Friday, 16 September 2011

Fire Plug

Update 23 October 2017 - Dear Reader, please check out my new puzzle blog and e-store at http://mechanical-puzzles.com

This puzzle is another one of Marcel Gillen's designs and like the name it bears, looks rather like a fire hydrant. In fact if you didn't know it was a mechanical puzzle, you would have mistaken it for perhaps a multi-directional valve or some heavy duty machine part, owing to its industrial-like appearance.

I acquired this puzzle from the same anonymous private seller who had sold me the Queen, Pawn and Rook reviewed in an earlier post. Like Marcel's chess piece puzzles, the Fire Plug is very rare and cannot be obtained from any online puzzle shop as far as I am aware.


The Fire Plug is a very heavy puzzle (feels almost the same weight as a Revomaze Extreme) with a ball burnished cylindrical body made out of aluminium (most likely by cast moulding). Inserted into the sides of the cylinder are 2 brass pegs, each 2 1/2in long with a cross section diameter of about 5/8in. On one end of one of the pegs are the initials M and G. The cylinder body is 3 1/4in tall with a diameter of 1 5/8in. My copy is well made and fit and finish is very good.

The object of the puzzle is to extract the brass pegs from the Fire Plug to reveal a hidden item within the puzzle, in this case a tiny little cute plastic Dalmatian dog with a fireman's hat. Marcel Gillen had chosen to hide a Dalmatian inside the puzzle for good reason - because Dalmatians have long been associated with fire fighting; click here to read the rather interesting history.

I found the Fire Plug very difficult to solve. My initial fiddling with the brass pegs and causing one of them to rotate and slide from end to end gave me the impression that the two brass pegs were locked vis-a-vis the cylinder body. Further more the way the two brass pegs were positioned relative to each other suggested that both were criss-cross interlocked somehow as well. I also heard some other sounds (apart from the Dalmatian rolling about inside) which indicated that there was another moving part involved, either a tiny ball bearing or pin of some sort, which is not entirely uncommon in puzzles of this nature where everything is hidden from view. I thought  I could "feel" my way to unlocking and removing the brass pegs from the cylinder. But boy was I wrong! I tried all sorts of moves by the book including twisting and turning, pulling and pushing, turning the cylinder upside down, shaking it, banging it etc but to no avail.

In the end, after some time trying, I gave up and decided to go for the solution. The moment I looked at the solution, I realised that there was no way I could have solved the puzzle without it. The way the brass pegs are locked in place is very clever indeed and to solve the puzzle, one had to execute a number of moves in a particular manner and sequence. However, once you memorise the moves, it is easy to repeat solving the puzzle.

Overall the Fire Plug is an extremely challenging puzzle indeed and aside from its unique (and interesting) appearance, ranks very highly as a collector's puzzle due to its rarity. Don;t hesitate to buy it if you come across one.

13 comments:

  1. Having solved this on one occasion I put it back together wrongly resulting it being locked and never being able to take it apart again. I think I ended up throwing it away as it had become a worthlesss lump of metal.

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  2. Douglas, sorry to hear this, what a pity...thanks for this info...I will have to be extra careful the next time I fiddle with it...

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  3. Douglas I also own this puzzle and am sorry to tell you this but it is possible to fix your puzzle that you locked up. The top portion will unscrew if you use a pipe wrench and some material to protect the aluminum. Once the top is off you can reset the pin that locked and your puzzle is good as new. Run to the garbage and rescue that puzzle! It's a great puzzle to have in your collection.

    Thanks for the review Jerry!

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    1. AAAArgghhhh!!! I just saw your reply today Peter. Unfortunately my Fire Plug is long gone. I had held on to it for a while but everytime I saw it I just got depressed as I figured it was ruined. Eventually I saw no reason to keep it and threw it away. Oh well, c'est la vie.

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  4. A work friend of mine just plopped this on my desk and asked if i could open it. does anyone actually have the solution online? I am no expert in mechanical puzzle solving.

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    1. There is no online solution. Email me via my Profile email and I will send you the printed solution via PDF

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  5. I ended up locking the puzzle as Douglas has. I have tried the pipe wrench, can some one comment on the unscrewing process, i.e. does it have actually threads inside and do you unscrew the lid anti-clockwise as seen from the top (like a bottle?) thanks

    jay

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  6. Jay and Peter,
    To Jay...no, it does not have threads. It seems that when it was assembled, the manufacturer used a hydraulic press. I chewed the snot out of the exterior of mine getting it apart using two pairs of slip-joint pliers; but now I did get it unlocked and reusable.
    To Peter...Thank you, thank you and thank you. If it wasn't for your advice, I would have continued to have a very sad story of a wonderful puzzle turned paperweight.

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  7. Is there a way to buy puzzles like these in europe ? Any online shop or something .. Let me know, I would like to try it so much!

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  8. Dario, I am afraid not. Currently its not available from any commercial online retailer as far as I know. All copies are in private hands. The best bet is to check Ebay to see if anyone wants to auction off or through puzzle auction sites like puzzleparadise.ca

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  9. Thank you for posting that it is possible to unlock this when re-assembled incorrectly. I have my work cut out for me, but I will try and remember to let you know how it turns out... I also read somewhere that if it is put in a vice grip, with wood on each side it will protect it during the process.. Now to find a vice grip!!

    Amy

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  10. I rediscovered this puzzle while cleaning out my junk drawer. Anyone have an idea what it is worth?

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