puzzle 29: The Centre Cannot Hold, design by me

piece count: 87

measured size: approx 6” diameter

date cut: 12 October 08

notables: stack cut, made from two separate layers

disposition: a gift to Kathy for her birthday



This was a small, but ambitious project for me.  I wanted to make a puzzle using a classical labyrinth as the base design.  For those of you who don’t know (and I didn’t either until I read it online), a labyrinth only has one path through the entire design.  My main idea was to use two separate pieces of wood (here covered with chiyogami paper) - one as the path, the other as the border.


I achieved the effect by stack cutting two 6” square pieces of 1/4” baltic birch plywood with a pattern that I designed.  The pattern only contained the outlines for the path and the border; all of the interlocks were cut freehand later.  After cutting, I took the path from the blue layer and the border from the pink layer.  I could have taken the inverse, except that I applied too much pressure during some of the cutting causing the blade to cut at an angle.  The pink-path, blue-border combination would not cleanly interlock.


I made a number of pretty major mistakes while making this puzzle:


  1. I cut off an interlock.  After 28 puzzles, it was bound to happen.  I had a blade break while cutting the interlock in question.  After replacing the blade, I forgot I was in the middle of a cut and just started a new one, cutting into my previous entry.  The little piece was promptly sucked into a dust vacuum.

  2. I wanted to make the path sit below the border.  I started sanding with a power sander AFTER I applied the chiyogami paper and cut the pattern.  I should have predicted that the paper would start to rub off (in fact this very thing happened on puzzle number one!).  I quickly gave up the sanding; next time I will sand the plywood down before applying the paper.  If I ever use both sets of paths/borders for puzzles, that means that one puzzle will have a sunken path and the other will have a sunken border.

  3. I had real trouble following my pattern at points.  As the blades dulled, they cut at increasingly more offset angles.  After I realized what was happening, I adjusted my seat and was able to compensate.  I don’t think thin puzzle blades were made for cutting 1/2” thick material.

  4. I lost a piece on the floor.  Like cutting off interlocks, there is a first time for everything.  After getting on my knees for a few minutes I found it.


I also thought about cutting a meeple into the center, but changed my mind once I got into the flow of cutting.  I didn’t feel like fiddling with a figural pattern at that point.  I will be cutting this pattern again to see if I can refine my technique.  It took less then 2 hours from start to finish, so it might be a good puzzle for gifts.


A note on the title:  it’s from the poem “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats.  I’m not much for poetry; this is one of the few poems that I can name.  Given the spiral nature of the puzzle, it seemed appropriate.  The poem is also the source for the title of Chinua Achebe’s book “Things Fall Apart” and the basis for Joni Mitchell’s song “Slouching Towards Bethlehem”