So in case you’re not subscribed to my You Tube channel, in which case you’d have missed this, I created a video showing the process of making one of the clear Revomaze Sleeves. Since I’m not taking any more orders, and will be shipping out the last of the orders I do have fairly soon, I thought you might like to see exactly what goes into making one of these, rather than just the pictures I posted in the past.
Sorry for the vanishing act my blog and other websites performed over the last week. Seems my Domain registrar decided to move my DNS to a new ‘more secure’ server, and that automated process took a week!
Well, things seem to be back to normal now, and I’ll get right on some more reviews for you. Most likely first up will be a follow up to the Revomaze Clear Sleeve project, which is now complete, and fully working with springs and functioning cores. Some of you out there have even received your copy, so if you’re waiting for one, I’ll be in touch soon, and if you’re on the fence then perhaps it will convince you to order one.
Day four is the final day of this year’s IPP and is the last chance to play with puzzles from the Design Competition. The end of the day is marked with the Awards Banquet, and a very special event which I found out later on. Having played with most of the puzzles in the exchange, there were only a few I had yet to spend any time on, and I wanted to give as many puzzles as possible some time before casting my votes for the puzzler’s award.
There wasn’t really anything else going on in terms of formal events on the Sunday, it was a day to take in “The Mall” in DC, and to do some sight seeing, so Jen and I headed off for Arlington National Cemetery to watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns. It’s a fairly impressive sight and something that I would recommend people do. Since World War II, The Old Guard has served as the official Army Honor Guard and escort to the president. In that capacity, 3rd Infantry soldiers are responsible for the conduct of military ceremonies at the White House, the Pentagon, national memorials and elsewhere in the nation’s capital. In addition, soldiers of The Old Guard maintain a 24-hour vigil at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Quite an honor and very moving. To see the ceremony, watch the video below which I took while there.
After that we headed for another couple of the Smithsonian museums, before returning back to the hotel to see who was around and get ready for the evenings events and the Awards Ceremony. The guys and girls from the Renegades Forums had already arranged to get a couple of tables together for the evening, so we met up slightly beforehand in the bar for a few drinks and the continuing rounds of puzzles being passed around. I haven’t mentioned previously (or at least I don’t think I have) that Ken Irvine was wandering around all weekend with a bag of puzzles designed by his good self. Ken doesn’t have a table saw so had to rely on the kindness of another Renegade to cut sticks for him, however the puzzle designs he handed round were superb. On one evening, Ken handed me a new 4×4 cube each time I solved, and restored the previous puzzle he’d given me. I’d very happily have taken any and all of those puzzles from him there and then, but he wasn’t selling them. Fortunately Tom Lensch and Eric Fuller are both making copies of his designs so keep an eye out for them. You’ll not be disappointed as the designs are great. Not too tough, but not simple either. Most didn’t have names, but the “Accordion Cube” is to be highly recommended.
The Puzzlers of the Renegades Forums
The previous night we’d tried to get a photo of all the Renegades, but we’d had a few missing. Before the awards started Rox wandered onto the stage, grabbed the mike, and asked all the Renegades to meet at the back of the room. The photo above is the result of that request. It was a pleaseure for me to meet all of these people having talked with them online and been given so much advice and help as I started making puzzles. They are a great bunch of people in person, and I’m glad to be able to call each and every one of them a friend. Thanks for making my first IPP such a great event everyone!
Top Row(L-R): Brian Young, Scott Elliot, Matt Dawson, Richard Gain, Nick Baxter, Brett Kuenher, Ken Irvine, George Syriaque, Brian Pletcher, Jim Strayer, Peter Wiltshire, Neil Hutchison and Robert Stegman
Bottom Row (L-R): George Bell, Eric Fuller, Allard Walker, Roxanne Wong (lying down), Stephen Chin, Robert Yarger, Jeff Aurand (lying down), Gregory Benedetti and Derek Bosch.
The wives of the Renegades
Of course the weekend wouldn’t be complete without the wives and other halves who put up with our puzzling addictions so thanks to all the ladies as well. I get the feeling some more good friendships were made over the week here too.
