Neil's Puzzle Building Blog
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!



16Mar/120

Karakuri Work Kit – Kakukaku box

As a member of the Karakuri Group, when I renewed my membership at the start of the year I decided to pick up a few of the DIY kits that they offer. After my experience with Bruce Vinney's designs I was interested to see what Karakuri Group had created, and also to better understand the mechanisms used, which is one of the goals Karakuri set when making the kits.

When I mentioned that I had the kits on one of the puzzle forums, there were requests to show how to build them, so much like I did with the previous kits I built, I decided to show the build process in full. Watch the video below to see the build, and watch the kit come to life. In the video I'll cover all the tools I use and this isn't time lapse so you can see everything in real time. I'll be doing videos for all the kits shown in the video, so check back for more soon.

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.

Kakukaku Kit Review

The first of the kits I built was (as you already know from the title of this post) the Kakukaku Box. I picked this one for no other reason than liking the look of the box. Interestingly it was the last of the four that I picked, and really the only reason was that I had set a budget and this fit within that budget after having picked the three others I wanted.

The completed top and bottom of the box

The completed top and bottom of the box

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 laser cut tree certainly adds to the look of the box, and is also a clue as to the solution.

Building the kit was fairly simple. 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 video is real time, so it took about 15 minutes to put together, and would probably be quicker if you're not recording a video and talking through everything you're doing!

As far as the puzzle box itself is concerned, I'll be honest that I was a little disappointed with the box. I have two reasons for this, and at first they seem contradictory, but bear with me.

The locking mechanism is both too difficult to open, and too easy to open at the same time. If you attempt to open the box using the 'solution' provided, it can be very difficult to move the two parts of the box in the right way to get them to open. The fit is pretty good, and as such the movements need to be made very precisely to get the box open. Sadly, there is a much simpler way to open the box. If you hold the top of the box, and shake it, the bottom falls out on its own, making it far too easy!

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. If you're thinking of buying one (or more) of these kits, I'd say that there are better boxes in terms of the end puzzle that you could get, but if you just want to add them all, then go get it!

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.

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
  • Glue Brush (optional)
  • Engineers Square (optional)

      Step 1 - The Locking mechanism

      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 'A' and lay it as shown in the diagram. The sides with the notches cut out should be at the top and right of the piece as you look at it.

      Take Piece 'B' and glue it into the centre of piece 'A'. The piece fits snugly between the wooden blocks that surround the piece, so no adjustment or fine placement is required. Make sure that the lip on piece 'B' is on the left and top as you look at the piece. This can be confirmed by the angled corners as seen in the diagram.

      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 - Top Decoration

      Once the top of the box is dry from step 1, flip the piece over so that the cut away sections are now on the top and left of the piece as you look at it.

      Using a ruler, mark the centre of the piece, making note of the cutout which will not be seen once the box is complete.

      With the centre identified, glue the tree piece to the centre as seen in the diagram.

      Step 3 - Inner Box

      Take the parts labelled 'E' in the diagram. The flat square is the base of the inner box. There are two sides with notches cut in each end, and two with no notches cut.

      Place the base in the centre and then around that the two pieces with notches in the ends above and below it, then the two without notches at either side as seen in the diagram on the right.

      You will notice that there is a grove running through the with of all of these pieces. The base will go into one of these slots, and the other is part of the locking mechanism.

      Put glue into the notches on either end of the top and bottom pieces and using a brush, spread the glue evenly into these notches. Bring all four sides together around the base as seen in the lower left diagram.

      Once all four pieces have been brought snugly together, tape the corners and check that the corners are square using an engineers square. Note: This check is not really needed as the pieces are designed to give a good square corner.

      Note: You can put tape on the corners before adding the glue. This can make the job of taping the corners easier rather than trying to get tape around the corners after they are in place.

      Leave the inner box to dry.

      Step 4 - Outer Box

      Take the top which was completed in step 2, and place it as seen in the diagram, where the cut-out sections are at the top and right of the piece as you look at it.

      Taking pieces Labelled C-1, C-2, D-1, D-2, place these around the top as seen in the diagram.

      Pieces D-2 and C-2 have a piece of wood inside the groove which ensures the pieces are correctly located in relation to the locking mechanism, and the centre of the box.

      Pieces C-1 and D-1 have no insert in the groove, and will slide freely along the length of the top.

      Apply glue into the notches on either end of pieces D-1 and D-2 and using a brush, spread the glue evenly into these notches.

