Update 23 October 2017 - Dear Reader, please check out my new puzzle blog and e-store at http://mechanical-puzzles.com
The T9 from Rainer Popp came out sometime in the middle of last year. At a behemoth 11.5cm x 7cm x 2.4cm and weighing in at 1.052kg, this is one of the largest locks in the Popplock collection.
For previous reviews of Popplocks from T2 to T8, please click below:-
Rainer manufactures and produces by hand a new model Popplock every year. I have had this lock since last August and its been in storage until several days ago. There have been two reviews of the T9 so far, from Allard and Kevin and both bloggers have sung high praises of the T9. Even though I only managed to solve mine with the help of the instruction manual, I have to agree with the two gents. It is really quite magnificent from a puzzling perspective.
There is really nothing more to be said about the T9's quality and finish. A real piece of superb craftsmanship with fine detailing. Damn expensive I might add. The body is made from a block of solid brass and the shackle is stainless steel. At first glance, it looks like a large garden variety padlock with an ordinary looking key...except the front of the T9 has, in addition to the a key hole, a circular looking dial with rivets on the front, three of them imbued with red paint.
To solve the T9, there are basically three main stages, each with a number of steps. In most sequential discovery puzzles, the first step is usually easier (not easy) than the rest, but in the case of the T9, I was actually stumped right from stage one. Took me a while to figure out what needed to be done. Yes, the key can go inside the hole and turn round and round, but that's all to it, nothing more. With my small victory at stage one, I moved on to stage two. I had a good idea what was going on and even made progress (mind you all the while not being able to see what's happening inside the lock). However, I never made it completely past stage two. Here is where I was stuck for good and finally resorted to the instructions.
Stage three is even harder than stage two. And as Kevin mentioned in his post, you need good lighting. I would also add a good eye and make sure you have your reading glasses on too for this stage. I recommend playing under white or tungsten lighting if possible. The crucial steps in stage three are so very subtle and the mechanism so well hidden (that's provided if you can reach this point) that I don't think I would have figured them out without the instructions. With the last move, the shackle suddenly springs springs open...and there you go, the T9 is solved! Resetting the T9 is surprisingly easy, given the many steps previously....just turn the key!
Once you know the moves, sequence and what to look out for, repeat solving is quite manageable and can be done reasonably quickly, within a couple of minutes even.
With the exception of the T7 and T8, Rainer Popp has made a return to the traditional Popplock style of puzzle locks with the T9. Those who have played with the earlier versions from T2 to T6 would know what I mean. Puzzle/trick locks don't show up very often, in fact since the T8 in 2013, the only other metal puzzle lock at this level of quality and manufacture that came to the market is the Swing Lock from Splinter Justus (which I do not own).
Very difficult yes, but overall the T9 is an excellent puzzle lock with multiple stages and steps to keep one well occupied with progress and a-ha moments along the way. Expensive also yes, but lots of puzzling value for money. The workings of the lock (from the internal diagrams in the manual) have to be seen to be believed.
As far as I can tell, unfortunately there are no T9s available commercially at the moment as all appear to have gone to private hands. Not surprising, since Rainer produces very limited units for each new model, just anywhere between fifty to less than a hundred.
[Edit 8 January 2015 - I have just been informed by Wil Strijbos that he still has one last copy of the T9 available for sale at 380 euros. If anyone is keen, please PM me via my blog email and I will put you in touch with Wil]