(Adan) We've just completed a quick design-build exercise: make a traditional stacking toy, but make it just a bit... different!  We're excited with what we came up with.
It's based on one my dad made about a year ago.  His is fantastic, no doubt, but where's the fun in straight replication?  No, we had to make it ever-so-slightly different.  The first way in which we differed was that we used a straight spindle instead of a tapering one.  This allows more flexibility, so the child can put the rings on in any order, without being bound by society's rigid preconceived notions of stable pyramid construction :-)
In that photo, you'll also be quick to see the next big difference: on the larger rings (plates?) we added eight more holes, so the rings can be placed off center and very odd structures can be made.
This lets it start out as a simple stacking toy, but also turn into more complicated building blocks as the child graduates to that kind of play.  The square plates are also sized such that each successive plate is smaller than its predecessor by an amount equal to a plate thickness.  This helps make them more "useful" as building blocks, because they can easily be stacked (one on edge on top of one flat, for instance) to make level structures.
We actually don't have a shot of it in use that way yet; we made enough pieces for two of these, but only finished one... and then immediately gave it away for user testing!  You may recall Oliver, the darling child who modeled the rattle on the multicolored quilt?  Well, he's moved beyond his rattle now.  He's ready for bigger and more complicated things... and he sure seemed to like this.

Oh, right, some specs:

-Base size: 5.72" x 5.72"

-Height: 5.72"

  -base (plate 1): beech
  -plate 2: cedar
  -plate 3: maple
  -plate 4: beech
  -plate 5: cedar
  -plate 6: maple
  -plate 7: beech
  -spindle: cedar

-Finish: beeswax and mineral oil (salad bowl and cutting board finish)

I think it's pretty spiffy.  What do you think?
8/25/2010 05:10:30 am

[Double Like]

8/25/2010 10:47:51 am

Best. Comment. Ever! Thanks, man.

8/30/2010 01:50:16 am

this is cool. I like the variation in the colors. Maybe you could cut a hole in the top of the pylon, finger sized, to make it easy to pick up and carry this guy back to the toy box, and/or to "lock" the pieces on.


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