Disassembly

This section is all about puzzles that confront you with obvious challenges but hidden problems. Open them, unlock them, disassemble them, with little or no guidance as to how. You can go by past experience with this genre, and/or raw intuition - sometimes careful observation helps, too - but these puzzles are designed to be real stumpers. You can't really attack them with computers. Many of them, particularly the puzzle boxes, are objects of art.

Puzzle Boxes
Puzzle Box Links

Hidden Mechanism


I'd have to say that the Alcatraz Puzzle is a great representative of this category. It started life as a magic trick but it makes a great puzzle (so few magic tricks really do). U.S. Patent 4625968 - McDermott 1986

The Cage Rage looks similar but is much bigger and has a completely different mechanism. You are unlikely to solve it without help - it comes with video taped solution instructions. U.S. Patent 5944311 - Hartzell 1999

My Dad made me a Pyramid of his own design, containing sand in its mechanism!

SEARious burr from Mr. Puzzle Australia

From Davan's, a Lili (really nice wood, but impossibly difficult!)

This is "Bi-Polar" from Orb Factory

This brass Treasure Box is a Rocky Chiaro design from B&P. It has a very tricky mechanism, demanding multiple steps to open and close.

This brass cannon from B&P is an affordable version of a design that appeared in Hoffmann's Puzzles Old and New.

Danzig's Dilemma is similar to the Sandfield Joint.

My friend Dr. Ralph Marlett has his own metal lathe and he made me this trick-opening cylinder I call "Elegance" because of its inscription.

The Citadel
Not really hidden-mechanism, but certainly a plethora of confusing doohickies to manipulate in an effort to free the red ball.

The Yin-Yang Ball
Open it. Not difficult.
Could be filed under Boxes, or Magnetic.
These designs are by Jean Claude Constantin.

Remove the "Yen Coin" (just a washer in this version).

You've Been Framed
B and P

Bolted Closed

pyramid in prison

U324 - Adjust the levers and remove the central triangular prism.

Bernhard Schweitzer sent me a care package containing various tanglements and other puzzles, including several secret-opening puzzles by Jean Claude Constantin. Thanks, Bernhard!

The Prison Block from BandP

This is Great Escape from Mag-Nif. It's plastic but the same as the Prison Block.

This is a Dowel-and-Peg puzzle from Tom Lensch
R.D. Rose offered nine puzzles, each beautifully crafted from aluminum, in his "Mental Block Puzzles" series. (R.D. Rose passed away in December of 2007.)



Several of them are disassembly challenges, others are assembly, interlocking, and routefinding puzzles. (The non-disassembly puzzles are shown elsewhere on this site, too.)
Left to right, they are: #1 Double Dovetail Square (open it), #2 Double Dovetail Round (open it), #3 Triple Dovetail Triangle (open it), #4 X-Y-Z Burr (interlocking), #5 Vortex (assembly), #6 Double Semi-Maze (routefinding), #7 Dodecahedron (assembly/edgematching), #8 Iso-Crate (assembly/magnetic), and #9 Six-Key Mine (assembly) (#s 8 and 9 are copies from Bits and Pieces).


The Globe Ball from Hanayama. Designed by Vesa Timonen. This puzzle first appeared in 2008 at IPP 27 held in Prague, where it was called the "Tangerine" and won a First Prize in the Design Competition.
(A gift from Brett - thanks!)

Three Bar Cube - B & P

Stuck Bolt - B & P

Fish Torpedo

Mysterious Ball

Gelenk
Separate the two pieces.
by Claus Fohlmeister

I have seen this called a "Zwaalustaart." It is very similar to the Sandfield Joint.

This is Hexaspiration, presented by Edward Hordern at IPP13. Remove the rod from the hexagonal cylinder.

Coin Safe
A nice brass rendition of a puzzle described in Hoffmann - sold as a magic trick.
Here are some secret-opening puzzles by Frank Chambers made from Corian material.
(Frank Chambers passed away in July of 2007.)

The Captive Coin - a copy of a design in Hoffmann. Presented by Edward Hordern at IPP14.

Wheel and Axle - Frank Chambers

Get the Ball Out - Frank Chambers

Ring Box - Frank Chambers

Match Box - made by Frank Chambers
Designed and introduced by Peter Hajek at IPP27

Block and Key - Rossetti - IPP22

Cigar - Gillen - IPP23

Lost Luggage
Bits and Pieces 2005

Scroll Puzzle - Doug Engel

Pyr-Eye-Mid
and the Pyramid Puzzle issued by Bits & Pieces

Egg (NYPP 2007)

Thomas Beutner's Tangled Dovetail - IPP26

Brian Young's Gold Coast Parking Meter - IPP27

An Isis Puzzle by Sonicwarp. Titanium and Silver Edition (from the old Sharper Image stock).
Cheater? Shortcut

Trick Knife
Only opens with a trick.

Deja Vu - Puzzlemaster

Straight Forward - designed and made by Brian Young, Mr. Puzzle Australia. Get the ball from Start to Finish, past three barriers. Made from Queensland Blackbean wood.

The AlCyl, designed by Hirokazu Iwasawa (Iwahiro) and made by Seiko Kogyo Co. Purchased from Iwahiro at IPP 29 in SF.

The Karst Phenomenon
Designed by Karst Nauta and presented at the IPP28 2008 Exchange in Prague. Made by Brian Young @ Mr Puzzle Australia, from Queensland Silver Ash. Size: 60mm3.
Separate the two halves of the cube.
Mr. Puzzle provides this hint: "Karst is a type of terrain characterised by sinkholes, caves and the like. Karst processes tend to be secretive and imperceptible because most development occurs underground over long periods of time."