(L-R): Celine ?, Holly Syriaque, Marc Hache, Susan Strayer, Jen Jackson, Michelle Bosch, ?Stephen Chin?, Denise Kuehner, Leslie Wiltshire, Gillian Walker, Kellian Pletcher
The Twisty Forums crew
Next up was the turn of the twisty puzzlers, including Oskar working out with his Bar Bell. Now you know I’m not a twisty fan, but for those guys, here’s your pic. If someone can give me the list of names then I’ll gladly add them!
Jeff running around with Bug’s monkeys
There was a fair bit of fun going on too. Rox had her daughter with her for the week and she’d been carrying around a stuffed monkey for most of that time. Jen had taken her out and around on one of the days to let Rox go puzzling, and I think had become quite fond of ‘Bug’ as Rox refers to her. When we were out earlier, we’d come across a smaller monkey sporting dome DC gear, and Jen decided to buy it for her. Now when Jeff decided to steal the monkeys and run off with them, Bug gave chase. All in good fun, and certainly had a smile on everyone’s face.
Apparently there had been a few issues with long lines for food on the Friday night so this time tables were called out one by one. Given that we were at the back of the hall, we were around last to go out but there was plenty of food to go round. With everyone happily fed, the evening got underway. First up were the thank you’s and announcements about the locations of the next two IPP’s including some very convincing arguments as to why you should go. Obviously I can’t give anything away about where they are, but I look forward to both of the next two IPP’s!
So down to the nuts and bolts … who won? Well watch the whole thing on the video below.
The awards are as follows:
Blind Burr – Gregory benedetti
Locked Room – Sam nightingale
The Vault – Mike Toulouzas
Ze house of mouse ze duong – Stephen Chin
Ferris Box – Peter Wiltshire
Houdinis Torture Cell – Brian young
Jury grand prize:
Double G – Jinhoo Ahn
Smart Egg – Andras Zagyvai
Square in the bag – Iwahiro
IPP 32 theme awards:
Mini perplexus – Tanya Thompson
Washington Skyline – William Waite
Washington Monument – Brian Young
A huge congratulations to all the winners, and to everyone who entered a design in the competition. There were so many good design’s that it’s hard to pick winners.
Jerry Slocum with the Grandfather clock talking to James Dalgety
There was also some sad news. Jerry Slocum is stepping down from his position as the head of the IPP. As such he was given the typical retirement gift of a watch. Well not really, he was given #1/28 of the Stickman Grandfather Clock puzzle. A truly fitting gift and a great puzzle to boot.
Chris Morgan with the host gift
There was one final gift to be given, and a few of us had heard that such a puzzle existed, and were excited to see it. That gift is the Host Gift, given to the host of the IPP and is usually a unique puzzle made with either the host or the city in mind. Chris Morgan is a bit of a musician and was presented with Kagen Schafer’s Pipe Organ Box as this year’s gift. It’s a beautiful puzzle, and a truly unique piece. I look forward to seeing the opening of it at some point.
Matti Linkola’s IPP hair
There was one final part of the night which it would appear is the true end to the IPP. Each year Matti Linkola has had his hair shaved into the IPP lettering you see above, and each year at the end of the IPP, he has the letters shaved off, at the end of the Awards Dinner. So the scissors came out, and the Letters came off. Matti had a story for us though before the job was completed. Apparently his barber has told him that this will be the last year he can do this, since he’s not enough hair left to keep doing it!
Me and Tom Lensch
At the end of the proceedings, I had Tom Lensch come up to me and ask for a photograph with him as he hadn’t met me before. The really amazing part for me was that Tom asked to see one of the puzzles I’d made. I had one left, so I went and grabbed it for him to see. He was very encouraging and like everyone else there gave me a few tips and some advice which is more than I could have hoped for. Thanks Tom, it was a pleasure to meet and talk to you in person!
After the celebrations were over people started to drift off and say goodbyes, and the Renegades returned to the lobby to continue talking and to have another pint. There’s so many more stories from the evening, but I think I’ve written enough for one post so that will have to wait.
Next up I’ll start reviewing some of the great puzzles I played with throughout the week, and share my thoughts on them.
