Neil's Puzzle Building Blog
23Jul/142

Triangel by Vinco

I have time for one last review before I pack my bags and head off on my honeymoon (one year delayed). This time I'm back for another Vinco, in his mass produced line, Triangel. A clever packing puzzle that really seems to mess with my head. I picked this one up from Puzzle Master" a long time ago.

Triangel by Vinco

Triangel by Vinco

So before you go correcting my spelling, the puzzle isn't called Triangle, it's Triangel. I didn't name it! It's a 9 piece packing puzzle, where the pieces are not nice cubic pieces, but have been cut at some interesting 45 degree angles with all sorts of shapes created. The tray is fairly basic, made from some Baltic Birch ply, with some assorted hardwoods used for the pieces. The puzzle measures 4.25" x 3" x 2.4" at the peak.

Triangel pieces

Triangel pieces

With only nine pieces, you'd think this wasn't too challenging. Vinco lists it as 4/5 so fairly tricky. For me I found that the shape of the pieces really challenged me. Having done a lot of packing problems, working with square pieces, I seem to have learned how to tackle them. With these triangular pieces, even finding a good starting point was a challenge. While the end result of a 45 degree triangle is obvious, stacking the pieces to get there seems anything but obvious.

I really enjoyed this puzzle, and it was certainly unlike many of the packing puzzles I've played with. A good challenge, and certainly solvable with a little thinking and some time understanding the interactions of the pieces. Go ahead and pick up a copy, you'll not regret it. Oh, and if this is too easy, Vinco has a harder version that's a little larger!

Tagged as: , , 2 Comments


22Apr/130

Vinco’s Octahedron

Seems that it's been too long since I sat down and wrote about a puzzle, but somehow life seems to have got int he way of puzzling. I've been getting ready for my wedding later this year, and making a batch of puzzles to have there, but I'll write about them later. For now here's another Vinco Puzzle that's available from has mass produced line, which Puzzle Master and others carry.

Vinco's Octahedron showing one of the patterns made from the contrasting woods used

Vinco's Octahedron showing one of the patterns made from the contrasting woods used

It will be no surprise to any regular reader of my blog that the quality of puzzles from Vinco is high. It's surprise, and really I'm not sure why I even need to mention it but this puzzle is no exception. The fit and finish is excellent, and Vinco's choice of contrasting woods makes for a great looking puzzle. This is a fairly small puzzle measuring 2.5" x 2.5" and is made from Plum and Maple. I now have a few puzzles in my collection made from plum, and really like the rich colour from it. Despite not being the most detailed grain, it is still a beautiful wood in its own right.

Another view of the octahedron

Another view of the octahedron

As you can see from the different views, the placement of the woods makes for some interesting patterning in the solved state. It does also help when you have the pieces separate and are trying to solve the puzzle.

Four simple pieces make up the Octahedron

Four simple pieces make up the Octahedron

With only four pieces, this isn't the most challenging puzzle, and given that it's not a coordinate motion puzzle, there's no tricky balancing of pieces needed when you're trying to get it back together. Finding the correct placement for your fingers to start taking this one apart though is a real challenge but makes for a fun if short challenge.

Given that this is a small and simple puzzle, it's a great one to have in a bag to give to friends to play with, and it shouldn't keep them stuck for too long making it a great distraction. I know I've said it in the past, but you really can't go wrong with a Vinco design.



12Feb/130

Crossex

Crossex is another co-ordinate motion puzzle from the workshop of Vinco. It's been a while since I looked at any of Vinco's co-ordinate motion puzzles, so I'm remedying that with this review. Crossex is available from Puzzlemaster, or Vinco directly.

Crossex by Vinco

Crossex by Vinco

As always, the quality of the workmanship in the puzzle is excellent. It comes shrink wrapped with a small info card which contains the solution inside a folded paper, listing the difficulty rating as 3/5. Given that this is another co-ordinate motion puzzle, it instantly gets a higher rating in my book, but don't let that put you off. Made from variegated Walnut and Maple there's a good contrast between the pieces, and despite being part of the commercial line, there is still care and attention to the orientation of the grain in the pieces to make a really pleasing puzzle. I have no idea how Vinco manages this level of quality and still mass produces these.

