Thursday, 21 May 2015

Pocket Pento - The Search For Symmetry

I was very pleasantly surprised when I received an email from Eric Fuller a couple of months back. He had asked if he could make copies of my Pocket Pento for sale on his website together with some other puzzles he was also planning on making. He had spotted my Pocket Pento design published on PWBP and thought it would make a nice addition to his offerings. Of course I said yes without hesitation (well, who wouldn't?) and even emailed him several variations of the design for him to pick from. The next thing I knew, he had made the first copy and posted it on his FaceBook page.

Wow, this was the first time I have seen a design of mine made into a working copy (well, not really the first time as such; other puzzlers have made copies of some of my other designs) but the first from a master puzzle craftsman producing it for commercial sale.

The Pocket Pento is actually one of my early designs, my fourth that was published on PWBP. At that time I was trying my hand at designing and packing puzzles were the easiest and logical choice to begin with. Thanks to Goh Pit Khiam who taught me the use of burr tools and gave me loads of useful advice, I managed to come up with five designs of various shapes and sizes with the common theme of using all twelve flat pentominoes. As the name implies, the Pocket Pento was intended as a small-ish and flat-ish puzzle that could easily be put into the pocket and taken around. The version made by Eric with half inch square units is on the larger size of things and probably would only fit into pants, jacket or trench-coat pockets and handbags.

Eric made the Pocket Pento box out of Maple and the pieces in twelve different exotic hardwoods. The box had acrylic transparent sides which displayed the pieces in the solved state. A really nice touch which shows off the contrasting coloured woods very well. Construction and finish of my copy is excellent with very fine beveling of the edges on the pieces. The fit is very good and everything slides smoothly with no "looseness" of any sort. Thirty-nine copies were put up for sale on Eric's site at US$84 each; and like most of Eric's puzzles, all were sold out within a day or two.

I am not sure if owners of the Pocket Pento have noticed this....the placement of holes on the two sides, the entry/exit point and opposite bottom all have a certain "similarity" of appearance. I was not content to just design a box to house the twelve pieces (which is not too difficult) but I wanted something more...a "symmetry" to the overall look and shape, to make the puzzle as unique as possible. I think close to 100% symmetry may have been possible if Eric had used an acrylic plate to seal the bottom holes instead of another layer of wood which added an extra half inch to the height of the puzzle. But then again this may have affected the overall construction and aesthetics somewhat...and well, Eric's the expert so he must have known what he was doing. 

The puzzle is not easy by any means and I too have had problems remembering the exact sequence of moves and once or twice resorted to burr tools for help.

Thanks very much to Eric for turning my design into reality and I am happy to know that there are thirty nine other puzzlers out there in the world with a Pocket Pento in their possession!


  1. Well done Jerry! I am delighted that yet another of your designs has been made! I love my ball in cylinder puzzles - they sit above me in my study at all times! Unfortunately, I missed out on the Pento but I am sure I will get to play at an MPP soon.


  2. I am the happy owner of a Pocket Pento! I noticed the symmetry pretty quickly, I also discovered a spoiler by observing carefully Eric's photos of the solved puzzle (should not have done that!).

    I do not think the puzzle is that easy, solving from scratch with no help (or looking at Eric's photos) would be quite difficult, IMHO. It is easy if you use BurrTools, of course. If you look at Eric's photos too closely, it becomes much easier, that is how I solved it.