I am a former scholar of classics and mythology. I enjoy writing about the ancient world, popular science, and my hobbies.
Fun School Project: Build a Paper Pyramid
I notice that many students come to my tetrahedral kite-building tutorial in search of how to make a pyramid out of straws and paper, so I've decided to share patterns for making a model Egyptian pyramid here.
In This Article
- Paper Pyramid Pattern 1: Great-looking but small (3.8" tall) Egyptian pyramid out of paper. This one is easy: just print out the pattern and tape it together!
- Paper Pyramid Pattern 2: Based on my tetrahedral kite design. It makes a larger pyramid out of straws that can be covered with paper. By changing the length or number of straws, you can experiment with pyramid geometry.
- Links to other people's paper craft tutorials as well as links to several great webpages on pyramids in Egypt and elsewhere in the world.
Paper Pyramid Pattern 1
This pattern makes a great-looking but small (3.8" tall) Egyptian pyramid out of paper. This one is easy: just print out the pattern and tape it together!
Step 1: Print the Pattern
Download my paper pyramid pattern and print it out four times.
Note: Tell your computer only to print the first page of the template; i.e., four copies of page one only. Sometimes, depending on the printer, a tiny strip flows onto page two, but it's not needed.
Step 2: Cut
Cut out the template (cut away all the plain white paper). Don't worry if the edges aren't perfect; just don't cut off any points of the triangle.
Cut the other three faces of the pyramid in exactly the same way.
Step 3: Fold
Carefully fold the bottom square and side flaps back, using the dark lines of the triangle as a guide. Accurate folds are the key to making the pyramid look great. Once you've got a fold in the right spot, gently run a fingernail along it on a flat surface to make it sharp.
Next, fold the other three faces of the pyramid in exactly the same way.
Step 4: Join
Use two small pieces of clear tape to join two faces of the pyramid along one edge. The easiest method is to lay the two triangles back-to-back with the side flaps sandwiched between them, then fold the tape over the outside edge that's formed.
Now, on the inside, tape the two flaps together. (Or you could glue them together, in which case you don't need the tape on the outside!)
Fasten together all four sides. Each time you add a new triangle/face, you can fold it back-to-back with the one next to it to help get them lined up.
Joining the last two is a little tricky. Pinch the inside flaps together when taping the outside edge.
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Step 5: Finish
Fold the bottom squares under so that each covers the one beneath. Only tape the last (outermost) one to the one beneath it. (I found that if I taped all of them, the additional glue warped the pyramid's shape.)
And you're done!
Paper Pyramid Pattern 2
My original Pyramid Kite Design makes a tetrahedron, a pyramid with exactly four faces, each of them a triangle. It's not quite an Egyptian pyramid shape, but it's easy to turn it into a proper Egyptian pyramid—just add one more straw to the bottom! Add more straws and you can make a larger pyramid than the paper model I gave you above.
- 8 drinking straws. Note: If the store only has bendy straws, snip them just below the bendy joint.
- White string (like kite string) or heavy carpet thread
- Heavy needle with a big eye, or make yourself a custom needle by folding over the end of a twist tie and shaving the paper sides to make it skinny! This needle will need to drop through the straws. If it gets stuck, you can push it through with a chopstick.
- Tape or craft glue
My instructions work as long as the four bottom straws are all the same length, and the four top straws are all the same length. But what if you want to match the angle of a typical Egyptian pyramid? What if you want a project that involves more math?
In that case, try this online pyramid calculator that I used to create the paper model above. Measure one of the straws you'll be using for the bottom. It can be in centimeters or inches! This is your BASE EDGE. Then pick the ANGLE for your pyramid. (The Great Pyramid of Khufu has a slope, or face-to-base (f/b) angle, of 51.85399 degrees, for your information. Here's a dense article with a chart of the angles of several Egyptian pyramids.) Once you've chosen the base edge and the f/b angle, click "calculate" on the online pyramid calculator. The SLANT EDGE will be the length you need to cut the other four straws, the ones that rise up and meet at the top.
If you're working on a school geometry project, try trimming the bottom four straws to a different length from the top four straws, and see how that changes the steepness of the pyramid. Or use different numbers of straws to make different kinds of pyramids.
