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This Should Work: A wooden star illusion

Sometimes one looks like a perfect star or a perfect diamond. Sometimes another looks like two diamonds, one on top of the other. Other times one looks like a square with a triangle at the top and bottom.
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This Should Work with Bruce MacNab

Here is a fascinating holiday project, though it’s not only for the twelve days of Christmas. It looks good twelve months of the year. And it’s made from twelve pieces of wood.

I’ve been admiring these mysterious stars for a long time. A neighbour down the road has them hanging from a pine tree outside his home. When I drive by, I always slow down to study the stars. 

TSW Star 35 Christmas Star 1A shape-shifting star. Photo by Bruce MacNab.

Sometimes one looks like a perfect star or a perfect diamond. Sometimes another looks like two diamonds, one on top of the other. Other times one looks like a square with a triangle at the top and bottom. Talk about hypnotizing. More than a few times I almost drove into the ditch!

One summer day, I pulled into the driveway and knocked on the door to ask about the stars. A retired 84-year-old answered the door. He could tell me all about his stars because he made them. In fact, he’s made hundreds of them over the years and either sold them or given them away.

PHOTO TSW 35 Christmas Star 2Another perspective of the shape-shifting star. Photo by Bruce MacNab.

Here’s how they are made:

Start with strips of pine that measure ¾ by ¾ inches.

Cut a dozen pieces 6-inches long. Be accurate! They must be exactly the same length. And you might as well cut extras in case some of the pieces split.

Cutting the pieces is the easy part. There are dozens of ways to put this star together incorrectly. The pieces nail together at right angles in the shape of the letter L. Then each connection changes direction.

The best advice I can give is to study the photo carefully. The first star is a tough one to build, even for an experienced woodworker. When my neighbour finally got one assembled properly, he kept it hanging in his shop and copied it over and over.

Use two finish nails at each corner. Don’t forget to use galvanized nails if you plan to hang your star outside.

You should glue the joints. For my star I used weatherproof glue, a well-known construction adhesive that comes in caulking tubes. Hang your star with a loop of clear fishing line which lasts forever and doesn’t knot in the wind.

There you have it—a multi-dimensional optical illusion made from a dozen simple pieces of wood. Now, just watch out for your star-struck neighbours. They might wish they had one of your stars.

Bruce MacNab, a Red Seal carpenter, has taught carpentry courses for NSCC and the Guysborough County Adult Learning Association. Visit him online at thisshouldwork.ca



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About the Author: Bruce MacNab

Bruce MacNab, a Red Seal carpenter, has taught carpentry courses for NSCC and the Guysborough County Adult Learning Association.
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