The idea of creating multiples of an object instantly made me think about identical pieces that could fit together in some way – wooden puzzles came to mind. I did some research to get references of what was already out there, and find puzzles that needed identical pieces, but not too many. Turns out there's websites dedicated to this sort of thing (obviously?)
I was initially thinking of the wooden star puzzle, but just getting a good sense of the exact shape of each piece wasn't easy, since there's so many cut angles. Apparently this shape is also known as the "Escher Solid", and can be tessellated on all 3 axes. (credit to this video)
After some more research I realized that this was a variation of the diagonal burr puzzle, and the triangles / cuts at the end were just decorative – the puzzle mechanism was the same
There seems to be a lot of people who are into making the puzzles, not just solving them. I found a bunch of resources for techniques to make them (like this and this). Despite Ben's warning about the lack of precision with the shop tools, I wanted to give it a shot and see how far I could take it.
I needed to make a method of drawing out the angles on the dowel, so set out to make a small jig – after a lot of time figuring out the required trig
The miter gauge is not accurate.. and it was hard to make get the lines of the triangle to line up using the band saw
I then tried using the vise with the japanese saw, and hand-sanding the triangles down, but that proved to be pretty inaccurate as well – it was hard keeping an eye on the angle I was cutting with the handsaw, and hand-sanding created a bumpy surface since it depended on where I was putting pressure more / less.
I then went on to try the scroll saw, which seemed to be the most promising tool so far.
I decided to go forward with this, and measure out my pieces. Aside from the limitations of the tool itself, there's also limitations of the space around the tool which one needs to account for. The dowel I had was 36", which was too big to cut in one go. I also needed to ensure that I left enough place to hold the dowel with both hands, on each side, while trying to be economical with material.
I still needed to figure out the best way to get the notches to be more precise – Ben to the rescue again. I learnt about a much better alternative to hand-sanding – using a file, which allows me to get flat surfaces.
The pieces still didn't fit together – probably because of the imperfect squares as well as the imperfect notches. I sanded the pieces with the straight (band?) sander, and tried to soften the edges a bit.
I would still like to work on this more – try to gently sand down the side a bit more to see if I can get a better fit. And since I over-sanded one corner, perhaps try to create the star puzzle by sanding of pyramids from the 2 outside corners of each piece. I also want to try some kind of finish – oil or wax or paint.
Overall, I'm pretty pleased with the results, however imperfect they are. I got to try a bunch of different tools and learn more about what they are and are not good for, and made two jigs. Angles are hard, I need a better protractor.