Why care by what meanders we are here i' the centre of the labyrinth? In a Balcony by Robert Browning (1812-1889)
Click here to see how to design your own maze, plus ideas for materials, etc.
Whatever sort of maze you do, you will need to lay it out. This page gives some ways for standard mazes, which will give you ideas for other mazes.
Tom Baxter gives a wonderful account of making a turf maze. Hew's lawn maze describes making a maze on grass with a lawn mower, which gives some useful tips. Daniel Loris (published in 1629) gives a rather less wonderful account, but I've tried to explain what I think he means! You may find some of it useful.
Below are some ways to lay out specific mazes in detail. Some of them are based on some chalk mazes that I did for a street party.
You will need some measuring device. The easiest is a rope or string, with knots at regular intervals. You can put the knots in yourself. The interval is the width of the path. This should be wide enough to walk along. For the circular paths, you will need a swivel or pivot of some sort in the middle. This might be as simple as a loop in the rope to go round a peg (but then that might slip off!) Tom Baxter gives a solution (see above). Finally, you will need some material to make the maze, such as chalk, or birdseed, or something more substantial.
A square maze is the easiest to lay out. This example was one I designed for my bathroom wall. The first thing is to draw out the maze carefully using squared paper, so you know exactly how big it is and where each line goes.
We drew the lines round the outside, and marked the squares off. Then we joined them, leaving gaps as necessary. It was important to get the outer lines square, though, but it was all done by eye.
Laying out an octagonal Chartres maze
The Chartres mazes are attractive mazes, and fun to walk. An octagon has eight sides. Chartres mazes are usually circular, but there are medieval octagonal mazes. Believe it or not, they are easier to make than the circular form. This describes how to make a 'mini-Chartres' - the smallest form. You will need a piece of string with knots at regular intervals. An interval is the width of a path. You will also need some chalk.
1.
Using the knotted string, mark out 15 points in a straight line on the ground with the chalk.
Now mark another 15 points in a straight line crossing at the mid-point.
Now mark another 15 points in a straight line crossing at 45°.
Now another one on the other side.
You can do all this by eye. It's surprising how accurate an eye can be.
2.
I'm turning this grid to make it easier to do on the computer. Computers don't like lines at angles!
While doing it on the ground, this won't matter. Just walk round and face it from a different angle.
I have also removed the central dot, and the innermost circle of dots surrounding it. These are not needed any more.
Draw a line from the middle of the outer circuit at the bottom to the middle of the inner circuit. Join it to the dots on either side as shown.
3.
We are now going to make the entrance.
Draw a line straight down from the next inner dot.
Join it to the outer dot, and the third dot in from the edge.
4.
Draw a line from the right innermost dot downwards.
Join it to the second dot in, and the fourth dot in from the edge.
5. Now for the segment on the right.
Join every pairs of dots except the fourth one from the edge.
6. Draw a line from the middle of the third circuit from the edge to the fifth.
7. The top segment:
Starting from the edge, join the first, third, fourth and sixth pairs of dots.
8.
From the edge, draw a line from the middle of the first circuit to the third.
Draw a line from the middle of the fourth circuit to the fifth.
9. The left segment:
Starting from the edge, join all pairs of dots, except the third.
10. From the edge, draw a line from the middle of the second circuit to the fourth.
11. Now to start joining things up.
The top is easiest, so start there. Join the dots!
12. Theleft -hand bottom segment:
Join the dots, except the fourth circuit from the edge.
The fourth circuit does not go all the way to the dot. You must leave room to walk round.
13. The right-hand bottom segment:
Join the dots, except (this time) the fifth circuit from the edge.
The fifth circuit does not go all the way to the dot. You must leave room to walk round.
14. Tidy up.
Remove the two dots near the bottom that you did not use.
If you want, you can make some of the lines longer to reduce the gaps where you walk round, but this is not necessary.
Here is this maze, drawn on a road as part of a street party. You can see that it takes most of the street. The double yellow lines means no parking in England, and the white dotted line is a parking bay. I was worried about this, but it didn't seem to confuse people. The maze was drawn in chalk. We laid it out using a string with knots made every foot as the paths are a foot wide - rather narrow but then it's a narrow street!
There were three of us drawing the maze, so two held the string taut while the third drew along it. It would probably be possibly to do it by yourself with a couple of bricks holding the string down, but it would take longer. You can see that the final maze is tilted. The original lines of dots were along or at right angles to the road, but these defined the corners, so the sides become tilted. I think this gives an interesting effect, and stops the parking bay lines confusing the design so much.
Laying out circular Chartres mazes - all sizes
There are two ways where you might want to extend the above method. The first is to make a circular maze (as is normal for Chartres) rather than an octagon. You can make an approximation using the above technique, but for stages 11, 12 and 15, draw curved lines rather than straight ones. I suggest that you start from the middle working outwards, as they you don't run out of room. If you want more accurate circles, then you must start by drawing concentric circles, but leave gaps top, bottom and at the sides. Then do the necessary join-ups as above (stages 2-10). If you draw the concentric circles very lightly, it won't matter if you don't make the gaps big enough or in the wrong place, since you can rub things out, and redreaw the whole maze very heavily once you work out what goes where.
The other extension is to do a standard Chartres, or even a super Chartres. The maze above is a mini-Chartres with 6 circuits or walls. The standard Chartres has 12 circuits or walls, and the super Chartres has 18 circuits or walls. Below you can see that most of each maze is concentric circles. Those are easy to draw - use a knotted string or rope round a swivel or pivot in the centre. All you need to concentrate on is the 'arms'. The top and sides are regular, but different from each other, since they start in different places. The bottom, or entrance, is different, but also regular in its own way.
