Thursday, 27 October 2016

Alu cylinder

Not a new puzzle but still a "classic" one by Wil Strijbos. This rather small (yes, I was surprised by its small size and I imagined it bigger) puzzle is a nice challenge, whether you're a new puzzler or a seasoned one!



What you notice is the small hole at the bottom and things ratling inside the puzzle. You soon discover that these mysterious things are just ball bearings and from time to time when you depress the cap, these balls fall down. Do they block the cylinder and provide you from opening the puzzle? Well, this is something you will have to figure out or discover when the puzzle is opened!

Actually I opened the puzzle with luck by depressing and shaking the puzzle. You do not really have clues about how to open it, even with the sound of the balls.

When it opens the cap pops up with a satisfaying sound, nice opening!

OK I managed to open it, I looked everything and thought I could have opened it again, so I closed the puzzle.
Damn it! I could not. Same random process as the first time: a bit of shaking, a bit of "cap depressing" and it opens after some time...

Actually I know what to do, but doing it is not that obvious (well, if you have a technique that allows you to open the puzzles in 30 seconds, I would be happy to hear it!).

I like a lot the puzzle because the mechanism is nice and it's a nice challenge for the money spent on it. Its size has an advantage: you can carry the puzzle easily with you.
The thing that I do not like it that the mechanism damages a bit the inside bottom of the puzzle. I cannot say more without spoiling...I am sure nobody likes spoiling, but I am also sure that most of the readers own and/or have solved this puzzle :-)

Wil has a lot of them, I am sure he would be happy to sell you one if you want it!

Thursday, 20 October 2016

4L puzzle

4L is a packing puzzle designed by Yasuhiro Hashimoto, crafted by Mine and awarded by an honorable mention at IPP 2015.

The puzzle is composed of some plexi, a wooden cage and 4L shapes pieces to pack inside the box. To be more precise you have 2 pairs of L: one kind of L piece is a bit thiner.


The goal is easy and the puzzle looks so easy....Well how can a puzzle be hard with only 4 pieces you can wonder. Well, wonder more! :-)  This is a difficult puzzle and it has given a lot of pain to the puzzle collectors who have this (nice) puzzle.

Indeed you have many ways to pack the pieces and you have also rotations. Some rotations are (or seem?) impossible, other are not that difficult, but in any case you need precision. 
I worked on this puzzle for long time and at some point I thought it was impossible and that there was a fit issue with my puzzle...sign of despair maybe...I could not really find other collectors who played with it (or solved it), so not easy to get some hints.

I worked again a bit later on the puzzle and tried to focus myself of the shape of the plexi and how I could use the space between the plexi and the pieces, trying to see which piece can go between this space and in which positions. No success but I tried.

After I came back to my first ideas of how to pack 2 pieces and then how the 3rd one could be put inside. At the beginning I tried to pack the pieces outside of the box with the constraint of the 4th piece but I could not really make progress. So well, I came back putting pieces inside the box, that's the goal, right :)
After a sequence of moves I managed to put the 3rd piece and after some sequence of moves the 4th piece was packed! A very satisfaying puzzle and it's worth the money!! And the solution is easy to repeat. I fear burrtool won't help you because of the rotations...But your brain is more powerful, isn't it?

I always have the feeling that packing puzzles are too frustrating because of all the possibilities to pack the pieces and solving a puzzle should not involve frustration but satisfaction! So when I buy packing puzzles, I try to choose the ones that have a little something different regarding the solution or the design. I was right to buy this packing puzzle because of the "ah-ha" moment with the 3rd piece packed and because you realize that a puzzle can also be difficult with few pieces!


All pieces packed, but this is the only orientation where it does not spoil too much

Thursday, 13 October 2016

My first attempts to craft puzzles!!!

It's good to collect, buy from time to time or just play with puzzles. But at some point you aim at either designing and crafting, just designing, or just crafting some puzzles. Maybe it's a way to see if you could compete with other craftmen? Well....normally you will not reach the high top of puzzle designers in a couple of days! It's a long process ;-)

Many (if not most) people trying to craft puzzles craft flat packing puzzles because they are the easiest to craft. Sure, it's way easier than crafting a 3D burr puzzle or a complex sequencial discovery puzzle, no doubt about that. And flat packing puzzle (or just flat puzzle) can be "easily" done with some plexi and a laser cutter. So guess what I crafted??? Flat puzzles isung plexi!!!

I will show you what I have done so far and the difficulties that one can experience.

The first question to ask yourself is the choice of plexi (if you want it transparent or not) and the thickness. If it's too thick, maybe it will not be useful and maybe the laser cutter will not properly cut it. If it's too thin, well you might break it when playing with it...I decided to use a 3mm thick plexi.

Let's begin with a flat puzzle:

The goal: use all the pieces to make the same shape but bigger.
Yes, this is a very simple-looking puzzle, but I liked the idea and decided to craft it. There are several puzzles in the same spirit, but I just wanted to craft one.
About the difficulty, I would say it's pretty easy: you should not take too long before finding the solution. And all people who tried this puzzle (most of them are not really puzzlers) solved it without too much trouble. It just takes a couple of minutes.
I like this puzzle because it's simple but efficient. And easy to carry with you!


Now another flat (but packing) puzzle:

Obviously the goal is to pack all the pieces inside the tray. At the beginning I cut the pieces in absolutely transparent plexi and well it was not only difficult to see the pieces inside the tray but also the look was not that good. Thus, I decided to cut the pieces in non transparent blue plexi. Moreover at the beginning, I thought it would be a nice idea to carve some section on each piece. I mean: instead of having for example the plain piece of 3 octogon, there were marks so that we could clearly see 3 different octogons. The idea was nice but even if it was only carved, these marks made each pieces more fragile resulting in some cracks.

