Make a Conversation Piece That's Challenging and Fun
^P'ltlAII Dad, let me play with U IllUllf those blocks/ It was the voice of my 7-year-old son, Martin. I had been experimenting with an idea for a sculpture made of blocks of wood that could fit together in different combinations to create varying visual effects. But Martin immediately saw another use for all those irregularly shaped blocks. He wanted to stack them as high as possible without having them fall over.
When Martin went to bed that night, I started playing with the blocks myself. I became totally absorbed. At about three o'clock in the morning I realized that this unlikely puzzle could be fun for kids of all ages, both as a puzzle and as a game of skill. After making a few refinements to the concept, I christened my creation "Brock Pikasso's Sculpture Game" and started producing it for sale in gift shops and craft galleries.
The game consists of several groups of puzzle pieces that can be arranged in a V-shaped tray to form a patchwork column of wood. A mathematician friend calculated that there arc more than two million ways to recombine the pieces in the tray. However you arrange the pieces, the assembled game will be an interesting conversation piece.
To play the sculpture game, divide the equally among the players and take turns stacking them on top of each other. In one vari ation of the game, players race the clock to see who can stack all the pieces fastest. The angled surfaces keep the game challenging, and no matter how you stack the pieces, the result is a unique sculpture.
The game can consist of as many pieces as you like. The sculpture game shown here has 28 pieces—five fewer than my original version. Beware of making too many pieces, though—you won't be able to stack them without toppling.
I suggest you make the game in multiples of two, using contrasting woods. That way, you can swap pieces between them for a more varied appearance. Mixing and matching also makes the puzzle a bit more puzzling.
To make this puzzle, I started by ripping a few 2-in. by 2-in. square lengths of four woods—cherry, curly maple, walnut, and white oak. To make module styles #4, and #5 (see drawing), saw rabbets or triangular notches in different blanks, and fill them with mating pieces ripped from contrasting stock. Then handsaw these sub-assemblies at an angle as shown in the drawing. Make module styles and #6 from the remaining scraps. I found it helps to leave the handsaw marks on the angled faces to provide some friction when stacking the pieces later.
Once you've cut all the puzzle pieces, make a V-block tray to house them for display and puzzle solving. Make the V-block about 2 in. longer than
Came of skill. Try your hand at stacking the pieces without toppling them.
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