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Friday, 1 November 2013

Neo - Puzzle Ring (Jeff Bell)

For a long time now I have been trying to find myself a puzzle ring that I could wear as an everyday piece of jewellery. There are several reasons why I haven't been able to find one up till now. The ones you do find are all originating from the same ancient Turkish design (which I don't think particularly suits me), they all tend to be very bulky, they fall apart very easily while wearing, and they also tend to be expensive for what they are. So imagine my surprise when I found something perfect while idly browsing the internet one day!
Neo (Assembled)
This is a lovely 3-band puzzle ring by the name of Neo. It is custom designed and made from Sterling Silver by the very nice Jeff Bell in Thailand. Jeff's online shop can be found here: PuzzleRingMaker.

I have only ever known of a few original puzzle ring designers, so to find Jeff's shop was a pleasant surprise!

Neo (On Arrival)
After a good bit of browsing and narrowing down I decided upon the Neo design. It's nice and sleek, and not too assuming. I placed an order immediately, making sure to add my ring size because I actually do want to wear this one (unlike other rings I have ordered in the past).

I bought my ring on the 18th, it was made and shipped in ten days, and then arrived four days later! Four days from Thailand! I've waiting longer than that for parcels coming from the same town as where I live.

The ring is really nicely made, no visible joins in the silver and a great finish inside and out. The pieces fit together snugly and the ring size is dead-on as well.

Easily one of the best attributes of this design is its inherent ability to hold itself together very well. There's no worry of it disassembling while you're wearing it.

Is it difficult as a puzzle? Not hugely. But I wanted to go for a simpler 3-band design because I intend to use it to demonstrate to puzzle 'muggles' what kind of puzzles I'm interested in. So every time I hear the phrase "so you like jigsaws then?" I can give them the ring to try as a good example of a mechanical puzzle.

I would say that anyone could quite happily solve this design with minimal patience. If you give it logical thought you'll have it together in a minute or two tops, but if you favour the 'random motion' approach it could take you a decent bit longer.

As you can see in the picture there are handy engraved markers on the inside of each band, and these show you which order to assemble the bands around each other. So if you ever have a bad case of 'cantrememberhowtosolveitquickly' there's a handy safety net there for you as well.

Neo currently costs an incredibly reasonable $40, and there are many more original designs available for similar prices. And if silver isn't really your colour you can also order the rings in the gold purity you'd like. Based on my first experience I honestly can't recommend this shop enough.

Buy from: PuzzleRingMaker
Also available on Etsy: PuzzleRingMaker

Friday, 13 September 2013

Popplock T8 (Rainer Popp)

Woo hoo! The time has finally come for another Popplock to be solved. After the release of the T7 back at the end of last year I've been waiting for the next in this now infamous trick lock series, and I was hoping for a bit more of a puzzle challenge this time round. I was not disappointed!

So here it is, the T8. If you are familiar with the rest of the series you will notice the overall design is pretty different in this one. Whereas the other seven looked undeniably like padlocks, the T8 sports a cylindrical body with a look a more like a 'd-lock' usually associated with bicycles.

There's no brass body this time, Rainer has opted for a stainless steel approach. The only visible brass is the knob-like contraption on the end. Personally I like this. Brass -whilst looking lovely- has an issue with getting dull and dirty during handling very quickly. Stainless steel on the other hand will continue to look the same pretty much forever without need for regular cleaning.

I did mention that this is much more of a puzzle than the previous T7, and not only that but it is an excellent solving experience even in comparison to any of the previous locks in the series. I wouldn't say it is the most difficult, but it is definitely one of the most fun to solve, and I think many would agree that it has one of the most innovative mechanisms ever seen in a puzzle lock. Since I received it I keep finding myself solving it and admiring the workings.

As a solve it didn't take me an epic amount of time, I'd estimate somewhere in the region of 45 minutes. But I've since heard of solve times varying from 7 minutes into days, so as always with puzzles 'your mileage may vary'.

If you're after one of these I'd recommend being very quick. They can currently be found with the usual suspects; Puzzle MasterGrand Illusions and of course Rainer Popp himself. The price tag is high, but I doubt anyone would be disappointed. Definitely another excellent addition to the Popplock legacy.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Impossible Bottle (Harry Eng)

I know they aren't mechanical puzzles in the strictest sense, but I really do love impossible objects. I like to ponder over how they have been created, but strangely I don't really want to know the answers as I'd much rather keep on guessing.
Harry Eng is widely regarded as being the master of the 'impossible bottles'. Over the 64 years of his life Harry put decks of cards, tennis balls, tools and even shoes into glass bottles. A particular signature of his was being able to tie complete and complex knots inside bottles as well!

I was very lucky as to stumble across this particular bottle on eBay of all places! 

It was used as an exchange puzzle in Seattle in 1994 for IPP14. It is just a standard glass bottle containing a full monkey's fist knot loose in the bottom, with a whole tennis ball above it. The neck of the bottle is obviously too small for either of these two items to be in there, and yet there they are.

