Neil's Puzzle Building Blog
12May/144

Six Piece Cube & Little Slide Plank by Gregory Benedetti

When it comes to co-ordinate motion puzzles, the master is generally regarded as Vinco, however Gregory Benedetti has been doing a lot of work in creating clever dissections which require co-ordinate motion. I was lucky enough to pick up a couple of his puzzles last year from Bernhard over at Puzzlewood. Seems that I've had them long enough that I should really write about them!

Two Co-ordinate motion puzzles from Gregory Benedetti

Two Co-ordinate motion puzzles from Gregory Benedetti

Gregory himself admits that he was influenced by Vinco, and his work on co-ordinate motion puzzles, which gave him the push to try to create some co-ordinate motion puzzles himself. There's a great interview by fellow blogger Saul on his blog Seeking Ariadnes Thread with Gregory if you'd like to read about Gregory's thoughts. It's a great read and I highly recommend it.


Little Slide Plank

Little Slide Plank by Gregory Benedetti

Little Slide Plank by Gregory Benedetti

The first, and smaller of the two puzzles is "Little Slide Plank" which is about as minimal as you can get from a co-ordinate motion puzzle. This three piece, 2x2 cube with one small void in the centre is a pretty elegant puzzle. It's only 2" cubed, made with a contrasting wood for the planks. If I were to guess, I'd say Ash for the main pieces, and Mahogany for the planks.

Little Slide Plank opening

Little Slide Plank opening

While many people shy away from co-ordinate motion puzzles due to the challenge of reassembling them, this is great for any level of puzzler. The unique dissection leaves you with some very interestingly shaped pieces, and while it's not difficult to take apart or re-assemble, it has that fiddle factor that makes a great puzzle. You just want to pick it up and play with it.

Little Slide Plank pieces

Little Slide Plank pieces

The pieces themselves are interesting, and all unique making this a very pleasing design. As I mentioned, it's not difficult to find the correct orientation to put the pieces back together, and unlike many co-ordinate motion puzzles, you don't need a third (or fourth) hand to get it together, nor the dexterity and precise positioning that is needed from some other puzzles in this category. Overall, I highly recommend it


6 Piece Cube

6 Piece Cube from Gregory Benedetti

6 Piece Cube from Gregory Benedetti

The other design from Gregory is his "6 Piece Cube". Interestingly, this cube is missing a couple of cubies, meaning it's not really a cube, but I'll not fault the design name based on that. Those missing cubies are very useful! This is the slightly larger of the two puzzles, at just under 2.5" cubed made from walnut and Maple, the contrast of the checkerboard appearance is a good look.

Being a six piece puzzle, the difficulty in this one does go up a notch. Finding the correct grip on the puzzle to allow the pieces to start sliding past each other can be challenging until you know how to hold the puzzle, as often you'll find a finger is blocking the motion you need. Remember I said those missing cubies were useful?

6 Piece Cube opening

6 Piece Cube opening

Once you find the correct axis, the pieces will side past each other, creating some interesting triangular geometry in the voids between pieces. As with any other co-ordinate motion, the puzzle expands in size, right up tot the point where it falls apart in your lap. My copy is very well made, with excellent tolerances. The puzzle is tight as it expands, allowing the pieces to hold onto each other until the very last fibers before they crumble into a pile of six pieces.

6 Piece Cube pieces

6 Piece Cube pieces

The pieces in this puzzle are made from two sets of congruent pieces. It's not too hard to see how the pieces go back together, however with six pieces, it takes a little longer than it does with the first puzzle. Then the real challenge starts. Once you have found the correct orientation, getting all the pieces back together is far more challenging. The puzzle needs to be expanded to near collapse to allow a piece to be inserted, and the easiest way I found was to add one piece at a time ... so I had to do this more than once, and try not to mishandle a piece and put myself right back to the start of the assembly.

It's a much more challenging puzzle, but has a great motion as it comes apart, and is achievable by most people. An experienced puzzler should have no problems, and will enjoy the interesting geometry in the puzzle. I do hope Gregory continues his exploration of the co-ordinate motions, as these two puzzles are a great start!



