Show and Tell: Jacob’s Ladder as a 12-Gauge Steel Sculpture

Photo of Jimmie Nord and his Jacob's Ladder.It’s a rare event when my day job and Thingamababy intersect. I’m helping publicize a town-gown collaboration that has art students at Humboldt State University creating sculptures that will be installed next week in downtown bulb-outs in Arcata, Calif.

“Bulb-out” describes a curb that juts out into a roadway at a street corner to slow vehicle traffic and protect pedestrians at a crosswalk.

Jimmie Nord is a junior in an intermediate studio art class who is designing one of these sculptures. Oh, but it’s not the one you see in this photo.

While interviewing him for a news release, he mentioned a cool-sounding Jacob’s Ladder he had made. A Jacob’s Ladder is a folk toy in which vertical blocks revolve and appear to tumble downward.

When revisiting the campus sculpture lab today, I was lucky to be doing so as he prepared to transport the ladder home, this being a week before the end of the semester. He gave me a quick demonstration.

The blocks in his ladder are 12-gauge steel sheets forged to put a bend in them, secured with used bicycle chains obtained from local bike shops. The base is a large metal gear found at a scrap and salvage yard. A wheel crank located at the top of the sculpture, also from a scrap yard, turns the steel blocks.

It was quite a sight to see those flipping metal blocks.

If that weren’t cool enough, Jimmie moonlights off-campus as a behavioral respite worker for children with disabilities, often those with autism.

Photo of the Jacob's Ladder control wheel being turned as a metal block flips.

Photo of the Jacob's Ladder control wheel.

Photo of a the metal blocks in the Jacob's Ladder.

Photo of the metal gear serving as the base of the Jacob's Ladder.

And if you’re excited now…

Hey, thank you thinga-reader Jeremiah for sharing this sculpture with MAKE blog.


9 Responses to “Show and Tell: Jacob’s Ladder as a 12-Gauge Steel Sculpture”

  1. Nifty says:

    That would be a cool thing to have in a playground if it could be made safe. Maybe put it in a museum behind a clear case, with the wheel sticking out.

    May 3rd, 2007 at 10:30 am

  2. judy says:

    That is so cool! My kids would love to check that out! I like when things are both gritty and relatable….

    May 3rd, 2007 at 11:52 am

  3. wrique says:

    Any chance you could show us a video clip of this?! I’d love to see & hear it in action.

    By the way, I got here via the Make Blog.

    May 6th, 2007 at 7:01 am

  4. his parents says:

    We are just so proud of our son. The struggling artist.

    May 6th, 2007 at 9:27 am

  5. The Weeds says:

    Way to go Jimmie !

    May 6th, 2007 at 10:03 am

  6. Becky Roberts says:

    What a cool Jacobs Ladder. You should see the wood one he did. I am so proud of my Jim Bob.

    May 6th, 2007 at 1:53 pm

  7. Jennifer Lance says:

    I was so excited to see you live near HSU. We are neighbors! I’m just over Southfork Mt.. I went to HSU, was an art student, and took sculpture. The blogosphere just got smaller.

    May 10th, 2007 at 8:58 pm

  8. Jacob Denmark says:

    Cool…. how long time do you take to build it..

    March 13th, 2008 at 9:51 am

  9. Josh Blum says:

    Fantastic! I was doing a search for a Jacob’s ladder for a small painted sculpture and came across this- As a sculptor/artist/blacksmith, I love it! I just wish I had thought of it first, ;) Isn’t that always the way! Keep it up!

    February 10th, 2009 at 1:02 pm