"When we tie up a belt or paper tape well, a knot that is called "Chiyo-Musubi" is completed. In Japan, it is said to be a lucky knot."
This fine looking box from Hiroshi Iwahara of the Karakuri Creation group is a sliding puzzle box with two hidden compartments requiring 19 moves to open both. The interesting point about this puzzle box is that the slides which conceal both hidden spaces cross one another, so the resulting mechanism is much harder to produce than a standard box. Iwahara notes that the shape of this particular knot is a Pentagon, but it is also possible to produce a Heptagon. He's not planning to make a Heptagon version as a puzzle box though.
Created back in April this year, and measuring 9.5" x 5" x 2.75" approximately, this is a big puzzle box, and it feels really solid when you're solving it. I don't exactly have small hands, and this box feels big to me when I'm working on it. I didn't do too well on my wood identification in the video, as the only thing I got right was the Walnut! So to correct that, the box is made from Walnut, Oak and Angsana, giving it the striking appearance. To look at it, you really can get the feeling that someone has taken a plank of wood and knotted it like a belt.
I borrowed this puzzle box from Derek Bosch (yes he has a good collection and has been very kind to lend me chunks of it at a time), so I'm not sure if it's just his copy or not, but the panels are fairly loose, to the point that when solving it, some of the panels would slide back to where I'd moved them from as I turned the box over in my hands. While it doesn't take away from the box, it can make it a challenge to open, as you have to be careful that panels don't slide around on their own as you move the box. Not realising that a panel slid back after you moved it preventing further progress can be a pain.
This is a really nice puzzle, and I have to admire the design, especially the ability to have pieces passing over and under each other to make a very slick puzzle. If I'm honest, it's not my favorite puzzle from Iwahara, but it's by no means a bad puzzle! It took around 10 minutes to open the box and find both hidden compartments the first time. Having gone back to it later, I can see that this could take much longer as the order you open the compartments does seem to come into play, so I may have been lucky the first time and opened them in the correct order.
Overall, a very nice puzzle and one which would certainly stand out next to other puzzle boxes, both for its size and striking contrast of woods.
a DIY Puzzle Box
Bruce makes a large number of puzzle box designs, and supplies plans for you to cut your own pieces. He uses an interesting measuring system based on the thickness of the wood, so you can use any stock you have as long as you mark everything up based on thickness.
Rather than cutting all the pieces myself, I purchased the pre-cut kits to make my life easier. I didn't really feel like spending days cutting all the parts myself, not to mention that some of the pieces are pretty small, making for some challenging cuts.
The video shows the full process from start to finish, using time-lapse. Overall, it took around 2.5 hours actually working on the kit. Including time for the glue to dry, it was around 5 hours.
Overall, it's a good kit, despite the small issue I had. Since I'll be receiving some replacement parts to fix that issue, I really can't complain. If you're thinking about getting one of these, I highly recommend the kit as it's both well made, and Bruce's instructions are pretty easy to follow. There's minimal sanding needed, so pretty much anyone should be able to build on of these, and get pretty good results at the end.
Tier Box is a Japanese style sliding panel puzzle box with a few unique touches, designed and made by Eric Fuller back in September 2009. The 18th marks its two year birthday, so I though it appropriate to add this review today.
The box measures 3.2" cubed and is made from Quartersawn Bubinga for the outer panels, and Quartersawn Paduak for the internal panels. Along with that there's a few magnets and some metal pins thrown in for good measure. 14 moves are required to open the box to reveal the space inside, and the same again to close it. Despite opening it fairly quickly, I must confess, it took me many more than 14 moves to close this one back up!
Eric has this to say about the box:
I am very happy with the results of this, my latest puzzle box. The design originates from a sketch I made in Chicago sometime during IPP23. It combines several ideas I have been wanting to implement in a sliding panel puzzle box. The solution requires 14 moves, but those moves are anything but straightforward and are at times downright devious. I had the pleasure of watching many puzzlers attempt to solve it during the course of IPP29, so I can say that difficulty wise it's a nice 15 minute solve for most puzzlers, with several ah-ha's to spice things up. Fully understanding the interactions between all the panels will likely take quite a bit longer.
