J. Peterson's Writing About Electronics, Reviews, 3D Modeling, etc.

The Three Piece Burr Puzzle

Somewhere around middle-school, I came across a diagram of the classic three-piece burr puzzle.

It looked fun, so I endeavored to make one. Unfortunately, the materials available to me then (a scrap of plywood and a janky power scroll saw) didn’t produce very good results. It worked, but was crude and wobbly. Spray painting it black didn’t help.

A couple years ago, I revisited the project, this time with 3D printing.

Printed at Shapeways in dyed plastic, it works great. It’s kind of pricey though, running just over $90 for the three solid pieces. Similar puzzles retail for less than $5. I tried making hollow versions to lower the price, but it reduced it less than 20%, and required annoying holes to drain the trapped material.

Yes, I could just have bought one. But there’s something fun about precisely realizing something you envisioned decades ago.

Update Feb 2022

I recently printed the burr puzzle in bronze/gold/nickel plated steel from Shapeways. I shrunk the puzzle to half size to keep the cost reasonable, but did not adjust the model to account for the difference in the material tolerance. It took a fair amount of filing on the interior slots to get the pieces to fit properly.

One comment

  1. If made from wood, the puzzle takes time and requires tight dimensions for a proper fit. If I ever decide to build another, I think I will scale it up to double the size. Besides being an easier build, I think it would be more durable. The 3D print worked fine as expected. The one change I would make is to print in 3 different colors.

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