Neil's Puzzle Building Blog
30Apr/113

Revomaze Blue Extreme

This entry is part 1 of 11 in the series Revomaze

As promised previously, here's my first review in the Revomaze series, available from Revomaze and also in limited numbers from PuzzleMaster.

Revomaze Blue Extreme Puzzle

Revomaze Blue Extreme Puzzle

The first puzzle from Revomaze is the Blue. I have the extreme version which is the heavier, and also more expensive version of this puzzle. It's also available as a plastic puzzle called the Obsession which is much lighter and cheaper. I'd recommend the plastic puzzle if you want to try out the puzzle before the more significant investment in the metal puzzles, but there are differences between the puzzles which I'll point out later that are worth being aware of.

The biggest difference between the two puzzles is that the weight of the Extreme is a big challenge in itself. At 600g these are heavy puzzles, and do take some getting used to. Your hands, wrists and fingers will find it difficult to work for more than 5-10 minutes initially on these puzzles before getting tired and sore. Don't overdo it, short sessions are a must. The plastics are light and don't have this added challenge so may be easier to get to grips with (pun intended).

The quality of the build and machining of the metal puzzles is excellent. This is a really high-end puzzle, and it is worth the asking price. It's really hard to damage these puzzles as well, so you can happily pass this to friends to try, and short of dropping it end first on the floor, it's not going to come to any harm. This is one puzzle line that you should be able to pass down to your kids one day.

The object of all the puzzles in the series is to remove the core into which the maze is etched from the shaft of the puzzle by pushing, pulling and twisting the shaft to navigate the maze. There is an indent of the coloured sleeve, and a corresponding one of the shaft, which once lined up will allow the shaft to be removed from the sleeve. Once you have opened the maze, you are presented with a certificate and a clear plastic map which are wrapped around the inner draw of the puzzle. Note: On the Obsession line, the shaft cannot be removed from the sleeve to see the maze without breaking the puzzle. There is also no clear plastic map as the Obsession line does not qualify for the competition which this plastic map is part of. Sounds simple right?

The really clever part about the puzzles is that the maze is not one-dimensional. It's not even two-dimensional! The mechanism that makes the puzzle work is the spring loaded pin which is used to navigate the maze. The pin rides on top of the maze, and is being pushed against the maze by the spring which is located in the coloured sleeve. This allows the maze to operate on several levels, one of which is the dreaded reset line.

The puzzle has a unique system where if you make a wrong turn, you can 'fall off' the maze, into a reset line with a satisfying click, at which point, the only progress is back to the beginning! This isn't like an ordinary maze then where you can follow the walls and make it to the end. There are parts of the maze where one wall or both walls are removed leaving the pin free to fall into that reset if you're not careful. Early on in even the blue, there is a tricky section, where you can fall into a reset, and it seems that there is no way to progress. Don't be disheartened though, your puzzle isn't broken, and there is a way forward. The only advice is to map the path, and map the reset lines. If you still can't make progress, then map better!

Blue is rated by Revomaze as having a difficulty of 50/100 (challenging) and an estimated opening time of 6 hours. It is described as a static maze and really is an introduction to the series. There are enough twists and turns in the puzzle to keep you busy for a good few hours, and in total it took me around 4 hours to open this puzzle for the first time. There's one spot in the puzzle that gets everyone, leaving many saying "There's no way to progress. My puzzle is broken". As we have all found out, there is a way, the challenge is in finding it.

The one word of warning I'll give is that if you do decide to buy one, and I highly recommend you do, you'll end up getting more. After solving one, there are few who can resist coming back for more.

I'll be reviewing the rest of the puzzles in the series in the coming posts, so check back for info on the rest of the series.



29Apr/112

Pagoda Puzzle boxes

After the most recent Puzzle Paradise auction had finished, I was in the site looking at the details for the Stickman #2 that I'd won, and a few items which hadn't sold popped up again. Two of them were Matt Dawsons' Improved Pagoda Puzzle Box, and Pagoda Puzzle Box #3.

