Over the last few years, one of my hobbies has been designing and building 3D geometric, polyhedral puzzles – rather like the Rubik’s Cube, only a whole lot more interesting. Although I haven’t spent much time on them over the last while, having focused on Form Tools and other programming projects, I still thought I’d devote a page to them, since, well, they’re awfully cool. Plus I have every intention to return to them when I get time.
This is one of my favourite designs. The idea is simple: each of the 12, 5-sided spikes (or “stellations” in the proper terminology) can be pulled out of the structure, rotated, and placed back. Each spike has it’s own colour, and the puzzle is completed when every spike has its own colour. There is only one correct solution to the puzzle.
The structure maintains its integrity by locking in all external coloured panels, which can only unlock by deliberately pulling them out. The mechanism was great fun to design. Everything that went into it was purchased from Home Depot, or found in dumpsters. The key components are the locking mechanism, built from cabinet door fasteners, and the spring-loaded action for pulling the spikes out.
My only regret it that I didn’t take more photos / videos of it, since this and the two Holey Cube designs were both stolen back in 2004. Feel free to watch the two videos by clicking the images below – but note that they’re very large files!
I thought this one up looking at one of those old 4×4 square 2D puzzles, with a slot missing. You know: the ones where you slide the pieces around to try and make the picture of the smiley face / whatever appear correctly. Well, this puzzle is based on precisely the same notion, only I 3D-ified it. In this puzzle, each side has it’s own colour, and the beams of each side turn to allow you to pass one coloured panel onto another side.
Shortly after completing this one I embarked on a 3ft by 3ft, 3 panel by 3 panel version, but never completed it. The frame was a considerably better design; each panel ran on rails to make it easier to move. Sadly, I don’t have any photos of this – and it was stolen along with the 5×5 version.
This is one of my more recent designs – still unfinished to date. The final sculpture will have a diameter of approximately 6ft. The photos below are of a single ring around the doughtnut; the doughnut itself will be comprised of 6 rings. I won’t delve into explaining how it would work, since that would take a whole lot of explaining – and I very much doubt I could make myself clear!
This will be my first “2D” 3D puzzle. The idea is similar to the stellated dodecahedron puzzle above, except on a table-top-like surface. Sections of the table can be pulled out vertically, rotated and placed back. I’m been modifying the locking and turning mechanism for a much improved UI. With this new design, you don’t have yank out a section from the core; you just turn a knob on each stellation, releasing the section which is pushed upwards by a spring. When turning, each valid gradation is marked with a slight groove, letting you know at which angles the section can be re-inserted.
I have a prototype of the locking system which work fairly well, but I’m still like to improve it further. For the panels themselves – which in the past I’ve simply painted various colours – I’m planning on putting various types of foliage: grass and moss, etc. Once I perfect the locking mechanism I’ll begin building the core object. It’s a nice looking sculpture! I’m looking forward to showing this one off…!