In case you were curious, yes I did check to see if the tennis ball was fully inflated by prodding it with a pen, and it is. I can only guess how this very curious object was created, but like I said, I don't really want to know the answer. I much prefer to pose the question to others instead and see what kind of amazing and elaborate ideas they come up with.

Keep an eye out for some of these creations if you find them as interesting as I do. Or as an even better suggestion, have a try at making one yourself! I mean how hard could it be right?

Friday, 26 July 2013

AlCyl (Iwahiro)

So very much has happened since my last blog post; I went a few MPPs, got married etc. but I think it's about time for a new post!

This rather lovely looking puzzle goes by the name of AlCyl, which is short for 'Aluminium Cylinder'. It made it's first appearance in 2009 as an IPP exchange puzzle in San Francisco, designed by Hirokazu Iwasawa (AKA: Iwahiro) and made by Seiko Kogyo Co. This particular version is a new run of the design which has been available from Wil Strijbos over the last year or so.

AlCyl is machined entirely from aluminium, which has then been anodised in blue. The colour of the the cylinders from the 'new' run of puzzles is slightly darker than the original 2009 version, but apart from that they are completely identical in size and design.

The AlCyl almost seems like it was born to live next to the Aluminium Cylinder and Washer Cylinder puzzles from Wil Strijbos. The AlCyl is larger than both of the others measuring in at 48x60mm, and it has a pretty decent heft to it as well.

The objective of this puzzle is to open it and retrieve the hidden coin inside. As a design it is very simple, and while that doesn't always mean the puzzle itself will be simple as well in this case that is exactly what it means. Most -if not all- puzzlers will be able to solve this puzzle in little time. The only time I have heard of a puzzler not being able to solve it is when Kevin somehow managed to jam his shut by accident (it's funny how it always seems to be Kevin).

This would be a great addition alongside a collection of beautifully made metal puzzles, just don't expect to have the solving experience of your life with it.

The AlCyl is currently available for a very reasonable price directly from Wil Strijbos.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Augmented Stellation / Vega (Stewart Coffin)

Not so long ago a new puzzle site popped up that was offering excellent hand crafted puzzles for very affordable prices. This site is Wood Wonders, which is run by a skilled woodworker by the name of Brian Menold. Brian has created puzzles from the designs of several prolific puzzle designers, including perhaps the most prolific of them all, Stewart Coffin.

I've ordered a few things from Wood Wonders in the past, and I've seen plenty more ordered by others. Brian's craft skills just seem to be getting better and better, so I thought I'd share my most recent acquisition.

Augmented Stellation - Fully Assembled
Brian sold this Stewart Coffin puzzle under the name of 'Augmented Stellation', although I believe it is the same design as Vega which is number 46 in Stewart's numbering system and was first made in 1972.

Brian made a few different wood combinations in the latest run, and although they all looked great I was lucky enough to get hold of my favourite which is made from a light coloured English sycamore with contrasting tips in walnut. The cuts on this puzzle are spot on, leading to a perfectly snug fit. And the points are sharp!

The puzzle is made up of six identical pieces, and it is essentially the same as the Diagonal Burr that can be found practically everywhere. It is quite tricky if you haven't come across this design before, but very easy if you have. The ends of the pieces have been extended to give the pointed look. I think it looks best when it is take to the very edge of collapse.

I really recommend keeping an eye on Wood Wonders, I'm always eager to see what designs Brian will create next, especially since his creations just seem to be getting better and better.

Almost Apart
In Pieces

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Gear Ball (Oskar / Meffert's)

A while back I wrote about a twisty puzzle called the Gear Cube designed by Oskar van Deventer. To this day it is still my absolutely favourite puzzle from the twist genre as it is such a fun puzzle to solve and it looks awesome. Recently Meffert's decided to produce a spherical version of the exact same puzzle, and how could I pass that up?
Gear Ball by Meffert's - Solved

As a puzzle it is essentially exactly the same as the original Gear Cube, so I won't go into that here as you can always check back on the previous post. The only real difference is that where on the Cube I had to add small stickers (Fisher Design) to the inner edge pieces, the Ball comes with those pieces already colour tiled along with all of the other pieces. So out of the box it is technically more difficult that the original Gear Cube.

I've played with (not solved) quite a few twisties now, and honestly this is one of the best turning mass produced puzzles I've come across thus far, which is especially surprising considering it a puzzle based on a geared mechanism! The pieces almost never catch each other, and the black ridges dividing the coloured faces make it nice and easy to quickly turn the sides back and forth. You can also easily remove the square plastic centre caps on each face to loosen or tighten the screws beneath if you feel to, but mine didn't require any fiddling at all.

I really think this is the kind of puzzle that anyone can enjoy, so if you don't already have one I'd suggest adding it to your list. It is currently available from several retailers including HKNowStore and of course Meffert's.

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