Puzzle Sculptures by Tom Longtin

Posted on by Gabriel | 2 comments
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(Click to Enlarge) - Left: Trefoil Knot; Right: Icosahedron w/ 20 Triangular pieces

It seems that my interest for puzzle sculptures has been raised quite rapid, lately. This is the second review this week for another one of such beautiful objects.

Tom Longtin is the author of my latest acquisition, the Trefoil Knot 3D. Tom is a graphic artist, computer programmer and mathematical sculptor. You can read more about him in this page. I also received another very interesting puzzle by Tom, which uses four types of triangle pieces with slots or tabs, and you can build several geometrical shapes with them. I'll talk more about them below in the review, but for now, I'll start with Tom's Sculpture.

(Click to Enlarge)

The Trefoil Knot is built with 24 pieces and they can be grouped in four types, each progressively bigger. The material used is 100% recycled fiberboard and laser-cut with precise tolerances. The pieces are connected by slots and tabs, so no other gluing agent is necessary. Don't be fooled by the recycled material, though, because the finished structure is very strong and sturdy. The quality and overall appearance is superb.

(Click to Enlarge)

Building the puzzle wasn't very hard. The first thing to do is separating the pieces in identical groups. Your task here is simplified, because all the pieces come already packaged in these groups. The first stage of the building process is the most complex, but I used the photo in the puzzle's website to serve as a guide. You are provided with instructions on how to build it, but for me it was just easier to rely on the photo. Building time takes approximately 30 minutes or so, although it certainly felt like less, because it was a very satisfying experience.

(Click to Enlarge)

The finished sculpture looks just absolutely wonderful. The shape looks like almost an impossible object and I love the single curved lines that criss-cross the entire structure. A great thing about the curved lines is that they'll assume a totally different pattern on the puzzle, depending on how you swap the pieces during assembly. One thing worth noting is the cut tolerances on the pieces. The fit is so perfect that there's no wobble on the connected pieces or extra space. If the entire puzzle were to be painted in one color, it would look like it was made out of one single solid piece.

The Triangle 3D Puzzle

(Click to Enlarge) - Octahedron

The second puzzle I got from Tom can be looked at as a construction kit. I received 24 pieces, also laser-cut from the same material, and again, they can be separated in four different groups. They represent the four possibilities for placing slots or tabs at the edges of a given equilateral triangle.

The pieces can be used to build many different models, including an icosahedron (20 faces - See top right photo). As a particular tab will only fit into a slot, some of these geometrical shapes can be quite hard to build, especially the higher order ones with more than 10 faces. Another particularity with the pieces is that any shape you build needs to have an equal number of tabs and slots. For example, an octahedron will have 12 slots and 12 tabs.

(Click to Enlarge)

As suggested by Tom, a nice game you can try with the triangular pieces is to have a large pile of them and randomly picking pieces with another player, see who can be the first to build a tetrahedron.

There are eight convex deltahedra you can build with the pieces. There's a Wikipedia page with figures that better illustrate these forms. Also, as I understand, it's possible to build a few Catalan solids, which basically replaces the faces of a polyhedron with pyramids.

I loved this puzzle just as much as the Trefoil Knot. The fact that it allows you to build so many different shapes, it's enough to keep it fresh and avoids being too repetitive.

(Click to Enlarge) - Tetrahedron

Closing Comments:

I'm glad I discovered Tom Longtin's puzzles. The Trefoil Knot will look stunning on a coffee table or a desk or even a shelf. Its surprisingly striking appearance will for sure, capture the attention of anyone that notices it. The Triangle 3D Puzzle is a great design idea as well, and the multiplayer aspect of it only enhances the playing experience.

Besides these two puzzles shown here, Tom has other designs as well. The Step-Star 3D is just another one. There is also available at WoodMarvels, a Hollow Burr Puzzle with the same construction design as the Trefoil Knot.

Look below for more interesting links from Tom Longtin's fascinating work.



George said...

These look lovely! Brings up the age old question: "Is it a puzzle or just a geometric construction?" I don't mind the recycled material, but fiberboard is one of my least favorite materials. It is glued together with resins that can outgas and may contain formaldehyde. He should offer a "premium edition" of his puzzles made from plywood or laminated wood.

Gabriel said...

Hi George, I transferred your comment to the appropriate post.
Honestly, I don't mind the fiberboard. It seemed strong enough to hold the structure. I saw an acrylic version of this puzzle on Tom's website, when I was writing the review. Look at the bottom of this page.
Cheers ;-)

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