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Kumiki puzzles, as they’re known, have been manufactured in the Ashigarashimo district of central Japan since the late 19th century, but the traditional fastenerless joinery techniques from which their intricate designs are derived are truly ancient. Kumiki puzzles are commonly representative, prototypically taking the form of traditional Japanese buildings, but more often, today, of animals or vehicles. Abstract kumiki are only slightly less common, the so-called “Great Pagoda,” a commonly known type of octahedral burr puzzle, being a prime example.

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The top photo is taken from this Japanese site. The puzzles featured there are available in the US through Nada Scientific, and a wide selection of other kumiki can be found at Cleverwood.

Sean Michael Ragan

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.


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