Li’l Jacob

How to make a Li'l Jacob
Li’l Jacob

 In a previous post I had written about a structure that I am planning to teach to a group of fourth graders next month.  There’s a fun folding trick to it that feels like magic: its two panels flex in such a way that allows the front and back covers to reverse positions, and it offers two different configurations of the inside spread.  I’ve put together the instruction sheet above for anyone who feels up for something completely different. I think that the instruction page above will print just fine, but, just in case, here’s the Li’l Jacob PDF 

Now for my dire warnings.

If you attempt to make this or teach this you will be unsuccessful unless you release any attachment to thinking for yourself. Follow the directions precisely. Chances are you will not heed this warning until you have botched up the first few tries of making this. Oh well. I tried to warn you.little-3-6

Any students you work with should also be encouraged to work along with you lest their attempts fail. Precocious student will anticipate the next step, thinking that they see a pattern in the steps. These students will likely find themselves with a structure that is glued shut. I have a special name for this kind of mistake. I call it a bad Christmas present: it looks interesting from the outside, but it just won’t open. Can be funny, but ultimately it’s not something you want.


I did not invent this structure. I don’t know the history of it, or what it’s called. I have seen it used a novelty gag, something that will hide or reveal a dollar bill. If someone knows its official name, I would be grateful to hear it. Only recently, when I had been exploring the folk toy known as the Jacob’s Ladder, did I realize that this structure is a shortened version of the Jacob’s Ladder. It seems fitting, therefore, for me to call it Li’l Jacob. I really like this name.


Let me mention too that there is nothing special about the dimensions that I present in my instructions.  The squares can be rectangles. The strips of paper can be all the same width, or all different widths. The dimensions that I illustrated will be the ones that I will be using when teaching, so that’s what I based the tutorial on.

I’m looking forward to seeing how students react to this odd folding activity.  If you try it out please please please let me know how it goes.

2 thoughts on “Li’l Jacob

  1. Hi Sue. I remembered the name of the structure that this is based on. IT’s called a Magic Wallet. Or course I did a google search, and saw two variations of it, based on the same principles. IT doesn’t look like people use it much as a container for images or writing. At least not yet!


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