Saturday, 4 June 2011

Aluminium Puzzles by Wil Strijbos

Aluminium Cross
After a few months of lurking (and posting) on the Revomaze forums I noticed a whole forum devoted to "other puzzles". Having developed an interest in these other puzzles I noticed fairly early on the name Wil Strijbos came up with some regularity. He is a Dutch puzzle designer and seller who has no real web presence - an international man of mystery!!! There were many references to his aluminium cylinder which he makes in small quantities and sells to people on application. I obtained his email address from a fellow Revo-er and asked to be put on his email list (heaven only knows how big this list must be). Most weeks he sends an update about what he has available either of his own design or other rare puzzles he has found. The prices are very reasonable (although not dirt cheap) and he is absolutely wonderful to deal with - he answers enquiries quickly and is very helpful - he has even put things aside for me until I have the funds to pay!

Last weekend he sent out a notice that he was reissuing his first ever puzzle design - the aluminium cross.

"Long time ago (it was in 1979) I visited London for the first time. I discovered many new puzzles there. Many of the nice wooden puzzles I saw there were produced by a puzzle company called Pentangle. I wrote a letter to Pentangle and I received an invitation from Mr. James Dalgety. He was not only one of the directors but also an enthusiastic puzzle collector. James invited me to come over and see his collection, and nearly one year later, in 1980, we met each other at his house in Over Wallop.

For this occasion I was inspired to create a puzzle. I came up with the idea for this “Cross Puzzle”. It was the first puzzle I ever invented, and it was a start for me to create many more puzzles later on.

About the Cross Puzzle: At that time I have never seen any kind of this puzzles before. It is my own original idea, the only inspiration was my visit to James. The solution has nothing to do with rotational parts and there are no magnets inside. There is no force required, just use the spring power inside the Aluminium Cross.

Now, 32 years later, I decided to make this Cross Puzzle again. At that time, in 1980, I just made a few samples of the Puzzle.

I was quite intrigued by this and despite the fully solved pictures he posted of it, the mechanism was not at all obvious. The fact that it was shiny shiny and metal too appealed to the Magpie in me so after waiting a whole 10 minutes I asked for one!!! Amazingly it arrived on 4 days later (along with Cola bottles 1 & 4!!)

The quality of this is nothing short of astounding! Like the cylinder, it is made of nicely polished smooth aluminium with what looks like a couple of stainless steel cylinders through each piece (one is thinner at one end) and when you first pick it up it seems to be a pretty good weight. Dimensions are 6x6x3.5cm. Initially nothing can move at all which makes for an interesting piece of exploring!!

After a minute or so of "adjusting" various parts one of the cylinders can move just a little bit. From here you need to investigate the limits of movement of every piece and throw in changes in orientation of the puzzle too - there are no magnets in it but gravity pays a very important part in solving it, if you don't understand gravity then you have no chance!!!! After a while one of the cylinders can be removed and you can then see why gravity was important and hopefully get an idea for the next section. Unfortunately (?fortunately) the next piece of the solution is much more confusing! It involves something totally new which you will get past without understanding fully and only will really work it out after you have solved it and try to plan putting it back together.

Aluminium Cross pieces
My first solution took me about 30-45 minutes to open and 5 to reassemble. I managed to solve it twice before deciding to formally write down a solution - it requires 8 fairly complex steps. This is a masterpiece of a puzzle - not too tough but a pretty decent challenge (the cylinder was much tougher but less fun). For a first puzzle design it is amazing.

I do not think Wil has any more available at present. Either contact him direct (I can provide his email on request - contact me) or there may be a few more available on the PuzzleParadise auction site.

Buy it if you get the opportunity - they are rare and great fun.

I just realised that I haven't actually written a review of the Aluminium Cylinder! So here it is:

Aluminium Cylinder
I received the cylinder and green apple in March and solved the apple fairly quickly (also worth buying). I immediately moved on to the cylinder and very quickly realised that this was a completely different kettle of fish!! There are no clues at all - all you can do is squeeze the lid and then "things" move inside. You can look in the hole in the bottom. That is about it!!!! You try all sorts of squeezing, rotating, screwing, swizzeling and rattling. Nothing changes, no further ideas? Try doing it all over again! And again! Eventually something appears in the hole at the bottom - do you remember what you did to get it there? No? Neither did I!!!

So, the next step is to get the damn thing back out of the central hole (this isn't particularly easy because you can't see anything past the object). Eventually it disappears and hopefully you know how you did it because you need to work out EXACTLY what the required movement is to make it visible again. This is because you need to do it more than once - perfectly!

It took me a week of intermittent play before I understood what the secret was! Probably 6 to 10 hours in all! Once open, it's simplicity is revealed - except it is not simple - it requires very accurate movements to get it open. After some practice I can now do it in under a minute. I have given this to quite a few friends and one managed to solve it in about 2-3 hours! No-one else has had a clue, which did make me feel a bit better. NO I have deliberately not posted a picture of it open - this would give away too much.

This puzzle takes pride of place in my collection. If it becomes available buy this one too!!!


  1. Received my copy of the Aluminum Cylinder (along with the Sweta Cross and Lotus) yesterday. I decided to try to solve this one first since the rating is this one is "easier" than the Sweta Cross.

    I thought of a few ideas last night while I was trying to catch some sleep and immediately tried all of them when I came in for work this morning. I was so surprised when I solved it that I was more of confused than happy. Still, excellent puzzle from Mr. Strijbos. It is as you say, Mr. Strijbos is devious! I will familiarize and oggle at the cylinder some more then the Sweta Cross is next.

    1. Well done! That was much quicker than I managed it! The next step is to work out exactly how to reset the puzzle fully and check that you can do it every time. Then it's time to torture your friends with it!



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