Neil's Puzzle Building Blog

The Vault

Back at IPP 32 in DC, I had the pleasure of playing with a puzzle box from the incredibly talented Michail Toulouzas. I was fortunate, and opened the puzzle in a few minutes, so feeling quite smug, went to close the box to leave for the next puzzler only to find that the door wouldn't shut. I realised at that point that I wanted one of these.

The Vault

The Vault

Returning back from IPP, I wrote to Mike, and kindly asked that if he made any more if he's consider making one for me. I was pleasantly surprised when he wrote back telling me that in fact he was making some, and he'd added me to the list!

Around a year went by and in various conversations with Mike, he assured me (and a few other puzzlers) that he'd not forgotten about us, and was still working on the puzzles. IPP was coming round again, and he had puzzles to make for Japan, so he'd delayed 'The Vault' a little while he worked on those. Now just before I'm due to get married, I get an email from Mike saying the puzzle was finished and on its way to me! Arriving just a day or two before my big day, it was a great wedding present.

Front view of the Vault.

Front view of the Vault.

The puzzle itself is 8" x 5" x 4.3" and is made from Ebony, Mahogany and Chakte Viga. Mike's attention to detail is nothing short of breathtaking, and everything down to the rivets in the hinges is beautifully finished. It's instantly recognisable as an old fashioned safe, and it feels as sturdy and solid as you'd expect and old time safe to be. Details such as the turned feet, and combination lock handle have been lovingly crafted to really make you feel like you're cracking a safe as you open it.

There is one other piece to the puzzle and that takes the form of a torch. It's sized perfectly to fit into one of those keyhole slots in the side of the puzzle, leaving your hands free to play with the knobs on the front, and able to peer into the inner workings thanks to the light provided.

Peering into the inside

Peering into the inside

After an initial inspection there's only the two knobs on the front which will do anything, and you can see quickly from peering inside what they do. The handle on the right is attached to a brass rod which will hopefully open the door, and the tumbler on the right rotates something inside. Turning that knob will reveal something useful, but that alone isn't enough to open the door. Something more is needed and it takes a little bit of experimentation to figure out how to control what's happening on the inside from the knobs on the outside. That done, you'll get a satisfying clunk, and the door will swing open.

That reveals a key inside the puzzle, as well as exposing the inner workings and Mike's signature. Given that you didn't need a key to open the puzzle, what possible use could you have for one now that it is open? The key is held on the back wall of the vault and can be lifted out of its slot and inspected. Seems fairly straight forward, but no use is apparent. Putting it back, you can try to shut the door, but soon find out it's not going to be that easy. Resetting the puzzle is every bit as much of a puzzle as opening it was. And that's a good thing!

Without giving too much away, that key is very useful, but as you'll soon learn there's no way you're fast enough to close that door before whatever is keeping it from closing resets itself, and any other attempt would leave you with the key not back in its original spot, neatly stowed on the back wall. There's another simple but well executed trick needed, and it's going to take some thinking outside of the box to solve it.

Puzzle Certificate

Puzzle Certificate

As you saw from the first image of the puzzle, it comes with a hefty puzzle book, describing the puzzle, and of course the solution should you need it. The other item in that first picture is the small card which has been sealed with a wax crest. That's the Puzzle Certificate, and is a beautiful touch that really finishes the whole experience. Hand written in Mike's flowing cursive it's a great little touch.

Overall I loved this puzzle, and I'm pretty happy to have one in my collection. With only 16 made, 4 in 2012 and 12 in 2013, with the last being a unique selection of woods, and was auctioned in Puzzle Paradise. There's also one special edition which mike made, #10 which will have a special locking mechanism, and be sent to the James Dalgety Puzzle museum. So if you happen to be there, look this one up!

If you want to see more of this puzzle, have a look at my video review below.


The Topless Box

I want to send a huge thank you to all my puzzling friends out there. As you know from my previous video, I got married last month and as a wedding gift, a number of my puzzle friends out there decided to get me a puzzle as a wedding gift. That puzzle was a copy of Eric Fuller's Topless Box along with a special something inside. So no pressure then as I had to open the box to get to the gift for Jen and I.

Topless Box by Eric Fuller

Topless Box by Eric Fuller

Have a look at the video review below to see a little more about the puzzle, and read on for my full review.

The Topless box is a 3" cube made from Striped Quartersawn Sapele, Quilted Maple and Paduak, not mahogany as I mentioned in the video. (Sorry Eric!) It's a stunning box to look at, and the shimmer from the Sapele as you move the box is really gorgeous. Given that it's designed to go inside the Apothecary Puzzle chest, the size was fixed based on the internal dimensions of the chest. That said, it's a great size in your hands and feels really solid.

As I mention in the video, there's a lot of magnets in this puzzle, and they're all pretty strong. You certainly have you be careful not to trap a finger in the sides, as this puzzle bites. The mechanism is very elegant, and although it has magnets in it, this isn't a puzzle which uses a pin and magnet requiring you to bang and tap the puzzle to free the lock. This is far more elegant, the only thing that banging or tapping this puzzle will get you is a sore hand.

Here's what Eric had to say about the puzzle: "The "Topless Box" is my contribution to the project. I originally was only going to make enough for the submission, but got pretty excited about the design once it was finished, and decided to make it a larger run. I've seen a fair number of boxes and this one has what I believe are some unique characteristics. Unfortunately I can't show much detail of the inside of the box without giving away the workings. I can say that the box has two lids, and neither a top nor a bottom. Figuring out how to deal with that conundrum will hopefully get you on your way..."

Top or Bottom?  Does it even matter?

Top or Bottom? Does it even matter?

Like Eric, I can't show you anything of the inside of the puzzle, as it really would give away what's going on, and as you know I don't like giving away solutions to puzzles. The Top and Bottom are held onto the box using some pretty strong magnets, and you'll quickly realise that they just lift off, leaving you with no sign of a way into the box. Playing around you see that this doesn't open like a traditional box, and you're really going to have to think outside the box to open it.

It's not an easy box to open, and you could easily spend hours going round in circles, and getting nowhere with this one. Once you do open it, you realise just how sneaky Eric has been, and this is quite an evil little box. There's only one way it will open, and there's no way to fluke opening it!

Great box, and highly recommended if you can find one.


Where were you?

Well it has been quite a while since I've written anything here, and I'm sure many of my regular readers will have wondered what happened. You'll he happy (at least I hope you will) to know that I'm still alive and well, and I've not abandoned the puzzle community. I've loads of puzzles to review, and lots to talk about, so expect many updates soon. Rather than write about everything I've been up to, hopefully the video below gets you up to speed.

Thanks for reading, and look out for some updates real soon.