Crossex by Vinco, partially open

Crossex by Vinco, partially open

The cube is 2.5" cubed and expands up to 3.75" before it will collapse into a pile of pieces. As seems to be Vinco's current style, there's a rattling to be found from the inside of the puzzle, but that may or may not have much to do with its operation.

I will admit I was a little disappointed when I pulled the pieces apart on this one to find that it is identical in mechanism to the MaTRIOshka puzzle which is based on Stewart Coffin's Expanding Box Puzzle. It's a design I need to revisit after my earlier failed attempts. Given that I've learned a lot since that first attempt, and I've had a few requests to go back to the design.

If you don't yet have a copy of Stewart Coffin's expanding box puzzle, then I'd recommend this version as it's very well made, and not expensive, especially given the fit and finish of the puzzle.



23Oct/120

Tritresor

Tritresor is another of Vinco's mass produced puzzles and is available from Puzzle Master. Similar to the Cubetresor I reviewed previously, this is a three piece puzzle with a rather more triangular shape than the Cubic, four piece puzzle Cubetresor.

Tritresor by Vinco.  Side View

Tritresor by Vinco. Side View

Tritresor by Vinco.  End View

Tritresor by Vinco. End View

As you can see, this is a typical Vinco styled puzzle, where the wood used is carefully chosen to best highlight the pieces, or to hide the pieces in some cases. As ever the pieces are simply finished and nothing is dyed or stained to artificially change the colours. Measuring 3" x 2.5" x 2.5" it's a good size in your hands, and the contrasting colours of woods helps to make the design really pop. (Triforce on the side anyone?)

One thing I will note on my copy is that the fit of the pieces isn't quite as exact as I have come to expect from Vinco's puzzles, even his mass produced copies. There are several places where slight misalignment of the blocks which make up the three pieces add up to a less than perfect fit. It doesn't affect the movement of the puzzle, and from the puzzle shelf, you'd never know, so really not much to complain about.

The puzzle consists of three unique pieces which must be separated to reveal a small wooden ball which you can hear rolling around, and then to restore the puzzle back to its original shape, and hide that ball back in the centre. As you can guess, there's a reasonable space in the middle of the puzzle that the ball rolls around in, and if you're not familiar with Vinco's enjoyment for putting random balls inside his hollow puzzles, you could be forgiven for thinking it's some kind of locking mechanism.

Tritresor expanded close to the point of collapse

Tritresor expanded close to the point of collapse

Taking the puzzle apart isn't too challenging, and Vinco rates it as 3/5 on his scale. Puzzle Master gives it a Level 7/10. Coordinate motion is required to separate the pieces, and return them back to their original shape. If you're not familiar with this style of puzzle, many people will avoid it as generally speaking coordinate motion puzzles require at least three hands, or several rubber bands and tape to successfully re-assemble them once they fall into a pile of pieces as you expand the original shape. In this case I'd say the Tritresor is a good starting point, as with only three pieces it's not difficult to get the pieces in place, and the tolerances are not so tight that it's frustrating to align them.

Three unique pieces

Three unique pieces

I disagree slightly with the difficulty ratings, as looking at the pieces will show that there's only one way they can go together, and the fit is such that it's not difficult to align the pieces to get the puzzle back to its original shape. Definitely more of an introduction to coordinate motion than a challenging assembly puzzle.

As ever Vinco's puzzles are well made and great to hand around to people so well worth looking at the 'Tresor' series of puzzles. Expect another review from the series soon.