A neat way to lay out a Cretan maze
A Cretan or classical maze is a hard maze to lay out as it's not really circular, or even symmetrical. This is an elegant way to do it. It is taken from the Labyrinthos website.
You need five pegs, one of which will need a swivel - a way to attach a rope so it moves round it smoothly - perhaps a loop on one end of the rope. You also need a rope marked at intervals in some way - say knots. These intervals are not regular. If you want the maze to have paths a metre wide, then the first mark must be at half a metre. Then the rest of the marks are a metre apart. So from the start of the rope (where the swivel will be), the marks go half metre, one and a half metres, two and a half metres, three and a half metres, etc. There are eight knots in all, so the rope needs to be about eight times as long as the path width.
I am assuming that you are making a flat maze (if not, mark the maze on the ground with something temporary before making the full maze). You will need to mark the walls in some way, such as chalk, making a trail of birdseed, etc. If you are making a permanent maze, then it might be a good idea to mark it out with something like chalk first to make sure you have done it right!
This technique can make the maze in one sweep, but you need eight people. It is best if they stand in a line along the rope, facing back towards the already made-up part, behind the rope, by their personal knot. Then they can walk backwards, marking the walls with the relevant material going along the path of their knot. They start their path when their knot passes the start point, and finish when it joins up with the finish point. It sounds complicated, but it's not when you actually do it!
You start the maze by marking out the pattern on the left. The dark blue lines will end up as part of the walls of the maze, so made of the same material. Four of the pegs are around the outside of a square. If the path width is a metre, then the square is 4 metres wide, and everything is on a regular grid, except the peg with the swivel. That is between two walls, a metre and a half from the right top corner or two and a half metres from the left.
1. Fasten rope on swivel to middle peg at top. Wrap round left-hand pegs.
2. Move rope back again, clockwise. The person on outermost knot starts marking a line.
3. Rope comes off one peg. The five outermost people mark their lines.
4. Rope comes off next peg and is swivelling on centre peg. All people mark their lines.
5. Rope catches on next peg. The six outermost people mark their lines.
6. Rope catches on last peg. The two outermost people finish it off.
It is very important to keep the rope taut. The outer people have to cover more ground. If you're using trails of birdseed, the inner people must use a lot less than the outer people. The middle person does very little, so that can be done by eye afterwards, if you wish (so you will only need seven people).
If you have less than seven people, then you will have to do several sweeps to cover the maze.
I was introduced to this technique by Kay Barrett.
A simpler way to lay out a Cretan maze
The previous method is easier than it sounds from the description! But if it frightens you with its description of swivels and pegs, then here is a simpler version - easier to understand but probably takes longer to do. I used this method to draw a maze with chalk on a road which had been closed to traffic for a street party. My only equipment was a piece of chalk (or several - chalk wears out quite quickly!) and a piece of string knotted at regular intervals. The interval was the path width. I choose a foot (30 cms) which is really too small, but there was not room on the road for a bigger maze! I would suggest two feet, or even a yard (metre) if there is room. But you can just walk a maze with a foot-wide path if you're careful where you put your feet!
1. Using the knotted string, mark out sixteen points on the ground with the chalk.
2. Mark the centre point. This will be between two points.
3.
Use the string and chalk to mark eight points going straight up. Remember that the first point will be half an interval, not a whole one.
Do the same at an angle to the left and right. It doesn't really matter what these angles are. You can do some more if you want. The important thing is to keep the string taut, and mark the points accurately.
4.
Join these points to make semi-circles.
You can do this by eye. An accurate circular line is not essential. Just make sure that you leave enough gap between the lines to walk.
It's easier if you start from the centre and work outwards. That way you don't run out of room!
5.
Mark the sixth point from the left on the centre line.
Mark five points going straight down from there. Be careful; the first interval is a whole one, not half as previously.
Mark another five points at an angle to the left.
You can do more lines if you want.
6.
Join these points to make quarter circles.
Again, you can do this by eye.
Start from the centre and work outwards.
Join these lines to the lines of the semi-circle at the top.
7.
Mark the seventh point from the right on the centre line.
Mark six points going straight down from there. The first interval is a whole one.
Mark another six points at an angle to the right.
You can do more lines if you want.
8.
Join these points to make quarter circles.
Again, you can do this by eye.
Start from the centre and work outwards.
Join these lines to the lines of the semi-circle at the top.
There is a gap between the two lots of quarter circles.
9.
Join the fourth line (from the bottom) on the left to the fifth line on the right.
This line will be straight across, not slanting.
10.
Join the next points up in a curve to meet points on the centre line.
These provide the inner 'change of direction' when walking the maze.
This can be done by eye.
11.
Find the point to the left of the centre.
Draw a line straight down from there as far as the second circuit on the left.
If you draw it too far, it doesn't really matter.
12.
Join the points on the left to make one of the outer changes of direction.
Do the same on the right.
Be careful not to get too close to the downwards line. This might make the path too narrow at this point.
13.
Join the last two points in a quarter circle.
You have finished!
Rub out the central point if you want to be fussy. The other marks should be covered by the various lines.
In this method, the points are marked out using the string, but all the lines are drawn by eye. You would have thought that it would end up 'wiggly', but it doesn't. Even if you draw straight lines joining to points, you will get a close approximation to the circular lines required.
The finished maze in use! This was at a street party. If you want to see the party is full swing, here are some photos.
I am not sure which of the two methods is easier, to tell the truth!