9May/142

Magic Billet Box

Back in October last year, I came across a kickstarter project for Krusen CNC offering up some interesting new options on the Magic Billet Box that Oli Reviewed years ago. I'd been on the lookout for one of these, however any time I went to the shop, they were unavailable. This seemed like a good way to finally get one of these boxes.

The Magic Billet Box in Red anodized aluminium.

The Magic Billet Box in Red anodized aluminium.

The kickstarter was offering some new options for the anodisation of the aluminium, as well as some new external patterns for the boxes. Sadly the kickstarter didn't reach its goal and was unsuccessful. That said, an offer was made for anyone who had backed the project to get a box of their choosing at the price they had backed the campaign. Seemed like a win-win. So in November, I received the box above with the "Vortex" pattern.

At 2" cubed, and having a fair heft to it, this is a solid little puzzle box. Being made from 7072 Aluminium, otherwise known as "Aircraft grade", it's a very stable metal and is great for machining. Although it's not easy to see, there's a perfect sliding dovetail that form the 'lid' of the puzzle, which thanks to a big magnet has a reassuring snap when it's slid on or off.

Unlike Oli's copy which is in black anodized aluminium, the sliding lid is a little easier to see on my copy. The black hides the seam making it near invisible, where the red makes it stand out a little more. It's not an issue, and certainly doesn't affect the puzzle, but it is worth noting.

Even the internal space in the box is a good size, having 1.75" x 1.75" x 1.5" of usable space inside. Great for storing mints on my desk. And because it's aluminium and not wood, there's no fear of whatever you put inside it staining the box, or becoming contaminated. A truly useful puzzle box.

The Magic Billet Box but it's not open

The Magic Billet Box but it's not open.

Sliding the lid off doesn't get you into the hidden space though. Wouldn't be much of a puzzle if that was the case. Instead you're greeted with another lid, recessed into the box, and no apparent way to take it off. The big magnet on the sliding lid may be a hint though.

In the style of box I ordered, simply placing the lid onto the box doesn't open the inner lid, although there is a box offered where the opening mechanism is this simple. For me there's a little extra work required. And if you try to solve this box with it sitting on the table, you'll never open it!

The Magic Billet Box opened.

The Magic Billet Box opened.

Most of you will have figured out how this works, but I'll not give away it's secrets. Instead, I suggest you go get one of these great little boxes. They're well machined, and the tolerances are spot on to make this a solid box that will last many years, and take a lot of abuse.



7May/140

Trapped Coin by Bill Sheckels

Quite some time back, I reviewed the Caged Coin puzzle by Bill Sheckels. Not long after I reviewed it Bill got in touch to say he had a few other new puzzles that were going to be added to his Etsy shop soon, and asked if I'd be interested in any of them. They looked interesting, so of course I said yes.

Trapped Coin by Bill Sheckels

Trapped Coin by Bill Sheckels

As you can see it's a good looking puzzle. Four identical pieces hold a coin trapped in the centre. At just over 5" wide x 1/2" thick, it's a big puzzle. and bill has re-inforced the corner joints with dowel rod to ensure that they're not going to break with you play with the puzzle. Trapped in the centre is an American one dollar coin, making this the second puzzle in my collection to have a dollar coin as it's prize. I believe the woods used are Maple, Mahogany and Wenge, but that's just a guess on my part. I don't have a record of the woods used. (or even the true name of the puzzle!)

When you pick the puzzle up, there's enough flex in the pieces to make you think that there may be a way to manipulate the cage so that it will pop apart, releasing the coin. I certainly don't recommend this, as it's not the solution, and will likely damage your puzzle. There's a much more elegant solution.

Trapped Coin opened

Trapped Coin opened

The solution is pretty simple, and I doubt it will take many people long to solve it, but it's a nice object that has that look of impossibility about it that tends to draw people in. Great as a gift, and a fun puzzle to have sitting around.