Participative Wooden Structure




About: After a degree in micro-engineering in Switzerland, I moved to Russia to discover new landscapes

This week-end at the maker faire Moscow, I presented a participative wooden structure. Anyone could make its contribution to the construction.

This structure consists in only one part type. With these parts (all the same) two patterns can be created: The triangular pattern or the squared one.

As organizer of the Maker Faire Moscow, Fablab Moscow wanted something visible, interactive and fun. I wanted to work with wood and maybe the CNC router. Finally my boss showed me the work of Rinus Roelofs. This artist from Netherlands developed these types of structure since a long time and before him, Leonardo da Vinci already showed some sketches with this principle.

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Step 1: Cut the Parts

Download the file named "rinusFace" and scale it at the size you want. Be careful: The thickness should correspond to the scale you use: Non scaled, the parts make 10 cm long and 3 mm thickness (first image). For the presented structure, I scaled 6 times (length=60 cm and thickness= 18 mm).

I used the CNC router (FlexiCam) to cut the parts in the Fablab. Caution: Let a frame strong enough to hold the part in place when machined. In my case I added screws between each parts and cut it one by one to be able to cut more part out of one board.

Step 2: Clean the Parts

The cleaning consist in two steps:

  • Make a rayon (3 mm) on both faces with the hand router
  • Sand the sides with the spindle sander

I found an efficient way to clean the edges with the hand router: I cut a template with the laser cutter which allowed me to hold the parts in place while making the rayon and save a lot of time (I made 120 parts). Instead of securing the part I secured the template to the table and inserted the part in it (see the images).

Step 3: Coat the Parts and Build

I applied a finish oil (Danish oil) with a cloth to protect the wood from humidity and dirt. This oil keeps the original aspect of the wood.


It was fun to see that people of all ages were amused by this structure. Also, a lot of research and exploration has been made by the users, everyone having its own way of building and using the structure.

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    11 Discussions


    8 hours ago

    Do you have a drawing that would work on standard 2 x 4 lumber?
    great idea love it!


    9 hours ago

    How strong is it in all directions? Eg would it be suitable to use this design as a base for a roof structure and glue it together?


    2 days ago

    This is beautiful work. I find it fascinating.

    Could you answer a few questions for me? Here's a dimensioned drawing from your provided DXF file:

    1. When (in step 1) you specify a 10 cm part, is the above drawing dimensioned correctly?
    2. How are the widths of the two slots (0.71 cm and 0.51 cm) related to the material thickness? You state that 10 cm part uses 3 mm material, and a part scaled six times larger uses 18 mm. What about material 19 mm thick (which is around a standard US lumber thickness of 0.75 inches)?
    3. Is the radius of the bottom of the part related to the radius of a sphere that you could build from the parts?

    2 replies

    Reply 2 days ago

    Thank you

    1) Yes the file should be correctly dimensioned. It is around 10 cm long.
    2) The slots and the thinkness should fit together. For the perpendicular assemply the slots are larger so you should not have problems but for the triangular assembly, it just match. To keep the same proportion with 19mm, I suggest you to scale by 6.333
    3) Yes the radius of the part is the radius of the sphere even if I doubt that you can make a complete sphere. To do a complete sphere you should calculate the relation between the sphere diameter and the part length.


    Reply 13 hours ago

    What is the calculation for x part length = y dome diameter?


    13 hours ago

    This is a brilliant way for me to construct a temporary shelter. With the frame thus constructed, I could “skin” it with a large tarp. Thanks!

    Uggh! I've always struggled to build a dome using straight pieces and weird connectors. This direction is so much better to be going in! Thanks!


    Question 16 hours ago

    Is there a size chart or template size that I can use to cut by hand and not cut not using a CNC?


    20 hours ago

    Great, it looks nice and it's a fun concept that people can build the structure together even if they don't know each other.
    Cool that the structure is strong enough for people to climb onto!


    21 hours ago

    I think using a template to hold the pieces during cleanup was brilliant! I thoroughly enjoyed this post! Your enthusiasm and joy at watching the exhibit being used comes through in your writing. Thank you.


    2 days ago

    Clever stuff!