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Dodecahedron: "Baby, You're A Star!"

comments (6) March 30th, 2009     

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Jeff_Rudell Jeffery Rudell, contributor
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Equal parts calling card, thank-you note, and objet dart, I created this dodecahedron star (60-sided solid) as a gift for a potential new business partner.
In principle, this object is constructed of simple star shapes that are slotted together. In reality, a great deal of finesse is require to piece together this puzzle.
An analogous palette of greenish-yellows to greenish-blues is greatly responsible for the lush visual appeal of this piece. A palette of primary colors would have resulted in a very different piece.
Equal parts calling card, thank-you note, and objet dart, I created this dodecahedron star (60-sided solid) as a gift for a potential new business partner.

Equal parts calling card, thank-you note, and objet d'art, I created this dodecahedron star (60-sided solid) as a gift for a potential new business partner.

Photo: Jeff Rudell

Do not attempt this project (walk away, turn around, or click through to another page): Trust me, this is not for you. Still with me? Well, then I have to assume that you are much like me; that you are not dissuaded by seemingly simple things that turn out to be much more challenging than imagined.

Such was the case this week: I'd met with representatives from a great company and spent a day working with them on a collaborative project. It was both exciting and scary (as new things often are), and when it was over I knew that I wanted to work with them again in the future. Following out meeting I, of course, wanted to send a thank you note but I wanted something a little more "out of the ordinary" than my usual "out of the ordinary" thank-you note. Specifically, I wanted to send them something that could sit on a desk and act as a constant reminder to them of who I am, what I do, and how much I enjoyed working with them.

During our afternoon together, they'd given me the royal treatment and, in turn, I wanted to convey to them how appreciative I was of the star treatment they'd given me. The trouble was, the star I cut out of paper look, well, underwhelming at best, and sort of trite and insipid at worst. Then I remembered a something I'd made years ago. Since I keep files (or try to) on most of my work, I went rummaging around to try and find my notes on that previous project. In my memory, the it was a simple matter of a few five-pointed stars that fit together, via slots and tabs, into a lovely looking dodecahedron. When I'd first made it I was interested in using it for a lantern and so the dimension were 18" wide and the material I'd used was a fire-retardant polyester. The distorting lens of memory failed to recall to me just what a complicated little piece of engineering this actually was or how tricky it was to get all of the pieces connected, lined up, and glued in place. Believing it was be a "fun little something" to occupy an hour of my time with, I dove in. 

Let me repeat here, just for the record, this is a bit of seemingly simple work that takes a great deal of finesse to assemble: There are lots of pieces, the material is easily torn, bent, or stained, and at times during the process you will feel as though you need two extra hands to make it work. However, with some patience and a gentle touch, it is not impossible to put together a really quite beautiful object. And, when you're finished, believe me, you'll feel an incredible sense of accomplishment.

For those hearty few among you who attempt this, I say only good luck: you are a hearty and hale group of crafters and you make me feel as if I'm not alone in my craft-craziness. For all of the others who decide (quite wisely) to forego the challenge and simply click through to a different tutorial, I say, "I don't blame you one bit." In fact, I could use a few good words of advice from you all about how life it too short for struggling through with needlessly complex projects of this sort. Feel free to leave that good advice below and I'll do my best to read it and heed it as often as possible.

Note to readers on Twitter:

If you're a fan of Twitter and would like to read my Tweets, you're welcome to follow me at Quite a few people responded last week, and I'm happy to hear you're enjoying the links to suppliers, resources, and cool online paper projects. Feel free to Tweet me with questions or requests. I try to respond to every inquire that comes my way. I'll see you there.


As with many of my projects, all that is needed is some paper (I used 12 colors from a Color-Aid pack), a craft knife, a straightedge, a bone creaser, and a needle tool (or a strong pin). My star template is available for download.

To transfer the template to my Color-Aid paper, I used a needle tool to punch through at all points on the design where lines intersected or changed direction (i.e., at each angle around the star including the five lines that form the partial pentagon in the center).

Gently score each tab from the reverse and fold as indicated in the images above. It is especially important that each arm of the star come to a sharp point so that when it is connected to four neighboring stars, the resulting geometric solid terminates in well-defined shapes.

Precision matters in this project since a small inaccuracy on one piece is likely to become troublesome when attempting to connect it with neighboring components. Here, the first two stars slot together quite easily, but assembly becomes increasingly difficult as pieces are added.

This detail of the reverse side shows the manner in which tabs fit against the points of the star. Because each piece has to interconnect with so many other pieces, I recommend assembling the first six star shapes WITHOUT glue first. The form should hold together quite snugly, and this will allow you to gain a full understanding of how all of the pieces must be situated before they are permanently glued in place.


Attaching the twelfth and final star to the solid requires a great deal of finesse. I can assure you it can be done, but impatience is likely to result in accidentally tearing your piece. Once the final star is in place, glue all tabs and allow to dry. (Note: I did a particularly messy job of gluing my dodecahedron. Luckily, I used a Neutral pH Adhesive that is "reversible." A little water on the end of a cotton swab and a gentle rubbing action allowed me to tidy up the piece without damaging the surface.

This "end-on" view of one of the points shows just how many colors were used (see full palette, at right). However, the diversity of the palette easily becomes disguised as simple "highlights and shadows." This sort of optical illusion makes the piece seem much more interesting than it would be were it constructed from only a single color.


Two images of the final project. The detail, at left, illustrates the importance of precision in cutting and assembling pieces. Even minor imperfections are apparent. The detail at right shows how light falling on the solid disguises the many colors and suggests, instead, that shadows alone are responsible for all of the tints and shades that are visible.

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Comments (6)

EchoLin writes: Wonderful, i'll have a try.
Posted: 9:21 pm on March 21st
AWilcox writes: This is simply beautiful, I love the way all the different colors blend in, what a great decorative item.
Posted: 3:25 pm on April 9th
CleverPussRevolution writes: I've made these before and by the time you're finished and take a look at what you've just about crushed from frustration dozens of times you realize you can't believe you made it yourself!
Posted: 12:02 pm on April 1st
annquill writes: Uber-impressive - Jeffery, you're a star. :-) A more complicated project than the Moravian folded paper stars, but well worth the hair-pulling hassle.
Posted: 8:55 pm on March 30th
Maureclaire writes: I WILL be attempting it ! Will NOT be attempting to pronounce it tho ! LOL ! You're amazing Jeffery !
Posted: 2:33 pm on March 30th
KTut writes: This is absolutely wonderful. I will not be attempting it, but it is awe-inspiring.

Posted: 9:37 am on March 30th
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