The Ring Box, designed by Gary Foshee. Purchased at IPP 29 in SF.

The Aluminum Cylinder Box by Will Strijbos, courtesy of John Devost (John's photo of closed box).
   
Washer Cylinder, number 12, from William Strijbos
A secret-opening container.
Shown in comparison with Wil's Aluminum Cylinder Box, and Iwahiro's AlCyl.
Reviewed by Oli and Kevin.

Here is William's Cross, designed by Wil Strijbos. Two aluminum pieces with a clever hidden locking mechanism. Courtesy of John Devost.

I purchased these two aluminum dovetail secret-opening puzzles from William Strijbos at IPP 31 in Berlin. Each has a greenish inlaid piece - one is convex and the other concave - to be removed (then replaced). I am told there are internal pieces that can fall out when the puzzle is opened, so be careful!

Another Trick Dovetail designed by Wil Strijbos

First Box designed by Wil Strijbos

Set of 3 Aluminum Trick Dovetail Boxes designed by Wil Strijbos

TriTalon designed by Iwahiro, purchased from Wil Strijbos
 
The Lotus Puzzle designed by Wil Strijbos.

Houdini's Torture Cell designed by Brian Young, purchased from Brian at Mr. Puzzle Australia.

A Plugged Well, designed and made by Brian Young, exchanged by Matt Dawson at IPP32

Caged Coin, designed and made by Bill Sheckels, exchanged by Norton Starr at IPP32

Slapshot, designed and exchanged at IPP32 by Allan Stein, made by PuzzleMaster

Monumental Challenge, designed, made, and exchanged at IPP32 by Andy Manvell

The Genie in the Bottle designed and made by my puzzle-friend from Turkey, Erhan Cubukcuoglu. Thanks, Erhan!
The goal is to remove the cap from the bottle, thereby freeing it from the frame.
Genie was entered in the 2012 IPP Design Competition.

My friend Brett had showed me a puzzle he has had since childhood which was an advertising premium. Since then I have been on the lookout for one and I finally found it. The puzzle features "sand" inside a transparent plastic apex, and four moving sliders in the base. The objective is to discover the slider settings which allow all the sand to be drained into the base, revealing a totemic icon on the pyramidal apex.


Capitol Politics, designed, made, and exchanged by Keith Winegar at IPP32
You must discover a way to get both red and both blue pegs all inserted into the block.

China Expo puzzle
Find a way to disassemble it. Advertised as a "Kongming Lock" (i.e. Burr) puzzle, but it requires a special move so it isn't really a straight interlocking puzzle in my opinion.
 
I couldn't be at IPP33 in Japan, but Allard Walker sent me one of his exchange puzzles, Conjuring Conundrum, designed by Allard and Louis Coolen. Thanks a million, Allard!


A Little Millionaire Savings Bank secret opening puzzle.

I do not have the combination to my instance.

Advertised in the December 1924 issue of Boys' Life magazine, on page 70.
Appears in the toy bank collector's reference guide The Penny Bank Book by Andy and Susan Moore as No. 920. Said to have been made by the Vertago Manufacturing Company of Boston in 1924.
2 7/8" tall and 1 7/8" diameter. A nickel-plated steel cylinder in two nesting halves which can rotate relative to each other. The top half, containing the coin slot, is marked "LITTLE MILLIONAIRE SAVINGS BANK PATS. PEND. MADE IN U.S.A." The bottom of the cylinder is stamped with a "2." I have read of other instances stamped with 1 or 8. I have searched for but could not find a relevant patent. I wonder if one was ever issued, or if someone can find the denied application?
I have seen some copies of this having additional markings, serving as advertising for some institution, often a bank. Mine has no such markings.

There is a baffle plate on an axle near the slot, which will cover the slot when the bank is turned upside down. Even when the bank is rightside up, the baffle plate hangs at an angle that prevents one from peering inside the cylinder to see the mechanism.

There are two etched bands (for grip?) midway down the side of the top half, and likewise on the bottom half. Below the bands on the top half (and likewise above the bands on the bottom half) there are two diametrically opposed small rivets through the sides of the cylinder. Midway between the rivets in the top half, and aligned with the left end of the coin slot, is a downward pointing arrow.

The bottom half has around its top edge a series of 20 equi-spaced bars labeled with the letters A through U excluding Q.

Below are a couple of photos I found on the internet showing the two halves of the Little Millionaire separated.

One can see three internal triangularly-spaced rivets (except in the first photo, where I believe one is missing due to damage) on a flange along the bottom of the top half, along with a horizontal tab near one. The bottom half contains an outer flange with three half-notches for those rivets, and an inner rotating disk with the three corresponding half-notches and a raised tab. I believe the two bottom notched flanges must align to form three full circular holes through which the top halve's rivets must pass to open the bank. Rotation of the halves engages the top tab with the bottom tab and moves the bottom internal disk. Since I have not opened my copy or seen the opened halves in person, this is speculation.


Washington Monument, designed, made, and exchanged by Brian Young at IPP32
The object of the puzzle is to unlock and open it, find the blue, close and relock it. You’ll have solved the puzzle when you can complete these two stages. First stage - Lock all gravity pins inside the round base of the obelisk so they do not move. This will allow you to remove the obelisk from the base. If you open the puzzle by chance then the gravity pins will still move freely; this is not the intended solution. The first stage is not completed until the gravity pins are locked inside the round base. Second stage - Unlock the gravity pins so they flow freely again. This allows you to lock the obelisk back in the square base. You could find that relocking the puzzle might be more challenging than unlocking it was.

