Introduction: Geometric Sculpture From 72 Pencils

Picture of Geometric Sculpture From 72 Pencils

George W. Hart is a sculptor of constructive geometric forms (and writer of the Math Monday columns at Make), and I've long been an admirer of his work. Reproducing his art is far from trivial - I once tried to build his Chronosynclastic Infundibulum, but broke so many CDs I gave up in disgust. However, I recently discovered that Alejandro Erickson, instructable-r and self-confessed mathemagician, lives in the same city as me and runs workshops on geometric construction, so we hired him for an afternoon. He was the great geometry guru we'd hoped he'd be, and he kept 6 kids and 3 adults well entertained and busy making tensegrities. As a special request, he also taught two of us how to make a replica of Hart's 72 pencils sculpture (Hart made a limited edition of 19 unique examples of these). It took a couple of leisurely hours to build and glue, and with supervision was surprisingly easy to make. It can be assembled inexpensively using wooden pencils (conveniently sold in packs of 72!), a few rubber bands and a little superglue, in pretty much exactly the same way as Alejandro makes his Hexastix sculptures (see below for the video). The hexagonal cross-section of the pencils make them a very natural fit for this geometric form, as the holes in the lattice are themselves hexagonal. The erasers are arranged tetrahedrally with respect to one another; the volume enclosed by the pencils is a rhombic dodecahedron. It's a neat piece of art that I'm pleased to own; many thanks to George W. Hart for the inspiration and Alejandro for the instruction!

I made a variant of this sculpture using 76 pencils, in which the pencils form six-pointed stars rather than hexagons. I used colored pencils for that one, but couldn't find a nice set of exactly 76. There are good sets of 72 colored pencils available, though.

Video: Follow Alejandro's instructions, but build only as far as a hexagon consisting of a ring of 18 pencils, removing the inner pencils as you go. If you find the erasers aren't arranged tetrahedrally (as I did), just invert one ring one pencil at a time until your sculpture looks like the original. Superglue the joints before removing the rubber bands.

Step 1: Builds

Picture of Builds

Happily, lots of people have made this sculpture, and some of them have shared their builds with me. They've often been very creative too, using among other things BBQ skewers, copper pipe, pvc and toothpicks! Thanks to guerroloco, jayefuu, EVM, akarod79, palmsco, mrpesas, XP1 and innovationcreation for sharing.


guerroloco made it! (author)2015-12-24

Giant version, made of PVC, under construction. PVC turned out to not work so well because it's too flexible. Our next giant version will use copper pipe.

makendo (author)guerroloco2015-12-24

Ha, fantastic! Love it. The copper pipe one sounds great, would love to photos of that too

guerroloco made it! (author)makendo2016-02-16

Done! It's big and heavy. It took about 3 days to construct out of 1.25" copper pipe. Each stick is 5' long. I used metal bands to hold everything together.

makendo (author)guerroloco2016-02-16

Wow! Spectacular.

guerroloco (author)makendo2016-02-16

Yeah, now to figure out how to keep our local meth heads from stealing it for the metal value! :)

guerroloco (author)makendo2016-02-14

Working on it!

akarod79 (author)2015-03-01

Saw this and thought what a great project to do with my son (9 yrs old). Of course I left him do 95% of it. He then told me "gluing is going to be tough, so you can do that." So here is our completed project. We had a small accident where son...we broke a pencil and the only other pencil we had was a green one. We decided to keep it as memory.

makendo (author)akarod792015-03-01

Great job!

Jayefuu made it! (author)2014-05-27

I didn't have enough pencils so I cut 13 cm lengths out of bamboo BBQ skewers. 72 pieces total.

yulili (author)Jayefuu2014-06-04

can you teach me

i am very interstring it

makendo (author)Jayefuu2014-05-27

Cool, thanks for posting. I keep meaning to do it again myself with 4 different colours of pencil, but I never remember to actually buy any...

motions (author)2014-01-09

So I had to make one of these. It was a lot easier than it looks. I have absolutely no need for it at ALL but I just had to try it. Luckily, my sister-in-law is a teacher so I gave it to her and she loved it.