      Bring all four pieces together around the top as seen in the diagram on the right, starting with pieces D-2 and C-2 which will ensure that the pieces are correctly centred.

      Once all four pieces are in place, tape the corners together and allow the top to dry. You can check the top for squareness before it is dry however as with the inner box, the pieces are designed to give a good square corner even without this check.

      Note: As before putting tape on the piece before gluing can make this easier

      Step 5 - Opening and Closing the box

      To Close the Box, place the outer box onto the Inner box and move the top Right and Up as per the green arrow in the diagram. The box is now locked.

      Top Open the box, move the outer box Down and Left as per the blue arrow in the diagram, then lift the top of the bottom. The box is now open.



21Dec/110

There be Dragons – Dragon Wing

Dragon Wing - Karakuri Christmas present from Shiro Tajima

This years Christmas present from Shiro Tajima is exactly what many of us were hoping for. For the last few years, Tajima has been making boxes with a theme of the Zodiac animal for the following year. Last year, we were treated to the Magic Hat, which was a rabbit stuck in a hat, and before that we had "The Tiger of Carboholic", so many of us were hopeful for a dragon design this year, and we weren't disappointed!

The dragon with his wings closed

The dragon with his wings closed

When I opened the box from the Karakuri Group, it wasn't clear exactly what I was looking at. My first impression was that the puzzle this year was some sort of irregular burr puzzle, and it wasn't until I took the puzzle out of the box, and the bag it was wrapped in that I could see we did in fact have a dragon on our hands.

Initially, the wings of the dragon are wrapped around the sides and base of the box, giving him a very streamlined appearance, and hiding his true appearance. It didn't take too long to find out that there was a little movement in the box, and I soon had the wings opened, and was able to see the box in all its glory.

The dragon with his wings open

The dragon with his wings open

Even with the wings open, this box isn't giving up its secrets easily. Playing around with the wings open I soon found that there was more that could move than just the base and the wings. Having said that, there was still no clues as to how this box would open. The base of the box is sprung, so I started investigating there to see what could possibly open. Initially I was thinking along the lines of the Karakuri small box series which I reviewed a while back.

Without giving away any of the puzzles secrets, I'd almost consider this as a new puzzle in the Small Box series. It's a nice little puzzle and the mechanism is both simple and different enough from the other small boxes, that it is a stand alone box. I really love the look of the dragon. It's simple, yet you can easily tell what it's supposed to be.

My one small issue with the box is that having opened it, the base doesn't quite go back in as far as it did before I opened it, so the wings when closed are a little tight. I don't think it's a huge issue, but it is worth noting.

As the only box I received this year, I'm really pleased to have selected Tajima as my designer. It's a great puzzle, and I'm happy to have added it to my collection.



12Oct/110

Firewood

Firewood by Hiroshi Iwahara is another beautiful looking puzzle box available from the Karakuri Creation group. Living up to its name, this pile of sticks made from a number of exotic woods really does look like a bundle of firewood, wrapped with string ready to be sold.

Firewood

Firewood

The puzzle was designed for an exhibition with a "forest" theme. Created in April 2011 this is the newest box from Iwahara(at the time of writing), and is a really cute box. It's not the largest puzzle box out there, but is still a pretty good size at 5"x 4"x3.75". Sitting in your hand, the puzzle feels good, the rounding of each firewood log makes it very tactile, and you find yourself turning it round and round. Now this may be because you can't find out how to open it, as none of the logs in the centre of the puzzle seem to move and the outer logs are all glued together.

With over 10 hardwoods used in the puzzle, there's a great array of colours and textures, making this a real feast for the eyes. I know that at the very least there's Katsura, Oak, Rosewood, Zebrawood, Purpleheart, Bloodwood, Bubinga, Cherry, Black Ebony (big guess on the ebony) and Maple in there, based on my limited ability to identify woods from visual inspection. (Note: I may be entirely wrong, as there's no conformation from the Karakuri group on this, so it's all a guess)

Firewood

Firewood

I spent around 10 minutes poking and prodding the logs on this box before I found the trick, and the drawer popped open rather satisfyingly. It's not the most challenging puzzle box out there, but it does exude a charm which is hard to pass up. The 'lock' really is incredibly simple, and it makes me smile each time I close it, with the drawer pulling itself back into place, then pop it back out with the trick. Very simple, but hugely satisfying.