Today’s review is a little special. It’s not my review, but rather that of a good friend I have made through the puzzle community. Dominick has been puzzling over the Silver Revomaze for a long while now, and when he’s been stuck and frustrated, I’ve tried to encourage him and keep him puzzling. Well on Saturday, while I was working away he pops up on chat and announces that his Silver puzzle is open. I’ll be honest, having been with him on this journey for a long time, I’m every bit as excited to hear his news as I was when I opened my own Silver.
So here in Dominick’s own words is his journey.
The Silver Revomaze
After 4 months of puzzling with the first 3 Revomazes in my set I finally arrived at Silver. Excited and terrified all at the same time I take it out of the box and get my graph paper ready to start mapping. I have been reading the forums throughout my puzzling experience so I knew what a beast this puzzle was going to be. Being new to the puzzle world and starting with a Revomaze as my first puzzle it has been a learning experience from day one. I came across Revomaze on gizmodo.com which I often read daily. Once I read about them I was totally intrigued. But at $100+ it was hard to justify the purchase at the time being a new home owner.
So like everything I do I read and read about them and researched them. I contacted Chris after seeing that the puzzles were numbered; wanting a matching set. I hadn’t heard anything back and sort of put it to the back burner. After constantly talking about these puzzles my girlfriend went to the website and ordered me the Blue puzzle. After explaining to her that I wanted the whole set and they were numbered we contacted Chris and explained to him that it was important to me to have a complete matching set.
Chris offered his sons set to me since they wanted them to all go to the same person I was the perfect customer. With that my set was on its way with Red and Orange pre-ordered! I patiently waited for my package to arrive. I knew I had to start with Blue just to get the feel and idea of these mysterious puzzles so I opened Blue and told myself I was leaving the rest sealed until I opened the previous puzzle.
A few of Dominick's puzzles
Now lets get back to Silver. During all of this Revomaze puzzling I also got my hands on a few other types of puzzles which also helped me learn some of the possibilities in puzzle making. Between Blue, Green, and Bronze I was learning what I thought would eventually prepare me for Silver. I could not have been more wrong.
My journey through Silver was a long love hate relationship to the tune of 1 year, 7 months and 4 days! No I do not have the hours! As I started working on Silver I was going nowhere fast. I knew there were many new elements to this puzzle that I had not seen previously and I knew the nicknames for them from reading the product page but they still did not make sense. My map was showing about a quarter of the puzzle and that was it. My maps definitely were never to scale but I tried to get as close as possible. In my mind I know Chris is evil so I gave it some thought but still couldn’t wrap my head around what was going on. After experimenting with some of the things I have learned from the earlier puzzles I still had made no progress. At one point I found the what is called the “not a canyon” on the forums and was very excited to have made some progress only to find out that It was not the correct way to get there and would not help me at all. OK back to the drawing board. Ed: Shortcuts never helped anyone solve Silver
During one of my late nights of puzzling I was fiddling around and I realized something that completely blew my mind. Puzzle orientation was important! I instantly picked up the phone and texted my girlfriend! Despite this new finding it still took some time to figure out and understand what was going on. Even after successfully getting to this new area several times I still could not consistently get there. All along I was hunting for these clues that I kept reading about in the forums, none of which I ever found! At this point I was able to get to this new area and map what I could. I was feeling some different elements, which turned out to be nothing of any use. Still excited that I found this new area and was feeling all sorts of different things in there I’m completely stuck!
What the hell is going on here?
Did I break it?
Knowing that Chris is evil I knew it had to be one of his tricks but being stuck with hardly any movement I was a little concerned. I knew the puzzle was dynamic and it has always been made very clear that no force is needed to solve them but I tend to use a little more force than I need.
Well after some tinkering I figured out what was going on and was freed from my little padded room! This went on for weeks. Repeating the same thing over and over only to end up in the same place. Ed: We’ve all been there! I knew I had to do something in this area I just could not figure out what. A lot of my troubles were probably due to my poor mapping skills as I was missing something far too familiar. Months went by with no progress or even attempts to works on moving ahead. I would say to myself I should work on silver but then would never follow through.
After taking a longer break than I really wanted to I got back to working on Silver. Still making no progress. After a few nudges from several of the great friends I have made through the Revomaze forums I realized I had missed something that I was very familiar with. Feeling a little dumb for missing this I was finally making some progress after being stuck for months. I am not sure how I missed this since I was positive It was something I had tried but I carried on.
