Tag Archives: Metal


If you’ve read some of my previous posts about visits to various Puzzle Parties, you’ll remember me talking about puzzles designed by Roger. There are lots of my fellow bloggers have written about some of his other puzzles, and even a few have written about the Propeller puzzle. Rogers puzzles are all highly sought after, as he no longer makes new puzzles, and there’s very few people out there know who he really is, but they all have one thing in common. They’re tough to figure out, and in most cases the mechanisms are all amazingly straight forward, if not entirely on show.

The Propeller by Roger in its startling locked position

The Propeller by Roger in its startling locked position

I’ve been trying to get my hands on one of Roger’s puzzles for my collection for a while now, but it seems that given their rarity, and the number of collectors looking to add them to their own collections, I’ve been outbid each time they’ve come up for auction. In a recent auction however I had a little spare puzzle money and decided it was time to not be outbid. Propeller is the first of the Roger puzzles I’ve added to my collection, and I think it’s a good puzzle to have been able to buy. I’ve played with a fair few Roger designs and enjoyed most of them. I think one of the reasons that this appeals to me is that it really looks like an aircraft propeller and engine, meaning that the goal is reasonably obvious to anyone picking it up.

Propeller is a great looking puzzle, made from aluminium with a textured surface finish and measuring 3.25″ across the propeller, 1.75″ high and 1.5″ deep it’s surprisingly light for its size. There’s no instructions provided, as with many of Roger’s puzzles, and the only hint is the double ended arrow positioned between Roger’s initials to let you know what the goal is.

The Propeller by Roger viewed from the side

The Propeller by Roger viewed from the side

In it’s starting state, the propeller is locked in the horizontal position. The goal unsurprisingly is to get the propeller to spin freely. When you pick the puzzle up, you’ll find that there’s a small amount of play to the propeller, and you’ll hear some rattling from somewhere inside the puzzle. Being a fairly deep puzzle, and having various hex screws protruding from the puzzle, the obvious investigation is to try to tilt and rotate the puzzle to try to find out what is blocking the propeller from rotating. There’s a lot of space in there and your mind will probably be your worst enemy as you try to figure out what’s happening.

As with other puzzlers, Allard and Oli included I too managed to release the mechanism a few times through random turning and shoogling, with no real understanding of what I’d done, and like others would have the mechanism lock up every bit as quickly as I’d released it, again with no idea why.

The Propeller in full spin

The Propeller by Roger in full spin

The real challenge here is being able to repeatedly release the locking mechanism, and allow the propeller to spin freely, and know how to re-lock it. It took quite a bit of time for me to figure out exactly what was happening to the point that I could repeatedly solve the puzzle, and the mechanism is so simple once you understand what’s happening that I really have to smile and tip the hat to Roger for a simple yet challenging puzzle.

This is a great example of a simply challenging puzzle that looks great, needs no explanation, and puts a smile on your face when you know how it works. I have no idea whether I’ll be able to add more of Rogers puzzles to my collection, but don’t pass up the chance to have an attempt at solving this one if you can.

It’s a Hardly

In today’s world of computer controlled machinery and high-tech precision machining, there are few craftsmen left who are able to create something in metal by hand, in amazing detail and precision, and even fewer who use those skills to make puzzles. Rocky Chiaro is one such master craftsman, and I’m pleased to say that having met the man himself at IPP and spent some time talking to him about his puzzles, and playing with some of his bolts, that I now have one of his puzzles in my collection… and it won’t be the last!

It's a Hardly

It’s a Hardly

This stunning puzzle is a mechanical puzzle made to look like an early Harley Knuckle Head Motor. Now as a biker this appeals to me, and as an engineer who doesn’t appreciate engines. Now granted I should apologise to Rocky as I have played with this puzzle, and I didn’t polish it before taking the pictures, so it’s covered in fingerprints!

Hand made with a great eye for detail, this 2″ high motor is not the most challenging of the puzzles Rocky makes, but it is beautiful. Having said that, I did find the first move very quickly, but didn’t get much beyond that for a while. There’s plenty to poke and prod at, and a few things which hint at movement, but nothing really moves. I had a fair idea as to what should happen next but it took me far too long to actually execute it. That has to be attributed to the amazing tolerances in the puzzle. It’s made so well as to give nothing away, and really is a nice puzzle to solve.

The hand engraved signature on the side of the puzzle

The hand engraved signature on the side of the puzzle

As you can see Rocky has signed his work by engraving the side of the puzzle. I really should get this polished back up to the level that it arrived in!

