Sunday 30 August 2015

Coordinated and Interlocked with a Pelikan

The attendees of the Taiwanese Puzzle Party
Not my usual top of blog post photo above! I'm first of all sending you off to read a fascinating blog post on Rox's site. It was written by my good friend Otis Cheng for the mf8 forum in Chinese and then he translated it (for me) to be a guest article here which I was going to publish this coming week. Roxanne, being the cheeky minx that she is, hijacked it before I could get to it but it makes such great reading that I need to send you away from my site to hers for a jolly good read. The Hong Kong and Chinese puzzlers all had a wonderful trip to Taiwan and attended several days of events which looked absolutely marvelous. I followed their escapades on Facebook with great interest and was delighted to be able to put faces to some of the very famous names in the puzzling world. I even got to see a photo of a very good friend!

Now to the main subject of my post this weekend - last week I noticed with huge interest when Jakub Dvorak of the New Pelikan Workshop posted some gorgeous pictures of new puzzles that he and his partner Jaroslav Švejkovský had manufactured and were about to bring out for sale. Of course I couldn't resist buying all 3 of them and this week they arrived much to the disgust of the present Mrs S. Luckily for me she had been on her own little shopping trip on the internet and couldn't really complain at me too much or deliver a Whack! Ouch! After placing my order, I was amazed that it only took 5 days for the puzzles to arrive here from the Czech Republic. As always beautifully boxed and safe from damage. If you are thinking about getting into wooden interlocking puzzles then you cannot beat Pelikan for quality and value for money.

Co-Mo Cross
The Co-Mo Cross was the first that I got out to play with and knew from the name that this was a coordinate motion puzzle (similar to the type that my friend Václav Obšivač aka Vinco has made been famous for). This particular one was designed by the fairly prolific William Hu and made beautifully by Jakub from American Walnut. It looks stunning and is nice and compact at 64mm in each axis. William hasn't designed many coordinate motion puzzles and this one was described by him as:
"... an attempt at making a very small and concise co-ordinate motion puzzle with very few slanted cuts - of which there are only two in this design. The shape of a 2x2x2 cross is made of two pairs of identical pieces (which are mirror pairs). The separating motion is a little unusual but pleasant."
The fun part of these sort of puzzles is 2 fold. The first issue is to work out how to start the movement off. Looking at the picture you can see a horizontal cut which looks like it goes all the way through the puzzle (obviously that's not possible) but it is not at all clear where else the cuts go. The cuts have been made so fine and so accurate that I could not for the life of me see where to push or pull. I was reduced to sitting at my dining table whilst Mrs S prepared dinner and prodded all over to no real effect. I am ashamed to say that I really am not particularly good at these and have not actually solved any in a couple of years. As has happened a few times before I started gripping in in different places and suddenly the puzzle leapt apart!! I must have squeezed the exact right parts in the perfect direction and the puzzle, being so perfectly made, just started to slide and I had 4 pieces before I could even look at what was happening. It slid apart with such ease that I actually dropped one of the pieces on the tiles and earned a glare - Mrs S is very protective of her tiles!

Two pairs of absolutely perfect pieces
I studied the pieces for a while after reassuring myself that no damage had been done to wood or tile and then embarked on the reassembly. If you've ever done any of this type of puzzle before then you will be aware that it is also a dexterity puzzle. The fit is absolutely perfect and thus the pieces needed to be placed in EXACTLY the correct position before it just slides closed again. It took me about 10 minutes to put it back together again - the puzzle just wants to spring apart and the positioning is really hard to maintain as you try to introduce each new piece. That last one is a real bugger! I have done it a few times now and it still takes me a while! The movement is simply gorgeous!

If you have no experience of coordinate motion puzzles then this is a really good place to start - at just €19 it's too good to miss! And it looks lovely on the shelf!

The plaque says it's the Slideways Cube
This puzzle is unfortunately already sold out (maybe if there's enough demand then Jakub will consider making more). This is the Slideways cube named similarly to the Slideways burr and Double Slideways burr also designed by Ray Stanton and made by Eric Fuller.