Next step, build this using PVC pipe for a huge yard sculpture. ;-)

MOMO100 (author)2013-08-16


hufan (author)2013-06-24

I'm gonna try it tomorrow

craftmachine (author)2013-04-25


white dragon (author)2013-01-22

can i use this as my cantamaths project in school???

makendo (author)white dragon2013-01-22

fill your boots

white dragon (author)makendo2013-01-23

sorry i didnt catch that...could you please say it differently? THNX

makendo (author)white dragon2013-01-23


white dragon (author)makendo2013-01-24

thanks you very much!

parmsco (author)2012-10-26

I could not find 72 pencils at my house so I made it out of toothpicks and used rubber bands from when I had braces.

makendo (author)parmsco2012-10-28

That's really neat. Thanks for posting it!

playfulplans (author)2012-08-27

Wonderful- excellent work.

XP1 (author)2012-07-26

Thank you so much for the Instructable and video. It took a while; however, I finally figured it out. Now I just need to get some Super-Glue.

makendo (author)XP12012-07-26


Zaphod Beetlebrox (author)2012-07-11

Just like to let you know that I built one of these and that it works as a vary unique pencil holder.

mooner77 (author)2012-04-22

would it be easier or harder to use straws?

makendo (author)mooner772012-04-22

I think pencils are probably easier. Straws would tend to deform too much.

Chimex14 (author)2012-03-06

HEY just btw, this geometric sculpture pencil thing made it to Failblog, and it was categorized as WIN!
It then made it to teh featured section of iFunny.
So kudos
Ppl think that u b epic

alejandroerickson (author)2012-02-14

I've now made a puzzle based on this sculpture available on ebay:
Here is an image of it (large version at )

innovationcreation (author)2012-02-09

I got super enthused and did not see the smaller note above the video saying

"Follow Alejandro's instructions, but build only as far as a hexagon consisting of a ring of 18 pencils, removing the inner pencils as you go. If you find the erasers aren't arranged tetrahedrally (as I did), just invert one ring one pencil at a time until your sculpture looks like the original. "

I had more than enough pencils but realized I used way more than 72... And I also noticed one axis set was not oriented correctly. And on my pencils, the pencil logo is not oriented in any consistent fashion. I figured out the removing the central core of pencils and re-oriented one axis.

Now to super glue...

Good work... yeah, having one the pencils aligned wrong is annoying but doesn't take too long to fix, fortunately.

Jarheadicus (author)2012-01-31 life?


Win Guy (author)FlatLinerMEDIC2012-02-06


footbawl4life (author)2012-02-06


Xeriel (author)2012-02-05

Will it hold precariously together without any glue or elastics, or does the whole thing fall apart?

makendo (author)Xeriel2012-02-05

No, it would just fall apart.

EVM (author)2012-02-04

Me and a friend made one and turned it into a pen tray by cutting out the middle and making a floor in it.

Thanks for the great idea

Greetings from the Netherlands

makendo (author)EVM2012-02-04

Wow, it's actually functional now... nice! What did you use to cut out the middle?

EVM (author)makendo2012-02-05

We used the blade from a hack saw. The small pegs at both ends of the blade were grinded off with an angle grinder to prevent them damaging other pencils and we wrapped one half with band-aids so we didn't cut ourselves. In total it took 24 cuts

mrpesas (author)2012-02-03

I saw this instructable and said "that's cool...wait...I have a box of pencils too" My students were very impressed with my "skillz"

makendo (author)mrpesas2012-02-03

Bet they were, nice!

Win Guy (author)2012-02-03

Makers gonna make. I am a maker.

bg_askins (author)2012-01-30

wow....just wow

Chimex14 (author)bg_askins2012-01-30


davmaldo (author)Chimex142012-02-02


arronsparrow (author)davmaldo2012-02-02


Win Guy (author)arronsparrow2012-02-03

Zeepity-Zoppity-Boopity-Boppity-Deetily-Doddily-DITTO! (Say it out loud) 4

alejandroerickson (author)2012-02-02

Way to go! I'm so glad we connected and were able to do this. I want to add that I also sell kits to make mini versions of the coloured skewer hexastix in the video. Message me if the listing on ebay is expired.

If you live in Victoria, I would be happy to come do a workshop with you!

About This Instructable




Bio: Analog maker dabbling in digital manufacture
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