Neil's Puzzle Building Blog
14Mar/132

Akio Kamei’s Book Box

My favourite type of puzzle is the Puzzle Box, or trick opening box, and being a member of the Karakuri group certainly helps me get my fix of puzzle boxes. Bits & Pieces however have been known to reproduce some of the Karakuri boxes at very reasonable prices. I've mentioned some of the problems I've had with their work in previous reviews, but I had heard that their puzzle boxes were pretty well done, so when I got the chance to add a copy of the Kamei Book Box to my collection I decided to take the chance. Puzzle Master carries this puzzle if you'd like to pick one up for yourself, although they seem to be out of stock at the time of writing this review.

Bits & Pieces version of the Kamei Book Box

Bits & Pieces version of the Kamei Book Box

As you can see, this is a nice looking box. The fit and finish is very good, and there's no obvious sign of the mechanism. The puzzle measures 4.5" x 7" x 1.5", so would easily pass for a hard backed book sitting on a shelf. The Walnut cover and spine, with maple pages looks like a book and the contrasting colour of the woods used could easily fool a casual passer by that this was a real book. The finish has a nice sheen to it, and while I'd not say it was Karakuri level of craftsmanship, it is well made. The hidden drawer does slide out nearly 1/4" while the puzzle is 'locked' so you know how it will open when you find the mechanism.

The puzzle itself is not difficult, with only one move required to unlock the drawer, however it is well hidden, and the mechanism is tight so it gives nothing away as you investigate each side to try to find the hidden movement. The panels are all solid, and give little away about how the drawer will open, however that is also a clue as to hoe it will open as there are only a few panels on the box.

Looking at the edge of the book, it looks like pages of a book

Looking at the edge of the book, it looks like pages of a book

Looking at the pages of the book, the wood used really gives a great impression that there are individual pages in there, and that you could open the book and read it. I have to applaud Bits and Pieces for taking the time here and making full use of the grain in the wood to make a great looking puzzle.

Despite previous reservations, I have to admit that I am fairly happy with this puzzle and wouldn't have a problem recommending that someone pick up a copy of it for themselves. It is a simple box, so don't expect to be puzzling over it for hours, however it's an elegant Kamei design which is made very affordable, and keeps an aesthetic level that you would expect from a Karakuri box.

Note: After posting the initial review one of my puzzle friends got in touch to say that I may have missed something about this box, and in fact there was an extra secret hidden in there. This box works as a sort of magic trick where you can place something into the drawer, and make it disappear. Initially I thought that there was just a little extra play in the B&P version but it turns out I was entirely wrong.

In my mind that makes this an even better version of the box as it fully retains all the original characteristics of Kamei's design, at a great price and I'm not ashamed to say I totally missed it! I don't like to look at puzzle solutions, preferring to enjoy solving the puzzle for myself, but having gone back to look at the solution card which came with the puzzle it does not even mention this little secret, so if you have this puzzle, go give it a second look, you may just be surprised!



1Jun/110

Cube Box by Akio Kamei

Thanks to the kindness of fellow puzzler Derek Bosch, I have a host of new Karakuri puzzles on loan to test my puzzle solving skills. I'll be going through those puzzles and reviewing them as I go. This is the first in that series of reviews.

Note: This post has been modified from it's original posting to remove potential spoilers.

Kamei's Cube Box

Kamei's Cube Box front

Kamei's Cube Box

Kamei's Cube Box Back

This box was made as a Christmas present for Karakuri Club members in 2005 by Kamei, and has the code M-34 from the Karakuri catalogue. The box is made from Walnut, Keyaki, Rose-wood measuring just over 2" x 2" x 2".

The Karakuri information about the puzzle box says "
Kamei divided a cube into four triangular pyramids. Of course Kamei had to create a new way of opening it and the new mechanisms for this box only. At first Kamei imagined that each triangular pyramid should move radially. But Kamei gave up this design because the mechanism became too complicated. Finally Kamei decided on “Translation”.

I'm not sure how much that tells you about the box, but I always find it interesting to see how the designer describes his puzzles (or her, I'm not sexist here!)

The box itself looks great, and as with all of the Karakuri boxes that I have opened, the fit and finish of this box is excellent as you would expect from a Karakuri box. Initially there is no obvious movement from anything on the box, and no rattles to indicate a hidden mechanism. Given the way the outer panels have been designed, there's little to help you get a hold on the puzzle to start trying to move the panels. That mirror finish makes things tough.

Fortunately, the grooves between the panels are fairly deep, and allow you to get a purchase, to start checking for movement. Before too long you'll find a panel that moves, then another and another. The box expands slightly as you move each of the panels in turn, releasing the locks keeping the box closed.

Clicking the image below may show spoilers. Don't click if you don't want to see.

Kamei's Cube Box open

Kamei's Cube Box opened



After unlocking the box, it splits into two halves and in one Kamei has stamped his signature. It's a nice mechanism, and I dread to think what Kamei was trying to do originally that became too complex. One thing I have found is that putting the two halves back together to close the box is a little tricky. The fit between the sections of the puzzle is so tight and given how the panels are arranged, it's very easy to close one, which will prevent the lid from being able to be placed back onto the base.

This is a very nice box, and is typical of Kamei's work. Unfortunately, as this was a Christmas Present it is no longer available, so the only way to acquire one would be through a puzzle auction. If you get the chance I'd recommend it as it's not only a good looking puzzle, but a novel mechanism as well. Thanks again Derek for lending me this puzzle box.