My fiancée saw these, and really like the look of them. Then asked me to get them. Both. After I'd picked myself up from the floor, I did just that!

Pagoda puzzle boxes showing Makishi's Signature

Pagoda puzzle boxes showing Makishi's Signature

Both boxes are designed by Matt, and built by Makishi. Makishi has signed the back of both boxes as can be seen on the shot of the back of the Improved Pagoda. Each box is limited to 40, and are beautifully made. Makishi has done an excellent job on these, and they look like a matched pair. The object on both boxes is to open the drawer that can be seen a the front of the puzzle. The boxes are made from Red Oak, Walnut and Maple, giving the boxes their striking appearance. The boxes both measure 5.3125 inches high, by 3 inches square.

Improved Pagoda Puzzle Box by Matthew Dawson and Makishi

Improved Pagoda Puzzle Box by Matthew Dawson and Makishi

The Improved Pagoda Puzzle box is an improved design from the one submitted to the IPP 29, hence its name. The box is a sequential move puzzle box, requiring 13 moves to open. You open it by raising and lowering the topmost section of the pagoda by spinning the lower two sections. The design is quite clever and is executed in such a way that it's quite easy to get turned around and close the box again rather than open it. It took about 15 minutes for me to open this one, as the last couple of moves eluded me. This is where keeping track of what you did is really essential, otherwise, you'll go backwards rather than forwards. After opening the box I spotted a smiley face drawn on both the inside of the box and the drawer, which can be fully removed from the pagoda. I have to assume that these are marks Makishi added to keep the drawers and boxes together while making them. It's a nice little touch and I'm quite glad he didn't remove them. I've already found myself doing exactly the same thing when working on my own puzzle designs!

Pagoda Puzzle Box #3 by Matthew Dawson and Makishi

Pagoda Puzzle Box #3 by Matthew Dawson and Makishi

The Pagoda Puzzle Box #3 which uses the Walnut as the main wood for the body is a slightly more challenging puzzle, requiring 25 moves to open it. The same basic rules apply for this box, with a few additional steps added to make things just that bit more challenging. This is a really nice puzzle, and I do like the extra complexity added. For myself this is a better challenge than the Improved Pagoda, however the Improved Pagoda is less frustrating for newer puzzles, or non-puzzlers. (We bought the Improved Pagoda for my son who has shown an interest in puzzling having watched me, so it's simpler opening allows him to find the solution without getting annoyed).

If you're a serious puzzler, I'd recommend the 25 move box over the simpler 13 move box, but as a pair, these look great together!

You may still be able to get these from Puzzle Paradise currently, or get in touch with Matt Dawson.



28Apr/110

Revomaze, The series so far…

I was introduced to the Revomaze puzzles about 6 months ago, since then I've been hooked. I was on the lookout for a new puzzle to keep me busy, and wanted something that I wasn't going to solve in an hour and then have it gather dust on a shelf after that. I'd been looking around a few forums and keeping a quiet eye on some of the discussions, and the name Revomaze kept popping up, so I did some digging, and liked what I found.

The puzzle seemed to be some sort of maze, that you navigated blind, with the objective being to remove the core of the puzzle. With estimated solve times ranging from 4 hours to 300+ hours depending on which puzzle you were looking at, I thought I have to give this a try. Anything that has the audacity to market itself as "Probably one of the hardest puzzles in the world" is either pretty good, or rather full of itself. And I wanted to find out which it was.

Revomaze Bronze Extreme Puzzle

Revomaze Bronze Extreme Puzzle

The Bronze pictured above is the third most difficult in the series after Blue and Green. The fourth puzzle, the Silver Revomaze is the most difficult to date, and estimated at 160 hours to open on average. Gold isn't yet released, and is expected later this year. Chris is working hard to complete production and testing of the puzzle to complete the Series I puzzles.

There are two types of puzzle available, both of which are basically the same. The Obsession series is a plastic version, and was released later, and the origina Extreme series, which are 600g metal puzzles, machined to the highest quality, and guaranteed to test the strength of your fingers and wrists. I personally like teh weight and feel of the metal puzzles, while others like the plastics. Certainly the plastics are much cheaper, but the feel and weight of the metal puzzle really gives it that solid high end feel that so many puzzles lack.