Brass Jax designed by Rocky Chiaro and issued by Bits & Pieces (you must try to open it without unscrewing the four rounded end-caps)

BIC #1 (Balls in Cylinder) designed by Jerry Loo

Das Wunder Puzzle
I am very pleased to have found an instance of this vintage trick-dovetail puzzle! I bought it on auction and unfortunately the seller had no information about its history. It measures 25mm x 25mm x 80mm.

Embossed on one side are the words "DAS WUNDER-PUZZLE" and "GESETZL. GESCH." Though the latter is hard to make out, it is an abbreviation for the German "gesetzlich geschützt" which means "legally protected." According to one source, German products from 1900-1920 were often marked this way, and it most likely indicates that there was a registered trademark on the name. It could also refer to a copyright, design patent, or patent pending - though I have not found a relevant patent.

There are three additional smaller embossed letters which may be "O.O.N." or "C.O.M." but I am not sure. Another source (Springer Gabler) says that the type of legal protection should be noted, so these three letters may indicate the type, but again I am not sure.

An identical looking puzzle called "The Little Giant" is shown in Slocum's 1987 "Puzzles Old and New" on page 147. Slocum says it was being sold in 1896 but gives no other info about provenance. Slocum says the Little Giant has an internal pin and magnet - my puzzle has a pin but no magnet. The record pertaining to Slocum's puzzle, now held at the Lilly Library, can be viewed online.

After seeing an original owned by another collector, Eric Fuller produced a remake along with a couple of variations -
here is a link to the Wunder Puzzle in Fuller's discontinued puzzles list. I bought one of Eric's Walnut versions.

A Google search for little giant puzzle will show a clear reference to the Little Giant appearing in "The American Stationer" Volume 24 from 1888 - "The 'Little Giant' puzzle block, composed of two pieces of wood cleverly dovetailed together,
is a puzzle in every sense of the word, and is in good demand. It is a great curiosity and is a fine piece of workmanship."

Another early reference to dovetail puzzles (though not the Little Giant) can be seen on page 98 of "Building Age" Volume 3 from 1881.


Eric Fuller created a reproduction and two new versions of the vintage wooden trick dovetail Das Wunder Puzzle. I bought a copy of his mechanism #1. It's made from Carolina Ash, Black Walnut, and Sapelle. Similar to The Little Giant Puzzle, shown in Slocum & Botermans' 1986 Puzzles Old and New on page 147, and said to be on sale in 1896.

[87]


Puzzles in the Sacred Myths and Legends series, by Family Games.


DaVinci's Secret

The Equation

The Legend of the King

The Enigmatic Temple

The Pillars of Atlantis

Carta Blanca


These are some old-fashioned designs...


Takitapart
U.S. Patent 2181116 - Boyle 1939

Pick-a-Peg
U.S. Patent 2469364 - Boyle 1949

Tri-N-Do-It
U.S. Patent 2207778 - Boyle 1940
 

The three classic wooden vintage secret-opening puzzles Takitapart, Pick-A-Peg, and Tri-'N'-Do-It, all invented by John D. Boyle,
were issued in this boxed set, called the Masterpiece Puzzles.


Penny Safe

Marble Safe
The Penny Safe and the Marble Safe are two instances of the same puzzle which has also appeared as a trick-opening match safe (vesta).

At IPP 29 in SF, I bought a new version of the Penny Safe with a different opening trick, designed by Mike Snyder.


This is an 1893 White City Puzzle Bank:

It is not so much a hidden-mechanism, as it is a "missing mechanism" puzzle -
one is supposed to present it without the wing-nut, which slips onto the central spindle and allows it to be unscrewed.
Without the wing-nut, you're screwed.

The "No. 1 White City Puzzle Savings Bank A Barrel of Money" was issued by Nicol & Co. of Chicago, and is a souvenir of the 1893 Columbian Exposition.

The bottom of mine seems to have been painted red. This is in fact not the only time I have seen one of these vintage White City Barrel No. 1 puzzles with traces of red paint on it (for example, on the handtruck). Does anyone know if these were actually red when originally issued?


Here is a family of related puzzles...


The Duallock I got in Japan is one of my favorites and is in my opinion the prime exemplar of this group.

The Philos cross is identical to the Duallock (but of lower quality)

The Wood Coin Prison started life as a magic trick. It's made in India and it is pretty low quality. It doesn't even hold a quarter!

The Yot is a successful magic trick-turned puzzle.

I also have a Yot II - same basic mechanism and appearance as the original Yot, but with an additional constraint that necessitates a thicker body. The latter shot above shows a comparison.

Binary Arts' Chewdini is a mass-market example

Match Box

Money Miser

Mental Case - Mag-Nif
Very nice.

The Vault

The Top Box
 
The Transogram Cube


Bits and Pieces has provided many trick-opening puzzles, including several Marcel Gillen designs in Aluminum, as well as classics out of Hoffmann like the Beehive and the Barrel.


800995 - Dow 1905

709888 - Emery 1902
Also 600280 - Emery 1898

Trick Vestas

Several varieties of trick-opening Match Safe or Vesta are described in Hoffmann.


This trick vesta employs the Ne Plus Ultra mechanism described in Hoffmann. It is engraved with the phrase "How the Devil do you open it?" and the figure of a devil.

Perry's. Another Ne Plus Ultra.

This one opens on the end. This also has an engraving reading "How the Devil do you open it?"

This large vesta (or cigarette case) from Germany has a trick-opening drawer.

A trick vesta that will prick an unwary finger.

Another trick vesta that will prick the finger of the unwary. Different opening than the previous.

