Wednesday 28 March 2012

Aluminium Washer Cylinder

In September 2011, I reviewed William Strijbos' Aluminium Cylinder Box. In the last several weeks, I got around to trying out his sequel to the Cylinder box, the Washer Cylinder. I had thought that the earlier Cylinder Box was difficult...well, this second one was even more difficult than I imagined and what an unexpected surprise at the end! I acquired my copy directly from William and its currently available from Finnish online retailer Oy Sloyd Ab as well. My puzzle was engraved No 13...hmm....

The Washer Cylinder is slightly taller than the Cylinder box at 5.5cm with a diameter of 4cm. Made completely of aluminium, it bears all the usual hallmarks of a high quality Wil Strijbos puzzle. Similar to the Cylinder Box, the Washer Cylinder has a cap which can rotate freely and smoothly in either direction (but this one does not have any spring-back effect like the Cylinder Box). Externally, the Washer Cylinder takes on more of a matt surface than a shiny one adorning its predecessor. Shaking the cylinder, one can also hear a number of ball bearings spinning around inside. And of course the object here is to remove the cap from the cylinder body, which will in turn lead to the removal of a washer at the bottom of the cylinder.

Cylinder Box on the left and the taller Washer Cylinder on the right
I should have known better not to try to open the Washer Cylinder like how I did for the Cylinder Box, but I went ahead anyway to no avail! I tried all sorts of ways and means including tapping, knocking and shaking but nothing worked. I read the reviews by Allard, Oli and Kevin (including checking out Kevin's x-ray photos of the cylinder) to see if I could gain some clues and insight into the puzzle...but here no luck as well....again I should have known better than to expect puzzle bloggers to reveal any secrets.

After quite a while of trying, I decided to put away the puzzle and give it a rest...just like I did with the Cylinder Box previously and made up my mind to come back to it some time later. But right about the same time, William sent out an email containing a number of clues/hints (with photos of various opened puzzles and the obligatory requisite spoiler warnings) to all the owners of the Washer Cylinder (from No1, basic clue to No 5, the solution). From the pretty long list of owners on record, it seems only a handful of puzzlers had managed to solve the puzzle on their own. So it was back to the Washer Cylinder for me...after all, now with Wil's hints in my email, I couldn't resist giving the Washer Cylinder another stab immediately. I started with hint No1 but nothing happened, went on to No2, still nothing happened....well, to cut a long story short...I finally had to resort to hint No5 before I managed to remove the cap.

The way the cap was designed to open was a real surprise for me! I did not expect it to open the way it did. To be honest, without Wil's hints, I don't think I would have solved the puzzle on my own, at least not for quite a while, although I would like to think I got quite close at one point. Lets just say I got side-tracked and distracted by some red herrings (aka bearings).

After the cap was removed and as I looked at the insides of the puzzle, I was pretty amazed at the precision machining that went into the making of the puzzle and how everything was constructed to such tight tolerances. Comparing the Cylinder Box and the Washer Cylinder, now that I know both solutions, I would say that the latter actually is easier to solve than the first puzzle with a somewhat simpler but unique mechanism, provided the correct steps are followed. Of course I am able to say this only now with the benefit of hindsight.

Overall, I would say that as difficult as it was for me, I think this is a fantastic puzzle worth the not inexpensive price. Very well made overall and I did not experience any jamming problems as a couple of puzzlers had. Definitely a collector's item and I am already looking forward to the next incarnation of the Aluminium Cylinder!

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Star Shape 3.5sun Japanese Puzzle Box

This star-shaped puzzle box was acquired from Japanese craftsman Hiroyuki Oka from his Etsy online shop. This is my first real traditional Japanese puzzle box and I was drawn to its different shape and design. Made of walnut and Japanese Keyaki with different colour tones, combined with a mosaic pattern (Yosegi) on the top and bottom surfaces, the box measures 9cm x 10.5cm x 4.7cm. In Japanese puzzle box dimensions, this is considered a 3.5sun box, 1sun = 3cm. Quality, fit and finish is excellent and all the moving parts slide against each other snugly but smoothly.

This box requires 5 moves to open. Like most Japanese puzzle boxes, the opening requires a sliding of panels which form the sides of the box. While not difficult from a puzzling perspective, it does require a bit of trial and error to figure out which panels to move and in which particular order. Given the odd shape, the usable space inside the box is very limited but you can still place small items like rings, keys and jewellery, but not all of it together tho'. Not that the box would afford any serious protection against theft, as the panels which form the shape of the box are all very delicately cut to fit and mesh against each other so precisely. Really quite amazing when you look at the craftsmanship and attention to details found on the inside. In the closed position, the box feels solid when handled but excessive use of force or abuse is definitely to be avoided, especially when sliding the panels.

Overall a nice and unusual shaped box which is out of the norm. At a very reasonable price of US$48 with worldwide shipping of US$7.40, the latter damn cheap compared with many other online puzzle retailers, I think this is one item that puzzle box lovers should get their hands on.