. They will need help from an adult with the sawing and carving - and also putting on the tape, which is sure to confuse the adult however old they are!

You will need:

A length of wood, approx
70 cm x 6 cm x 1 cm
A saw
Knife for wood-carving
Sand paper
Binding tape (available from sewing shops) approx. 1 cm wide



1. First, saw out 7 rectangles from the wood, 6 cm x 9 cm.

Diagram 1

Diagram 2

2. Shape the edges of the blocks with a wood-carving knife to make them smooth (diagram1). You can then rasp them, if necessary, and sand them until they are soft to touch.

3. Once the blocks are smooth they can either be painted or left as plain wood. The plain wood can be varnished, or oiled.

4. Cut the tape into 18 strips, each 19 cm long.

5. With a pencil, mark the centre on both sides of the block, and join up the marks with a centre-line running all the way round each block.

6. Take a piece of tape, fold it under at the end (to prevent fraying) and position it over your centre line, at the end of one of the blocks. Hammer it in place with one of the tacks (see note 1).

7. Tack two more pieces of tape to the opposite end of the block, positioning them carefully an equal distance from the centre line and the outer edge.

8. Wrap each if these pieces under the block, and place a second block underneath. The ends of the tape should be tacked down to this second block (see diagram 2). Pull the tapes snug, but not too tight, - if the tapes are too tight the blocks wonít flow properly when you use the toy.

9. Follow the diagram carefully to see where the next tapes should go. If you already have a Jacobís ladder you can use this to help you.

Continue in this way until all the blocks are fastened in.

You can see if you are doing it right as you go along, by trying out the toy after you add a block.


To work the toy, lift it up by the end block and tip it forwards. The block should appear to tumble down to the bottom.

Children have also used the toy to make shapes with, like a star or a horse.

Note 1: If the tack is too big, you might find it starts to split the wood. If this happens, you can drill a hole in the wood before you hammer in the tack, making sure not to drill right the way through.

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