Monthly Archives: April 2011

Wood is sharp

This is not directly related to puzzles, but I felt it worth posting regardless as it does tie in to my progress from puzzle solver to puzzle designer.

Last night I was asked by my oldest son to help him to make a box for my youngest son who’s 13 today. So given that I plan to look at building puzzle boxes, that’s my tenuous link for posting this. (Run with it … there’s good info in here!)

So he wanted to make a box to hold his brothers Bakugan toys. A nice gesture, and who doesn’t want more storage, especially when it’s made from wood? We picked up some Red Oak to use as the sides and some Yellow Poplar as a base. The different coloured woods should give a nice enough contrast, and given that this was last minute, it had to be something we could put together in one night. Nothing like a last minute challenge!

Given that this was to be a simple box, I went with a straight forward 45 degree cut at each corner to create the outside of the box, which would be glued together creating the walls. After the first piece was cut, I picked it up to move it to the side, and in doing so, sliced my finger open at the side of the nail. But it’s only wood, surely it can’t be that sharp?

The problem is that the Red Oak has a hardness of 1290, and is a reasonably dense wood. While it’s not the most dense, or hard, it’s substantial. What that meant was that when we’d cut the 45 degree angle, the thinnest point was really thin, and it kept its edge. IT effectively created a knife on edge of the cut.

So if you’re looking at building puzzles, and you’re going to put angles in there, remember, wood is sharp.

For all those experienced wood workers out there who are currently thinking “Well duh, of course it is”, I apologise. I am neither an experienced woodworker, or puzzle crafter. I learned something very useful last night, and hopefully others will take something from my experience.

More real puzzle stuff coming soon.

Stickman #2

If you read my post on the Puzzle Paradise auction, then you’ll already know that I had won this puzzle, and was eagerly waiting it’s arrival. Before I delve into the review, there’s a few things I want to mention.

This puzzle came directly from Robert Yarger’s personal collection, so I had the pleasure of talking directly with Robert about the puzzle. Robert is a great person to deal with. He was really open about the puzzle, and we have chatted back and forth since the auction finished. Not only did he send #2, but he also threw in a Karakuri small box as well for me to take to puzzle parties for anyone there to have a go at.

While we were talking, Robert mentioned that Stickman #2 was one of his favourite designs, due to the rhythm of the moves when opening it. He plays guitar as do I, and likened it to playing “Babe I’m Going to Leave You”, by Zepplin. Having been able to play with it myself, I know what he means.

So the puzzle itself is a good size, at 11″ x 6″ x 5″. And it’s solid. This is not a puzzle you would be worried about passing to someone to try. One small thing to note is that one of the sliders (the one on the back of the puzzle) is a little loose, and tends to move on it’s own, with the help of gravity. That does mean that for some of the moves, you need to take a little care that it doesn’t move before you want it to. On the whole not a big issue, but it does mean you have to watch what you’re doing.

Solving the puzzle for the first time is really nice. There’s a few obvious moves, then you hit a wall. There seems to be nothing else to do, but you’ve not opened the box yet. After a little more exploring, you find out what to do, and get a bit further. Another 10 minutes of playing and you can remove the first hidden compartment, which reveals the second … and third although you don’t realise it at first!

Knowing that there are 4 hidden compartments in the box, you know there is more to find, but at this point nothing else will move. The final step is really clever and needs some out of the box thinking which I really like. Overall, I really enjoyed this and am very pleased to have it in my collection. Robert tells me that it can be opened in 30 seconds (all 55 moves) so I have some practice to do!

There are a couple of things that disappointed me slightly. The box comes with a small book which gives the number of the box in the series, and a little bit of background to Stickman. That’s great. But The next page is the start of the solution. Now I quite happily put the book down without reading the solution, but I’d rather the solution had been sealed so you had to make the decision to read it, rather than it being a little too easy. Again, not a big issue, but something I’d rather have seen done differently.

The last thing is a little oddity, which I’ll have to ask Robert about. The book tells me I have number 24/50. Stamped on the bottom of the box along with the Stickman logo is 18. I have to believe that this means it’s #18 out of 50, but I’m not sure. Again not an issue but a little inconsistency.

If you get the chance to own one of these, then I’d say go for it, you’ll not be disappointed. And Robert, if I’m in your neck of the woods, or you’re out by me, the beer is on me.

Kuku (SonicWarp)

I was recently lent Sonic Warps cheaper entry to the puzzling market, the Kuku by a fellow puzzler. He has had it for some time, but was unable to solve the puzzle, and offered me a shot. I lent him my Isis at the same time. (I’ll review it at some point as well).

The version I have is the ‘hard’ version. Since the person who lent it to me is a serious puzzler, he opted for the harder version after hearing many reviews saying that if you are at all good at solving puzzles, then you don’t want anything less.

The first thing you realise with the Kuku is the size. This puzzle is tiny. As you can see from the photograph, it’s diameter is around 1.5 inches. It’s a great looking puzzle, with the three colours of metals used providing a good contrast and making for a very striking puzzle. When you pick it up, the whole thing rattles and it’s rather difficult to know what’s going on in there. This is nothing new for a SW puzzle so I set about trying to find out what’s going on. The object, open the ball. Sounds simple enough!

Holding the puzzle to my ear, and slowly rotating it, you can figure out that there are several distinct components inside. That’s useful but it doesn’t help you open it. I will admit that this puzzle sat on my desk for many months, with me picking it up and playing with it for 10 minutes at a time, and I never came close to opening it.

