Math Monday: Whittling links and knots

By George Hart for the Museum of Mathematics

Whittling is a traditional technique for making one-of-a-kind objects that doesn’t get enough attention nowadays. A time-old method of demonstrating one’s whittling technique is to carve linked objects from a single piece of wood. The above step-by-step guide shows four stages in making a pair of linked hearts from a single block.

Bjarne Jespersen, a Danish carver with geometric interests, creates not just linked hearts, but intricate linkages of knots. The above image shows a beautifully symmetric 10cm carving of four interlocked trefoil knots from a single piece of wood. The components are free to jiggle just slightly.

Even harder, here are six interlinked paths forming a tangle with dodecahedral symmetry. It has twelve five-fold openings like the one at the center of the image. Again, it is carved from a solid block and the individual parts are just free to wiggle a bit.

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Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at garstipsandtools.com.

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