Thirty Days of Making: Wooden platonic solid frames

I’m in Day 15 of a short series: Thirty Days of Making. Every day for the next thirty days, I intend to make something, anything, that is in some way connected to school. There won’t always be pictures, and I reserve the right to credit myself for things that I help my kids make. But I’ve decided that I need thirty days of maker success and maker failure under my belt to be a better designer.

I’ve decided that artwork counts, but not writing (unless it’s part of the art, like calligraphy). Digital work counts, but it has to be useful or publishable.

Some days there will be pictures, some days there won’t be. Each blog entry will contain a list of some of the materials and tools, a quick review of the success or failure of the Making, and a reflection on what I think I learned from the endeavor.  (My friend Alicia is beginning a new series along these lines, 12 weeks of the Artist’s Way — I wish her well in her process, go check her out!).

 Reason for the Project

I love the platonic solids.  I’ve written about them before.  I think every kid should get a set for his fifth birthday, and learn what you can do with them. Actually, every kid should be given a set of five or six of them, so they can play with them in stacks and rows and walls and other formations. Heck, just give the kids dice, and let them learn to role-play the old-fashioned way.

But I also wanted to experiment with some other building techniques, like the ones I used on the house-frames project.  I had done a new one which I hadn’t taken credit here for yet, and I wanted a chance to show off that one.

Barn frame This was built in a method I think of as “The Amish Way”, with me laying out a first form on the table, and glueing that in all of its parts, and then building three more matching frames. The result was this form rather like a medieval barn assembled out of pre-made parts on the ground. I was reminded, as I assembled this, of the scene in Harrison Ford’s movie about hiding in Amish country from some deranged cops (what was that, Witness?)

These were not that good, alas.

And then I got the idea of building the rest of the Platonic solids out of these chopsticks.

So I started working.

Process and Result

First of all, this was a very different kind of effort than my prior efforts at building the platonic solids. There, I was usually cutting out a previously existing paper template, and gluing it together. There are exceptions, but not many.  This time, I was assembling it as I went, improvising connections, and trying to build a complete model of each of the platonic solids in the amount of time that I had available to work in, today.

The results were sorta pretty, but for the dodecahedron I was raising against time, more than a little.  It’s very challenging to assemble something out of chopsticks and hot glue when the weight of the glue is making the pieces sag significantly.  The first few pentagons were easy, and then for a while they were supporting one another. But the angle of repose for hot glue is lying on the floor, not at a jaunty or dodecahedral angle.

Plus, dodecahedrons hate having their photograph taken.  Is like they think we’re all paparazzi or something. They shrink back and hide at the slightest provocation, really, and then you can’t do anything to help them at all, even if its in their own best interest to be photographed.

Thirty days of making: polyhedrons This one looks rather more drunk than they usually do.  Apparently the dodecahedron needs some trussing or additional lines to stanOn the other hand, the octohedron and the cube came out all right.  Both exhibiting rather more stability than my dodecahedron, and not bad for what they are — chopstick-and-glue models of sublime metaphysical and magical constants. Oh well. Better luck next time.

Reflection on my Learning

Today, I ran out of time for the first time since I began this series.  I was rushing through the Dodecahedron project, and that’s part of the reason it fell over and looks so irregular.  I rushed the last few minutes of the project, trying to succeed at completing it in a very narrow window of time.  And I failed.  I look back on the day’s project, though, and I realize that I needed to fail.  I needed to know that this project couldn’t be done in a hour, or 50 minutes. which brings me to a very specific form of learning that I think is critical.

Reflection on General Learning

I already know what the five platonic solids look like.  I study them, reflect on them, build models of them, and consider them regularly.  My students don’t.  Beyond the cube and the tetrahedron, most kids wouldn’t know these shapes existed, much less how they work, until they’d played with them a bit.  And then to build them?  Ambitious.


Two of five stars.  I could have used props until the glue dried, or built support systems for it, but I didn’t.  There’s more to learn from this conceptual design, but not today.

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