Tuesday 22 July 2014

Havana's Box #4

The Havana's #4 is the 4th and last instalment of Eric Fuller's Havana's Cigar Box series. Sold for US$159 each in a limited edition series of 79 copies, currently unavailable.

For reviews of the 1st three cigar boxes, click here, here and here

The #4 is named "Bruce". Bruce is one of Eric's buddies, who happens to tend bar at one of Eric's favourite watering holes.

The #4 is made from Sapele with Wenge veneer at the top and bottom lids. Construction fit and finish is excellent with everything built to very tight tolerances. Although very fine detailed cuts abound, it is a very solid box. 

Goal of course is to get the (real) cigar out from inside the box. According to Eric, the #4 is the hardest of the lot, the #1 being the easiest. I am not sure if this is really the case since I found #2 (and also #3) to be pretty darn difficult as well. In fact I spent most time on #2. 

The Havana's Cigar Box Family. From left to right #1 to #4.
I would have preferred if they were all of the same size but each made
with different woods to differentiate them 
Nonetheless, it took me a good part of an evening of trying various sorts of things before I discovered the locking mechanism which keeps the lid in place. According to Eric, it should take 5 steps before the lid slides open. However for some reason, I can get it done in 3 steps. Not sure if I had stumbled upon an unintended solution tho'. Anyone else with the same experience? Guess I will have to check with our dear Mr Fuller on this and see what he says!

Sunday 20 July 2014


Designed in 2012 by really prolific puzzle designer Stephane Chomine (who has a whopping 497 designs to-date), the Coaxial was another non-starter for me. 

Made by Pelikan to the usual high standards out of Maple and Wenge, this interlocking solid does not sport the more usual box frame style. Instead it consists of 6 pieces, three of which are regular burr units while the "frame" is made up of another three odd-shaped pieces; pairs of square rings each joined by a spar and with protrusions.   

While it has a solution (ie 17 steps to remove the first piece), not a lot compared to some other interlocking burrs, some with well over a 100 moves, the Coaxial is, in my view very difficult. I got stuck around step 10 and could proceed no further. No amount of trying, random or otherwise yielded any luck. Fortunately for me the good folks at Pelikan provided a printed solution to help and Burr Tools took care of the re-assembly.

Coaxial is currently available via PuzzleMaster of Canada for CA$49.99.

Wednesday 16 July 2014

Ice Pillar

I bought the Ice Pillar from Pelikan well over a year ago and promptly forgot about it until I recently found it in the deep recesses of my puzzle cupboard. 

I had even forgotten what the name of this puzzle was and who designed it, and had to trace my emails with Pelikan way back to early 2013.

Ice Pillar is constructed from Bubinga for the frame and Zebrano for the 4 burr pieces. Quality of build is top-notch. Surprisingly, the pieces have a very loose fit in the frame, even after a few days out of my de-humidified cupboard. This is the first time I have a wooden puzzle that didn't lock up due to the humidity. Shape-wise, Ice Pillar is like a short Tall Joe. Similar with a  "+" cross-section sort of shape, very different from the typical cuboid burrs.

Ice Pillar is from Osanori Yamamoto and I am not sure if its just me lousy, or this one is really tough....well, its both! The Ice Pillar requires nearly 40 moves to completely disassemble. With some of Yamamoto designs, usually I can make some sort of progress but for this puzzle, I just couldn't find my way anywhere. 

Being of such loose fit, all the pieces could slide left right up down too easily...nothing was ever stuck, but nothing ever came out of the frame either. Tried as I did, I made no headway and had to resort to the solution provided by Pelikan. At least Allard managed to take it apart without any help. 

I didn't bother to try reassembly, knowing full well it would be futile; instead I generated a Burr Tools solution to see how the puzzle worked. Amazing, and just as fun, as always!

Monday 14 July 2014

Tall Joe

This stylish, tallish, unusual-shaped and relatively large interlocking burr comes from designer Tamas Vanyo

Made by Pelikan from Mahogany for the box frame and a combo of Wenge and Maple for the pieces, construction is per the usual excellent Pelikan standard. Very nice fit and finishing throughout; the pieces look really nice and well cut with the dark and white tones.

Gaol is to remove the 8 identical pieces from the frame, which itself has a number of notches and protrusions inside that interact with the pieces.

Tall Joe has a level solution. On paper it doesn't seem to look that difficult; but very much harder than you might imagine especially for non-burrist like myself.

Tall Joe is currently available from PuzzleMaster.

Tuesday 8 July 2014

School Bus

Designed by Alfons Eyckmans in 2013, my copy of the School Bus was also built for me by Alfons. Alfons had featured the School Bus on his FaceBook page a while back and after seeing it, I shot him an email asking if he could make one for me. 

Alfons will take requests for custom builds of his own designs (of which there are over 200 to-date) but expect to wait no less than a month, since he can only devote 2 days or so a week to puzzle making and he has a lot of orders to fulfil.

Mine is copy #3. Fellow puzzle collector Goetz Schwandtner has a copy and probably the third is kept by Alfons. 