There were only 34 copies of the box made, so I have to once again thank Derek for lending me his copy to puzzle over. It's a fun box, and very solidly built. As Eric notes himself, fully understanding the interactions of all the panels certainly does take some time. I was able to open the box without too much trouble, finding it a fairly simple progression from one step to the next. Closing however was not the same story. I probably spent around 5 minutes opening the box, and well over 20 closing it again. At one point I thought I was going to have to give it back to Derek open as it didn't look like I could figure out how to close it!
So from that experience it's a challenging little box. The panels interact in interesting ways with each other, and the only way to truly say you've solved it is in understanding all the interactions. Despite the pins being around 1/16", they really do get in the way!
One of the beautiful things about the choice of wood here is that the internals of the box being made from Paduak, are protected from UV, so have retained their beautiful Orange/Red colour which will normally fade to a dark brown if exposed to the sun. It's a nice touch to have this colour screaming at you when working on the box.
My only criticism with the mechanism is that the thin sliding panels used in the internals of the box are fairly tight. While this is normally a good thing in a puzzle box, meaning the panels don't rattle around of their own accord, I found that this worked against me when trying to close the box, as my fingers couldn't push one of the internal panels far enough to slide it to where it needed to be through the small gap left when the outer panels were positioned in the correct locations. In the end, I had to get a small tool to help.
Overall, a superb box, that adds a few surprises to a standard sliding box, and creates a satisfying puzzle.
I know I've been a little slow in putting this together, but for those of you waiting for it, here's my little round up of the Post IPP California Puzzle Party.
As with the last CPP, Stan Isaacs kindly opened his home to the motley crew of puzzle enthusiasts from around the Bay area and had a huge array of puzzles out and about for us to play with. Amongst those out were a complete collection of IPP31 exchange puzzles as well as my previous nemesis from the first CPP, Roger's 'Alles Roger' puzzle.
Despite my complete inability to remember names, there were a good few faces I recognised, either from the last meeting, or people who were pointed out to me. If I've forgotten you, it's not personal! In attendance were Nick Baxter, who sent me the info on the first CPP I went to. He couldn't make it to the first party so it was good to be able to meet him this time, and talk about some of the exchange puzzles, some of the IPP design entries and a few other items in my collection.
Derek Bosch had also taken a few hours away from his daughter to pop in and say hello. He'd brought his copy of STC's Distorted Cube made by Tom Lensch. I played around with this puzzle for a little while, and given how good a puzzle it is, when Tom listed some on Puzzle Paradise, I jumped at the chance. Derek was working on Richard Gain's Superstrings puzzle which was one of the Jury First Prize winners at IPP31. You can read Brian's review here. This is a really tough puzzle, and I can see why it won favor with the judges at IPP. Much easier to take apart than it is to put together, Richard can be rightly proud of this one.
Fellow blogger Jeff Chiou was also there, having brought along the Perplexus Epic, since we'd talked about that at the last CPP. As it happens, I've bought myself a copy since the last CPP (yes, review coming along with the Perplexus Rookie!) so I didn't play with it. When I arrived, Jeff was working on Alles Roger, having not opened it last time. I did spend some more time on this RD puzzle and this time I got the small ball bearing out of the puzzle. So, yes it is possible, no random shaking will not solve it, and the solution isn't quite what I was expecting!
Not sure who it was, but someone was playing with Bram Cohen's Cast Rattle at one point. Stan walked past and commented that he couldn't open it just in his hands but someone around could. Someone (I told you I was bad with names) mentioned that I could open it and Derek mentioned that Bram was at the gathering, so I was promptly introduced to him. Great to meet yet another designer, and Bram seems like such a nice guy.
Harry Nelson who I'd met the last time was also sitting in Stan's little study, and seemed to delight in handing my fiancée puzzles to see if she could solve them, much to my amusement. Jen's not really a puzzler, although she is always interested in the exotic woods that the puzzles I own come in.
