Neil's Puzzle Building Blog
30Apr/122

Three Piece What ‘sit

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series IPP 31

At IPP 31 in Berlin George Bell exchanged his Three Piece What 'sit made by Bernhard Schweitzer in the New Pelikan workshop. The goal, and the only hints you get are to "Assemble the 3 pieces to an allside symmetrical 3D shape"

The Three Piece Whatsit Pieces

The Three Piece Whatsit Pieces

This great looking puzzle is made from Maple and Robina and measures 2.75" x 2.75" x 2.75". The three pieces are a good size in your hands and give little away about how they should be combined. Playing around you'll quickly find several ways that two of the pieces can be joined, which leave no room for the third to fall into place.

I probably spent around 10 minutes before I found the correct orientation of the first two pieces to allow the third to drop into place correctly, leaving a very pleasing solution shape. Taking it apart and photographing it for the review, it then took me around another 10 minutes to get it back to its solved state again. Since then I've taken it apart and put it back together again several more times, and I can solve it fairly reliably now. I'm sure if I left the pieces separate for a while then came back to it, it would take a little time before I could solve it again, so the level of difficulty is reasonable on this one.

Interestingly, at the at same time as George designed this puzzle, Don Charnley also designed the same puzzle, and named it Donz Q'b. The interesting thing is that the puzzles pieces are mirror images of each other. So you may find this puzzle referred to by either name, but in the end it's the same puzzle.

Solution shape of the What 'sit

Solution shape of the What 'sit

I've deliberately, not included the picture of the solved shape as part of the gallery since that's part of the challenge, but since it's readily available in a number of places on the web, if you want to see it, click on the image above to see the full shape. Overall, a fun puzzle, and highly recommended if you can get a copy.



24Apr/120

Tom’s Square Dance

In the most recent round of puzzles from Eric Fuller, he offered a few copies of Tom's Square Dance. Sadly I was too slow this time and didn't manage to get a copy myself. Fortunately my good friend Derek did get a copy, and he happily lent me the puzzle to play with! As the name hints, this is another great puzzle design from Tom Jolly.

Tom's Square Dance in Paduak and Holly

Tom's Square Dance in Paduak and Holly

The Puzzle measures 3.3" x 3.3" x 0.75" with the 'cubes' being 0.75". The goal of the puzzle is to remove the pieces from the frame and then return them back to their original positions. One of the corner blocks is held in place with a small magnet, and once removed the rest of the blocks can be slid around inside the frame. While it may sound like there's not much to this puzzle, you soon realise that there's more to it than it first looks.

First piece signed by Eric

First piece signed by Eric

The blocks are not simple pieces, and have various bits sticking out of them so that they both slide against each other, and interact with each other allowing and preventing various pieces from moving. To make things more interesting, hidden around the frame are various blocks which also prevent the inner blocks from moving around!

Closeup of the pieces showing solid construction

Closeup of the pieces showing solid construction

Eric really went all out in making this puzzle. Offered in two different frame options, Bubinga and Paduak, with Holly pieces, the contrast looks great. Over time, the Paduak frame will change from the bright red/orange it is now to a very dark brown. The beauty of this will be that the inner frame which is hidden from the light will remain bright orange, so on solving; it will make for a very pretty reveal.

The thing that really makes this special is that the puzzle pieces are all milled from solid pieces of holly, and not layered pieces glued together. As such the pieces are very strong, and the time to create these pieces is much more labor intensive than gluing the blocks together. Eric has created the pieces such that the tabs are several thousands of an inch thinner than the grooves they run in. The precision of the pieces is really stunning, and shows the quality of Eric's work. What it leaves you with is some really beautiful pieces, where the grain flows through the entire piece, something that could only be achieved with the time Eric put into the making of the puzzle.

The Second piece removed (oh, and the pic won't help you solve it!)

The Second piece removed (oh, and the pic won't help you solve it!)

To solve the puzzle, after removing the first block, it takes 8 more moves to remove the second piece, and as Allard and Oli have already commented in their reviews, the first piece comes out in a rather unexpected manner. It's not too difficult to remove the first piece, and the second follows not too long after that. I think the reason is that the obstructions as well as hindering also mean that there's a fairly linear path to follow to removing the pieces.

All the pieces removed

All the pieces removed

Putting the pieces back into the frame once you've taken them out and jumbled them up is a far greater challenge. It took me around 5 minutes to take the pieces out, but a couple of hours to get them all back in. It's not impossible, but certainly a good challenge.