Now that I found this new area I made quick progress to the next thing that blew my mind. The “not a canyon”. Silver had nearly broken me several times at this point but now I’m thinking what the hell is this nonsense. How the hell does this even exist? Who thinks of this crazy shit! So as usual I felt around and thought about what was going on and how I’m going to get passed this seemingly impossible area. Up until this point I always knew there was a way to move forward and I was just missing something minor or not thinking. Even though there is a way to move forward the design of the puzzle; a cylinder makes it seem impossible. What’s even worse is there is no feedback in this area. So once again silver went back on the stand after months or experimenting and trying different things. At this point I had an idea of what needed to be done but just wasn’t executing it properly. Naturally my interests brought me back to the puzzle and I got to working on it again after weeks of not even picking it up.
With all the gentle nudges to try and get me thinking and on the right track I still was thinking about what I needed to do to cross the not-a-canyon all wrong. I had the idea of what I needed but still had no clue what I was looking for. So with a lot of trial and error I realized that my theories were wrong and not going to get me across.
I think the “not a canyon” was the most frustrating Revomaze experience yet. It really tests you. I’m not sure If I gave up again and took a break but I started working on it again while I had nothing better to do because I was sitting in traction several times a day for a neck injury that I have. So while I was sitting there I would puzzle away making no progress.
I guess by sheer luck one day I was trying all sorts of different methods to getting across and managed to not hear that dreaded click I had heard so many times taking the leap of faith into the “not a canyon”. At this point I really did know what to do but just couldn’t execute it properly. I didn’t really care though because I was across and thinking I got this shit! I’m across, I can see by my map that there isn’t much left to fill which meant I was getting close.
Well yes I was close but was once again so wrong. I made the mistake of crossing back to the first half of the puzzle very soon after crossing and had to start from the beginning all over. So once I made it back across I made sure I never went back! Now I’m thinking OK great I made it across and I’m spinning again but this time there is a small area that I can go in to. I finally made it in to the swamp and instantly was attacked within a half hour of being in there.
Then I found my way out of the swamp and was thinking that wasn’t so bad what is the big deal! Once again Chris blew my mind with the swamp, and after thinking a lot I realized what was going on but that was only the start. I had several theories for the swamp but most of them turned out to be wrong once again. Then one day while testing on of these theories my puzzle decided to lock up and this time I knew something was wrong.
Sending it back for repair
After speaking to several forum members I was assured I could still solve silver despite what I was feeling. So I puzzled away but the issue only got worse. At this point I decided to contact Chris and had to send it back. The worst part about this is I had figured out what was going on in there and I was so close. While I was without silver I decided to work on my Black obsession and Red extreme. I had both of these open within a week and patiently waited for Orange and Gold to arrive.
Silver finally came back after a few weeks and I was back to puzzling. Well what do you know I couldn’t cross the canyon again and was back to where I was months ago. So I kept at it and finally got back to the swamp. Knowing what I had to do I was at it right away only to find out something was wrong once again. I spent over a month chasing a phantom issue. At this point I was extremely frustrated. I knew what needed to be done, I knew I was so close. I emailed Chris once again and continued to puzzle while waiting for his response. I even got on the phone with Justin to see if he could help me out. After consulting several people who solved Silver I ended up having to send it back again.
Sending it back for repair again!
In this time I worked on Orange and solved that one while Silver was back at Revo HQ. I even learned something from Orange! I soon found out that part was missed when assembling my Silver puzzle the first time I had sent it back for repair which is why I was not experiencing the normal behavior in the swamp.
I received my puzzle after two weeks and once again had to cross the canyon, then figure out the swamp. After a lot more puzzling, I finally passed the swamp and saw the dots.
I took some advice and put it down for a few minutes to gather my composure. We had company over that night and everyone but my girlfriend thought I was nuts. They didn’t understand what I had finally done. Those dots were so close to each other but it seemed like a mile. After exhausting all options I went back in to the swamp!
