Nova Plexus is a Puzzle Sculpture that has been over 40 years in the making. Once it is assembled it is a self-supporting structure made from 12 identical, very precisely made, stainless steel metal rods. And that’s where the challenge happens for you. “Once it is assembled”… the puzzle ships unassembled so there is no chance of learning the puzzle while disassembling and then putting it back together.
The puzzle relies on the force of each piece interacting with the other 5 pieces it touches, in other words, tension, to hold the completed structure together so it must be made with a very high level of accuracy. Once correctly assembled the puzzle is very stable (but we do ship disassembled because the chances of them arriving still assembled is really pushing it!).
When Jerry Slocum and Jack Botermans put together “The Book of Ingenious and Diabolical Puzzles” they included Geoff Wyvill’s Nova Plexus alongside Oskar van Deventer’s One Puzzle made in 1985 by Wil Strijbos and other amazing metal interlocking burrs made by Marcel Gillen in the Interlocking metal Puzzles section. High praise indeed.
Steve and Ali at Two Brass Monkeys have combined with Geoff Wyvill the designer to not only complete the Limited Edition set but to also make some copies in their signature material, brass.
How about building the two puzzles interlocked? Adding another dimension entirely to the sculpture.
Brian assembled the first one in about an hour without the solution. The second assembly was easier copying the first one. At this point, we don’t even know if it’s possible, Brian strongly suspects now that it might not be, but he’s has been enjoying the challenge of trying to assemble them totally interwoven. He’s close… he’s had it together but it still relies on a couple of rubber bands… he just needs to get the tension right… (I have included a photo of the attempted assembly in progress…)
And now he’s been totally outdone by the guys in the UK lead by Louis C. who has been able to build a super enlarged puzzle using a combination of 34 rods. Check out the photos below. Woo Hoo!!!
Purchase the Limited Edition stainless steel version of Nova Plexus and the package includes:
A stainless steel copy of the Nova Plexus puzzle sculpture in disassembled format
A laser engraved, uniquely numbered, anodised aluminium certificate of authenticity
A high quality postcard with a letter/story personally signed by Geoff explaining the history of Nova Plexus
The puzzle is packaged in a special pouch to hold Nova Plexus pieces while it is unassembled
Rubber bands to help with assembly of the puzzle (don’t laugh, these are vital equipment!)
The brass version can be bought separately or as part of a set with the Limited edition Stainless Steel puzzle. The brass version is separately boxed and has its own pouch (with appropriate humour from the guys at Two Brass Monkeys!) and rubber bands for assembly.
The Nova Plexus puzzle sculpture does not come with a solution. The story card includes a link to a video of the Nova Plexus being assembled by Geoff if you do give up and need help.
Size: Each rod is 100mm long and is 6.35mm (1/4 inch) in diameter. The assembled puzzle is 120mm in diameter.
The designer of this amazing object is Geoff Wyvill. He is Emeritus Professor at the University of Otago in NZ researching computer graphics, virtual reality and modelling. Geoff creates animation both as art and as a scientific illustration in his day job. But back in the 1970’s when he designed Nova Plexus and a couple of other mechanical puzzle sculptures it was entirely hands-on.
Geoff originally intended a limited edition of 500. He and a colleague Monty, a civil engineering technician at the University of Bradford, made only 26 and then Geoff moved to New Zealand, putting the whole project on hold. For 40 years as it turned out!
This is the history of the design and development of this puzzle sculpture in Geoff’s own words:
The design was inspired by a sword dance, performed by the Georgian State Dancers in the mid-1950s. The dance finished with twelve flexible swords locked together and held aloft by one of the dancers. I didn’t realise that the swords were flexible and spent hours over many months trying to devise a structure built from rigid cylinders that would hold itself together.
Some years later, I found a way to prove that such a structure was impossible. I began to think about the minimum departure from the cylinder’s shape that would break my proof and allow the sculpture. This was something of an obsession and I made hundreds of sketches over the next five years. I settled on the design in 1975 and made my first wooden prototype in 1976. The refinement that made the final design possible was to discover the construction of the hyperboloidal surfaces of the little necks at each end of the rods so they would lock into place in a pleasing manner.
So In 1978, over twenty years after seeing the dancers, I had a workable design. I wrote a computer program to draw the hyperbola and photo-reduced the curve. From this photo, Monty made a form tool, accurate to about eight microns and turned the first set of rods in mild steel. They held together but not as tightly as my calculations suggested. I recalculated the dimensions allowing for the elasticity of the steel and Monty tried again. This time it was perfect.
Below-A brilliant effort by Louis C. and the Brass Monkey guys to build a stainless steel Nova Plexus inside 3 brass ones. 34 rods in total used.