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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.