Main Project Inspirations – Celtic Puzzle Box

Since childhood, I’ve always been fascinated with puzzles and mechanical challenges – counterintuitive box openings, linkages, and physical brainteasers to solve have always been of interest to me. I would like to create my own puzzle box which can only be opened in a secret way, and I plan to have the main component of this puzzle be a ball-slide mechanism with an extra twist and unique aesthetic design. This type of mechanism is commonly used in several other puzzle boxes I have seen online and in practice. Attached below is a helpful diagram I found showing how they typically function – I will model my puzzle solution around this mechanic. I’ve also included an image of another type of wooden puzzle box to illustrate the concept.

The visual design of the box is of equal if not greater importance – the ball channel, overall dimensions and shape, and tab interfaces will all be unique to my project and style, and my choices of wood, patterning, and form will influence the style of the box greatly. I wish to create this artifact in the style of old Norse and Celtic designs. This will involve lots of precise work with dremel tools as well as inlays of silver or brass wire which will likely need to be smoothed and hammered in. I have begun basic sketches as a proof of concept, but my next update will include high quality drawings of the puzzle box as well as a CAD model which I will create in Solidworks. Some examples of these Celtic and Scandinavian designs are featured below, and I’ve also included an example of brass wire inlays, which I am excited to try, as I have attempted such a task on rings and other small accessories in the past.

This aesthetic has been used in designs dating back to movements of the 5th-1st centuries BCE in Ireland and the Nordic countries and I chose it because my family has ties strong ties to Irish culture and design aesthetics. Much of my family keeps artifacts and art pieces featuring these time-honored Celtic design patterns. Even in modern times, a recent visit to Ireland revealed to me that many of these aesthetic concepts are still widely in use across the country, especially in more rural areas. It would be fantastic for me to have created some artwork that is not only functional, but also represents my strong ties to my Irish heritage which much of my close and extended family share.

My next steps will include (in addition to a model and sketches displaying the mechanism and required tolerances) sketches of potential patterning and embossing styles that I may be able to carve into my artifact. I will spend a lot of time looking at ancient artifacts and common Norse patterns to discern which of these are feasible, aesthetically valuable, and pair well with my wood choice, form, overall shape and size, and methods of interfacing between parts. With my spare time I will sketch as many patterns as possible while working on my CAD model and remaining excited to have and create a tangible, aesthetically pleasing, and functional piece of my heritage!

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • This is a great post, I have been thinking about making a puzzle box as well and I really like the direction you took it. Puzzle boxes are so fascinating to me and I really like the Celtic inspiration. Have you ever seen Chris Ramsay videos?

  • Ankit Karkhanis
    March 12, 2023 6:57 pm

    Hi Nate,
    I am very excited to see the your puzzle box. I personally have had a curious interest in puzzle boxes and appreciate your decision of making one!. I look forward to your next post with the mechanism and design update!.


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