- Thread strings through four plastic drinking straws.
- Place the straws in a square. This will be the bottom of your pyramid.
- Tie the strings' ends together securely, leaving as little slack as possible. Don't cut off the string yet, though, since you'll still use it to tie on additional straws.
- Now here's the interesting part. Grab the remaining four straws. You're going to decide how tall and skinny, or short and wide, your pyramid is. If you use the drinking straws as they are, your pyramid will be steeper and skinnier than an Egyptian pyramid. So, cut these four straws a bit to make the pyramid shorter and more pyramid-shaped. It will work as long as these four straws are all exactly the same length. (Use the optional pyramid calculator above if you want to match a real Egyptian pyramid.)
- Once you've picked your length, tie two straws to two adjacent corners of the square, one per corner, then tie the tops of those straws together to form a triangle. Take the other two straws and make a triangle on the opposite side, giving the square "ears."
- Lift the top points of the triangles up and tie them together.
- Take one of my stone wall textures (below), print out several sheets, and wrap the pyramid in it. Or use construction paper and decorate it yourself!
- You can make a pyramid of any size by making more pyramids (repeating steps 1-5), stacking them, and covering the whole structure with paper, as long as you cut all the straws used in step 3 to the same length. To make a double-size version of my design, create four more pyramids, then tie the peaks of the bottom ones to the bottom corners of the top one. Don't paper until you've got them all done.
More About Pyramids
- "PyramidTextsOnline's" Paper Pyramid model
Similar to mine, but with hieroglyphs instead of a stone texture, and I think this is smaller. Also, it lacks those interior flaps which work like tent struts in my model.
- Paper Models of Square Pyramids
Three small but good-looking models you can print out and tape together. There's also many other polyhedron models on this site!
- Sierpinski Tetrahedrons by Kids at the Chelmsford Public Library
Sound boring? It isn't! You gotta see the paper pyramids these kids put together. Wow!
- NOVA Online/Pyramids/Hot Science: Scaling The Pyramids
NOVA's site on building a model of the great pyramid, part of a great old website on Egyptian pyramids.
- The New Pyramid Age: Nubian Pyramids
To the south of Egypt, the powerful kingdom of Nubia built smaller, steeper pyramids. These fascinating monuments are not half so well-known!
- Chichen Itza: El Castillo, Pyramid of Kukulkan
Information about famous Mayan pyramid. The angle of the pyramid's sides is 53° while the staircases rest against it on ramps of 45°.
- List of Mesoamerican Pyramids - Wikipedia
The reason I asked "is it Aztec or Mayan?" is that MANY Mesoamerican cultures made pyramids. Here's photos of lots of them.
Guestbook—thanks for stopping by!
vidhu on May 29, 2016:
you made it look simple easy and attractive
Jsjdu on May 25, 2016:
I hate your lens it is boring
nick on February 24, 2016:
Virginia Allain from Central Florida on July 08, 2014:
Wow, this tutorial is marvelous! If I ever need to make a pyramid, I know where to come.
james25882 on June 18, 2014:
Wow, what a cool Lens so easy to use and understand.. Thanks!!
Anja Toetenel from The Hague, the Netherlands on August 19, 2013:
Thank you so much for this, I love the old Egypt and am definitely going to make the paper pyramid later today, it's easy to understand how to do it and I love that!
Jenny Rowling from London, UK on June 04, 2013:
These are toys for kids, but I'll probably make them myself. I love Ancient Egypt :)
hovirag on March 11, 2013:
I want to build a pyramid - so this comes in handy :)
Takkhis on February 12, 2013:
Thanks for the instructions! Now i can try it at least.
anonymous on December 21, 2012:
This pyramid looks amazing. Thank you for sharing.
anonymous on December 17, 2012:
Thanks for your help. It really helped my second grade class .
jaclyn-suri on November 14, 2012:
Looking to build a really great Egyption Pyramid. So many choices... Don't know what to choose
ConspiracyTheor on October 31, 2012:
I know what my son and I have planned for later - fingers crossed that it goes well! Great lens :)
wendyfinn on October 21, 2012:
@mythphile: Did it this afternoon - fab! She has dyspraxia so needed a small amount of help but the whole thing was pleasantly easy to complete. Thanks again!