I don’t think it will keep experienced puzzlers stumped for long, but I’m very glad to have it in my collection. As I mentioned earlier, I’ll be ordering quite a few more puzzles from Rocky in the future, so keep an eye out for some thoughts here. If you’re interested in Rocky’s keys or bolts, then a fair few of my fellow bloggers have written about them, so go check out their pages!

Great Collision

I don’t own too many metal puzzles, however a while back I spotted a rather interesting looking puzzle in the shape of a spiral galaxy on Puzzle Master’s site. At the time it was out of stock, and it seemed that there were a few people looking for the puzzle. Puzzle Master now has it back in stock, so I picked up a copy of the “Great Collision

Great Collision in the starting position

Great Collision in the starting position

The goal is to separate the metal pieces of the puzzle and release the red ball in the centre. Sounds like a fairly simple task however on first inspection, the pieces seem to be pretty well locked together, and there doesn’t seem to be enough room to separate the pieces.

The puzzle looks great with the black anodised aluminium being well finished, and the red ball in the centre really standing out against the outer pieces. Measuring 4″ in diameter, it’s a good sized puzzle, and easy to manipulate the pieces. Given that it’s solid aluminium it has a good weight as well.

The four pieces of the puzzle

The four pieces of the puzzle

Much like the Yin & Yang puzzle I reviewed a long time ago, I think this is more of a good looking object, than a challenging puzzle. It can be a little tricky to get things into the correct position to allow them to separate, however there’s little challenge to solving the puzzle. Putting the pieces back together is also fairly simple although I found it slightly more tricky. It is possible to force the solution; however if you find yourself doing that then it’s time to think a little as there is no force required to solve this one, and the pieces will glide past each other if you’re on the right track. You shouldn’t need a solution, however if you do, you can download one here.

Overall, this is a simpler puzzle which would suit a new puzzler, or a younger puzzler to get them more interested in puzzling. That said, it will look good on the puzzle shelves given that great contrast, and the striking black spiral arms.


Hercules, or the 22nd Labor of Hercules, is a Jean Claude Constantin puzzle which he used as an exchange puzzle at IPP 22 where he made copies in wood. This version was made by Bits and Pieces and was available from Puzzle Master.

Hercules a.k.a. 22nd Labor of Hercules

Hercules a.k.a. 22nd Labor of Hercules

This copy of the puzzle measures 4.75″ x 4.75″ x 0.6″ with machined aluminium pieces, and a plastic tray. The anodising on the aluminium pieces makes all but the black piece stand out against the black plastic tray, so this is an attractive puzzle sitting on a puzzle shelf. The pieces are accurately milled, and fit the tray well, with little additional room beyond that needed to solve the puzzle.

For me, the plastic tray is pretty poor. In my copy it’s not very well made, with a number of small lumps of plastic around the inner edge of the tray, and while not flimsy, it does feel cheap next to the aluminium pieces.

As both Brian and Gabriel have pointed out the finish on the aluminium pieces is pretty poor. There are some very noticeable milling marks on all the pieces, and the anodising process has left some uneven colour, which is most noticeable on the blue piece. I have a number of metal puzzles which have been coloured this way, and the is probably the poorest example I’ve seen. Not much to ask to have the pieces finished to a slightly higher standard.

Looks like lots of room in the tray

Looks like lots of room in the tray

That aside, the puzzle is well made to tight tolerances, and as such, the puzzle solving experience is not affected. I do have one small gripe here though. The puzzle comes in a cardboard box which exactly fits the tray and no more. That means that the puzzle comes shipped in the solved state. I would be fine with that, however inside the cardboard box, the puzzle is in a sealed plastic bag, with the solution, face up, on top of the pieces. Really if you want to solve this one yourself, ask someone else to unbox it for you, and hand you the pieces and tray separately, as there’s no easy way to even open the box upside down and have the pieces fall out so you can solve it ‘unseen’.

That aside, the solution provided is particularly inelegant. Much like both Brian and Gabriel, I found an alternate and much more elegant solution to the puzzle, which I believe to be the originally intended solution from what I have been able to see of Jean’s exchange picture. So if you find yourself unable to avoid seeing the solution the puzzle is shipped in, I’d say try for this alternate solution, I think you’ll prefer it anyway!

Overall this is a good copy of the puzzle, and for the price you really can’t argue. Well worth picking up a copy as it’s a great little puzzle, and not too challenging that you’ll find the satisfaction of a solved tray packing puzzle before you pull out all your hair.

