Numbers · Paper Toy

A Jacob’s Ladder Number Line, in Progress

Numbers by Paula Krieg

I’m working on another number line. What I liked most about the last one that I worked on was how it was able to change, showing different parts of the number line, showing different scaling options. It occurred  to me that making number line that is also a Jacob’s Ladder, which shows changing faces, might be fun. Uh, well, now I’m thinking that having a Jacob’s Ladder number line might be fun, but it turns out that making it is challenging.

For anyone who is not familiar with the thoroughly delightful nature of Jacob’s Ladders, here’s a good page to take a look at  This page includes some background history, a great tutorial, and a video of the toy in action.

Jacobs Ladder in Progress

I’ve made many misjudgments in putting my version of this together, and it’s not yet finished, but I thought I’d write about it because I think that there might be something to glean from posting about this process. First, I struggled to figure out what I would use for the body of this structure.  I considered using candy bars, old video cases, boxes of Crayola markers: what is needed is about 6 somethings that have depth and weight. Thin blocks of wood are ideal, but I could not find a pre-cut source that was suitable. At our local thrift store I chanced upon some wooden coasters. PERFECT. From now on I will buy up every set of coasters that show up there. I’m happy with how they work. Good size, good weight.

The ribbon that I used to link the block was Buckram book cloth. It’s okay, but not great. Next time I will try out Tyvek, that mesh that the US Postal service uses to make its priority envelopes.

Staples on the edges of the Jacobs Ladder

The method of attachments on the side were challenging. These coasters either split when I nailed into them with one type of nail, or, with another type of nail, refused to be penetrated at all. My husband ended up lending a hand with his power staple gun. Worked like a charm.

Jacob's Ladder in progress

The final part of this construction, the applying of the numbers, is taking hours to finish. Each of the numbers on each of the faces have to be cut into three parts before they are glued down. It doesn’t help that I thought I’d be fancy and make the top and bottom panels thinner than the middle. In fact, there is no visual enhancement in making the middle panel wider, it just takes a longer to measure and cut. Next time each panel will be the same width.

Jacob's Ladder in Progress, Paula KriegI created the images for the numbers in Adobe Illustrator (I feel lucky that I bought CS6 while it was still available. With my limited rural internet access, Adobe’s Cloud-only option would not have been an option).

Number LIne Numbers , Paula Krieg

The number were printed at Staples Office Supply store, on Hammermill’s Color Copy Digital Cover 60lb paper. It’s a lovely paper it use. Accepts ink well, glues well, looks great.

Jacob's Ladder in progress


This ladder is 6 sections long, which translates into 22 faces (not 24). 20 of those surfaces are divided in to three sections, so I am measuring, cutting and gluing down 60 pieces. It’s taking awhile. But I am enjoying it. At the time of this writing I have just about half of the faces completed. Even in it’s unfinished state it’s already playfully addictive. I am looking forward to posting the finished product, along with some of my own tips on how to create one of these. Just in time to make for the holidays?



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