Puzzles by Roger

These puzzles are all made in Germany by the mysterious R.D. also known as "Roger." They are made from machined aluminum blocks and other metal elements, and each harbors a secret.

I have seen them at:


The Lighter (Feuerzeug)
A very clever take on an old principle.

Schraubenwuerful

Schluessel

The Propeller

007 Shaker

Gesicht
According to Jonas Bengtsson, according to Wil Strijbos, the objective of Gesicht is to move the ball from one eye to the other and back again.

Geburt

Eis

Auspuff
(I don't have this.)

Mastercard
(I don't have this.)

Wasserhahn

Stecker
(I don't have this.)

Gartenschlauch
(I don't have this.)

Cylinder
(I don't have this.)

R2D2
(Appears in my Dexterity section.)

Alles Roger
(Appears in my Dexterity section.)
[9]

On 3/13/10, I attended an enjoyable puzzle get-together hosted by George Hart at his house. Thanks, George! We had a fun evening and a safe trip out and back, despite the horrendous weather, which brought down an incredible number of trees along many roadways.

I took along several puzzles from my collection for folks to try, including the Eis by the mysterious R.D. - George's friend Glen Whitney, who is executive director of the Museum of Mathematics, solved it! George put it back together, whereupon it defeated all comers for the remainder of the evening. I did, however, manage to reproduce the feat at home - but it wasn't easy even after having seen it done! At right is a picture of the insides.

Trick Bolts

Trick bolts are one of my favorite groups...


This Wil Strijbos design is an example of what I consider to be the first of three "classic" trick bolt mechanisms. I got mine from Puzzletts in Seattle. Here is a link to an article on homemetalshopclub.com on how to make one (scroll to the bottom).

Eureka Nut and Bolt
This is the second "classic" mechanism - less mechanical, more trick. This piece is hefty and well-made.

This German-made bolt is of the third "classic" design - a different (and fairly obvious) trick.

I don't know who made this bolt, but it is a faithful implementation of the design described on page 113 in Anthony S. Filipiak's 1942 book 100 Puzzles - How to Make and Solve Them.
See U.S. Patent 1111337 - Watkins 1914

This bolt, on the other hand, called the Gotcha Bolt and recently available on eBay, is a very poor implementation of an obvious trick.

Go! Games Bolt
Remove the washer. The nut moves but doesn't want to cooperate.
A hefty instance of the first classic trick bolt mechanism.

A pair of trick bolts, from Lee Valley. These are very nicely made examples of two of the classic mechanisms.

Lee Valley Trick Bolt Set II
Two completely new mechanisms.
Thanks, Brett!

This Wil Strijbos design
was my first. I figured out how to get it apart but I can never manage it without a tool.

This is another Wil Strijbos design. I "cheated" by using an external object. Then I found that the required tool is in the puzzle - but again, it is very hard to get at the tool without a tool.

This is the vintage Nut and Bolt Puzzle No. 9655 by B. Shackman. It uses the first classic trick.

My friend Ralph Marlett
made this bolt for me.
It employs the first classic mechanism.

I include this nail-thru-coin, designed by W. Strijbos, issued B&P, since it exploits a thread. (Did I just give away too much?)

This is the "Holey Bolt" from B&P - it is really more of a tanglement (and I show it on that page, too) but it does involve a nut and bolt - in this case, though, try to get the nut on!

The CAST Extra Nut Puzzle is a refinement of classic mechanism 2.
Another design by Wil Strijbos - a label says "g11222"

Another design by Wil Strijbos - a label says "g30613"

This is NANAB (Not Another Nut And Bolt) by Frank Chambers. presented at IPP17.

A bolt on a hanger.

The smaller of these is the Perplexagon. I also have a larger version. A thread is cut in the middle of a steel rod, but not to either end. How did the nut get on? Can you get the nut off?

Rocky Chiaro is perhaps the world's premier trick-bolt designer and craftsman.
I own one of each of his bolts so far:

They are from left to right:

  • One-L-Nut
  • Dub-L-Nut
  • One-Wa-Sure
  • Pin-N-Nut
  • Dub-L-Wa-Sure
  • The Brass Bolt from B and P
    (a repro of Rocky's Ring-N-Nut)

All of them are based on completely original and unusual mechanisms. The B and P Brass Bolt was the first one I got and it is a terrific value. I can't wait until Rocky thinks up another one!

Here is a glimpse inside the wonderful Dub-L-Nut...


 

I found a wooden "book" box and cut some foam to fit the interior. The foam allows you to pull out cubic chunks to create tailor-made spaces for storing objects. I put my bolt collection (most of it) into the book.



It's not a trick bolt...
It's a Hardly by Rocky Chiaro
A fairly simple and beautifully crafted brass puzzle model of an early Harley Knucklehead motor.

[30]

 

Trick Locks

There are people, such as the physicist Richard Feynman, who consider normal combination locks and some padlocks to be puzzles in and of themselves. Locks with trick mechanisms usually present a more reasonable challenge and do not require lockpicking skills. Many are made in India and China.


This is a DanLock I got from Dan Feldman.
In puzzle circles it's widely acknowledged to be the "Rolls Royce" of trick locks.

The Lunatic Lock from B&P - nicely made in aluminum.
A maze of internal sliding pins.

4-step Chinese Puzzle Lock
from Puzzleboxesusa (defunct?)

B&P called this "Lockout" but the box says
Kishor Trick Lock. It's made in India.

Here is a hefty multi-step puzzle lock, from India. Purchased from Lee Valley and Veritas Tools.

Another Indian puzzle lock. Very simple trick - a theme amongst this type.