Revomaze Gold Extreme

This entry is part 6 of 11 in the series Revomaze

It’s been a while since I reviewed a Revomaze puzzle, and since the last time I talked about them, there’s been a couple of new puzzles released from Ashton Pitt. We’ve had a couple of special editions in the form of an Orange, and a Lime, and the final puzzle in the Series 1 set was released. That puzzle was the Gold, and was shipped almost exactly a year ago.

The Gold Revomaze

The Gold Revomaze Puzzle

I’ve already covered the basic puzzle in my first review of the blue, so for general information on the Revomaze puzzles, I’d suggest reading that post here.

The fifth and final puzzle from Revomaze in the Series 1 is the Gold. This puzzle, like the Bronze and Silver isn’t available as a plastic puzzle in the Obsession line, as it’s not possible to create some of the internals in plastic.

The Gold is rated by Revomaze as having a difficulty of 100/100 (extreme) and an estimated opening time of 250+ hours. The fastest opening so far is listed as 400 hours. It is described as a dynamic maze and is the hardest puzzle to be released to date from Revomaze. Only part of the puzzle is listed as being mechanical. There is also an algorithm, which needs to be solved in order to be able to open the mechanical puzzle. Each Gold is listed as being unique, and I’ll talk a little about that later.

If you’ve read the Silver review, you’ll remember me talking about the “not-a-canyon”, which was an area where the core was able to spin. Something we’d not seen in a Revomaze puzzle previously, and certainly had many of us scratching our heads as to how that could happen. Well Gold starts that way, and really doesn’t get much better.

Very early on in the puzzle, you’ll find yourself going in circles, with the occasional notch you can drop into. You may even find that from time to time that notch isn’t a notch, and becomes a path further into the puzzle. At first it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, and if you’re lucky, within a short time, you’ll find yourself with the core as far out as you’ve seen it with any of your other puzzles, but there’s no dot, so you know you’re not finished. And let’s be honest, if the puzzle is rated as the hardest to date, you’d be a little upset if it was that easy.

So you’ve now got the core as far out as you can, but it’s not done much for you, and really at this stage you have little idea what you did to get it here. So you decide to go back to the start, and spend some time trying to figure things out. Of course, getting back is almost as much of a journey as getting to where you are!

The challenge here is to figure out what’s going on and understand what allows you to move from one ‘ring’ to the next. Like any other Revomaze, this puzzle can be mapped although you probably think that’s not true initially. As with any other Revomaze puzzle, I had to sit and map things out, and although it seemed like I’d need to do something special for this maze, it does map out the same as any other and I resorted to my usual Excel based map.

Now as I mentioned previously, the mechanical puzzle is only one small part of the Gold, and that is where many people on the Forums have expressed disappointment, myself included. The reason is that in order to open the puzzle, you need to solve an algorithm, in the form of a set of cryptic clues to be able to get a code which can then be applied to the puzzle to let you open it.

Sound complicated? Well the clues are certainly cryptic, and will need you to think so far out of the box that as of writing this a year after the puzzle was released, no-one has solved the algorithm to the satisfaction of Chris Pitt. That alone tells you all you need to know as far as I’m concerned.

For me, I found the algorithm to be very off-putting. I have loved the Revomaze puzzles from the first one I played with as they are challenging mechanical puzzles. Sadly the Gold is not a mechanical puzzle. It’s a combination lock. You get a code, enter it, and the puzzle opens. That may be over simplifying things, but at the bottom line, it’s exactly what we have.

Chris tried to create a puzzle which could not be opened by cheating, and wanted to have a puzzle were each and every copy was unique. The algorithm allowed him to do that, and with a minimum number of internal parts, each puzzle in the 250 puzzle run could be made unique. Sadly for me, and I know I’m not alone, that also took the Gold away from the original spirit of the puzzle.

When you receive the puzzle, and get the algorithm clues, you’ll also get a three letter code with the puzzle. When you register your puzzle with Revo HQ, you’ll need to send this code as part of the email. From there, you’ll receive another three letter code in return. These are the starting point for solving the algorithm and getting the solution code you’ll need to open the puzzle. Of course without understanding what’s going on in the puzzle, and how you’d apply the code to the puzzle you’re not going to get very far.

You’ll also get a warning that excessive use may damage the puzzle. Given that this was expected to be the most challenging puzzle, with over 250 hours of puzzling expected, what exactly is excessive use. It turns out that the warning was issued because there was some discussion about brute forcing the puzzle by trying every possible combination (in theory 25^3 or 15,625 combinations). I don’t think you’re going to damage the puzzle by trying to solve it, but perhaps trying 15k+ combinations is excessive!

