Saturday 14 January 2012

More Torture from Wil Strijbos!

I have received quite a few fabulous metal puzzles from Wil Strijbos over the last year and have mostly just mentioned their arrival but not really reviewed them properly. So I will start to make amends by reviewing 2 more of his puzzles:

Aluminium Washer Cylinder
First is the Aluminium Washer Cylinder. This is an absolute classic - almost all serious puzzler have one or are actively trying to get one. I reviewed the original Aluminium cylinder here. I said then and still believe that this is one of my favourite puzzles of all time. It took me 8-10 hours to solve and I regularly hand this to other puzzle friends to play with - several have managed it in a more reasonable amount of time and some have wanted to use a hammer or chisel!!

So far only Oli has reviewed this puzzle on his blog here and Allard has just reviewed it here.

The Washer cylinder as pictured above is a much much harder puzzle.
Washer cylinder on the right
Yes! I know! It looks exactly the same as the ordinary Aluminium cylinder! But it is not the same at all - crucial differences include the fact that it is taller (55mm), the top is not sprung like the first one (the top and bottom parts are pretty closely attached together). There is only a three digit number on the lid with none on the base and the hole in the bottom is very much larger but the presence of a washer in it hides all the insides! The washer is not crucial to solving it and neither is the small peg poking through it - in fact the prototypes had a chinese coin and no peg. There are still ball bearings to be heard spinning around inside but how many?

If you though the first cylinder was tough to solve, then this will blow our mind! I received this just before Christmas and have only just solved it this week - it has taken hours and hours and hours. The biggest problem is that it gives absolutely no feedback whatsoever that you are doing anything right (you only know it is wrong when it fails to open!!!)

I tried absolutely everything I could think of to open it - I foolishly tried to do the same thing which opened the first cylinder - how stupid is that? I shook it, rolled it, spun it in all directions, tapped it, bashed it and like Allard even blew in the hole until I was blue!! How stupid is that? Nothing seemed to make any difference! Now, at work, I have at my disposal an Xray machine so in despair I thought I would give that a try - and it was no help at all - with the initial settings all I got was a vague outline. So I gave up on this track.

Side view
End view
After another couple of days I thought I had an idea but, yet again, it wouldn't work. So in despair after multiple tries at what I thought might be the mechanism I handed it to a friend to play with. Within 2 minutes it was open but the mechanism was completely locked up - I think some aluminium shavings had entered the mechanism. It was absolutely locked solid. Again taking advantage of my orthopaedic operating theatre setting, I used some rubber gloves, some WD40, a broken orthopaedic drill-bit and a large pair of mole-grips. I managed to loosen the mechanism up and put it back together again with no damage at all. It is now fully lubricated and works beautifully every time but still needs care not to get any debris inside it. I was the 11th to open the washer cylinder (one puzzle friend actually managed it in a single day!!!) The mechanism is rather unexpected and quite special.

Since solving it, I have taken a few more Xrays and "coned in" to increase the power focussed on the puzzle and they are a wonder - if you would like to see them then just contact me by email if you have it or via my contact page. If you haven't solved it yet then you probably shouldn't ask!!

The mechanism is just beautiful and marvellously engineered. If you are a serious puzzle collector then you really should own both of them. For casual puzzlers, I suspect the price is a little steep and the washer cylinder is a bit too difficult but both are marvellous puzzles.

Next for review is the Spanner puzzle - this continues the orthopaedic theme! I work with an Ilizarov surgeon on a tuesday!!!

Strijbos Spanner
Believe it or not Wil has made a disentanglement puzzle out of a standard 22mm double ended Chrome Vanadium spanner, a steel chain and a metal ring! This puzzle is 26cm long and really quite heavy - don't drop it on your foot!!! An 11mm version is also available with a beaded chain and plastic ring. The aim is to remove the ring from the contraption. It looks pretty simple - just take the ring off the end! Unfortunately this won't work because the chain is too tight to allow such a movement. It requires a small series of movements to achieve it and is not hugely difficult for anyone who is used to entanglement puzzles but is really quite a novel feeling doing it on a spanner. I gave it to my wife and she failed - as usual, she gave up after 5 minutes and insisted I show her the solution!

This is a nice addition to my rather large collection of both Strijbos puzzles and disentanglement puzzles - well worth buying and very reasonably priced.

I will try to continue my Strijbos collection in the coming weeks.


  1. You x-rayed the poor thing!?! (Good thinking... :-) ) - allard

    1. You better believe it baby!
      For all the good it did me :-(

      Had to try a second time with new settings after I had solved it - should have done it that way the first time.

  2. And to think all I've done is play around with a magnet and a torch....

    1. Just one of my "special" advantages! Not that it helped me in any way!

  3. Hi,

    give the link to buy the Aluminium Washer Cylinder!

    Thank you!

    1. The only store that I know of that stocks either of Wil's cylinders is Sloyd's store in Finland. They are highly reputable with an excellent selection of puzzles. The cylinders can be found here:
      Wil's cylinders

      I bought mine direct from Wil and I cannot post his email address on-line.