I decided to put it down for the night even thought it was killing me I was so close. The next day I decided to set my mind to opening it and wasn’t going to stop until I did. Back passed the swamp I realized what I had to do but dreaded it. I finally worked up the courage to go for it and boom those dots lined up. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I instantly ran to my laptop to let Neil know and then texted my girlfriend a pic of the dots lined up.
Then of course I let the forums know and just sat there staring at it. My girlfriend texts me back no F’ing way! I promised her I’d wait until she was there to finally crack it so I sat it on my coffee table and enjoyed my moment until she was there hours later!
Silver was a long journey that nearly broke me several times. I am still in shock that it is open. It is truly an amazing piece of work and right up there with my favorite puzzle in the Revomaze collection. Due to the issues I had and some other inconsistencies I cannot say it is my favorite but it is very close. Now I know why they call it a bastard. It is a real beast to tame! I have to thank all the great friends I have made along the way that stuck with me during my journey. And special thanks to Neil for letting me post my experience on his website and putting up with my travels through silver.
The object of the puzzle is to jumble up the coloured wooden beads, and then restore the puzzle back to its grouped coloured columns. Much easier said than done, given the number of possible combinations. There’s no solution provided, as the puzzle comes ‘solved’ but once it’s messed up … well that’s up to you to fix it! There’s four columns of five coloured balls and six rows if you count the top and bottom of the puzzle. Red, Yellow, Blue and Breen painted wooden balls are held in the columns making it stand out as the colours are very vibrant.
Unlike the Ten Billion Barrel puzzle, you move only one ball at a time, when it drops into the spare space at the bottom, so the number of balls in play at any one time is much more manageable (10 at a time for Ten Billion Barrel!)
Twist and Shout
I have to say this is a really well made puzzle. I don’t know what wood has been used, but the grain shows some wonderful detail, and the movement is very smooth. There’s no screws in the puzzle, and it’s made from solid pieces of wood. I have to assume that there’s a wooden dowel in the centre which is glued in during assembly. It means you’re not going to be unscrewing the puzzle to solve it, and there’s no stickers on the pieces, so no cheating there either!
Overall, this is a really well made puzzle, and well worth the small price tag that Creative Crafthouse is asking for it. There’s just something about a wooden puzzle that makes it so much more appealing than a plastic version, so in my book, this wins out over the other plastic versions which are available.
While I’ve not had any time to get back to my workshop in the garage and spend time finishing off my current puzzle build, the Matrioshka (read part 1 and part 2) I have been busy. I’ve had a number of puzzle designs floating around in my head, and in the odd spare minute here and there I’ve been sketching things down and trying to make some progress. You’d be amazed how many ideas float through your head at 2am when you’re wide awake.
Since a good friend poked me in the direction of creating my own puzzles, I have had a myriad of ideas floating around in my head, each one probably more crazy than the last. The problem is that having an idea in my head doesn’t really do anyone any good. It was time to try to get a few things down on paper and see if there was some merit to any of them.
As you know from early posts here, my first puzzle design was cube based, and it created a nice puzzle in my opinion. (More info on that coming soon!) But I wanted something a little more interesting. I have been reading a lot about puzzle design, and Stewart Coffin’s work is an excellent learning resource. He challenges you to take what he has done, and learn from it. He doesn’t give the solutions to the puzzles he’s designed, far from it, he challenges the reader to find them himself. Having picked up a copy of one of his books from Amazon, and it was clear that in the world of polyhedral dissections, there is a lot more scope if you move beyond the cube.
Rough Sketches of a new puzzle design
I don’t want to make a copy of any of STC’s designs but I did want to see whether I could create a novel dissection. My starting point was a star, as in the sketches above. My idea was to create an extruded six pointed star with an interesting interlocking set of pieces. I played for a while with this idea, but realised that the dissection would lead to some very interesting cuts to create the pieces needed, and I abandoned that for a simpler 8 pointed star, where all the angles are 45 degrees. Ok, so simpler may be relative, however I did find it easier to work with!
The sketch in the middle is a rough of the dissection, where the puzzle is 6 units wide by two units high. With those base dimensions, I had enough freedom to create an interesting assembly, without it being too complex to create. Remember I am doing this by hand, not using a computer to help!