I played with and solved the Slideways burr at the last MPP and really enjoyed seeing a 3 piece burr which opened like a coordinate motion puzzle and was beautifully simple in its idea. The Double Slideways burr was also placed in my hands at the same MPP and I am still having nightmares about it! The same premise as the single version but 6 pieces all moving in different directions before collapsing in a heap - I actually backed away from dismantling it at the party because I knew that I would never be able to get it back together! This time Ray had designed a cube with an identical mechanism using 3 pieces. This puzzle is made from Maple and Walnut and measure 6cm on each axis. It looks just like a solid block! The description says:
"The Cube, however, has no visible diagonal joints making it difficult to recognize and implement the correct motion. The puzzle is somewhat unusual because it is quite easy to put together, but difficult to take apart."
 He's not bloody kidding!!! I looked like an absolute crazy person trying to dismantle it! Mrs S actually laughed at me! I poked and prodded and pressed everywhere for a good half hour and got nowhere at all. I even began to think that I had one that might have humidity issues (even though that has NEVER happened before with a Pelikan puzzle). I put it down for dinner and had a go again when we sat down to watch some TV after doing the chores. Eventually I must have pressed on the right combination of places because it flew apart and landed on a sleeping cat's head - he wasn't very impressed!

Just look at the precision of those cuts!
Putting it back together is, just as Jakub stated, quite easy. It is just a matter of working out the orientation of 2 pieces to each other, sliding them together to work out the correct orientation of the 3rd piece and then sliding everything apart just to the point of falling apart and then squeezing them all inwards together. The sensation of just squishing 3 pieces of wood until all the joins disappear is unbelievable. I solved it several more times before I learned the correct places to push each time. There is no way by looking at it that you can see what to do - it is a masterpiece.

Little Box (which it isn't)
The Little Box is also a new design by William Hu. It is an interlocking solid made from Maple, Wenge, Cherry, American Walnut, Acacia, Mahagony, Padauk and Amaranth (Purpleheart). It measures 6cm in every axis. and has a "burr level" of just 1 to remove the first piece. Don't let this lull you into a false sense of security though. William wrote this about it:
"Little Box is a very simple assembly puzzle intended for beginners, with a small hollow inside. Serially interlocking with a single, relatively easy to find solution, this puzzle is a nice introduction to non-cubic assemblies. The shape of the pieces is inspired by the rebated joint in woodworking.."
This puzzle is relatively simple to disassemble - the fit is nice and tight and it takes a bit of pushing and pulling to find and remove the key piece and then another few minutes of prodding various bits to make it come apart into 6 pieces plus a tiny multicoloured cube which fills the cavity in the centre. The bevelling of every single edge is superb and ensures that not only does it look gorgeous but everything just slides together with no catching of edges at all. When apart, the pieces all look similar but there are some crucial differences that are important to take note of.

6 Similar shaped pieces and a cute cube!
Having read the description and the statement that it was "relatively easy to find a solution", I quickly dismantled it without paying any attention to the order or position of the pieces and then immediately scrambled them up and left it for about an hour. After that I attempted the so called "easy" reassembly! Ahem! Blush! I really am not very bright! I certainly didn't find it "easy" - it took me about 20-30 minutes to work it out and I had a real sense of achievement when I finally managed it. I have done it 3 or 4 times since and it doesn't seem to get any easier. Obviously, if you just memorise the sequence after dismantling then you will have ruined the challenge. It is the perfect puzzle for beginners and experienced puzzlers alike to learn reassembly. This is actually my favourite of the 3 - it really is a lovely little challenge to reassemble the shape and definitely possible for all levels of puzzler when they put their minds to it. The central cube is just cute and colourful and makes me smile whenever I look at it! This is an absolute bargain at €23! Go get it now - you really won't be disappointed.

My next challenges will be visible some time soon on my New additions page. I hope you enjoy this post as well as the summary of the Taiwanese puzzle party on Rox's blog.


  1. Really nice write up as always and great promotion of Pelikan. I am not a burr lover, but have gotten a few of Pelikan's designs and they are wonderful. They are highly crafted and finished and look like little works of art. They are also solvable and great for people who don't think they can do burrs - not easy but doable. I've got all three of these on the way too!

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