If you’re not familiar with a finger trap, it’s traditionally a tube woven from bamboo that “traps” the fingers of an unsuspecting person who places them inside. While the origins of the finger trap are debatable, the simplicity and joy of one never gets old.
Weaving strips of newspaper in a circular shape creates this classic gag puzzle. The basic over-under pattern is the same one used to weave a basket or a place mat, but you will be weaving in the round.
Creating this simple practical joke will test your dexterity, and maybe bring some giggles to your weekend. For an extra challenge, find different colors in the paper to weave with.
Two pages of newsprint: one mostly color, one mostly text
Two paper clips
Start with two pages of newsprint and fold each in half along the horizontal fold. Weaving the finger trap will be much easier if one of the sheets of paper is a solid color and the other one is mostly text.
Using a ruler, measure and cut one 1.5-centimeter-wide strip off each page. Make sure to keep the strips even in width for their entire length.
Cut both strips you just made in half at the fold. You should now have four strips, two mostly newsprint and two solid color. Moving forward these will be your “text” and “color” strips.
Make two “v” shapes with the text strips on the left, and the color strips on the right and glue the ends together to form a clean point with the edges. On one “v” the color strip should be on top, and on the other the text strip should be. Set aside to dry.
Use the leftover newsprint from one of the pages to roll a small tube. The tube needs to be a bit smaller than your index finger for the finger trap to work. Tape each end and the seam to secure the tube.
Paper clip one of the “v’s” to the end of the tube with the point facing up, then do the same with the second “v” on the opposite side.
To make the finger trap, you’ll weave your four strips together in a circular pattern. Start by crossing the color strip over the text strip on one side.
Turn the tube slightly clockwise and wrap the text strip on the right under the color strip to its left, and over the lower color strip. Continue working around the tube with the over-under pattern, being careful to keep the strips flat against the tube and pulled tight.
If you’re doing it right, a diamond pattern will emerge, without space between the strips. Keep turning the tube and weaving around it. Continue the over-under pattern until you get to the bottom of the strips.
Glue the ends together where they meet in the same “v” shape as the top and let them dry. The ends should be woven as tightly as the barrel of the finger trap or it won’t work.
Remove the paper clips and gently pull out the tube. Trim the excess paper at the bottom of the finger trap, leaving a “v” at each end.
To use the finger trap, place your pointer fingers as far into the tube as possible on each side and carefully pull apart (or better yet, have an unsuspecting friend or family member do that). If the trap doesn’t work, it may be because the strips are not tight enough or because the ends are looser than the barrel of the trap. Try again. For an extra challenge, find different colors in the paper to weave with.