The designer of the Revomaze puzzle, Chris Pitt, is offering a competition with real prize money if you can open one of his puzzles in the top number of people per puzzle, where you'll be invited to a live event to compete for a chance to win the cash. The other prize on offer at the live event is the chance to own a limited Purple puzzle. In all honesty I think this is the bigger prize than the money!

Now I came to the game quite late on, and all the spots for Blue, Green and Bronze were gone. Having said that I worked my way through each of them in turn, before moving on to Silver. From start to finish I opened all 4 in under two months. I've been told that's pretty good going, and with some people having spent more than 6 months on a single puzzle, I'll believe it!

I did manage to open the Silver as one of the first 30 people in the world, and as such have a place in the final. If you're also going to be there then I look forward to meeting you!

One of the things that really stands out about the Revomaze, and the company is the people there. The customer service is excellent, and although it's rare, should anything go wrong with your puzzle, you can bet that Chris himself will deal with it, and make sure you get back to solving in no time.

There are also a number of special edition or limited edition puzzles out there, including Black, Red and a soon to be released Orange. While these are not part of the main series, they have become very sought after!

Look out for my reviews of each of the individual puzzles coming soon. Until then, if you want a hint on how to open it, Map, and Think (c) Allard!



27Apr/110

Karakuri Small Box #1

When I won the auction on Puzzle Paradise recently for the Stickman Box #2, Robert was kind enough to throw a small extra into the package when he shipped it to me. He didn't mention what it was, only that he'd include a little extra for me to pass around at Puzzle Parties.

When to package arrived, I found buried amongst the packing peanuts a Karakuri Small Box #1.

Karakuri Small Box #1

Karakuri Small Box #1

There are a number of different versions of this particular box, with a different outer appearance. The internal mechanisms however are the same. This particular box is KK-1-3 and is made from Keyaki, Katura and Walnut.

This should be a really simple box to open. The information from the Karakuri group themselves is "At first, we produced around 10 works through trial and error to create "Karakuri Small Box Series". This was the most popular work among those works. If you know the solution, you can open it with only 3 moves. But, almost no one can open it without knowing the solution. We named it just "#1", so we wouldn't give you a hint with the name."

I have to agree, that this is a tough little box. It took me around 20 minutes to open over several weeks messing with it for a few minutes each night before I went to bed to open it. The solution is really simple, but only the first move is obvious. After that two clever little tricks are used to make opening the box a little harder.

I really like this box, and it brought a smile to my face when I finally opened it. The Karakuri small boxes are a great way to get an affordable Japanese puzzle box that not only looks good, but has enough of a challenge to slow you down.

These can be bought from a number of sources including directly from the Karakuri Creation Group or through Puzzle Box world or Puzzle Master .



25Apr/112

Building a Matrioshka (Part 1)

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Building a MaTRIOshka

I've had a bit of a break from working on my own puzzles, as work and life in general have been rather hectic meaning I've just not had the time. However over the Easter weekend, I had three whole days that I could do something puzzle related. I've still not been able to pick up some wood to get back to working on my burr cube, however I did have a lump of oak left over from the box project my oldest son wanted to make as a birthday present.

After reading Kevin's review of the Matrioshka here. I noticed that the puzzle is entirely made of triangles. Now I just happened to have a number of leftover 'scrap' that would fit the bill perfectly from the box. So I sat down with a pencil and paper to figure out how Vinco created his box, and see if I could replicate it.

Note: This project is purely for my own learning, and experience in working with wood to build puzzles, at the scale I need to be working at to create my own puzzles. This is not for sale. If you like Vinco's puzzles, please buy them, they really are great puzzles, and the craftsmanship is superb. I own several of Vinco's puzzles, and highly recommend them.

With all that said, on to the build ...

To break down how the puzzle is built, we need some good photos. Kevin happened to upload some excellent pictures, and I'll not repost them here. Go read his review and have a look if you're interested. The bottom line is that the outer shell is made of 54 idential pieces. They are equilateral triangles on the edge, with a piece length that is twice the length of the side. So, I set about creating 54 identical pieces.