7Jul/120

Vinco’s Double Desk Box

Most regular readers of my blog will be familiar with Vaclav Obsivac's work. The 'Vinco' puzzles are well known as being very high quality wooden puzzles at very affordable prices. One of my puzzle friends recently moved house, and I was round visiting just before he moved. As we wandered through his garage, stocked from floor to ceiling, and wall to wall with boxes, he pulled out Vinco's Double Desk Box, which was sitting unsolved, and handed it to me saying "See if you can put that back together for me". After a challenge like that I couldn't really say no now could I? That would ruin my reputation of being able to actually solve puzzles!

Double Desk Box by Vinco, solved.

Double Desk Box by Vinco, solved.

As you can see from the photo above, I was successfully able to put the puzzle back to its original solved state, so for now I'm probably safe.

The puzzle is a four piece co-ordinate motion puzzle. As you've heard me mention in the past, co-ordinate motion puzzles are something of a signature for Vinco's puzzles, and this is another great example. The mechanism is similar to those used in other co-ordinate motion puzzles, so it will not be a huge surprise to anyone familiar with some of Vinco's other offerings. Of course the challenge with all co-ordinate motion puzzles is figuring out where to put your fingers to be able to start separating the pieces without the puzzle flying apart, leaving you with no idea how to put it back together again!

Double Desk Box by Vinco, starting to open.

Double Desk Box by Vinco, starting to open.

The box starts off measuring 3.25" x 3.25" x 3.25", but as you start to open it, it expands to over 4" before the internal pieces are no longer touching and they fall into a heap. Unfortunately I'm not sure which woods were used for this puzzle as Vinco wasn't listing the woods when he produced these puzzles. The puzzle is available from Vinco directly, or from Puzzle Master

The four pieces of the Double Desk Box

The four pieces of the Double Desk Box

As you can see above, the four pieces of the puzzle are identical, making re-assembly 'easier'. Of course with any co-ordinate motion puzzle, assembling requires the puzzle to be expanded to the point of collapse, and then carefully aligning the pieces, while hoping that you don't move anything causing it to all collapse again. With only four pieces, this is one of the easier puzzles to assemble and disassemble, however there is a reasonable degree of dexterity required, since the tolerances are up to Vinco's usual standard. (Read, very well made, and darn tricky!)

This is a good looking puzzle and not too challenging to put together. Puzzle master rates this as 9/10 (Grueling), but if I'm honest I don't think that's fair. This is much more like a 6, in my opinion. Vinco himself rates it as a 3/5 (or 6 if you include his 5+ scale). All in all a fun puzzle, which is very well made, and great to hand to beginners since you'll get it back together fairly easily if they give up.



13Dec/110

Sputnik

It's time for another Vinco puzzle review, and this time we have another puzzle that's not a co-ordinate motion puzzle. Yes Vinco does make them, and he has a fairly good range available. Sputnik is a beautifully shaped six piece puzzle where the object is to take the pieces apart, then re-assemble them into the space faring shape. Thanks to Puzzle Master for sending me this puzzle to review.

Vinco's Sputnik

Vinco's Sputnik

It almost goes without saying that this is another beautifully made and finished puzzle from Vinco. There really are few other people out there making puzzles at this quality for this price. The woods used have been waxed so the natural colour and grain is preserved, making for a great looking puzzle which will stand out, especially given the unique shape of this puzzle.

One thing I will note in this puzzle is that in order for the pieces to come together the way they are intended, there is a small gap between a couple of the blocks in each of the six puzzle pieces, and while it doesn't detract from the puzzle at all, and you'll not notice it in the solution shape, it does make solving the puzzle slightly easier, as you can use the gaps to tell where the pieces are joined into halves, before combining the halves into the final shape.

One of the two halves of the puzzle

One of the two halves of the puzzle

One of the challenges with this puzzle is that the way each of the six pieces are combined is not intuitive. Given that all six pieces are identical, it's hard to see how you join the pieces to create a shape that will interlock into the UFO like solution.

Six identical pieces

Six identical pieces

This is another excellent puzzle from Vinco, and I highly recommend it. If you're not a fan of co-ordinate motion puzzles, this will give you a good challenge, and no need to worry about growing a third hand to hold the pieces in place as you assemble it.