Ellen Brundige (author) from California on October 21, 2012:
@wendyfinn: Oh, great! I hope it came out!
anonymous on October 20, 2012:
Very interesting lens, I never try something like this
wendyfinn on October 20, 2012:
This is fab. I'm going to try it with my 6 year old this weekend as they are currently studying ancient Egypt in her class this term. Thank you!
Linda Jo Martin from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on September 23, 2012:
I've never thought of making a paper pyramid. My boyfriend has a couple made from copper tubing, and I've got two made from orgone for the desk in my office.
maryLuu on September 01, 2012:
Very interesting lens. I will try to do the pyramid for my son.
ApproachableLife on July 15, 2012:
My 2nd grader is just about to start studying Old Testament & Ancient Egypt. This is the perfect homeschool project for us to use. Thank you!
anonymous on May 17, 2012:
Here's a little trick after making the pyramid. You will need a needle and thread. Thread the needle and poke the needle on the tip of the pyramid and hang it up somewhere. now watch the pyramid turn counterclockwise! It will always turn CCWS!
Rose Jones on April 26, 2012:
Really nice, I might actually sit down and do this. Pinned to my board Arts and Crafts I love so it can wait for me.
anonymous on April 12, 2012:
anonymous on April 01, 2012:
Happy April Fool's Day
Ellen Brundige (author) from California on March 31, 2012:
@anonymous: Oh, fantastic! Sounds like a cool crafts project.
anonymous on March 31, 2012:
Thank You for sharing this cut out kit, I will be able to make a mold out of this size. And eventually I will create a pyramid out of resin with crystals. Thank You
Blackspaniel1 on March 08, 2012:
Nice idea for a craft.
00saurabhjha11 on February 23, 2012:
Very nice lens Quite interesting and creative ... Thanks for sharing!!
etravelvn on February 20, 2012:
Nice tricks. Thanks for sharing.
LotusLandry from Southern California on January 31, 2012:
Thanks for providing the download and the photoshop textures!
FlynntheCat1 on December 15, 2011:
I have a sudden urge to make a dozen pyramids and leave them all around the house. And then hide and watch my flatmates finding them.
AlisonMeacham on November 10, 2011:
I am always looking for new school projects so we are going to tackle this one today. Thank you and Squid Angel Blessings for an excellent how to lens.
julieannbrady on October 19, 2011:
Pretty cool my dear ... I love geometric objects ... say, may I tell you honestly that as I read through your excellent instructions, I had something playing in my head ... "walk like an Egyptian ..." so I do believe you have connected excellently with your reader, on all levels. Bravo!
Teri Villars from Phoenix, Arizona on August 25, 2011:
So many lenses, so little time..ha! You are quite the busy girl. I jumped on this one, hoping to learn how to make a real pyramid. I thought about using sugar cubes but my dog ate my inventory...alas....I don't think the Egyptians had that problem, cats don't seem to like sugar.
darciefrench lm on August 20, 2011:
Very cool - my hubby says he used to live in the Egyptian age and helped build the pyramids. He says belatedly that he's 'still pushing rocks uphill' ;)
IainWhite on August 18, 2011:
I like this
gregoryolney lm on August 14, 2011:
Sounds like fun !
JoyfulPamela2 from Pennsylvania, USA on August 11, 2011:
Love it, can't wait to try it! :)
barts2011 on August 05, 2011:
wow, I love Egypt
sysuns on July 24, 2011:
DuaneJ on July 18, 2011:
I must say..you are very creative!!
pawpaw911 on July 17, 2011:
Neat lens. Interesting.
Geniusabi on July 12, 2011:
nice origami lens. Keep the good work up.
AsianMarketplace on July 10, 2011:
Pyramid is always an intriguing piece of art work. Thanks for the lens
phoenix arizona f on July 01, 2011:
Chris-H LM on June 29, 2011:
What a fantastic lens! I love that you even include the seamless stone texture. Really nicely done. I'm going to do this project with my little one :)
tharshan lm on June 05, 2011:
thank for the nice guide
Craftyville on June 03, 2011:
I love your paper pyramid, its amazing! Thank you for sharing.