Sunday 22 July 2012

Wood Wonders!

Does wood wonder?
Yes it does when it is in the hands of Brian Menold. This master craftsman has been making some real beauties recently. Today I'm going to mention 2 puzzles that I bought from him at "Wood Wonders".
First up is the Twin Pentominoes in a Light Box.

Twin Pentominoes in a Light Box
This puzzle was designed by Primativo Familiar Ramos and published at Ishino's Puzzle Will be Played site. My version is made from Zebra wood, Maple and Red oak (absolutely gorgeous!). It consists of 12 pentominoes of varying conformations which fit into a lattice box. The aim is to remove the pieces and then put them back again! Taking it apart was slightly challenging for me because it has been rather humid in the UK recently with more or less 3 months of continuous rain and I think the humidity had caused a little expansion (Brian had stated that he originally made it quite loose and I do remember that one piece used to just drop out). Eventually by tapping it in every direction I found the first piece to remove and thereafter it was easy to remove the lot:

Such simple parts - it must be easy!??
One would have thought that just having pieces made from 5 cubies attached together, this would be relatively easy! I should have got a clue that this was not the case when Brian also said on the site that despite doing the puzzle dozens of times, he still had to refer to the instructions. Of course I had looked up the information on Puzzle will be played and saw that there are 23,549 possible assemblies! So this was going to be easy wasn't it? OMG!!! No it was not easy! I spent hours and hours and hours on this and have yet to find a solution myself! No solution was provided with it and in order to put it back on the shelf I set Burrtools to finding the solutions - It took absolutely forever before it finished! I am humbled by having so many possibilities and still not being able to find even a single one! This puzzle is great for display as it is truly beautiful and perfect to taunt non-puzzlers with! If anyone wants the Burrtools file then just contact me.

Block Head
My next "wonder in wood" from Brian is an old favourite designed by Bill Cutler in 1983 which won the Grand Prize at the 1986 Hikimi Wooden Puzzle Competition. The Blockhead puzzle is best in wood in my opinion but has been produced a few times in plastic as well. Bill sells a limited edition version himself and a smaller version (called Square fit) made by Think fun can be found on the internet. It consists of a tray measuring 4.25”x 4.25” and 4 blocks which need to be fitted into the tray. My version is made of White Oak with a Bubinga bottom and an exotic used for the splines, the blocks are Walnut.

Now how difficult can it be to put 4 solid blocks in a square tray? Well, I'm not terribly bright so I found it quite tough! In fact it took me an hour! Oli reviewed it here and he only took 10 minutes (obviously he is terribly bright) and Allard reviewed it on his site - he doesn't say how long he took but I am sure he will have been faster than me because he also is really bright!

Sides aren't vertical
Why did it take so long? Especially when it arrives assembled! Because having tipped the blocks out you suddenly realise that they are not cubes! You then spend a while trying to assemble them and get 3 in no problem but cannot actually get the 4th into the tray! I'm dim but not usually that dim!!! A little further investigation reveals that there is more to the tray than I initially thought - the sides are not vertical! That's very sneaky! But even knowing this has not helped much!

Not too dim to finally succeed!
Eventually I worked out a strategy and managed to fit it all together - also looks great on the shelf. Another great challenge for non puzzlers - if you want to play then Brian still has just one available at a very reasonable price - go on you deserve it!


  1. It looks like "Twin Pentominoes" are non-planar polycubes made from an L-triomino glued to a two-cube piece (domino). Twelve (all) 3D pieces makes things difficult. Are all the pieces mirror image pairs? This might help (a little).

    Incidentally, if you use the 12 "normal" (i.e. planar) pentominoes BurrTools says there is no solution packing them in this "Light Box". A classical puzzle is to pack these 12 "normal" pentominoes in a 3x4x5 box. Have you tried packing your pieces in a 3x4x5 box??

  2. Bonus! I checked and it is possible to make a 3x4x5 rectangular solid with your pieces. Also 6x5x2. The latter might be "easiest" because it is only 2 thick. But working with 3D pieces is never easy.

  3. I'm glad to see that you enjoy using Burrtools as much as I do. It actually never occurred to me to try these other shapes! When I get the courage to take it apart again I'll have to try it!

  4. Try also this: can you make a 2x3x5 rectangular solid using 6 pieces, none of which are mirror images of each other? If so then this immediately solves both problems I suggested (simply take the same solution in the mirror and assemble it with the other 6 pieces)! This is the kind of question that it is hard to answer with Burrtools, but I think it may be possible. It is definitely possible to create two 2x3x5 rectangular solids with the pieces.

  5. Burrtools?!?!?! Nooooooooooooooooooooo. Come on guys. All the tools you need are in your tool box. Anyway, nice puzzles Kevin :)I particularly like the light box puzzle.