My first challenge was to visualise how you could dissect the shape. The nice part about working with the 8 pointed star is that each of the points is a cube, and cubic dissections are fairly straight forward. Using this as a starting point, I looked at creating 4 pieces which I could create some sort of locking structure around.
The first version was fairly simple, and went part way to what I wanted. I had created a two pieces which would join together such that movement in two of three dimensions was restricted. Creating a set of two such pieces created the first version of the puzzle.
Basic Star Puzzle Solved
Two joined pieces of the puzzle
You should be able to see from the image on the right, that there is nothing to stop the two halves from sliding apart, so really this isn’t a great puzzle. The reason I show it, is that it may give you an idea of the stages I went through in creating the puzzle, and if you’re thinking about creating your own puzzles, then hopefully it will be of use to you too.
The next stage of evolution of the puzzle is to create a version where once assembled, the four pieces don’t just slide apart on their own. Some sort of manipulation is required by the solver. The added benefit to this is that it’s now more challenging to solve. To do that I started to look at ways to create a joint between the two halves I’d created. I was looking for something like a dovetail joint, and if you look at the sketches at the top of this post, my version of that is in red pen on the top of the left hand sheet.
Creating the two halves of this joint, I created a way for the two sub assemblies to be slid together to create the final shape.
Sliding Star V2
So you may be asking why I’ve labelled this “Sliding Star V2”. The answer is quite simple. It’s the second version of the puzzle. Once I had created the basic pieces on paper, I turned to Burr Tools to model them on the computer, for two reasons which I’ll get to …
Many people turn to Burr Tools to find how to put their puzzle back together, or to create new puzzle pieces. The program has many many uses, and I’m no expert, but I am learning and getting much better the more I use it. I didn’t need to use the tool to find out how to assemble the puzzle, as I already had worked out on paper that it did. What I really wanted was to verify the assembly, and check how many assemblies existed with my pieces, and also because I wanted a model file that I could export for 3D printing!
Coming back to the reason for V2, when I originally designed the dovetail ends, I envisioned the puzzle as being two halves that slid together along the yellow blue axis in my rendering. What Burr Tools showed was that one of the pieces could slide diagonally out of the assembly, and in fact didn’t lock the puzzle together as I had drawn.
Here the power of the tool allowed me to see something I hadn’t seen on paper, and allowed me to rework the pieces to prevent the unintended movement. Burr tools also confirmed only one solution for the V1. For the V2, when I had redrawn things, and re-entered them into the tool, I was surprised to find 2 assemblies! So my small change allows two pieces to be swapped, and still assemble the puzzle. All very interesting, and very unexpected.
With the puzzle pieces confirmed as being possible within the constraints of Burr Tools, I set about exporting the pieces, so that I could have them 3D printed. This is a very quick way to prototype puzzles, which is far more powerful that pen and paper, or even computer modelling. Seeing a puzzle in real life, and playing with the pieces can give you much more feedback that looking at it in two dimensions.
Now I’ll be honest here, Burr Tools isn’t the most intuitive for exporting files, but with a lot of patience, and some guidance from Derek Bosch, I was able to export the pieces in a format which would work for sending to Shapeways. (Which I have done, and I’m waiting for the results!)
Now here’s the really interesting thing about the export from Burr Tools. If you export from the Solution tab, the stl files are created with location information. Which means that when you export them, they are in the position and orientation of the solved puzzle. So it means importing them into you 3D package of choice, you can render the solved puzzle, without painstakingly moving the pieces by hand. As a bonus side effect, it also shows you the tolerances between pieces, which is ideal for knowing how well things will fit when printed by Shapeways! If you’re wondering, yes this is how I created the images of the puzzle above in PovRay.
Once I receive the printed parts from Shapeways, I’ll update as to how things turned out.
With version two created, I turned my attention to the original goal of the project which was a co-ordinate motion version of the puzzle, using the same shape, but modified pieces to make a far more challenging puzzle to assemble. I’ll give more info on that in the next post about my puzzle making progress.
Finally, I mentioned a few posts back that I had a big project I was working on. Well I’m still working on it, but no more details yet. It is still at the pen and paper stage, and there’s a lot of work to tweak the designs before I take that further… Watch this space!