…etching a Lament Configuration

by Stephen Hobley on July 6, 2011

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The “Lament Configuration” is the name given to the wooden puzzle box that features in the movie Hellraiser. In the original book (The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker) the box is black lacquer and needs to be completely disassembled for the gateway to Hell to open. For the movie a more intricate looking box was designed by Simon Sayce, with 6 delicate etched brass panels embossed on the faces. This box is not disassembled, but the solver needs to complete a sequence of (mechanically impossible) moves to open the very top circular section. The final move is the “star” move where the whole box splits in two and re-aligns itself looking very much like a Maltese cross.

I wanted to see if the etching formula I came up with recently would work on more than just copper. So I tried to make some panels for a star-cut puzzle box I made on the CNC. Looks like it works, but it’s time-consuming process – through etching will always take longer though. I use the 0.005″ brass sheets from K+S metals.

For the wooden box, I created the model on computer, then sliced it up horizontally and created toolpaths to cut the layers from a single plank of mahogany.

The box came out quite well, although I suspect I could design a jig to do a much better job on just a table saw and drill press. So I’m currently documenting the build process, along with any CAD files required to make the jigs.


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Julian Richardson July 8, 2011 at 12:25 am

Quite beautiful! I am looking forward to trying out your copper etching formula soon.

Hellraiser Puzzle Box August 8, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Nice work. It is time intensive making these boxes, especially finding the victims for who’s blood you need to bring them to life. Without the blood they are useless. I was wondering, why you didn’t mention that part?
The Puzzlebox Maker

Simon Sayce September 22, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Forget the blood Darkman, it was the sweat and tears that brought ’em to life (along with smoke, copper tubing and magnificent state of the art FX).

Nice work though Steve.

Simon Sayce
The other Puzzlebox Maker.

Stephen Hobley September 22, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Simon : Wow, high praise indeed – thanks for stopping by.
Always loved the original movie design – beautiful, and just slightly sinister…


Mike April 24, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Love the video! Will the panel designs be available for download or purchase? There are some on the web, but none of them done in CAD.

Frank E. Sanchez January 3, 2013 at 12:35 pm

I’ve been thinking about etching your designs on some 17″x17″ panes of glass to make a lamp or something…haven’t exactly figured that out yet…and would like your permission to do so since they are your designs. I promise to make you proud. Your designs are very inspiring. Thank you for your time.

Matt Thomas May 21, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Hi Stephen

Very very impressed to say the least – did you mention you had any CAD drawings on the Lament Configeration

Jeroen May 28, 2013 at 3:41 am

Hello Stephen,

Very nice work!
Can you print on those sheets, or are they photoresistive?



Anthony C October 9, 2013 at 8:57 pm

Awesome work! I recently completed my own brass and wood lament configuration though mine isn’t transforming; I’m using it as a case for an android set top computer. Thanks for calling out your metal thickness, It was a big help, that and your Youtube video of the actual etching. I nearly gave up on the project after a few unsuccessful etches, turns out my metal was just too thick.

My results:


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