The first thing was to cut the wedge shaped strips of wood which I would eventually cut to the correct length. I took out my mitre saw, and set about making the cuts. One small issue I had was that the amount of the blade in contact with the wood generated a lot of heat, which warped the strips I was cutting. As a result, I had to tape two together as they cooled to make sure the wood was going to end up straight again when I was ready to cut it to length.


With all the strips cut, I had to cut them down to the correct size for each piece. I measured one piece, cut it and checked that it was exactly right. With that done, all I had to do was clamp down a stop, put a sacrificial fence in place and start cutting. As you'll see from the photo, I used a scrap piece of wood as a zero tolerance fence to avoid chipout on the pieces I was cutting. It just saves some time later.


After about half an hour, I had a reasonable pile of pieces next to me, and it was time to do a little rough sanding before gluing up the pieces.


With the rough edges sanded down so that things were a bit neater, and all the pieces labelled to make the glue-up easier, it was time to get the clamps out. The shape of the pieces I was gluing up made things a little more challenging, but with a few of the scraps from cutting the pieces out, life was made simpler again.


It's worth noting at this point, that all these pieces are oversized. This gives me a little bit of material to work with so that I can sand and fine tune all the pieces. For this to look good, it has to have a tight(ish) fit, and the only way to do that is to make sure the pieces are all the same. Despite using the fence, and stops on the saw, not all my pieces came out to be the same size. After all, I'm still learning, and you could say that this is an ambitious project. That said, how do we learn if we don't push ourselves?

In the next post, I'll continue with building the Matrioshka and think about putting each of the six pieces together that will form the final puzzle.



21Apr/110

The Ball Puzzle (Charles O. Perry)

I received my copy of "The Ball Puzzle" by the late Charles O. Perry today from PuzzleMaster. They currently have both the brass version and the perspex version for sale. Since these aren't being made any more to the best of my knowledge, they may sell fairly quickly, so if you're interested after reading the review I'd suggest picking one up as these will be limited in numbers.

The Ball Puzzle by Charles O. Perry

The Ball Puzzle by Charles O. Perry

Charles is probably best known for his mathematical scupltures which can be found throughout the USA and abroad, so owning one of his sculpture based puzzles, created by him is quite special.

The first thing that struck me about this puzzle is the size. It's a lot smaller than I thought it would be at around 1.5 inches at its widest. Even though it's small, given that this is solid brass it's still a heavy puzzle. Warning: Don't drop this on your toes!

The puzzle comes with a heavy canvas bag (the puzzle is sitting on it in the photo) and is etched with Charles' signature on the solid piece.

As you'll see from the pieces, this isn't a difficult puzzle, and it's not going to take long either to disassemble or reassemble it. I think with this, it's not the difficulty that's the interest, but rather the overall shape and weight of the puzzle that appeals. The brass is well polished and as such really reflects the light so it's going to look good on the puzzle shelf, although at such a small size, it may be easily lost amongst bigger pieces. This wouldn't be out of place hanging on your Christmas tree.

Puzzle Master ranks this as a Level 7 (Challenging) puzzle, but if I'm honest it's only a Level 2 at best. There's only really one way that the pieces go together, and it's not going to take even the newest of puzzlers long to solve it. As I mentioned though, I don't think that's really the charm of the piece. Edit: After handing this around at work today, I'm going to revise my original thoughts. This seems to be a little more difficult than I originally thought and it took a fair few people a good 10 mins to solve this. With that, I'll say it's probably a 3-4, but still not near a level 7.

One nice touch is that the solid piece has a sprung ball bearing in the centre which 'locks' the final piece in place, and adds just enough friction to stop it sliding out under it's own weight. It may not seem like much, but it's addition finishes the puzzle nicely.

If you're looking for something a little different either to add to your collection or as a gift, then I'd recommend either the brass or perspex versions. There aren't many people who'll have one of these, and they are a nice talking point sitting on the coffee table.