How to Make an Egyptian Pyramid
Make a Mini Pyramid Using a Printable Egyptian Pyramid Template
A 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 here are patterns for making a model Egyptian pyramid for school!
In this article, you'll find three things:
- The first pyramid pattern creates 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!
- The second pyramid tutorial is based on my tetrahedral kite design. It makes a larger pyramid out of straws which can be covered with paper. By changing the length or number of straws, you can experiment with pyramid geometry.
- After the tutorials, I've included 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.
Step 1: Print Template
Download my paper pyramid pattern and print it out four times.
Note: tell your computer only to print the first page of the template: 4 copies, but only page 1. 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.
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!
How to Make a Larger Pyramid with Straws and Paper
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.
Preparation for Larger Straw Pyramid
What you will need:
- Eight drinking straws. If the store only has bendy straws, snip them just below the bendy joint.
- White string (like kite string) or heavy carpet thread.
- A 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.
Materials for Paper Pyramid Using Straws...
Instructions to Make This Pyramid
- 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.
Stone Wall Texture
More Pyramid Models and Websites—Egyptian Pyramids, More Paper Pyramid Patterns, and 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.
- Building a Model Aztec Pyramid
Fabulously detailed Mesoamerican pyramid out of foamcore, complete with tiny sculptures! (Is it Aztec or Mayan?)
- 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.
Pyramid Building Blocks for Children
Forget castles. If you've got a youngster who's gung-ho on ancient Egypt, here's another good way to encourage their pyramid-building skills!