Trick Lock (or Cigar Cutter)
aka the Bashful Lock
"I will open behind your back"
See U.S. Patent 1136735 - Taylor 1915

The Sherlock

Lockout by Irwin
More of a game than a puzzle -
One person devises a "code"
and a second tries to solve it

Neat Lock - Hajek IPP23

Mikslok - Chambers IPP20

Eleganter Australia Antique Lock Puzzle
Made in China - package says Neko Mook No. 708 PET

This is an "Utterly Unique Puzzling Padlock" purchased from Frik-n-Frak's Curio Shack.

Heart Lock - B&P

Sparten Lock

Chaman Lock

plastic lock - McDonald's premium

two puzzle locks by Marcel Gillen

a Chinese combination lock

A trick lock engraved "MIOf[]"

a small "springy" lock

Diamond lock from India

Key-shaped Lock from India

Chronos Trick Locks #1 and #2
Purchased from Torito. #1 is the same mechanism as the Lunatic Lock. #2 is different.

Trick Locks #1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 (left to right)
from Puzzlemaster
Here is a series of Popplock trick locks made in Germany by Rainer Popp.
(NOTE: T1 was limited to 5 copies and is nearly impossible to solve without the manual. I don't have one.)
I have purchased T2 and T6 from Grand Illusions, T4 and T5 from Friedhelm von Knorre at IPP31 in Berlin, and T3 privately. I purchased T7 and T8 from PuzzleMaster.ca.


T2

T3

T4

T5

T6

T7
Many folks didn't think the T7 was puzzling enough,
especially given its somewhat high price -
but I think they missed the point.
The T7 is kind of a programmable Revomaze.
Granted, its default configuration makes opening it relatively easy,
but it could be re-programmed to present a much more difficult
challenge - albeit for someone other than its owner.

T8

Constantin Wooden Lock
Schiebeschloss (Sliding Lock)

A lock requiring three keys to open. Similar to but smaller than the large trick lock I bought a while back from Lee Valley.

A vintage trick lock - one must first find a way to open a panel to reveal the hidden keyhole, then one must figure out the proper way to use the key. An interesting mechanism, distinct from the trick locks I already have.

Two Key Lock, designed by Vesa Timonen, made by Bits and Pieces, exchanged by Nancy Alliegro at IPP32

The Open Lock by Gary Foshee
The goal is to remove the hasp from the frame. A "sequential-discovery" puzzle where you have to find a series of tools, even though apparently everything is out in the open. I really like this one!


Puzzle Lock - designed and made by Richard Hensel.
I bought one of Dick's first versions for $20 in June 2012 - the larger model with the protruding pin on the bottom.
More recently I obtained one of his refined versions for $40 - the smaller model with no pin.
The mechanisms are virtually the same.

[45]


Tricky Keys

Here are some puzzle keys to go with the locks...


B&P's "Key and Ring"
aka Rocky Chiaro's "Roc-Key"

The Bathroom Key - B&P

small silver linked keys

small black keys

This large puzzle key is a souvenir of the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair Exposition, celebrating the Louisiana Purchase. There is a dial on the end which must engage an internal slotted disk.


Hoffmann Key and Ring
from Village Games, Camden Lock

Boston Key Party - Rocky Chiaro

E.Kur Key

[8]

The Sandfield Brothers' Puzzles

The brothers Norman and Robert Sandfield have designed several clever trick-opening puzzles using an impossible dove-tail theme. The craftsman Perry McDaniel has made many of them. Norman was kind enough to supply to me a complete list of the puzzles he and his brother have produced over the years for the IPP. (Some photos from various places, including John Rausch, Nick Baxter, Eric Fuller, Jacques Haubrich, and Norman and Robert.)

Those I've found are highlighted like this.

IPP14 held in 1994 in Seattle, Washington

Ever since I got this Sandfield Joint puzzle years ago (from Puzzletts in Seattle, I think), I've wanted another Sandfield puzzle. In my opinion this is a classic, combining a trick dovetail joint with an internal hidden trick.
IPP15 in 1995 in Tokyo
Robert created the Dovetail and a Half

and Norman created the Corollary Dovetail.

I have neither.

IPP16, 1996, Luxembourg

Robert submitted the Dovetail Donut.


Norman submitted the Spider's Secret Box, which was licensed by Bits & Pieces. (It is not a dovetail puzzle.) I have the Bits and Pieces version.

IPP17 in 1997 in San Francisco CA

Robert created the Bolted Dovetail.


Norman created the Dove Tangle.

IPP18, 1998, Tokyo

Robert's Fat and Thin Triple Dovetail

Norman created Pharaoh's Secret which I finally found at IPP29.

IPP19, 1999, Heathrow, England

Norman's L-Bow Dovetail (shown opened)

Robert submitted the Cutaway (Double) Dovetail (also L shaped).

IPP20, 2000, Los Angeles CA

Robert's Dovetail Burr

(not to be confused with Frans de Vreugd's Dovetail Burr)

Norman's DoveTail Bar

IPP21, 2001, Tokyo - No new puzzles from either.

IPP22, 2002, Antwerp Belgium

Robert's Dovetail Pepper Shaker, and Norman's Dovetail Salt Shaker. They only work as a set - tools from one are needed to disassemble the other.
My second Sandfield puzzle(s), obtained from Norman.

IPP23, 2003, Chicago

Norman's Dovetail Cherry Surprise Cake

Robert submitted the Dovetail Jewel Box, which I found at IPP29.


