Articulated M.C. Escher "Curl-up" Model

I've been a fan of M.C. Escher's drawings since I was very young, and have always particularly loved his invented creature Curl-up (or Wentelteefje in Dutch).  I recently had the opportunity, as an Artist in Residence at Instructables, to build a model of it.  I have seen one or two previous attempts at the standing pose, but none that curled up, and I determined to make the attempt.

Paso 1: Analysis

The first thing I did was to make some diagrams, expanding on Escher's creature as well as I could. Escher's published work containing the Curl-up constists of three drawings, Curl-up, House of Stairs, and House of Stairs II. These drawings are of course art, not a drafting diagram, so I had to make up some parts that were never shown clearly. I discovered that Escher cheated, too: the Curl-up's head is, in the standing posture, clearly the widest part of its body, but in the curled-up posture the smaller body segments encompass it, without any apparent stretching or bending. Although, with Escher's theme of realistically drawn but physically impossible objects, this isn't really surprising.

The Curl-up (in most cases I could observe) has a carapace with 18 body segments plus its head, with the last one, the tail, finishing in a rounded point instead of attaching to another segment. There is some inner flesh that protrudes a little from the head shell, but the underside of the body is never shown clearly. There are three pairs of legs, with a quite human knee and foot attached. I decided not to worry about the soft, squishy interior until I had the carapace working. I numbered the segments starting from the one just behind the head. The legs extend from segments 4, 9, and 14. The join between segments 1-2, 2-3, and 3-4 have a significant reverse bend in them when the Curl-up is standing normally, to keep its head raised. Some of the later segments also have a slighter reverse bend but this depends on the Curl-up's movement and activity.
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dworley dice: Ene 4, 2014. 10:53 AM
I see you have paid your tithe. It came out pretty cool!
Greasetattoo dice: Ene 4, 2014. 8:12 AM
software used?
rachel dice: Ene 6, 2014. 2:58 PM
I used a CAD program called Moment of Inspiration ( I've been using it for a couple years now. It's not as full featured as something like Rhino or Inventor but it's an awful lot cheaper. There's a small but dedicated community and the program's author is extremely helpful and active in the forums, which is rare and awesome. I recommend it as a good beginner CAD program; these days I'd also look at FreeCAD (, which is actually free.
Greasetattoo dice: Ene 6, 2014. 3:32 PM
Thank you...
I use Sketchup!
Alpha_geek dice: Ene 2, 2014. 3:02 PM
Stunning little project and a fantastic write-up of the design process. Many thanks for sharing ... :-)
graham641 dice: Ene 2, 2014. 11:42 AM
DukeP dice: Ene 2, 2014. 5:49 AM
Excellent! Where is the .stl files?
rachel dice: Ene 6, 2014. 2:59 PM
I didn't think to post these originally but now I want to tweak them a little more first ... the neck bend in particular I am not happy with and want to improve. I will post the files once I've done some of these fixes!
Gregbot dice: Ene 1, 2014. 4:07 PM
Mr.+Noack dice: Ene 1, 2014. 3:52 PM
Awesome! I'm a huge Escher fan!
BadPuns dice: Ene 1, 2014. 12:17 PM
I have loved Escher's work since I was six. He probably would've loved this.
ynze dice: Ene 1, 2014. 11:11 AM
That is one lovely Wentelteefje!
emilyvanleemput dice: Ene 1, 2014. 7:11 AM
This is great!!!
Kiteman dice: Ene 1, 2014. 5:04 AM
Oh, that's an amazing result, and an excellent write-up.

Are we going to see different-sized Curl-Ups appearing around Pier 9 now?
Toga_Dan dice: Dic 31, 2014. 10:43 PM
Cool project. Love Escher.
angelgabriel dice: Dic 31, 2014. 9:19 PM
Well done. You put a lot of thought into this. A large scale version would be interesting to make.
KEUrban dice: Ene 1, 2014. 10:10 AM
Motorized with a driver, for Burning Man?!

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Dic 31, 2013


Bio: I'm a founding member of Noisebridge (, a hackerspace in San Francisco, and Ace Monster Toys (, in Oakland. If ... Más »

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