DIY Binder Clip Puzzles


Binder Clips have been the subject of many many DIY inventions. Even weapons of not so massive destruction. They’ve been a medium for sculpture. Why not then use our bendy metal friends as building blocks for puzzles? As a kid I loved those metal ring tanglement puzzles and I still have my Rubik’s Snake!

My first puzzle is an 8-clip puzzle made by linking clips clip-to-clip to form a ring. Once you have the ring formed, you should be able to achieve at least 5 distinct shapes, and possibly more. My theory is that because each fold involves half the clips, the practical limit on the number of folded shapes is something like log2(N) which would be 3 for our 8-clip puzzle. Further shapes are achieved by manipulating the free clip arms.  If you build your own variation on this puzzle or find additional possible bend shapes, be sure to let me know.

Update: My second puzzle is a kind of helix shape that transforms into a symmetrical square box shape. Unlike the previous puzzle, this one forms a flat-laying double layered box and requires a fair amount of thinking in terms of when to fold the clip arms. It’s surprisingly tricky, though this puzzle appears to have only two possible final shapes (when folded flat).  Maybe someone will be inspired to build and play with these puzzles with their (appropriately aged) children, or by themselves at work on a slow day. Here’s the new puzzle in action:

Here’s a quick video of the first puzzle in action. The box shape as shown in the video can be formed without the “handles” sticking up by folding the arms in first. The background music is a snippet of an old track of mine that seemed to fit nicely. Sorry for the noise/jumpiness in the video — I was using this as an excuse to learn how to edit and shoot a video using an android phone and Ubuntu linux. I used kdenlive for the editing, but I ended up with black bars on either side of the video due to shooting portrait and having to rotate. Next time I’ll know to shoot landscape. The camera was held up by a binder clip during shooting. :)

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