The 2003 puzzles were the last to be crafted for the Sandfields by Perry McDaniel. However, Perry is still making fine wood puzzles. This is Perry's Marbled Walnut Sheet Cake box from 2006, purchased at IPP26 in Boston.
This is one of Robert Sandfield's IPP30 Locked Draw Puzzle Boxes, made by Kathleen Malcolmson. Here it is shown open, since that is the state it remains in until one solves it!

Here are two puzzle boxes I received from Robert Sandfield.
They were both designed by Perry McDaniel and both made by Kathleen Malcolmson.
The name of the first, the Unlocked Drawer, is apt - there is no lock - yet there is no obvious way to open the drawer!
It is made from from Lacewood, Prima Vera, and Mahogany.
This was Robert's exchange puzzle at IPP 27 in Australia.

The second is the Banded Dovetail Puzzle.
It is made from from Alder, Prima Vera, and Mahogany.

 


Rebanded Dovetails, designed by Robert Sandfield and Kathleen Malcolmson, made by Kathleen Malcolmson, exchanged by Robert Sandfield at IPP32

[19]

Puzzle Boxes

Whether you refer to them as Puzzle Boxes, Trick Boxes, or Secret Boxes, the idea is the same - a container with no obvious way to open the lid. Japanese craftsmen have a long history of producing secret opening boxes, requiring many steps to open, and finished in a characteristic style of woodwork. More recently, several other foreign and domestic artists have been producing new varieties of puzzle box.

Kagen Schaefer

I am very pleased to own one of Kagen Schaefer's Rune Box puzzles, number 7 of 30. It's five inches on an edge and made of Cocobolo, Maple, and Ebony. For more info, see Kagen's website. Kagen is also an honorary member of the Karakuri Creation Group.

Six interchangeable cocobolo and maple sides ride in grooves in a precisely fashioned ebony frame. A clever system of orthogonal dovetails mates the cocobolo exterior panels to their maple interior portions and allows each side to move in specific ways. Each side shows a "rune" symbol providing a clue to its allowed motions. The sides obstruct each other depending on their positions. By moving each side in its four possible directions, you're navigating a maze. Your objective is to move one side so it exits the maze (can you guess which rune labels this side?), thus unlocking the box and permitting a side to be completely removed. All sides can then be removed, and re-arranged to provide a new (and potentially more difficult) challenge.


After Kagen released the Rune Box, he developed this simplified version in the form of a caged burr, called the Maze Burr. Kagen's Maze Burr won Puzzle of the Year (Puzzler's Award and Grand Prize) in the 2006 IPP Design Competition. This version was made by Tom Lensch, from East Indian Rosewood (the frame), Makore (the pin plates), and Maple (the maze plates).


This is Kagen Schaefer's multiple-award-winning Dodecahedron Box. It is a hand-made gem, with wonderful heft, finish, and action. The pentagonal sides rotate. Some of the sides are not fully symmetric, and therefore obstruct adjacent sides in some positions and allow adjacent sides to move in other positions. Your objective is to find a sequence of moves to achieve a correct positioning of sides permitting the box to be unlocked and one of the sides to swing open. The pattern on the box provides a clue.

Franco Rocco

This is Immaginario Lunare by Franco Rocco. I purchased mine from James Dalgety.

A pear-wood hollow sphere somewhat over six inches in outside diameter and divided into 8 sections is held together by an intricate system of grooves and pins. The sections must be manipulated in sequence to open the puzzle and disassemble it. The puzzle is accompanied by a folio of instructions and diagrams on loose pages. Mystical symbols engraved on some of the octants may be of help...

The hardware and associated sockets in the wooden pieces have subtle differences and must be carefully matched to achieve the proper clearances and tolerances. I have found that certain necessary moves become impossible if the wrong elements are combined during re-assembly; then the puzzle must be dis-assembled and reconstructed again.

Eric Fuller

Eric Fuller is a puzzle collector and designer, as well as a skilled craftsman. He operates the Cubic Dissection website which functions as a cooperative for several talented puzzle artisans, and from which one can purchase their works as they become available in limited runs.


The solution to the Cam Box requires an unusual motion. It was designed and made by Eric, of Mahogany and Beeswing Quilted Walnut.

This is a copy of Eric's Cam Box, offered by Bits and Pieces - they call it the Shut Case Secret Box.

The "Irmo" Box designed and crafted by Eric. Made from Padauk, Quilted Maple, Aluminum, Brass, Steel, and Acrylic. Pic on the right is the box bottom. The laser-cut inscription is a clue. I can tell you that this design is: elegant, ingenious, devious, and clever.

 

Robert Yarger


The fanciest box in my collection is this Stickman Box No. 5, multiple 18 of 45, designed by Robert Yarger and purchased at Cubic Dissection. What begins in the workshop as 15 pounds of maple, walnut, cherry, bloodwood, and oak, ends up as over 75 intricately shaped pieces that weigh in toto a mere 4 pounds and hold together without glue or fasteners! Overall, the box measures 10.5" x 6 3/8" x 5.25". The box can be opened in 32 moves, and then disassembled to its constituent pieces, if one is brave and/or foolhardy enough!

I also acquired a Stickman Box No. 3. It's a very mechanical-looking box, with several wooden gears on the top. An inner sliding drawer has a maze routed into it - manipulating the gears moves a pair of internal pegs that navigate the maze tracks. The sliding drawer contains three compartments that you must eventually find a way to open.

This is the tiny Stickman "Snowflake" box No. 9.

At IPP26 I bought a Stickman #11 Fulcrum Box.

Stickman #25, The Milestone Box by Robert Yarger
See reviews by Brian Pletcher, Allard Walker, and Neil Hutchinson.

 

See my magnetic puzzles section for a Stickman #13 Chopstick Box.

