The Puzzle Tree - San Diego, California
Custom Puzzle Craft
Maker of Fine Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles and Sculptures
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Erected October 30, 2003 - Dismantled January 26, 2005 - Destroyed October 22, 2007

The Puzzle Tree
John S. Stokes III and Bob Archer
Dedicated November 15, 2003
Port of San Diego Urban Trees Public Art project

Located on Harbor Drive, San Diego, California
"An original artwork on loan to the San Diego Unified Port District"

To view my pictures of all 30 sculptures of the 2003-2004 Urban Trees presentation see Urban Trees.
For a giant picture (3/4 meg) of the Puzzle Tree see: Giant Picture

Puzzle Tree with passerby to show how large the sculpture is

The Puzzle Tree is a celebration of creative puzzle cutting. 23 creatively cut puzzle pieces surround a single traditionally cut puzzle piece, forming a 24 piece jigsaw puzzle, suspended in a hemisphere at the top of a pole. The 24 pieces may be mentally moved, rotated and flipped by inquisitive spectators, and if persistent, maybe a few matching pieces may be located!

The Puzzle Tree's Plaque

The Center Pieces

John (me!), fiddling with one of my favorite pieces during installation on October 30th, 2003

Bob Archer - Testing the structure's design
At this point all 11 lower branches and one upper branch have been bolted to a test pipe
The pile of wood to the lower left is leftover wood that surrounded the puzzle pieces

Some pieces cut in August 2003 by John, prior to weatherproofing (colors bleached by flash)

This image is an approximation of the layout of the Puzzle Tree Pieces
This image is inverted in a way so that by looking down at the image and then looking up from under the tree at the pieces, each piece is oriented as they appear on the tree
The actual arrangement is inverted from top to bottom.
Image adjusted November 12, 2003

Note: all pieces fit together
Note: not all of the pieces were installed right-side-up!

Image used on the back of a T-shirt I wore on the day of dedication

Puzzle Tree Solution
Posted February 29, 2004

Actual Puzzle Tree pieces, assembled, before holes were drilled and polyurethane applied
Picture taken from the roof of a building, looking down to a pavement

Puzzle Tree Facts

Height: 14 Feet
Width: 10 Feet
Number of Puzzle Pieces: 24 and they all fit together
Length of the 23 sections of 1 1/4" outer diameter metal branch pipe: about 6 2/3 feet
Number of angled branches: 22
Collars used to hold Puzzle Pieces in place: 47
Number of Spear Points: 23
Number of Spear Stubs: 22
Length of trunk pipe (6" outer diameter, 1/8" thick): 10 feet (7 feet extend above the lip of the planter box)
Trunk and branch pipe material: steel, galvanized
Wood used for the Puzzle Pieces: 3/4" thick 9-ply Okoume, cut from three 4' x 8' sheets
Size of planter box: 4' x 4' x 3' with 2' of solid concrete covered with loose gravel, weight 5000 lbs.

Design method:

Trunk and Branches
Bob Archer played with a wooden dowel, barbecue sticks and tiny rubber bands to design a 1:12 scale skeleton of the Tree
John later did the math to figure out the actual width of branch pipe to be used for a 6" diameter trunk
(Each of the 11 lower branch pipes rests on a neighboring pipe, and each touches the trunk)

Puzzle Pieces
John cut 24 1:12 scale model pieces freehand, with a scroll saw, as a single interlocking puzzle
Bob's initial idea was to hang the scale model Puzzle Pieces as ornaments on the scale model tree branches; two other artists suggested that the pieces be penetrated
John scanned the assembled 1:12 scale model puzzle pieces into Photoshop
John increased the scale to 1:1 and printed the individual piece outlines on 2' x 3' pieces of paper, one piece per page
John cut the pieces with a scroll saw using 3/4" thick 9-ply Okoume wood and strong blades
John reviewed the puzzle pieces, made some minor modifications and re-cut four of the pieces (one twice)
(The pieces were cut in a way so that when the pieces were assembled, the grain ran in a common direction through all the pieces)
John drilled a spear hole in each piece
John applied 4 coatings of polyurethane on each side and edges of the pieces

Spears and Stubs
Co-designed by Bob and John
Manufacturing jobbed out; made from Maple
John applied 5 thin coats of polyurethane on the Spears and Stubs

Designed and made by John
The purpose of the collars is to sandwich the puzzle pieces in place on the branch poles
Each collar consists of a 1 1/2" length of 1 1/4" inner diameter pipe, welded to a 3" washer
After welding, the collars were ground as needed to fit around the pipe branches
23 pieces required two collars each, and the single traditionally cut piece just one collar as the piece rests on top of the trunk
Bob drilled the collar bolt holes, both in the collars and the branch pipes

Pole Plaque
Designed by John
Manufacturing jobbed out; photo-etched on stainless steel

Planter Box
Designed and made by the Port of San Diego

Planter Box Plaque
Designed and made by the Port of San Diego

Date Erected - October 30, 2003
Date Dedicated - November 15, 2003
Scheduled installation duration: One year
Dismantled January 26, 2005
Destroyed October 22, 2007

The asking price for the Puzzle Tree was $12,000 but it was not sold

© John S. Stokes III - Puzzle Crafter & Webmaster

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