4Jul/110

Chip by Hiroyuki Oka

Chip was created as a Christmas Present in 2007 for the Karakuri group members by Hiroyuki Oka. It's name comes from the small 'chip' of wood which is stuck to the top of the box by a magnet. This is the last of the Puzzle boxes Derek Bosch recently lent me to solve.

Chip by Hiroyuki Oka

Chip by Hiroyuki Oka

Here is what Hiroyuki Oka has to say about this puzzle box:

This is one of the Secret Boxes. At first, you need to move a device to open the box.. But you can’t see the mechanism from the outside. Maybe you can find the place of the device with the attached small wood plate.

Made from Walnut, Katsura Agathis, Rengas and Magnolia, there's a lot going on in this box. The inlay is nicely done, and adds detail to an otherwise plain box. The checker board chip made from a number of small cubes laminated together is a nice touch as this didn't have to be such an ornate part of the puzzle. The box is a slightly squashed cube measuring approximately 3.5" x 3.5" 2.75".

As the description hints, there is a hidden mechanism in this box, and the small chip attached to the box is the clue to finding it. There's nothing hidden about the fact that the chip is held in place by a magnet as its visible when you flip the piece over.

Initially, none of the panels on the box will move at all, so whatever is keeping the box locked needs to be moved before anything else will happen. Having had a few other puzzles in the past where magnets have been used, I tried all sorts of ideas like flipping the piece over to repel the magnets, hoping this might move the device and let me open the box, but I was having little success.

With a closer inspection of the box, and a lot of searching I found what I was looking for and what the description hits at. After that it was a fairly simple sequence to open the box requiring only 5 moves.

I think I spent around 20 minutes on this puzzle to open it and while I do like it, it's not one of my favourites. The walls of the box are just a little too thin for my liking, to the point that the base has a degree of flex if you press it, even gently, with your fingers. (And most people familiar with Japanese puzzle boxes will use several fingers and press gently while pushing panels to see what moves.)

A nice box, and I am grateful to Derek Bosch for lending it to me so I could solve it.

P.S. Happy 4th of July to all my friends reading in the US. American flag



3Jul/111

Free Dial by Shiro Tajima

Free Dial by Shiro Tajima was his Karakuri Group Christmas Present in 2005, and is another of the puzzle boxes Derek Bosch recently leant me.

Free Dial by Shiro Tajima

Free Dial by Shiro Tajima

The description of this simple looking box is anything but plain. I love reading the descriptions the designers give their puzzles. So often it reveals either something about the puzzle, or the designer.

Actually in this tiny box is loaded the enchanted power! Try! Let's turn the red dial in the front of the box. What happened? Probably it will be fantastic things. You might have a romance, might receive a message from somebody that lives far off in the Universe, or...?

Made from Japanese Raisin tree, Chanchin and Walnut, this box measures approximately 2 3/4" x 2 1/2" x 2 1/2". The big red button on the front is fairly appealing, but no matter how hard you push it's not going to depress. When Derek gave me this box I assumed that the slightly wider plate was the top, however the Shiro Tajima's page on the Karakuri website shows it as the bottom. Personally, I think I prefer it as the top.

Free Dial by Shiro Tajima

Free Dial upside down

I'm giving nothing away by telling you that the button will spin fairly freely, and that the plate just slides off. There's no mechanism, no lock, nothing clever here. It just slides right off.

Free Dial by Shiro Tajima

Free Dial by Shiro Tajima

Unfortunately that really doesn't help much. You're left looking at a plain top to the box, and you can see the very top of the red dial. After playing on and off with this box, I wasn't having a huge deal of success. That said, I had a fairly good day of solving puzzles, having finally cracked the Box with a tree so I had picked this back up that night, and in an 'Aha' moment, saw how to solve this one. All in all I spent around 30 minutes puzzling over this box.

It's a beautifully simple puzzle, and as with most puzzles, you have everything you need in your hands to open it, if only you can think enough outside the box to see it. In this case, thinking on top of the box may help as well. The thing I like about this puzzle is that everything is on display. There is nothing hidden, so no clever tricks or hidden mechanisms that you have to feel your way around.

The opening of the box is quite special and rather unexpected. It could easily elude you unless you pay close attention to what you see, and for that reason I really like it. This is a great little puzzle and I highly recommend playing with one if you get the chance. Given that this was a Karakuri Christmas present, there aren't that many around, but it may appear at auction occasionally, so keep your eyes open.