Burr Puzzle- Design & Production of the Interlocking Wooden Puzzle

By Yu-Wen Zhang

Origin

In the traditional play of Chinese culture, there is a kind of puzzle that classifies as building blocks in gaming. One of the most representative model is a burr puzzle, also known as Kongming puzzle, being a Chinese invention.

There is actually a family of puzzles, from the simplest three-piece one to the complex multi-piece, and the finished shape also varies. Some people say that this toy was first used by carpenters to train apprentices in using mortise and tenon techniques; some others say that it was a gift from the Chinese carpenter Lu Ban as a toy for his son. The earliest known record in Chinese ancient books is the Magical Spirit Finger, a compilation of all kinds of magical tricks and techniques, where the burr puzzle comes in six pieces, each marked with a word from Rites, Music, Archery, Chariotry, Calligraphy, Mathematics, the Six Arts that form the basis of education in ancient Chinese culture.

The following is the sharing of an interlocking model that consists of nine pieces in a burr puzzle. The version designed using tenons features the tenon structure that bring together nine parts that can be assembled. The stacked structure allows the model that originally required CNC (computer numerical control) or woodworking tools to be finished using laser-cutting.

Design

The burr puzzle is composed of nine pieces, which come in only three shapes, which makes it easy for DIY at home.

There are the “straight”, “bent 1,” and “bent 2”, and the spec for each shape are as follows.

Design drawing

3 “straight” as a set

5 “bent 1” as a set

1 “bent 2” as a set

3D-model

3 “straight” as a set

5 “bent 1” as a set

1 “bent 2” as a set

Assembly test

The specs for the “straight” type is 12 x 12 x 96 mm, so Wen Create Maker Room used a 3 mm laser-cut plate, with four layers stacked, which turned out as shown below.

After all the plates are fixed together set by set, there were 9 pieces for the final assembly.

Assembly & Unlocking

1: Assemble the 3 “straight” sets according to the figure below. In this step, the is no contact among the three pieces yet, so make sure they do not fall apart.

2: Put the “bent 2” piece in the front (as shown in Figure 13 below). In this part, there is still room for the piece to slide back and forth. Slide it to lean against the front surface.

3: Put the first “bent 1” piece in the back, the countering position of that in the previous step.

4: Put the second “bent 1” piece at the upper dent.

5: Put the third “bent 1” piece in the lower dent.

6: Put the fourth “bent 1” piece in the left dent.

7: Put the fifth “bent 1” piece in the right dent.

8: Slide the “bent 2” that have been placed in the Step 2 inward, and voila.

To disassemble, just reverse the steps.

Conclusion

Many children’s toys are full of the wisdom of predecessors. Wen Create Maker Room has believed that, through play in education, children will be able to making their own toys and playing games designed by themselves is interesting and fulfilling. During the process, children can learn to use their hands and brains and acquire different ways to solve problems.

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