Sunday 20 June 2021

Making 2D Patterns With 3D Objects

Or George Gets it Right Again!


Look at this...yet another easily available puzzle for you to read about. By now, most of you know that I am really rubbish at pattern forming puzzles and seldom buy them so why on earth would I add this to my collection? I saw the Blockistry puzzle described by Roxanne Miller on Facebook and she described how her husband, George was enthralled by it. Over the years I have come to realise that George and I share very similar tastes in puzzles and a similar approach to puzzling as well. Like me doesn't like exhaustive searches for solutions and has a huge enjoyment working out how to get 3D puzzles modelled in Burrtools. So if he gets deeply embedded in a puzzle that would not normally be his thing (and certainly not mine) then I sit up and pay attention. Then Michel van Ipenburg sent out his monthly newsletter describing his recent puzzling acquisitions and also seemed to like this puzzle. I went to their site and was slightly surprised at the price ($49.95) for 4 blocks of wood and a booklet - with a gulp, I purchased and trusted George.

This is a far cry from the usual craftsman made work that I buy and write about. The site describes the pieces as hand made from the native tree of Finland (Birch) giving an "authentic feel of the North". Ignore the advertising hype - this is just a plain block of a white wood (it may be Birch but it doesn't really matter) and it is nicely cut with smooth surfaces, two of which have been coated with a black layer. What this is NOT, is "finely crafted"! That doesn't actually matter - the fabulous Symmetrick puzzle that I bought from another Finnish craftsman and puzzle store owner was also made from a plain pale wood and became one of my favourite puzzles of all time. But of course, Tomas does not make any claims about it being special wood.

It arrives very nicely packaged in a square cardboard box in which the blocks are nicely arranged along with a booklet of 50 challenges and a felt cloth which is the "playing board". It is actually a very nice package (certainly very portable) and quite enticing to play with. 

The 4 identical blocks are an odd rhomboidal shape with only the top surface coated in the black film. The stated aim is to make the shapes in the booklet which get progressively tougher - so what is so special? why would this interest such a seasoned puzzler like George or someone less experienced like me? Here is where the twist comes to play - the aim is to make the shape when visible solely from above i.e. to create a 2D shape using 3D objects. To make this even more challenging all 4 blocks must be used and the shape must be self supporting. This last factor really does turn up the challenge a notch. I am not sure how to describe the shapes so here is a photo that shows them of:

4 identical "blocks"
The first few in the booklet are not too tough and are really just there to give an idea about how to think about looking at the finished shape and the colour scheme from above:

These aren't terribly tough

Number 4 looks like this when solved:

Easy peasy yes? Indeed, that one was but before long the need to think as a projection onto a 2D plane began to get quite challenging...and very enjoyable. It is not something that can be done easily on your lap - you need a flat surface and certainly having a cat in the way really does make it impossible.

A later challenge like the one below requires the blocks to be piled up and yet still be stable and self supporting and the successful shape is only obvious when viewed from directly above.

Nice easy shape
Solved it - piled up pieces
One thing that the pictures above do show off is that these are not a finely crafted puzzle. They are good enough but the edges are not sharp, the coating does not go right to the edge and it makes it look ever so slightly poorer quality. BUT once you get past this, the puzzling challenges are really quite pleasant.

Viewed from in front - it doesn't look like the diagram
I have almost finished all 50 of the challenges in the book (it took me a good few hours to work them out) and will soon be heading to their Facebook group where they have been posting extra challenges each week - this puzzle will have some decent longevity, I think.

If you do get stuck on one of the challenges or want to check your solution is correct (I did because my solution did not seem to be particularly stable) then their website has a solutions page (password protected) that has cute little animated videos showing how to assemble each puzzle. Beautifully done.

Should you buy this puzzle? Despite the craftsmanship claims not quite being met, this is actually a pretty good puzzle with a really decent set of challenges. The price of $49.95 (they will quote in a currency local to you) is supposed to be a reduced price from the usual $79.95. I do not think I could ever justify the higher price but the reduced one is acceptable. If you enjoy pattern making puzzles and like the idea of using 3D shapes to make 2D patterns then you will enjoy this. Like George, I was quite enthralled.


  1. Oblique Triangular Prism. This has just given me an idea to expand my in-laws' collection of fancy wooden napkin "rings". Rather than simple rings, the napkin holders are in a variety of geometric shapes. My favourite is the pentagonal antiprism. My wife always selects the big square, bless her heart! Time to build some oblique triangular prisms in the shop. -Tyler.

    1. Tyler, you are a braver man than me! If I brought puzzles to the outlaws then I’d end up with broken puzzles! They can break anything!

  2. To clarify: the puzzle blocks would be for me, as the in-laws do not "do" puzzles; their geometric napkin holders collection would increase by one. -Tyler.

    1. Enjoy! I really need to set up a workshop sometime. Getting a3D printer would be nice too! Sigh, so many things that I don’t have time for.