The Asterisk was my first attempt at designing and making a puzzle. I was happy with the concept: arrange 28 angled puzzle pieces in 4 layers to form the 8 sided asterisk pattern in four separate challenges. The first challenge is the simplest, assemble the puzzle with an all black 2 dot pattern. The second challenge is to assemble the puzzle with all red alternating 1 and 2 dot pattern. The third challenge is to assemble the puzzle with alternating red 1 dot and black 2 dot pattern. The fourth and most difficult challenge is to assemble the puzzle alternating a red 2 dot and black 2 dot pattern; if you don't plan your moves and assemble it with the right pieces, you will reach the last layer with the incorrect colored or numbered pieces.
The first thing I learned in my puzzle creation journey is that puzzle making typically involves very small work pieces that tools like table and miter saws aren't designed for. Attempting to position and hold anything less than 6 inches on a compound miter saw is a good way to remove some of those pesky fingers you may be trying to get rid of. Of course I'm joking, but the point is very serious; manipulating small work pieces on dangerous power tools without carefully planning and building proper jigs can lead to serious injury.
The second thing I learned is that tolerances are much more precise in puzzles than in other projects I've done; forget about sixteenths of an inch, to get my puzzle to fit together properly I needed precision on the order of thousandths of an inch. I myself having no background in mechanical engineering had no idea how to achieve this level of precision; needless to say my scrap bin is full of 'tiny failures'. Many articles I read showed preference for using the metric system of measurement, I prefer decimal inches for a couple of reasons: firstly, I've used fractional inches my entire life and I have a 'mental ruler' of sorts, a sense of scale that matches the English system of measurement. Lastly, I live in the United States where the materials and tools that I purchase are all sold in the English system of measurement and I'm simply far too lazy to use my conversion calculator every time I go to the hardware store.
Compound error is a craftsman's bane, and like many amateurs I turned to YouTube for help, there I learned to build better jigs and to set precise blade distances with a pair of digital calipers and a micrometer. Lo and behold, it worked! I even learned to repeat the process and turned out two puzzles in a weekend. The whole endeavor, while difficult and frustrating at times turned out to be extremely rewarding. I have a number of new and unique puzzles on the drawing board, and I can't wait to make them!
|3D model designed with Google SketchUp|
|The pieces cut precisely and numbered divots drilled in|
|Sanded and stained red oak puzzle pieces|
|The finished puzzle with tray|