There are clues and useful markers inside the puzzle for the observant puzzler, and there is a lot to learn in the puzzle. I lost track of how long it took me to open the Gold, however I finally opened my copy in August 2012, after playing on and off (mostly off) for eight months. I was number 7 to open the puzzle and there have been only 15 puzzles opened in total so far. Strangely enough the puzzles being opened are a little like busses. There are none opened for ages, and then four come along at once.

Revomaze Gold Open

Revomaze Gold Open

Having opened it, I think it’s fair to say that it is a challenging puzzle, and may well be the most difficult Revomaze released to date. There are certainly fewer people have opened Gold than any other Revo. I don’t think it’s my favourite in the series, and for me Bronze still holds that spot.

Oh, and there is no dot on the shaft if you were looking for one.

The review wouldn’t be complete without me mentioning a few of the issues that have been discovered since the puzzle was released. There have been a few puzzles which had to be returned to HQ for repair, and it is possible to get the puzzle in a state where it is jammed, and you can’t navigate through the puzzle. In most cases, this can be easily fixed without having to return the puzzle, but as with anything that may not always be the case. As with any of the Revo puzzles, excessive force is not required, and could damage some of the parts inside the maze.

I’ve spoken with many other people who have been working on the Gold puzzle, and many people have expressed opinions about their experiences. This puzzle is not for the faint of heart, and will test you far beyond any other puzzle in the series. Just be sure that you’re willing to spend a lot of time thinking and working on the algorithm before you take the plunge and get one. My personal feeling is that the Gold was a let down, and not the pinnacle of an excellent series of puzzles as it should have been. Chris I know has learned a lot from this, and will go on to bigger and better things I’m sure.

If you’re still working on the puzzle, and don’t want to know more, then I’d stop reading now. The remainder of the review is rather candid, and may reveal a few things about the puzzle that you might not want to know. Continue reading

Cube Puzzle a.k.a. Jigsaw Cube

I’ve written about many cube based puzzles on my blog, including my journey into the making of a number of cube based puzzles, but so far they are all made from wood. The Cube Puzzle, or Jigsaw Cube is an eight piece metal puzzle made by Inform designs. This is the first metal cube in my collection and given that it’s been sitting on my desk for long enough it’s probably about time I wrote about it. I received my copy from Puzzle Master. The goal of the puzzle is to take apart the cube, and restore it to its original configuration.

Jigsaw Cube Solved

Jigsaw Cube Solved

As you can see from the photograph, the puzzle comes with a chrome stand to display it, making it a perfect object for your desk at work. The Matt finish to the puzzle pieces sets it off well against the highly polished base, and the notch cut into the top of the stand allowing the cube to be displayed either flat on the top, or balanced on one corner really adds to the effect. Measuring in at 1.5″ x 1.5″ 1.5″ with an identical sized stand the puzzle is a reasonably good size to play with, and being solid has a good weight to it as well.

Pieces plus stand for the Jigsaw Cube

Pieces plus stand for the Jigsaw Cube

The puzzle itself consists of eight pieces with varying ridges and troughs cut into them, giving the assembled puzzle the appearance of Jigsaw puzzle pieces. There are a number of small magnets placed in the corners of a number of the pieces which help hold the puzzle in its solution shape. In my case, one of the magnets was not glued in place, so fell out when I opened the puzzle. Not a big issue, and a little CA glue soon sorted the problem out. The magnets themselves play virtually no part in the solution of the puzzle as the polarity is the same on all pieces with the exception of one corner, so any almost piece will ‘stick’ to any other.

Reference marks on the pieces

Reference marks on the pieces

Looking at the pieces there are two sets of identical pieces, so this greatly reduces the possible orientations that the puzzle can be put together and makes it much easier to solve. Unfortunately that’s not the only drawback to this puzzle. On each piece there are a number of dots engraved on the piece. This gives an order to putting the pieces together, and are rather difficult to miss. For me this really detracts from the puzzle, and makes it almost impossible to solve it without ‘cheating’. Even without looking at the included solution it is almost a given that the markings will influence any attempt you have to solve it.

Overall, this is a very well made puzzle, and looks great. For me though, the engraving really detracts from the puzzle and makes me thing this is one to pass on, unless you want a simple gift that’s going to look great sitting on the desk of a puzzle enthusiast in your life. If Inform designs read this, consider removing those markings from the mold, and you’ll have a much better puzzle!

For another view about this puzzle, have a look at what Oli said over here.