It total, the solution is listed as a 1.8.5.3.4(.2.2.3.3). The part in brackets really doesn't count as there's so much space at that point, that things just fall out! To my mind there is really only one solution however, if you plug the pieces into burr tools once you've solved it, you'll find that it reports a second solution, with a different move count 1.8.5.3.2(.3.2.3.3). Now this alternate solution is actually identical to the original, the only change is that the two identical pieces in the puzzle are placed in the puzzle in a different order. Talking to Andreas about this, he notes that the tool will try to find a short path from the current point to removing the next piece. Depending on the state of the puzzle, this may be different, really only the count to remove the first piece is accurate.

I have to admit, I really enjoyed this puzzle. I think it's around the right level between frustration, difficulty and solvability. Eric's copy is superbly made, and while I'm a little sad I didn't manage to get a copy of my own, I'm very happy to have been able to play with it thanks to the kindness of my puzzling friends.



17Apr/124

Judges Gavel

When you think about iconic items in society today, the crack of a Judges Gavel has to be up there. So when Michail Toulouzas took that iconic item and made it into a puzzle, there was little doubt that it would be special. And at IPP 31 in Berlin, the Judges Gavel won First Place.

Judges Gavel

Judges Gavel

Mike recently offered a number of these puzzles for sale and with an award winning puzzle, how could I possibly pass up the opportunity to add one to my collection, so without any thought I clicked 'buy' on the Puzzle Paradise auction! Update: Since posting the review, the last of the gavels on paradise has gone.

The goal of the puzzle is to remove the Mexican Ebony ring from the handle of the gavel. Sounds simple enough. So before you ask, no it doesn't come off over the handle. The inner diameter of the ring is too small to allow it to do that, and clearly it's not going to come off over the hammer end!

Closeup of the stunning woods used.

Closeup of the stunning woods used.

Measuring 4.25" x 1.25" x 9" for the hammer, this version is slightly larger than the IPP entry. Made from a stunning combination of Mahogany, Lignum Vitae and Mexican Ebony, the Puzzle looks stunning. Mike tried to keep the choice of woods dark, rich and full, not fancy, and I'd agree with most of that. The woods certainly are dark and rich, but the Lignum Vitae on the handle and base have such depth and character, that I can't classify them as anything other than fancy. When you turn the puzzle over in your hands, the light reflects off the wood with an almost magical property... and I love it! The whole puzzle has a warm feel to it; it exudes quality and has a feeling of something expensive and high quality.

Ed: Now returning to your regularly scheduled review ...

Ok, so I like the look and feel of the puzzle. You get that!

Sadly I wasn't in Berlin for the IPP, however those who were (Brian I'm thinking about you) recall that you could tell when someone was working on it thanks to the crack of the gavel hitting the block.

Since Brian had already commented in his review that there was more to the puzzle than just hitting the gavel, I was really looking forward to trying this one out myself. Like Brian I wasn't disappointed. The puzzle is a piece of master craftsmanship, and there are subtle details that you'll need to understand to be able to solve it.

Open!

Open!

It's a clever puzzle, and needs (by my count) 5 steps to solve it and remove the ring. Some of those are fairly obvious, but others are well hidden and really need you to think about what's going on. The beauty is that this is a solid puzzle, and designed to be used in the way the object it mirrors would be. So giving it a good whack is both part of the solution, and incredibly satisfying as well.

Mike's signature

Mike's signature

On the base of the wooden block, in possibly some of the neatest handwriting I have seen in a long time is Mike's signature and a few details about the puzzle including the number in the run and the date it was made.

Ssssh ... we're working!

Ssssh ... we're working!

There is one last detail that Mike included with the puzzle, and that's the small leather round to sit on top of the base to help deaden the sound... but when it makes such a nice sound, why would you want to? Not to mention that it would cover up the beautiful grain that you can see below.

The base looks stunning with the rich grain

The base looks stunning with the rich grain

In summary, this is a great puzzle, and highly deserving of its first place prize. If you're quick, you should be able to add one to your collection, and in my opinion, you'd not be disappointed if you did!

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5Apr/120

Daedalus

Daedalus is one of the IPP31 Design entries from Gregory Benedetti. A simple 3x3 cube where the goal is to take the pieces apart. As an eight piece puzzle, from the outside it doesn't seem that this can be too challenging, however as is so often true, this puzzle is far from simple! I was fortunate enough to be able to buy my copy from Puzzle Paradise when Gregory offered a few for sale there after the IPP.