See James Strayer's website for a full collection of Yarger's boxes.

 

Kelly Snache


Kelly "Snake" Snache and Robert "Stickman" Yarger are two talented puzzlebox craftsmen who have teamed up to create this Tea Box Puzzle, housed in an actual wooden Tea Box. A tea bag tag seems to be hanging out one side. Hmmm...

This is Granny's Tea Box - The Pendulum, a secret-opening box, made by Kelly Snache from a vintage wooden tea box. Very clever mechanism! I like it. See a review at Jeff Chiou's blog.

 

Randall Gatewood

From Randall Gatewood at Quagmire Puzzle Boxes, here is a Box Joint Box Secret Box:

 

Kim Klobucher

KCube puzzle boxes, designed and made by Kim Klobucher: 

The left-hand model requires 50 moves to open; the right-hand model only 16. Here is a YouTube video of a box being opened.

 

Makishi

I received a set of Makishi Puzzle Boxes - 18, 30, and 50-move examples:

   

A few fellow puzzlers have posted favorable reviews, including Jeff Chiou, Brian Pletcher, and Oliver Sovary-Soos.
I, too, am very pleased!

Karakuri Creation Group

The Karakuri Creation Group is an association of Japanese craftsmen working to popularize and preserve the tradition of fine Japanese woodworking and Puzzle Box techniques, as well as extend it in novel directions. They run a club which for a nominal annual fee entitles members to several beautiful puzzle catalogues and books, one or more Christmas gifts, allows members to purchase their products at a discount, and provides access to private areas of their website.


Hermit Crab Box
by Shiro Tajima
I have the dark walnut version.

Here is a Walk of the Ladybug by Tatuo Miyamoto of the Karakuri Creation Group. This is a beautiful box with a whimsical mechanism. I had trouble with the drawer at one point, probably due to humidity, but with the cooler, dryer fall weather the mechanism once again works properly.

Byway Secret No. 4 - Iwahara - Rob Jones IPP30


Karakuri Small Boxes (Kobako) Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.
Each has a different trick.
A set of four Karakuri Cube Boxes.

Karakuri Cheesecake Box - designed and produced by the Karakuri Creation Group
A gift from Allard Walker, a prize for being the winner of his 2012 Christmas Challenge. Thanks, Allard!

The Karakuri Club Christmas 2005 Gifts (4 of 8)

Cube Box by Akio Kamei

Free Dial by Shiro Tajima

Secret Star by Hiroyuki Oka

Contrary Card Case by Tatuo Miyamoto
If you don't care about ruining the fun of opening them yourself, click the button to show them opened (and refresh the page to close them again): 

The Karakuri Club Christmas 2006 Gifts (4 of 8)

Covered Chimney by Hiroshi Iwahara

Soba Box by Hideto Satou

Trick Box with a Top by Yoshiyuki Ninomiya

Spring Box by Akio Kamei

The Karakuri Club Christmas 2007 Gifts (4 of 9)

Secret Base by Hiroshi Iwahara

Hinge by Tatsuo Miyamoto

Covered Type Secret Box by Yoshiyuki Ninomiya

String Box II by Akio Kamei

The Karakuri Club Christmas 2008 Gifts (4 of 9)

Cube Box II by Akio Kamei

Confetto Box by Hiroshi Iwahara

Latch by Tatsuo Miyamoto

Dona Dona by Shiro Tajima

The Karakuri Club Christmas 2009 Gifts (5 of 11)

Moneybox (swing type) by Hideto Satou

Irregular Twin Box by Akio Kamei

Packing Box (mini) III by Yoshiyuki Ninomiya

Four Direction Drawer by Hiroshi Iwahara
This box won First Prize at the IPP30 Design Competition.

String Box Part II - Tsuburai

The Karakuri Club Christmas 2010 Gifts (4 of 11)

Parcel Box - Kamei

Tipsy - Miyamoto

String Box 2010 - Tsuburai

House With Trees - Iwahara

The Karakuri Club Christmas 2011 Gifts (5 of 10)

Secret Base 2 - Iwahara

Rotary Box - Kamei

Twin - Kawashima

Dragon Wing - Tajima

String Box 2011 - Tsuburai

The Karakuri Club Christmas 2012 Gifts (5 of 9)






The Karakuri Club Christmas 2013 Gifts (3 of 9)

Karakuri Christmas Box 2013 - Kamei

Karakuri Christmas Box 2013 - Iwahara

Karakuri Christmas Box 2013 - Tajima

Akio Kamei

Akio Kamei is a master craftsman and a key member of the Karakuri Creation Group. His puzzle boxes are highly inventive and beautifully made, with prices to match. I own a few Kamei originals...


I have an original edition Kamei Coin Bank.

Karakuri Club 2003 Christmas present, Star Puzzle Box, made by Akio Kamei.

This is the Karakuri Club 2004 Christmas present, Twin Box 3, made by Akio Kamei.

3D Box (K20) - IPP16 1996

Kamei's small Egg

Many of my puzzle boxes are inexpensive Kamei reproductions from Bits and Pieces. The Pentagon Box, Octagon Box (Pile of Disks), Hamburger, and Crown are some of my favorites.


My all-time favorite has to be the Pentagon Box. This has a very satisfying mechanism.

Octagon Box

Hamburger

Crown

Candy Box

Train Engine

Ribbon Box

Treasure Chest

Gift Box

Little Drawer Box

Book

Secret Gift Box

Secret Key Box

Telescoping Box

Heart Box

Unfortunately several exhibit sub-par quality - the pickles on the hamburger are often seen unglued; the corners on the Treasure Chest came apart; the Book came apart; the Gift Box has some internal sloppiness which prevents it from working properly; the Candy Box does not open reliably...
Sigh.

