Puzzles are around us everyday. This simple bolt and dowel puzzle is part of a larger category of puzzles called impossible bottles. Impossible bottles are puzzles such as a deck of cards or ship in a bottle. There is often some work that is done before presenting the puzzle to others. These bolts and dowel will leave the observer scratching their head wondering how seemingly simple objects appear as they do.
If you would like to know how to make this very simple bolt and dowel impossible bottle, you will need a few items and a little time.
Step 1: Thoughts and Planning
Since this type of puzzle is about the bottle just as much as it is about the bolts through the dowel, each puzzle will be different.
When planning your puzzle, keep in mind that the sum of the width of the dowel (5/8 inch for me) and the length of the bolt (3/4 inch for me) must be less than the width of the inside of the bottle. I selected my dowel based on the opening of the bottle then selected the bolts based on that decision. This is extremely similar to the bottle I used.
Before you proceed, I would encourage you to either mentally think how you would do this, or go out and do it yourself. What would you use? Water, magnets, toothbrush or floss?
Once you have thought about it - or if you just want to know how to stump your friends - read on for the process I used.
Step 2: Prepare the Dowel
Cut the dowel as long as you'd like. Make sure it's just a little longer than the depth of your bottle. Doing this will ensure you can reach to the bottom of the bottle with the other end of the dowel.
Drill four holes in one end of the dowel. Be sure that the drill bit used is slightly larger than the bolts that will fit through them! I used 1/4 inch bolts. Drilling a 1/4 inch hole is a bad idea because this will not allow gravity to pull the bolt from the hole. This will lock the bolt in place and make it near impossible to remove the bolt from the dowel inside the bottle.
Sand the rough edges and finish the dowel. I applied a few coats of beeswax.
Step 3: Prepare to Solve
Get everything ready to assemble your bottle.
Other than the bottle, nuts, bolts, and dowel, you will need something like a straightened out paper clip, a tube from canned air/WD-40, or a stiff wire to manipulate the nuts while assembling. A broken bicycle spoke is pictured here.
Step 4: Insert All Nuts and Bolts
Dump all nuts and bolts in the bottle. Make sure they are not assembled in any way.
Step 5: Bolt One
Each bolt will have the same steps to get them attached to the dowel. Always start from the hole closest to the bottom of the bottle. Do this, because if you start from the hole closest to the neck of the bottle, each bolt will get in the way of the next.
Stand one of the bolts up by using the end of the dowel. Carefully nudge the bottle until the upright bolt is lined up with the bottom hole.
Carefully insert the dowel over the bolt.
Pull the dowel and bolt to the neck of the bottle. This will hold the bolt in place while you rotate the dowel so the threads are facing down.
Gently shake your bottle till a nut is under the bolt.
Lower the dowel and bolt till it touches the nut.
Drag the nut back to the neck of the bottle and rotate one more time.
Now that the nut is on top, carefully slide the dowel back into the bottle while keeping the head of the bolt as close to the edge as possible.
Insert whatever tool you are using and slowly rotate the nut clockwise until it is as tight as possible. This is done by tightly holding the bolt against the edge of the neck and allowing the nut to be free.
Step 6: Bolt Two
To insert the second bolt you will use the same steps from the first bolt.
Stand up the first bolt and insert it into the dowel.
Using the neck of the bottle, rotate the bolt, grab the nut, rotate again, and tighten the nut.
Step 7: Bolt Three
You have two options for the third bolt. You can insert it the same direction as the first, or you can rotate in 180 degrees. For the length of bolt that is allowed in this bottle/dowel combination it doesn't matter. It just depends on what you want it to look like. If the threads of your bolts are showing on the other side of the nut, you may need the nuts to be inserted in the same direction, or the threads from the first bolt will interfere with the third bolt.
Step 8: Bolt Four
If you've made it this far, only a little bit further to go. Following the same steps from the previous three bolts, insert your last bolt and tighten your last nut.
Step 9: How to Disassemble?
The disassembly of the bottle is much easier than it is to assemble. With the nut facing down, tap the end of the dowel against the bottom of the bottle. Gravity will slowly rotate the nut loose.
If you make one of these puzzle bottles, please share your results! I'd love to see what other puzzle bottle ideas you come up with!