Jacob's Ladder Toy
Contents of this Page
What is Jacob's Ladder?
The Mechanism of Folding
Making of Jacob's Ladder 
Shapes of Six Blocks
Jacob's Ladder on the Internet
To the Main Page    "Mathematische Basteleien"

What is Jacob's Ladder? 
... Jacob's ladder is an old toy made of six blocks of wood, which are connected by ribbons.

If you take only the top piece and turn it, then the pieces under it turn alternately to the left and to the right and fall down. This is surprising. The event repeats, if you turn the top piece upside down.

Jacob's ladder can have different meanings in German (maybe in English, too). It can also be
 - ladder to Heaven (1.Moses 28,12f.)
 - a plant
 - a ladder of ropes and round wooden bars
 - a composition by Arnold Schönberg
 - a painting by Ernst Wilhelm Nay
- a quilt pattern 
 - a figure in a string game

The Mechanism of Folding 
.. If you put two blocks on each other, then they have two hinges. You can open them on the left or right. How does it work?

...... Perhaps you should make a simple model with two pieces to understand the mechanism. You take two CDs, which you connect with insulating tape as shown in the drawing.

...... You must only stick together the last ends (in the drawing green for good eyes).

These two ways of folding are made possible by ribbons, which connect the pieces. Either the two ribbons (blue), or one ribbon (red) work as a hinge. 

Making Jacob's Ladder  top
.. If you would like to make Jacob's ladder, you must have six blocks of wood. You can hear it clicking only with wood. You can use ribbons of cloth or synthetic material. The measurements are up to you. If you connect the pieces, you have to leave some space between the blocks so that they can fall. 
Again: Only glue the short ends.

A game bought in Crete/Greece has the measurements  8.0cm x 4.7cm x 1.0cm. The ribbons of cloth are 1.5cm wide. There is a distance of 0.3cm between the blocks.
The scan on the left shows the pile of six pieces. 

You see the smallest faces 4.7cm x 1.0cm. 

There is another version of Jacob's ladder with eight pieces. 
Each block is formed by two halves. The glue places are between them. 

Shapes of the six blocks top
Shapes made of the six blocks are interesting to small children. With imagination you can recognize a snake, a giraffe, a horse, and a house. There are more shapes. 
If you form a cap with Jacob's ladder and move the vertical blocks up and down, you get waving ears 
(Thank you Michael).

Jacob's Ladder on the Internet       top


Claudia Buchczik (kidsweb.de)
Jakobsleiter basteln

Jakobsleiter (Spielzeug)


Donald Simanek
Kinetic Illusion Toys

Wood Craft Arts
How to make the Jacob's ladder

Jacob's ladder (toy)

Rüdiger Thiele/Konrad Haase: Der verzauberte Raum, Urania Verlag, Leipzig, Jena, Berlin 1991 (Seite 16/17)
Rüdiger Thiele/Konrad Haase: Teufelsspiele, Urania Verlag, Leipzig, Jena, Berlin 1991 (Seite 14)

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©  1999 Jürgen Köller