Wednesday 29 June 2011

Curly Cube

Curly Cube
I received the Curly Cube from Puzzle Master. It is rated by them as a 7 out of 10 (challenging) and comes complete with instructions (which will not be needed). It is manufactured by Bits and Pieces and is a pretty high quality construction. Originally designed by Vladimir Krasnoukhov, it is also available in a multicoloured wooden version direct from Wil Strijbos or (if you are in the UK) from Grand Illusions where it is known as the Trisected Cube.

I have to say that whilst I am partial to the wooden puzzles, I really like this cast aluminium version. It is a 48mm cube and really quite a good weight (if you drop this on your foot you will certainly know about it!)

Saturday 25 June 2011

Pagoda No 3

Pagoda 3
The recent Puzzle paradise auction (March) had many beautiful and interesting puzzles, many of which were completely out of my league in terms of cost (one went for in excess of $2000!) and I really do not like auctions because I either rapidly get into territory which makes me financially uncomfortable or just lose at the last moment.

I have been trying to get a puzzle box by Mr Makishi for some time and have been stymied by his refusal to open a PayPal account to allow safe payment across continents. So I was delighted to see that he has collaborated with Matthew Dawson to make a number of Pagoda puzzles. Number 1 and a tougher number 3 were available in the recent auction (in fact some are still up for sale). These are a limited run of 40 puzzles and were available on a "Buy now" basis which meant I stood a reasonable chance of getting what I was after without any nasty surprises. Within a day or so of the auction starting, I had obtained a price which included the PayPal fees and post to the UK. It was a little eye-watering but still manageable (I haven't dared tell the present Mrs yet!!)

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Hanayama Cast Duet

Cast Duet
Puzzle Master provided me with this puzzle - the Hanayama Cast Duet. It is rated as 9 out of 10 (Gruelling) and by Hanayama as 5 out of 6. It is another puzzle designed by Oskar van Deventer. The solution is available here.

Saturday 18 June 2011

Jerry McFarland's Quadlock 1

Quadlock 1
Jerry McFarland is one of the most amazing puzzle makers out there! He mostly makes burr puzzles using equipment he has developed himself (including a computerised automatic notching machine!!) The quality of his finished work is nothing short of stunning. He is the actual manufacturer of Bill Cutler's puzzles but he also has designed quite a few of his own. I have been in email contact with him for a few months now as we swap back and forth ideas for puzzles (and tales of excessive spending by spouses - yes, my wife has as much of a shoe and handbag problem as I do with puzzles!!)

I was very disappointed that at the last BaxterWeb auction one of his original Quadlock puzzles went for rather a lot more than I could afford. He told me that he was retooling his jig to make them again using smaller stock. I asked if I could have one when it became available and he, like the gentleman he is, was true to his word and let me know about a month later when one was finished. It arrived this week and despite being pretty ill with a very virulent bout of food poisoning, I couldn't resist picking it up and having a go!! Jerry describes it as "a 19 piece difficult to take apart flattened cube." The previous version was 3.5" x 3.5" x 2.6" and the new one is 2.9" x 2.9" x 2.2" so it is still a nicely substantial puzzle and made from Walnut, Mahogany and Maple all polished to a beautiful sheen as always. The fit of all the pieces is fabulous. When I showed it to the missus even she admired how beautiful it looked!

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Hanayama Cast Rattle

Cast Rattle

My recent batch of puzzles from Puzzle Master included the Hanayama Cast Rattle, one of the most recent from the very prolific puzzle producing company. This puzzle was designed by Bram Cohen and is rated as 8 out of 10 (Demanding) by Puzzle Master and 4 (out of 6) by Hanayama. I therefore expected this to be a fairly significant challenge this time.

As usual, it is well packaged and the instructions just say to separate the four pieces which make it up. No solution is provided and I think that one is not really needed - most people should be able to work this out eventually. If you do want a solution then you can download one from here. It consists of four pieces each identically shaped that are loosely interlocked together (dimensions when assembled are 40x38x26mm). Being so loose they all can shake about freely (but not fall apart) hence the name - Rattle. The pieces are made from a really lovely shiny chromed metal and the puzzle is fairly substantial weight. It does look at first glance that these should just unlock from each other pretty easily - BUT looks can be deceiving.

Saturday 11 June 2011

Shapeways 3D printed puzzles - Microcubology

Microcubology delivery
During my casual surfing the web for yet more puzzles and I found the Shapeways 3D printing site with a few puzzle designs on it. One of those designers is Richard Gain and his microsite is called Microcubology (because he makes small interlocking cube puzzles!)

From this I ended up on YouTube, where I saw a few of his cube puzzles in action. I liked the look of them but did feel they were a bit too small for my liking (one or two are the size of a fingernail!!!) More recently he has developed a technique to make bigger puzzles which are hollow and at a similar cost to the tiny solid ones so I finally decided to get a few. They can be ordered direct from Shapeways but then they arrive unassembled and all one colour (usually white for you to dye yourself) which I was not keen on. One of his pages suggests contacting him to get dyed versions at a small extra cost, so this is exactly what I did. Initially you can do this through the Shapeways private messaging service but then he gave me his email address (if you would like to contact him then let me know and I will send you his address). More recently he has opened an Etsy store to allow buying some dyed puzzles.

It did take a few weeks for him to receive the puzzles, dye them and then send them to me but communication was great throughout. I ordered Quaternary Qube, Twisting the Night Away and Pivot Cube as seen in the picture above.

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Alcatraz Puzzle

Alcatraz - The Puzzle
After a small amount of surfing the internet for puzzles of interest, most of you will come across the Alcatraz puzzle. Much extolled as a very fine and very difficult puzzle to solve. I got this one from Puzzle Master but you could get it direct from the designer.

It is a pretty attractive thing made of black plastic, brass pins and a lovely large chromed ball bearing. It is 4.5x4.5x3cm and a good weight due to the steel bearing. Puzzle Master rate it as a difficulty of 9 out of 10 (gruelling) which I would agree with. Obviously the aim is remove the ball from the cage of pins.

Sunday 5 June 2011

I actually won something!!!

Over at the Revomaze forums the word zooms out when there is another puzzle auction from one of the main sites:
Now, as a rule I absolutely HATE auctions, I find that you can get swept up in the excitement of it too easily and end up spending far more than you really wanted to or can even afford! Or you find that some puzzles rapidly rack up to astronomical prices, being bought by wealthy collectors. Then I find that I feel rather down about the whole process (and I am a pretty decent earner!) I prefer it when there is a "buy it now" button even if the amount is high - at least you know whether or not you will be able to afford it straight away.

At the last BaxterWeb auction there were quite a few items I was interested in. Some, as usual, rapidly headed into orbit and I got a bit depressed, some ended up going for more than the price that you would pay if you bought it brand new!!! BUT I actually won an item, it went for a pretty low amount, in fact it went for less than the predicted value - so I feel quite pleased with myself about an auction for once!

Dovetail Burr
My prize was the Dovetail Burr. It was based on a 6 piece board burr originally designed by Junichi Yananose. Frans de Vreugd added a twist to the design by putting dovetail joints at each end of the pieces (it was his IPP20 exchange gift). This has the result of reducing the number of possible moves. The burr was made by the very talented Bernard Schweitzer.

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!!)