Screwy Octahedron & Nuclear Fusion by George Bell

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Today, I'm not reviewing one puzzle, but two by the puzzle designer George Bell. These puzzles were 3D-printed by Shapeways and can be easily purchased at the designer's Shop.

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The first puzzle that I will talk about is the Screwy Octahedron, a nice little puzzle with just 5cm in diameter (2"). It was George's exchange puzzle for the 2010 30th IPP in Osaka, Japan. With the color choices of orange, blue, red and green, it wasn't hard to pick it in my favorite color. Note that when you order it from Shapeways, it will arrive undyed unless you request it otherwise, which will have an extra cost. You can purchase it directly from the designer already dyed. George also has a very helpful guide on how to dye your own puzzles.

The puzzle consists of four pieces comprised by small spheres joined together. I was particularly interested in sphere puzzles after a recent review for a pyramid puzzle, also comprised by spheres, so I decided to give this one a try. It's a nice change from the cubic-based puzzles. Three of the pieces have a screw-like shape with two being identical and the other a mirror image, while the fourth is a Y-shaped piece. The object is to assemble the pieces so they form an octahedron with three-sphere edges.

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George asked me if I wanted the puzzle unassembled, as an extra challenge, and being a puzzle lover... and solver, I happily agreed. A couple of weeks later, I had my blue unassembled Screwy Octahedron. At first, it's quite difficult to picture those four pieces forming an octahedron. More over, the Y-shaped piece is the hardest to figure out where it should be. After the initial fear that it would be a while until I was able to assemble this little devil, 20 minutes on, and the Screwy Octahedron was finally assembled. For the last piece to fit, it's necessary to apply a little force, but the pieces can take it, as the material is strong and flexible.

When I photographed the puzzle, I started by its assembled state and then took it apart again to photograph its pieces. Should've been the other way around, because this way I was going to have double the work, since I wanted to keep it in its solved shape. Much to my surprise, it took me almost half an hour to reassemble it. I guess I wasn't paying much attention on the first time. Needless to say, I'm yet to try a third time...

The Screwy Octahedron also has another fun use... You can use it as a Spin Top.

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The second puzzle I got from George is the Nuclear Fusion Puzzle in a dark-toned red, also 3D-printed by Shapeways. This one's a little smaller than the Screwy Octahedron. Three pieces, two identical, form a cube when correctly assembled. This time, instead of spheres, the puzzle is comprised by rhombic dodecahedra joined together.

One curious thing about the puzzle is that it has to be made in strong flexible plastic, otherwise it would make it impossible to assemble. It's as if the natural state of the pieces is to block each other and prevent assembly. More like the previous puzzle, a good amount of extra force is needed for the pieces to fit together, but nothing that will break it.

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Assembly was easier than the Screwy Octahedron, mainly because it has only three pieces and it's easier to visualize the solved shape. Unlike the first one, the Nuclear Fusion puzzle came already assembled, so the first challenge was to take it apart. It's less complicated than assembling it, but still fun to figure out how the pieces interact.

Closing Comments:

I was pleasantly surprised by George's designs. Two little puzzles, yet very original concept and a joy to play with. I would strongly recommend them to any puzzle enthusiast, as they're quite affordable and can be attempted by everyone.

Availability: The Screwy Octahedron and the Nuclear Fusion Puzzle are available at George's Shapways shop, starting at about $17 and $8.50 respectively.


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