Daedalus in Walnut

Daedalus in Walnut

Measuring in at just under 3" x 3" x 3" my copy is made from Walnut with some very interesting grain running through the cubes. Gregory made the puzzle available in a number of different woods including Marblewood and a few others. Made by Maurice Vigouroux this is a beautifully crafted puzzle with bevelled edges on each of the cubes and a mirror smooth finish to the sides of the cubes, which I've learned myself can only be achieved through very accurate cuts.

The puzzle consists of a main outer frame, with 7 moveable pieces contained within that frame. What makes this rather different to your standard 3x3 cube is that the pieces have rods and tracks embedded in them, making a maze of sorts through which the pieces must be moved in order to remove them from the puzzle. Of course this is made more challenging because the internal maze changes as you move the pieces around, since the maze is part of the pieces themselves!

Now if that wasn't hard enough, Gregory makes things more complicated (and removes the use of Burr Tools by throwing rotations into the mix too. When you find out how to move the pieces around you find that you have created enough space to allow some very interesting rotations to take place, including some that completely change the orientation (top->sides etc) of some pieces, which will either get you closer to the solution or just further lost in the maze.

Growing arms and legs to get the first piece out

Growing arms and legs to get the first piece out

The puzzle doesn't remain in a cube shape for long, and appears to grow arms and legs as you manipulate the pieces. It took me just a few seconds to find the first piece which moved, and then several minutes more before I found the second piece which would move. After this several more hours were spent sliding pieces back and forward, and exploring rotations and really trying to understand what is possible in the constraints of the pieces. Lets just say that there's plenty of dead ends, blind alleys and red herrings (yes, this puzzle is like the Tardis ... much bigger on the inside than the outside) to keep you busy. It certainly kept me busy for more than long enough. Taking 22 moves to remove the first piece it's no small challenge. In total there's 22.8.7.2.2*.1 to remove all the pieces. (* 2 pieces are removed at this point) I'd call that a challenge!

Daedalus open

Daedalus open

After several hours spent over several days, I had this puzzle open, and all the pieces out. As you can see all the pieces are unique, and other than the tracks that make up the maze, there are no internal voids when closed. Returning the puzzle back to the starting point is every bit as much of a challenge. Since it had taken me a couple of days to open this one, I had forgotten the orientation of the pieces and even which pieces came out first, so it took another few hours to get this even close to being a cube again. All in all great value.

The gaps between pieces

The gaps between pieces

One small issue in my copy is that the outer frame which forms the largest of the pieces isn't perfectly square which does mean that the pins can be seen through gaps in the cubes. While it doesn't prevent the puzzle working in any way, and certainly doesn't make things any easier, it does slightly spoil the surprise of finding out that this is not an ordinary cube, by giving that little secret away early.

Overall I really enjoyed this puzzle, and I'm very happy to have a copy. I know I'll keep going back to this one as the challenge is tough but not impossible, and the range of movement that is achieved is excellent, making you want to go back to it time and again, simply because you can't believe that some much complexity can fit into a 3x3 cube.

Thanks for this one Gregory, it's a great puzzle, and I love it.



3Apr/122

Laby Box

Laby Box was Hendrik Haak’s IPP31 Exchange puzzle which I was fortunate enough to buy a copy of from Wil Strijbos some time back after I saw it listed in one of his regular puzzle emails. Since it looked a little different to the rest of the puzzles in my collection at the time, and also being a pretty handsome box, I decided to get one. Wil seems to have that effect, as various other puzzlers will attest!

Laby Box in the starting position

Laby Box in the starting position

Made from Quilted Maple, and what I believe is Paduak for the keys, with perspex to hold the pins and let you see what you're doing, this laser cut puzzle, really looks great. It's a step above the quality of many other laser cut wooden puzzles out there in terms of finish and looks, and with 3.5" x 2.5" x 2" as the internal space, and an overall size of 5" x 4" x 2.5", it's not a small puzzle. The large internal space, would allow you to store some things in there, and given all the open space in the lid, you'd be tantalised with glimpses of what's inside. The design is superb as everything is on show, there's no hidden components, so the only thing between you and an open box is your ability to navigate a simple maze (if only it were that easy!)

Allard has also written about this puzzle. Now I don't normally mention other reviews quite as soon, but here I have a point in doing so. Allard mentions in his review that there's a hint as to how to start from Hendrik by the holes in the ends of the maze keys, and notes that you're sent in the wrong direction to start with. Well the first time I solved this one, I found exactly the same as Allard did, I was off in the wrong direction to start. But after resetting, and solving it many more times, I've never done the same again. I can easily open and close the lid without starting off in the wrong direction.

