The Always Empty Box created by Phil Tomlinson is his first puzzle box, and what a cracker it is. Phil is a cabinetmaker and woodworker with 35 years experience. He lives in Cincinnati OH, and his business is called WolfAngel Studios.
This is a beautifully made box crafted from Black Walnut, Curly Maple, Bloodwood, Rock Maple and Pawlownia. Opening the card box the puzzle is stored in, you are greeted with a Care, Feeding and General information booklet, with lots of info about the puzzle, and how best to look after it. This did make me chuckle, and the information is all worthwhile, especially if you're not familiar with wood puzzles. Phil did a great job here, and even before taking the box out of the box you're left with a smile on your face.
The box itself is beautifully finished as you can see from the photograph, with a wonderful satin lacquer giving the box an almost polished look. It measures 3-1/4" x 3-1/2" x 5-1/4" so is a good sized box, and really wouldn't look out of place as a work from the Karakuri Group. Yes, the quality is that good in my opinion. Phil notes that only 30 of these boxes will be made, and only 22 were sold on Puzzle Paradise, so I was lucky to be able to get one, as these sold out very quickly.
The fit of the box is very snug, the moving parts move very smoothly, but they are a tight fit, just as mentioned in the care booklet. If I were to be picky, there are a couple of gaps at some of the joins in the box, but really that's being very picky. Overall, this is a stunning looking box, and looks great beside my other wooden boxes.
Opening the box is a fun experience. Initially nothing much seems to do anything, until you find a co-ordinate motion which moves things a tiny fraction, but no more. Finding the lock to open the box the rest of the way takes a little more exploring. Once the box is opened, Phil is quite right with his description, it is always empty (except for the few wood shavings that were still inhabiting my box). I've kept those shavings for what its worth!
The final surprise is left to finding out why the box is always empty. This isn't disguised as cleverly as I have seen in other puzzle boxes, but it is a nice touch, and Phil has done a great job on the box. The magnetic catch which keeps the box empty is a nice touch.
Having given this box to a fellow puzzler, he also enjoyed opening the box, and likened it to some of the Karakuri works in terms of quality. High praise indeed.
Happy to have added this to my collection, and I'll be happy to show this one around! Great job Phil. Love the work.