Sculpture System No. 5 blocks

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SS5 IMG 8318.JPG
Sculpture System No. 5
Author: Richard Grimes, Edmund Orme Harriss
Materials: 12mm plywood, paint, steel rods, screws
Tools: shopbot, drill, paintbrush, hammer
Difficulty: Average
Estimated time: 4-5 days

The Basic Piece

The basic shape from triangle to circles to tile.

The basic piece in the system is a triangle. We hope to add other regular polygons shapes soon, should you with to build Archimedean polyhedra or other craziness. The design is creative commons share-alike so feel free to develop the pieces yourself, just let us know so we can put them up here!

To get from a triangle to the actual block, first cover the edge with circles. Remove the ones at the corners (this is essential for hinging) and make the rest of the edge a wave. This shape can be cut out with very little wastage, as the individual pieces tile together. However it is important to remember the thickenss of the material you are cutting. In our case we had 12mm plywood, and used a 6mm cutting blade. This left sufficient clearance for the hinge to work.

Making the hinge.

For the hinge we need to cut additional circles. These have a groove cut accross their diameter. The main tile also have grooves cut along the edges of the original triangle. The circles (six for each triangle) are screwed onto the tile so the grooves line up. This leaves room for a bar to connect two neighbouring tiles. For our tiles we cut a 3mm deep 6mm wide groove. This gave a 6mm square hole in which we placed 6mm studding.

Designing a model

Prototyping in polydron

It can help to have a model before starting construction with the big shapes. For one thing once they are hinged together they are hard to take apart. They are also too large to easily work with (unless you make them small). Polydron is a useful tool for prototyping, and a fun toy as well!

Cutting it out

It is getting easier to find places to use computer manufacturing machines. Fab Labs are an obvious example! Many schools also have them, and their are also commercial options. This design can be adapted for a wide variety of sizes and machines. We have our cut files up, if you adapt for a different machine or technique please send in your files to help others!

Putting it together

Putting everything together starts very easily, but can get a little tricky at the end. In your prototyping think about how the construction can be divided up. In particular many deltahedra are flexible until you add the penultimate tile. With a big structure you could pinch fingers. write my essay

There are two ways of getting the hinge rod to linke two tiles. The easiest is to screw the circles down onto two neighbouring tiles with the rod in place. The other is to attach the circles and then hammer the rod through. The second method becomes essential for the last couple of tiles. If you use rods with a screw thread then the thread bites into the wood rather than sliding out. As a result the thread can be completely within the sculpture.

Files and other goodies


These files are set up to cut a 1220x1440mm sheet of 12mm plywood. The different toolpaths are divided onto layers and colour coded:

Red Cut through, the cutter centred on the line.
Green Cut at 3mm, the cutter centred on the line.
Blue Drill through centre of circle
Yellow Drill through centre of circle, the size should be a pilot hole for the screws. You can ignore this to simplify machining