The Key Removed

The Key Removed

It probably took me around 5 minutes to solve this the first time, but I can now solve it in less than a minute as I know the path that's needed. One disappointing thing I have found is that the left most pin in my photo, and the corresponding top maze box really doesn't add much to the puzzle. From the starting position you can quickly move the pin to the top, and slide the bottom key off that pin, and from there on, it never needs to move again as the top and bottom maze grooves give full motion left/right, so it's use is limited.

I had initially thought that once you solved the puzzle with the maze plates in one orientation, you could then flip the plates to create a new challenge, however the maze plates are cut to only allow them to engage with the pins in one orientation, so it's a single challenge.

Open, and the pieces separated

Open, and the pieces separated

Once you've removed the bottom maze plate by sliding it all the way off the pins, the top perspex sheet can be lifted off, and the corresponding perspex sheet can be lifted up and slid out of the end, allowing you access to the internal space. It's a fun puzzle, that may not keep you guessing for too long, but does make you think and observe the interactions between each of the maze sections. It's a nice puzzle to hand to friends as it's not too tough, but from my experience tends to make people smile when they get it open, so all round a good puzzling experience.

You can get a copy of Laby Box from Hendrik Haak's shop, for the very reasonable sum of €35.



1Apr/121

KaraKuri Work Kit – Newton Box

As I mentioned in my review of the Karakuri Work Kit - Kakukaku Box, here's the second in the series of builds for the Karakuri DIY boxes. This time I'm looking at the Newton Box, which is a little more complicated that the first box in the series, and in my opinion a much better kit and puzzle! Read on to find out what I think of it, and see the video builds and review.

The Video below is a short highlight reel for the build. I skip a lot of detail here, but it will give you the idea of how the build goes, and I have put my thoughts at the end of the video. If you want the detailed 50 minute video showing all the steps in detail, then jump to the Build Instructions section below.

As promised in the video, you'll find the instructions below, with my guide to building the box. Be aware that this is in no way a translation of the instructions!

General Kit Comments

The Karakuri group offer a reasonable number of DIY puzzle boxes which they refer to as "Work Kits". Each of the kits consist of a number of pre-cut plywood pieces, some decorative pieces (like the beautifully made acorn on the Acorn Box), and any hardware needed for the mechanism, if it's not just a straight forward sliding panel or suchlike. The kits are all perfectly cut, and of the kits I own there have been no issues with the fit or finish on any of the pieces.

Something which is worth noting about the kits is the price. They all come in at around the $25 USD mark, so in terms of affordability, these are really affordable boxes. The quality of the cuts on the pieces is excellent and the fit is as good as you will find with anything from the Karakuri group, so I'd say from that side of things, they're great value.

One thing to note is that the build instructions for the kits are in Japanese language only. Don't be put off by that however as with a little thought, and some careful study of the diagrams, you'll build the kits just fine. Failing that, have a look at my Build Instructions section below, where I have detailed the steps (in English) to build the kit.

On this particular kit, there were a number of the pieces which had small burrs or rough edges that I needed to clean up before starting the build. It's really not a big issue, and there were no pieces which were poorly made or had any sort of problem that would have meant that the kit did not go together easily. After all these are wooden kits, and each piece is unique. A little patience when starting to tidy things up and you should have no issues.

Kakukaku Kit Review

This is the second of the boxes that I bought from the Karakuri Creation group, and as well as looking good, I was very interested to be able to see the mechanism, which you'd otherwise be unable to see.

Newton Box Kit completed

Newton Box Kit completed

As you can see from the picture above, the box itself is fairly simple. The ply is visible on the top of the box, but personally I don't think that's an issue. If you don't like having the ply exposed, you could glue some veneer onto the top panel just to make it neater. The decorative handle is made from walnut and maple, and rather than giving you a pre-made piece, you have to put it together yourself, so it truly is a box you built. No pre-made fancy parts here!

Building the kit was fairly simple. There is slightly more to this kit than the Kakukaku box, but the instructions make it easy to follow. The diagrams on the build instructions are very clear, and there's nothing complicated to this kit, so I didn't have any issues building it. The build of this box took around 30-40 minutes to put together, and would probably be quicker if you're not recording a video and talking through everything you're doing!