Traditional Japanese Puzzle Boxes

I have some inexpensive traditional Japanese trick boxes, purchased at a shop in Hakone. You can read an article by Jerry Slocum discussing Japanese Puzzle Boxes and showing a diagram of the typical solution pattern.

This miniature (mame) box works well.

Here is a trick cigarette case.

These two Japanese secret-opening boxes were made by Hiroyuki Oka and purchased from The Unique Box Shop.


This is a 5 sun, 9-step box called "Notch Stripes."

This is a 3 sun, 12-step box. The different woods are: White - Mizuki wood from Japan, Yellow - Inomi wood from Japan, Green - Hoo wood from Japan, Beige - Beech wood from Germany, Brown - Walnut wood from North America, Red - Hekakoro Rengasu wood from Southeast Asia

Heartwood Creations

Heartwood Creations makes some fine puzzle boxes. I own several "first quality" - and I bought some "seconds" on auction, but I wouldn't recommend it - unfortunately the mechanisms are defective (they open inadvertently) rather than the finish (which to me would be preferable).


Gravity Pin Box

Button Box

Spin Box

Rockit Box (2nd)

Seesaw Box (2nd)

Terra Box (2nd)
 
Knock Box
 

Vintage "Turned" Puzzle Boxes

Puzzle boxes have been around for a while. "Turned" specimens (as in made on a lathe; also known in the U.K. as "Treen" - made from wood) were produced in the 1800's. This is a Castle Money Box, very similar to the one shown in Hoffmann's Puzzles Old & New on page 22.

The puzzle is a nice size, larger than I expected, and the wood (I believe it is Boxwood) has a warm, beautiful glow.



I have two examples of the Dice Box (or Barrel) described in Hoffmann - nice vintage boxwood turned pieces. The one on the right came from France and included 3 tiny dice.

Here is another antique "treen" piece, the Ebony Puzzle Ball described in Hoffmann. The circular engravings are supposed to disguise the opening.

This is the Apple Puzzle from woodturner John Berkeley. The Apple won an Honorable Mention in the IPP21 Design Competition. John also offers reproductions of many of the classic turned puzzles in Hoffmann.

Other Puzzle Boxes


The simplest trick-opening box has to be the two-piece Black Box. I got mine a long time ago, but supposedly Mag-Nif or Oriental Trading Company offers them.

This "Treasure Box" is another classic design in plastic. It is similar to the Black Box in that everything depends on your grip.
U.S. Patent 5611536 - Foreshew 1997

2-drawer Trick Box

The Snap Box from B&P

The Corian Slider Box from B&P - designed by Frank Chambers

The Constantin Knob Box from B&P

The Secret Sliding Box from B&P

My friend Jay gave me a beautiful Burl Box. It is more art than puzzle.

I bought a hummingbird box when I was in Costa Rica. They're hand-made, but mass-produced for the tourists. Not very puzzling.
 
I received a thoughtful Father's Day gift - this Guitar puzzle, made in Costa Rica. Thanks, C!


This is the Black Box designed by W.L. van der Poel. Peter Knoppers has some info on his site. It is discussed in CFF, issue 25, part 3, December 1990, pp 4-7.

Secret Rectangle Box
B & P

Boardman Box
B & P

Keeper Box
B & P

Alice's Puzzlement
From Pentangle.

Snap Latch box - Bits and Pieces

Eclipse box - Bits and Pieces

The Celtic Knot Box by Constantin
Purchased from Bits and Pieces.

The Sonneveld Box - made by Tom Lensch
Purchased from Tom at IPP28 in Prague. Beautifully made - it looks edible!
I had wanted one since seeing Trevor Wood's version.

The rather controversially named "Bin Laden" box (laden means drawers in Dutch) - the name is meant as a hint to the solution. By Rik van Grol, IPP26.

Oval Trick Box
Purchased from Bits and Pieces.

Secret Enigma Box from Bits and Pieces.

The Ringed Heart
Purchased from Puzzlemaster, designed by Doug Engel.

Mt. Fuji, from Mr. Puzzle Australia - IPP30.

Ambidextrous Hexduos - designed by Matt Dawson - made by Robert Yarger - presented at IPP30

The Bee Box - Designed by Constantin
See an explanation at Grand Illusions.

Mouse House, designed, made, and exchanged by Stephen Chin at IPP32

Secret Lock Box II - to open this good-sized box, you must discover the proper settings for the three dials.
From Dave Janelle at PuzzleCraftHouse.



Capricious ("Capriciaus") Cube - Tamura - IPP30
A small cube inside is free to slide and locks the cube.

The Sway Cube, designed by Hidekuni Tamura, modified and nicely made in a great "pocket" size by Peter Wiltshire.

The Haselgrove Box requires you to tilt it this way and that, in an effort to reposition internal sliding blocks and allow the pieces to be unlocked and removed. Then you must re-assemble it. I have a version from Cleverwood, and a very nice version from Eric Fuller made from Wenge and Purpleheart.

Eric also made this never-before-produced design called Meijer's Box, from Maple and Spalted Yellowheart. According to Eric, Berend Meijer "became fascinated with the Hazelgrove box and decided to make his own design along the same lines. His unique creation uses a sliding piece that moves into a hole in the front of the box to lock the pieces in. The concept is the same as the Hazelgrove box, but the operation is completely different and quite tricky."


This is a Cryptex from Encrypta Gifts. This device has enjoyed a surge in interest due to its appearance in the popular book "The DaVinci Code."