Tips and Tutorials:

How to make a Millennium Puzzle


To make a Puzzle the way I did, you will need these materials:

A sheet of thin plywood, I used 2mm
Some balsa wood dowelling
Polymer clay
A wooden curtain ring or similar, about 30mm diameter
Two small screws
And something to hang it from! I used a big zinc chain from a hardware store.

And you'll need these tools/glue etc:

PVA glue
A sharp craft knife, and possibly a small hacksaw
A ruler and a sharp pencil
Masking tape
Sanding sealer, and a cheap paintbrush which you're going to wreck by covering it in sanding sealer
A drill with a small drill bit
A can of metallic gold ACRYLIC (this is important!) spray paint. Non-acrylic paint won't dry on polymer clay because of the plasticizers in it, so don't be tempted to use anything else. ^_^
A pair of pliers if you're hanging it on a chain.

Step 1

Make a blueprint. Find as many pictures of the Puzzle as you can - it's a difficult one because Yu-Gi-Oh's animation is rather cheap, so the design of the Puzzle isn't consistent between shots. But figure out what *you* think it looks like. ^_^

Then draw out a blueprint of the front; here's mine. You're welcome to use it - having a blueprint on the computer is handy because you can print it out in different sizes until it looks right. Once you've got the printout to the size you want, save it and print it out a few times. You'll find it really handy to be able to cut different bits out of these printouts and use them as templates.

Step 2

Mark out the four sides and top of the puzzle on the plywood. The front and back triangular pieces can be traced from the blueprint you've just printed out. That gives you how wide the top piece will be. Decide how deep the top piece will be (the distance from front to back of the puzzle), and then a little maths will tell you the dimensions of the triangular pieces at the sides. ^_^

Cut out the five pieces that make up the pyramid. If you're using thin plywood and you have a sharp craft knife, you should be able to use that and a ruler to do it, but otherwise a small hacksaw may help.

You'll see when you hold the pieces together that they don't fit together properly at the edges - you'll need to sand the edges to the right angle, by rubbing the pieces on a sheet of sandpaper on a flat surface.

Step 3

Now you've got the basic shape of the puzzle! Next thing to do is assemble it - start by putting the four sides together. DO NOT attach the top yet!

Use lots of PVA glue along the edges to attach the four sides together, and use masking tape to hold them in place while the glue dries. When you're positioning them, hold the top piece up to make sure that it'll fit right when you attach it later.

When that glue has dried, cut some strips of balsa dowelling and glue them inside the pyramid to reinforce it, criss-crossing the shape (you'll have to cut the ends of the strips at an angle to make them fit).

Step 4

Time for the top! I added a raised rectangle on top because most of the pics of the puzzle from Yu-Gi-Oh seem to show it. To do that, cut out a piece of plywood the same shape as the top piece but smaller, and glue it onto the top piece.

(You might find it convenient to do the sanding and sanding-sealer bits from Step 5 on the top piece now. You can do them later, but it's easier to sand the top piece before you attach the loop.)

At this point we're going to attach the loop thing that the puzzle hangs from. Take the curtain ring or whatever you're using, and cut the bottom off it in a straight line to make the sort of arch-shape (look at the blueprint to see what I mean). I'm going to call it an arch from now on, although it's really a bit more circular than that.

Use a ruler to measure the exact centre of the top piece, and mark out two points, one on each side of the centre, where the two ends of the arch will go. (so that each point you mark is smack in the middle of an end of the arch). Make matching marks on the arch itself, so that when you hold it onto the top piece in the position it's going to be in, the marks on the arch meet the marks on the top piece.
Now use two or three small scraps of plywood, and glue them on top of each other to the underside of the top piece. We're going to use screws and glue to hold the arch onto the puzzle, and this reinforcement gives the screws something to grip.

Drill two small holes through the top piece, including all the reinforcing pieces, where your two marks are. Drill holes a little way into the arch where those marks are, just a few millimetres. These holes should be just a little narrower than the screws you're using.

Now glue the arch onto the top piece, using lots of PVA glue as usual. While the glue is still wet (with PVA you've got plenty of time), screw the screws through the holes in the top piece, starting from the underside, so that they go up through the top piece and straight into the arch from underneath. Keep going till the screws are holding the arch tight against the top piece, and then leave the glue to dry.

Step 5

Now for the last of the woodwork. Glue the top piece onto the rest of the puzzle, secure with masking tape, and allow to dry.

Now you've got something that looks like this.

Time to sand it smooth. Have a really good go at it with sandpaper wrapped around a flat block, and/or on a flat surface. Then use a brush to coat the whole puzzle with sanding sealer, which is basically just varnish with sawdust in it, and will fill the tiny gaps in the wood to produce a smoother effect. When the sanding sealer has dried, sand it smooth. Repeat this step (coat with sanding sealer, let it dry, sand it smooth) until you're happy with the finish.

I made the bits on the top corners of the Puzzle three-dimensional. (I don't know what to call them! Corner protectors? Brackets?) If you want to do like I did, use card to make a template for the corner protector thingies, cut them out of plywood, sand the edges so they fit together right, and glue them on. You can add them before or after you do the sanding - I sanded the sides of the pyramid first, then added the corner pieces and sanded them, and then used the sanding sealer. But it doesn't really matter.

Step 6

Hooray, all the hard work's over! Now you need to make the eye design on the front out of polymer clay. I made the 'iris' first and baked it, then moulded the rest of the design around it. Use your blueprint to make sure you make it the right size! I didn't find it too difficult - most of the design is just long rolled-out cylinders of clay bent into the right shape. You can see what I ended up with in this pic again.

Once you've got the design, glue it onto the puzzle. You can probably use PVA for this too, but I used superglue because I'm not sure how well PVA works on polymer clay.

Step 7

And at last, as a reward for all your hard work, you get to play with paint. Set up a space where you can use spray-paint without getting murdered by any members of your family. ^_^ Cover it with newspaper and hang the puzzle from some wire or something narrow. I put a length of wire through the loop and used it to hold the puzzle while I painted it, then I tied the wire onto a rod and used it to suspend the puzzle in a wastepaper bin. Figure out how you're going to do this before you start! It's difficult to find something you can hang the puzzle from overnight when you're walking around with a gold paint-dripping thing that you can't put down. ^_^

Spray-paint the puzzle gold. You don't need to use too much paint, but make sure you spray from all angles, especially on the front, so that all the cracks and crevices get paint in them. Leave it to dry overnight.

Step 8

Once the paint is dry, use a sharp pencil and a ruler to 'engrave' the remaining line pattern onto the puzzle. You can't see it very well on my photos, but it was actually quite clear in reality. You can varnish the puzzle if you like, but I don't like the effect it produces, it looks less metallic that way.

Add the chain, if you're using one. Cut it to the right length and use pliers to connect the ends.

And that's it!

Congratulations ^_^. Click on the thumbnail below to see what I ended up with.

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