I have to confess I really like this kit. The puzzle box is much better than the Kakukaku Box and works perfectly every time. It's a clever mechanism, but remarkably simple which I like. The box look great, and I think the cube on top really sets it off. The box is slightly deeper than the Kakukaku box, and a little shorter. In total it measures 3.25" x 3.25" x 2" and is a good size in your hands.

As a kit I certainly enjoyed building it, and you will understand the mechanism once you've built the box, so it certainly meets the expectations that the Karakuri group set out to achieve. I highly recommend this kit if you're thinking of buying one (or more!)

Comparison of Kakukaku and Newton Boxes

Comparison of Kakukaku and Newton Boxes

The image above will give you an idea of the relative sizes of the two kits so far.

Build Instructions

In this section I will try to give my guide to building this kit. Please note that this is in no way a translation of the Karakuri Group's instructions, but my own instructions based on having built the kit. If you have issues following my instructions, feel free to get in touch and I'll help you if I can, and update things below to clear up any confusion.

The video below is a full 50 minute uncut build of the box. I show detailed instructions on how to build it, along with tips from my own build experience. If you're new to this and want some really detailed help, this is the video for you.

Click on the image below for a full size version of the instructions.

Build instructions - Click image for full size

Build instructions - Click image for full size

The instructions below match to the numbers on the diagram above.

Tools Needed

Before starting, you'll need a couple of tools.

  • Wood Glue / Elmers hobby Glue
  • Pencil
  • Ruler (or some measuring device)
  • Tape - I recommend blue painters tape
  • Screwdriver (Philips head)
  • Glue Brush (optional)
  • Engineers Square (optional)

      Step 1 - The Pendulum

      First up, sort the parts from the kit into the same order as shown in the top diagram. If you feel like you need to then you can mark the piece numbers in pencil on the inside of each piece. The way the pieces are laid out in the diagram shows the inside, with the exception of piece 'B', which will be inside the box and unlikely to be seen so even if you don't remove the pencil mark, probably not an issue. In my opinion, the pieces are pretty clear so you should need to label them.

      Take piece F and mark a centre line in the middle of the piece.

      Take piece G and mark a centre line down the length of the piece.

      Glue piece F onto piece G, using the centre lines as a guide. As the diagram shows, place piece F towards the bottom of piece G, making sure that the pre-drilled hole is at the top of the assembly, and is not obstructed by piece F.

      Leave the top for around 10 minutes for the glue to dry (note if the glue you are using takes longer to dry, then follow the manufacturers recommendations).

      Step 2 - Inner Box

      Taking the pieces labelled 'A' in the diagram, glue the four walls which will make up the sides of the inner box together, making sure that the groove which is cut in two of the pieces is at the top, and the thinner of the two pieces is glued to the bottom such that the groove will allow the piece labelled 'B' to slide in and out freely.

      Glue the four walls to the base labelled 'A' ensuring that the small pre-drilled cube which is glued to the centre of this piece is underneath (not inside the walls you are gluing to it).

      Make sure that the edges are square to one another and that they are lined up with the base section.

      Using tape, secure the corners of the box, and tape the walls to the base as shown int he diagram. Set this aside to dry.

      Step 3 - The Lid

      Make sure that piece 'B' slides freely into the groove in the inner box that you built in step 2.

      Step 4 - Handle / Top decoration

      Using the four decorative pieces labelled 'C', glue them together into a square, then glue them to the centre of the piece labelled 'B'.

      Set this aside to dry.

      Step 5 - The Outer Box

      Using the pieces labelled 'D' arrange the pieces as shown in the diagram.

      Apply glue to the pre-cut notches on two of the pieces, then insert the flat plate with the pre-cut hole into the narrow groove in the bottom of the pieces.

      Bring all four corners together ensuring that the flat plate sits in the groove, and tape the corners.

      Put this aside to dry.

      Step 6 - Putting the pieces together.

      Put the inner box from step 2 into the outer box from step 5. Note that the location of the cutout on the outer box will determine the orientation required to open the box. You can put this in any orientation that you want.

      Step 7 - Adding the locking mechanism

      Turn the assembly from step 6 over, and using the supplied screw and a Phillips head screwdriver, screw the pendulum assembly from step one into the pre-drilled hole. You do not want the screw too tight here. The pendulum should turn freely around the screw to ensure correct operation of the mechanism.

      Step 8 - Finishing the box

      Glue the large flat square labelled 'E' to the base of the box, hiding the locking mechanism. Using some tape, tape the base to the sides until dry.

      Congratulations, your box is complete!