MC Escher Inspires A Reptilian Floor


A simple room refinishing project lead [Kris] to his biggest hack yet, a floor inspired by MC Escher’s Reptiles printMaurits Cornelis Escher is well known for his reality defying artwork. His lifelong passion was tessellation, large planes covered identical interlocking shapes. Triangles, squares, hexagons all EscherExampleinterlock naturally. Escher discovered that if he cut out part of a shape and replaced it on the opposite side, the new shape will still interlock. In Reptiles, Escher created a lizard shape by modifying a hexagon. One side flipped over to become the nose, 4 others to become the feet, and so on. If the cuts are all made perfectly, the final shape would still interlock.

[Kris] was inspired by a photo of a commercial flooring project using small wooden reptiles as the tiles. He wanted to go with larger wooden tiles for his room. He knew his shapes had to be perfect, so he wrote a computer program to split the hexagon perfectly. Armed with art in DXF format, he went looking for a flooring company to help him. The silence was deafening. Even with artwork ready to go, none of the local custom flooring shops would take his job. Undaunted, [Kris] bought an older CNC machine. The machine was designed to be driven from MS-DOS via the parallel port of a Pentium II era PC. [Kris] substituted an Arduino running GRBL. After some GCode generation, he was cutting tiles.

The real fun started when it was time to glue the tiles down. With all the interlocking parts, it’s impossible to just glue one tile and have it in the perfect position for the next. In [Kris’] own words, “You have to do it all in one go”. Thanks to some family support and muscle, the flooring project was a success.  Great work, [Kris]!

38 thoughts on “MC Escher Inspires A Reptilian Floor

  1. Of course, if you dry fit everything first, then it’s not such a big deal when it comes to the gluing stage…

    I gotta say, I’m impressed with the idea–this would be awesome for a kid’s room.

    1. He says that he and his wife decided on going for a larger pattern, and less color contrast, so that it didn’t look too busy. The contrast is provided by the direction of the grain from tile to tile.

      For a floor, I think they struck a nice balance. If it were a smaller panel, or a tabletop, it might be nice to have more punch.

      1. This was actually a wise choice. High-contrast floor patterns can be disorienting. Also, you could definitely sell the house with it the way it is. If the lizards stood out too much it would be a turn-off for prospective buyers.

        1. Most people are disoriented anyhow. Just watch House Hunters and hear them whine about everything possible. I’m not disagreeing with you on practical terms, just resisting the “paint everything neutral color” Realtor mentality.

    2. Absolutely! get 3 stains and stain every one a different in threes then set the piles up it would have looked amazing. Even just every other stained would have been super cool.

    3. I think I would have tried the old inlay technique of creating shadowing using hot sand and maybe even doing body and head details with a hot knife. Or just use the x-y table to print such detail. But that’s just me and I love lizards & Escher and would really want the floor to look as much like lizards and an escher work as possible. Then maybe install it over a traditional floating floor so it could be easily removed as I would take it with me when I left. But I;m kinda nuts that way too.

  2. Any tessellation would look great like curvy shapes resembling fish scales. I wonder about using recyclable carpet tiles (so all the scrap is just waste) to cut the shapes from. Flooring companies will catch on in 3, 2, 1, …..

      1. You’re forgetting the tessellation, marquetry is just creating an illustration with pieces of veneer and parquetry is doing the same thing with geometric patterns which can be a tessellation but doesn’t have to be.

        1. It’s all tessellations, which is just a fancy term for ‘repeating pattern with no gaps’.

          The actual shape doesn’t matter, square, hexagon and lizard are all equal.

          It doesn’t need to be all the same shape, so the Escher fish/bird is valid. So are circles if you count the little star-shapes in between.

  3. Doesn’t go into much detail on the edges which would be the hardest part (rooms are rarely square which doesn’t help). Of course that’s why skirting boards were invented, to hide the edges.

    Not surprising no-one wanted the jobs, companies bleat about “tough times” while pissing off potential customers (very common in Australia too). If they did do it they’d have sorted the tolerance problems he was having.

  4. Just a thought – possibly the reason that no flooring company would undertake this commercially is that the artworks or MC Escher (and perhaps obvious derivatives) are apparently only available for commercial use under license – see

    Anyway, doing the CNC work one’s self would be far more rewarding, and I applaud the effort and the end result. Very impressive.

    1. On the other hand you ( or whoever want to make it a business ) can try to apply the logic and create your OWN art. There are even software to help you, AFAIR Tess is one of them.

  5. Not sure I would have used MDF as the base, as it has a tendency to swell with water/humidity, even after sealing. Does it rain much in the UK?

    And I’m wondering about the thickness of the oak veneer – it’s nice to be able to sand a few mm off your floor after many years of wear and tear.

    1. You’re seriously overestimating how much even a thorough sanding takes off a floor, 0.3 to 0.5 mm are enough.

      That being said, you usually can’t sand down veneered MDF at all. It’s not parquet (not even of the ready made variant), it’s more akin to laminate floor in this respect.

  6. Great concept; simply fantastic execution; excellent writeup!

    He mentions some elbow grease involved in deburring the cut tiles; I wonder if a rasp or chamfering bit along the same toolpath could have saved this work.

  7. Nice project! Also nice solution. And it looks great!

    While browsing the article I found another possible solution for making repetitive wooden pieces. Using a mold (it doesn’t have to be wood) and a (wood working) router, or even a pantograph ( It is possible they need some sanding, surely its allot cheaper then custom routed/cut pieces.
    I’ve only used molds for square openings in standardized cases never for something this complex.

    I admit I haven’t read every piece of text, it could be that this solution was already noted.

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