Reverse Engineering the 3D Wire Turtle Puzzle

I love art and puzzles and this mini-project combines these two concepts into one, the “3D Wire turtle puzzle”. In this post I will “reverse engineer” the design of a wire puzzle that is seen in the video below.

The only place I have seen this wire turtle puzzle is on Erauqscmes‘ channel on Youtube. Erauqscme (reverse of E=mc^2) is a “puzzle addict” who posts videos on Youtube showing his wonderful collection of wire puzzles.

The objective of this puzzle is to untangle the symbolic “needle”, which is in the shape of a loop, out of the body of the turtle.

After seeing this video by accident, I thought I just had to reverse engineer this wonderful turtle. I love the fact that it is both a puzzle and a beautiful object in itself.

So, I started by deconstructing the turtle. I took a screenshot of the turtle from the video above and tried to see where the wire is bent, each turn. Let me tell you, it was not trivial. I then drew the shape in Inkscape, using three colored line segments.

Inkscape curve lines overlayed over the Youtube video

Now, this gives us a two-dimensional view of the turtle, I had to look at the turtle from different angles to get the full picture. This was done frame-by-frame. Some frames are blurred when he moves the object, unfortunately. In order to manipulate the turtle in 3 dimensions I used 3ds max.

This step was the most difficult, I had to go back to the reference material several times. But it was necessary and very practical to do it in this way. I would only attempt to bend the real wire into the turtle as soon as I was happy with the design. Ofcourse, because the turtle is digital I will never risk breaking the wire, so that’s good.

First step of the 3d interpretation of the turtle

When I was happy with the design, I created a copper material for the rendering. I also added some lighting and rendered it using V-Ray.

A V-Ray rendering of the finished turtle design

I then attempted to create the turtle for real. I now had a 3d model to work from, which was my intension all along. I could rotate and look from all angles, very handy. I bought some galvanized steel wire and bent the wire using gloves and a plier. I began from the upper loop (head of turtle is pointing up) and bent the wire.

Resulting turtle using galvanized steel wire

The first time, the turtle became too big. My new version (above) is slightly smaller, but not small enough. I also know I made some mistakes. For instance, the two wires forming the “spine” of the turtle has to be straight through the middle of the back of the turtle, the perspective makes it look ok though.  One foot (taped) is supposed to be bent in one extra turn. This was something I didn’t realize until I watched the original video again. The turtle is also supposed to be very symmetrical, which my version it is not.

Also, the wire is way too thin. I believe the turtle should be much more stiff, so you cannot twist the ends of the wire like I can with this one. I tried to bend the wire closer and I’m pretty strong, but it was too difficult to bend in a controlled way. I believe I have to heat up the wire before I bend it, to be able to do a small -but strong- turtle.

I will attempt to perfect the turtle at a later date.


  1. Mechanical Puzzle Addict

    Great Job!
    I really admire your art of work!
    Mechanical puzzle addict

    • Thanks Erauqscme. I have been very busy lately and I didn’t see your comment. Yes, the design is great. It’s not only a puzzle, it’s a beautiful work of art. I will try to recreate the finer details and also get a thicker wire.

      I’m also thinking about maybe creating a 3D wire pig for a future wire puzzle project. I just love pigs 😉

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