The School Bus is an interlocking burr measuring a relatively large 13cm x 6cm x 5cm. My version is made of Beech for the box frame and Wenge for the pieces. Nice colour combination. Very well built overall with nice finishing; save for several very tiny chips near the edge of one or two of the square holes on the side. Mine was also a bit tight (caused by the local humidity) and I had to leave it in my camera dry box for several days to loosen up the pieces, which became better as I played with it.

The object is the remove the pieces, consisting of 4 regular burr pieces 6 units long and two sliders 13 units long each, from the box.

Despite playing with it on and off over a couple of weeks, I got nowhere with this one. Not even able to remove a single piece. A real tough cookie requiring a total of 72 moves with 18 to get the first piece out. Thank goodness www.puzzlewillbeplayed.com had all the images of the School Bus pieces and I was able to generate a Burr Tools solution to help me solve. No matter tho'; the take apart (and re-assembly) were still very fun using Burr Tools. And even these took a while to complete form start to end.

Inspired by Alfons' School Bus, I took the liberty of expanding upon his design and came up with my own "Tour Bus XL" (after all, what's larger than a school bus?). My design has 2 additional burr pieces and an extra slider, making it dimensionally much larger at 19cm x 8cm x 5cm. 169 moves to completely remove all the pieces.

Tour Bus XL

I am thinking of asking Alfons to make me copy of the Tour Bus XL, but alas, I fear it may be a bit wasted on me, seeing that I can't even solve the School Bus without help.

Sunday 6 July 2014

Shaken Not Stirred!

Shake Something is from up and coming puzzle designer Dan Fast. It has proven to be quite a hit since they were all sold out within days of their release by Eric Fuller.

This interlocking burr consists of 4 "regular" 6 units-long burr pieces which fill a box, making it a packing puzzle as well. 

Object is to remove the pieces from the (only) top opening of the box. Since the pieces can only exit one way, this requires tilting, turning and shaking the box to move (and remove) the individual pieces. You can't see what's happening inside the box so this adds to the difficulty, although on paper, it's (only) a level 14 puzzle. 

And unfortunately the solution is not to be found on www.puzzlewillbeplayed.com either. Get the pieces out and you have a chance at Burr Tools; should you have difficulty (and likely you will) putting things back together like I did.

The box is Walnut, while the pieces are Yellowheart and Chakte Viga. Exotic and un-pronounceable! Construction and finish is excellent with sufficient "looseness" inside the box for the pieces to slide smoothly, even in the relatively humid conditions such as those in Singapore.

This puzzle is one of the more unusual packing or interlocking burr puzzles out there, so its definitely "Something" worth acquiring if you happen to come across it. Hopefully we'll see more of Dan's designs become reality in time to come.

Thursday 3 July 2014

Cubax / Rastaban

The Cubax and Rastaban puzzles were designed by Turkish designer Yavuz Demirhan in 2013 and made by Pelikan of the Czech Republic. Craftsmanship for both puzzles are superb with excellent fit and finish. 

My copy of the Cubax is made of Maple and Paduak while the Rastaban is fashioned out of Acacia, Maple, Wenge and Paduak. Nice colour contrast for the latter.



Both are interlocking puzzles comprising of burr pieces forming their respective shapes. While they look physically very different, I personally found the solve for both puzzles somewhat similar in terms of how the pieces moved and came apart. 

The Cubax has 13 pieces with 16 moves while the Rastaban has 9 but needs 15 moves. The Rastaban is in my view a tad harder. But neither is unduly difficult; recommended for those new to burrs or non-burrist (like me). The moves are also quite easy to remember and the different colours do help.

Beautiful puzzles and great value for money! Should you opt for either or both? Well, really no need to think...as a good and proper puzzler, getting both is a must!

Wednesday 2 July 2014

A New Approach

This is my 201st post! 

Wow, how time has flown by since my first puzzle review over 3 years ago. I would like to say a BIG THANK YOU to all the puzzlers and readers out there who continue to read and support my blog and give me useful comments. 

However, starting from now, I have decided I will keep my blog posts short, concise and to the point, more in the style of a very brief overview of the puzzle rather than a lengthy discourse or review. I intend to try to make this blog more like a catalogue of the puzzles that I own or come my way and to feature as many different ones as I can. Very informal and casual.

It really takes a lot of time (and effort) to take nice photos, edit the photos to make them look sharp, measure the puzzles, do the writing, give comments, rate them, add links/URLs or cross-references, make sure the grammar is all correct etc;  I will still try to take good photos as I think a good picture speaks a thousand words. As for links to profiles of designers, manufacturers, sellers and other stuff, my previous posts will have most of them unless there is someone or something new to add.

This approach will allow me more time for my other interests (eg; music-concert flute, physical exercise) as well as family commitments. 

In the coming weeks, I will be adding photos of puzzles in my collection with brief descriptions and reviews. All puzzle photos will of course be uploaded to my page on Mechanical Puzzles on FaceBook. Of course I may still do a more lengthy post on certain puzzles from time to time, but these would be more the exception than the norm. I don't know how this is going to pan out as I am very used to long ramblings...so we'll have to see. 

And I continue to welcome comments as well as questions on puzzles (whether featured on this blog or elsewhere) and requests for tips and solutions.

See... I have rambled on too long already....

Thank You Very Much and Happy Reading!