The reason sadly was down to issues with the puzzle itself. When the puzzle was put together, the coating used on the pieces is tacky. For most of the joins this wasn’t a problem, but one of the joins was sealed together, meaning that the puzzle physically wouldn’t move. So even doing everything right, I had no chance of opening this puzzle. It’s a comment I’ve heard from a number of people, enough to make me believe that this is a general issue with the puzzle, and not just a one off problem. My issue is that this really spoils the puzzle, and in fact makes it unsolvable.

With some hints from a fellow puzzler I have the tools to attempt to open this , but it requires some force which really should not be needed on the puzzle, and given that I am borrowing it, it made me less happy to go down that route.

There are many videos online that show you how you can open this puzzle. They do require that the puzzle doesn’t suffer from the problems the one I was borrowing had, but also defeat the point of the puzzle somewhat. If you don’t want it spoiled, then avoid searching for the solution. Really you shouldn’t need it!

Would I recommend this puzzle. Sadly no. It seems to be plagued by the Sonic Warp curse of poor production and is sadly let down as a result. If it worked as it was supposed to, this would be a fun puzzle, but as it stands, I’d say stay away.

Danlock ‘B’

Continuing in my puzzle reviews, today I have the pleasure of reviewing my Danlock ‘B’ puzzle lock.

I’m no expert on puzzle locks, and in fact, this is the first and only puzzle lock in my collection. Having spoken with a number of puzzling friends, they all recommended the Danlock, and by most it is considered the Rolls Royce of puzzle locks. So why the high accolade?

Well the reason comes from the fact that this is a real padlock. Dan Feldman buys the Nabob padlocks, which are made in Israel, and modifies them into these trick locks. So what you have is a solid brass padlock, with a real lock that makes a really solid puzzle. As you can see from mine, the evidence of the conversion is worn on the face of the lock. Mine has several scratches and wear marks from where it was worked on. I don’t think it takes away from the puzzle, and if anything I feel that it adds to the effect.

So down to the puzzle itself. You’re presented with two keys, one shacked to the padlock itself, and the other which Dan has kindly cut in two. The object is to open the padlock, then return it to the state you see in the image above. You’re not allowed to use anything other than that which you find on the puzzle itself, (so no paper clips!) and the best comment I heard was “You can solve this puzzle locked naked in a padded cell”. While I don’t suggest this method, it is true. Everything you need is right there.

With this being my first trick lock, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I promptly set about trying to open it. Taking that leap of faith and sticking the broken shard of key into the lock, I quickly had it open, but what next.

All I’ll say is that there are a number of ‘aha’ moments with this puzzle, and it really is well designed and made. All told it took me about an hour to solve the puzzle, and get things back into their original state. A great puzzle, and I can’t recommend it enough to any collector.

So one last thing to say about it. I noted that I have a Danlock ‘B’. Dan made two version of this puzzle. The ‘B’ is revision two if you like and has an added twist over version ‘A’. Having talked with a friend who has the ‘A’ the difference is subtle, and if I’m honest I don’t think it adds a huge amount to the puzzle, however it could prevent someone from finding the final move for just a little longer. If you get the chance, pick up a rev ‘B’ but if you already have an ‘A’ then I’d say there’s not enough extra there to justify adding a second version to your collection.

Puzzle Auctions

So despite having been collecting puzzles for probably close to twenty years, and having a fair collection, it’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve had the disposable income to be able to acquire some of the higher end puzzles on the market. Until recently I’d never tried my luck at a Puzzle Auction, and in fact I didn’t know that such things existed!

That being said, at the recent Puzzle Paradise Auction for the Australian flood relief, I saw Stickman’s Perpetual hinge puzzle box come up for sale. I love the design of this box, and thought I may have a chance to own one of these rare, and challenging Stickman puzzles, so I threw a bid (or two) up. Sadly, I didn’t win, but I later found out it did go to a friend over on the Revomaze forums. You can read his review of the puzzle here.

Well Puzzle Paradise had another auction and guess what … another Perpetual Hinge came up. So I tried again. I’ll cut a long story short, with 30 seconds to go, I was bidding, and the price was over $1500, I wasn’t the highest bidder so I gave up.

There was another box that I had been bidding on in the same auction though. It was Stickman Box #2.

So having realised that I wasn’t getting the Perpetual Hinge, I went into bid mode. I was taking one of the Stickmen home, so now it was #2. I threw up a bid, and with about 30 seconds remaining, I was the high bidder. I kept refreshing, and was outbid. Damn. Ok, back to the bid page, about 20 seconds to go. Next bid … no good, next bid, no good, next bid no good …. to hell with it, I want this… Next bid …. 10 seconds … I’m the high bidder!

At this point, I will admit, I’m shaking a bit with the adrenaline, constantly refreshing the page …. still mine!

One more refresh, and the page states it’s no longer accepting bids. I look at the description, and I’m still the high bidder! It’s mine!

So look out for a review of this fine box when it gets to me in the near future.

I should point out that this box is coming directly from Robert Yarger himself, and yes I had discussed this with my fiancée who had given me permission to bid on both items!

My new home


So I’ve made the transition. Most of everything from the blogspot site has been moved over, only the comments were left behind. (Sorry. If I find out how to move them then they’ll come too!)

Why the change? Well I have my own domain, hosting, and lots more flexibility here than I have on blogspot. It’s a great service, don’t get me wrong but I can do a lot more with the blog now that I’ve moved.

So if I’m honest, I haven’t fully worked out exactly what that will be, but when I do work it out, it will happen!

Expect more updates on my first puzzle design soon, and I hope to be able to start sharing a few ideas for other puzzles that I’m working on. I’m spending time just now getting experience with the tools I have, and working with the woods I have to play with. It’s all new and exciting, and I have my sights set high. Lets just hope I can deliver!

Till next time, I hope you like the new location.