3D-Printed Impossible Dovetail Puzzle

Here's a 3D-printed version of the classic impossible dovetail puzzle, inspired by a machined metal version by Chris at Youtube channel Clickspring.

After modeling the geometry in Onshape, I printed my version in Estonian blue, black, and white. I wanted to sign my name on the pin so I rebuilt that part in Solidworks, which still offers a less annoying way of importing 2D vector art for this sort of feature. If you'd like to make your own impossible dovetail or play with the CAD models, follow these links:

One thing I've learned from watching people handle this is that it doesn't really qualify as a puzzle, at least not for the layperson. They pull the pin and slide the two halves apart and say “So?”. It's more of a visual joke for craftsmen because it plays with ideas they already have about dovetail joints and orthogonality. Most people expect a three dimensional puzzle to fall apart relatively easily, then be very difficult to put back together, which isn't true of the impossible dovetail. Without any expectations of how dovetail joints are made and assembled, the joke falls flat.

But no matter! I made one copy each for two people: my father, who, like me, is a mechanical engineer, product designer, and craftsman, and professor Daniel Raviv of Florida Atlantic University, my thesis advisor and a great lover of puzzles of all sorts. They got the joke, and that's good enough for me!

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