At this point, you're probably wondering if I spent all my time talking or if I tried any of the puzzles. After all, why else do you go to a puzzle gathering? I did have a good rifle through the boxes of IPP exchange puzzles on Stan's desk, as well as a few people handed me to play with.
One of the first puzzles I tried to solve was Rik's Egg Balance by Rik van Grol. This is the second year that Rik has used a laser cut egg, created from multiple layers glued together with a ball bearing inside the egg. The layers form a maze which the ball must be navigated through to get the ball bearing into the thin end of the egg, at which point it will balance on it's 'nose. Stan saw me playing with this years entry, and promptly handed me last year's entry as well, commenting that the wasn't sure which was worse! I have to agree with Stan. Both are really tricky, and even with the slot in this years entry which allows you to see the ball bearing, and some of the maze, it's still no easier!
Despite Stewart Coffin having 'retired' from making puzzles, he'd made quite a few to be used as exchange puzzles. This on called 'Check Me Out' is STC #256 as was Dave Rosetti's exchange puzzle this year. Dave was there and when he saw me playing with it asked if I'd like a copy. Both Derek and I sad yes in response, so I'll write a full review of this one soon, since I have a copy of my own. Short version, it's another devious Coffin packing puzzle. I also had a play with Stewart Coffin's 'Quintet in F', #253 in his numbering. It's similar to 'Check Me Out', with a non square tray, but the pieces are all the same. Every bit as maddening if I'm honest. I believe the trays in both puzzles are identical, and the unit sizes are the same, so I may have a go at making the 'F' pieces myself. If anyone can confirm whether the trays and pieces are the same, that would be great!
I picked up George Bell's Dice Box made by Scott Elliot on his 3D printer using live hinges. Since it was already assembled, and I'd read on Scott's Blog, that taking it apart was tricky, I didn't want to go breaking it. I would like to have a shot at this one from its flat packed state, as it's a good solid puzzle, and the design, using co-ordinate motion makes it looks like it would be fun to play with. (Scott, George - do you have any left 😉 )
While I was playing Derek and (I think Nick Baxter) were puzzling over Z-Shift. A Number of red and blue pieces of acrylic which have been glued back to back in some interesting pieces. There were a number of challenges to create heart shapes, and other such puzzles using the pieces. This seemed a little similar to 'Black or White" by Tomas Lindén and Vesa Timonen. I don't have a picture of this one. Sorry.
Four in a Frame designed by Markus Götz, is yet another tray packing problem that I tried out. This time four very unsual pieces, with a strange shaped cut out in the tray. The tray was double sided, with an 'easy' and a 'hard' side. I didn't solve either in the time I played with the puzzle, but then tray packing puzzles aren't my strong point. I borrowed this picture from Rob's Puzzle Page so have a look there for more information and other pictures.
A few other puzzles I played with were Crazy Bottles by Jean Claude Constantin. The idea here is that it is a mechanical version of the "Three Jugs Problem". If I'm honest I didn't care much for this puzzle. The levers which were used to control the movement of the ball bearings were sticking and hard to move, and I was concerned I was going to break it. I know there were a lot of people very excited by this puzzle at IPP, and perhaps if I had the puzzle problem sheet and some time I may have liked it more. As it was I certainly didn't want to damage one of Stan's puzzles.
At one point I was handed a copy of "Triple Play" designed by Bill Scheckels and used as an exchange puzzle by Norton Star (I think). This is a beautifully made puzzle and is very tactile. There's no sharp edges anywhere, and it really does want you to pick it up. A fairly simple puzzle, using a hidden locking mechanism and co-ordinate motion to slide the pieces apart. I really liked the look and feel of this puzzle, even if it was fairly simple to open. There's something mesmerizing about the way the pieces move, and the use of light and dark woods.
That's it for this CPP. I had to leave reasonably early this time, otherwise I'm sure I'd have spent a lot more time at this gathering. As ever it was a good meeting, and I look forward to the next one!