I am not used to crafting puzzles, so well my issues or questions may seem obvious to you but were not to me at this stage. I thought it would be nice to have a tray, so that the pieces do not slip out. Obvious? Definitely. How to do? Well, screwing plexi is not an easy task because you can break it. My only solution was using strong glue. I even managed to put a bit of glue on my fingers....s**t! It sticks so quick...Next time I will be using gloves!
Using glue is a pretty good idea, but the bad thing is that when glueing 2 transparent pieces of plexi, you can see the glue between both layers. And this is not nice! :-(
I like the fact of using a transparent tray and opaque pieces however. And the blue of the pieces contrasts well with the yellow of the tray.

If you look well, you will also notice that each piece has like a small square and I cut 7 small square on the tray. My first idea was that it could be a nice idea to be able to push the pieces out of the tray. Sure, if you have very very small fingers... ;-) but you can still use a pen. I feel it's also more beautiful.

Regardless the technical thing and the issues I faced, some quick words about this puzzle: first the fit is perfect! And I am sure it will not move with humidity :)
About the difficulty, this is not a difficult puzzle (even if more difficult than the first puzzle above). All people I gave this puzzle to managed to solve it. I like it!


Now the last puzzle made with plexi (and the most difficult in the series):

This is a famous puzzle. You need to use all the pieces, put on the right order with a right rotation so that when looking through the stack of pieces you can see a rabbit shape. This is a very difficult puzzle because you have so many possibilities to stack the pieces. I like the idea and it's easy to carry with you on travel, for example.


I couldn't not try to 3D print a puzzle as well!
So here it it:

Each part of the sphere took around 30 minutes and each part of the cage took around 1 hour to print.
The cage measures around 3.5cm x 3.5 cm x 3 cm, which is not too small and fine to manipulate.
The quality is pretty good. But the bad thing is for the sphere parts, the 3D printer had difficulties to make it perfectly round. I mean, it's round but there was a little residue of filaments that needed to be sand-papered. The round shape is the most difficult thing to 3D print because obviously when the printer starts to work it puts some material that is flat. So, any sphere shapes will have a flat base that we have to be rounded with sandpaper.

Apart from that the fit is tight with the cage, luckily the parts are strong enough to resist pressure when putting the 2 parts together.

The goal is to open the cage by manipulating the sphere inside. Maybe you have recognized a similar puzzle? Well, the cast marble crafted by Hanayama uses the same mechanism. But for the cast puzzle you need to twist the cage which is more difficult than just opening the cage, and metal is always nicer than 3D printed puzzles! :-)



To finish this post, I also wanted to craft a mathematical structure.
It uses 30 identical pieces and stay together. Indeed, the friction with plexi with each end part of each pieces makes the structure pretty sturdy. When using plexi, you do not have to put glue. But glue is mandatory is you do not use plexi because otherwise the structure will collapse!

Believe me, this was a lot of pain assembling the structure. But you get easily confused about which piece goes where. The more you make progress on building it, the more you will feel tnesion between pieces. And plexi can break easily, don't forget that! Also plexi can cut like paper sheets. It's pretty sharp. And when I finish building it, my hands were a bit painful.

I really like the shape but I need to have a severe critic about the design: in my opinino the design can be more improved so that you could use any kind of material without glue and have stronger "key-ends" on each piece. I mean, it's like modular origami: usually it does not require any glue if the modules are cleverly designed (so that they hold by themselves with each other). If you need glue, it means the foldings is weak. Here, I would make the same comment. You can manipulate the structure if it's in plexi but you still need to be careful.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Summary of cast puzzles (Hanayama) level 1

I have reviewed all the level 1 puzzles so far. I am sure there will always be new level 1 puzzles.
I don't think I will update this page (but I will see later) because it would be long to find it.

So far, you can find:
Cast ABC
Cast bike
Cast flag
Cast hook
Cast key
Cast loop
Cast seabream
Cast shark

My favourite is the Cast loop: it has a nice design, is tricky to reassemble even if you disassembled it few minutes ago and is always fun to solve. I like the feature with the magnet.
I like also the Cast shark.

My less favourite puzzle is cast hook. Well, the puzzle is far from being obvious, but what I like less is that there is a bit of friction and you really need to make tiny moves to solve it.
Don't get me wrong, it's a nice puzzle, but just not my favourite one :-)

What's your favourite level 1? And your less favourite level 1?

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Cast loop: level 1

A nice puzzle, designed by Vesa Timonen, that could easily be a nice necklace if it was a little bit smaller though :)
The puzzle is indeed provided with a small rope.

The puzzle is put as the below position. At the beginning I thought the puzzle was almost solved, but actually this is the starting position. You need to disassemble the 2 parts of the puzzle and then make a complete closed ring.


Note that there is a magnet which provides the ring from disassembling by itself, a very good idea!!!



Reassembling the 2 parts to get the final closed ring (as shown on the right above picture) can be pretty confusing. Even if you manage to do once, the next time you try it, you may fail. It requires a good brain to remember what to do.

In my mind, this puzzle deserves a 3/6 difficulty ranking and definitely not a 1/6. It's not super hard, but enough confusing to puzzle the best solvers :-)

This puzzle is very cleverly designed and is my favourite so far in the 1/6 difficulty ranking.
It's very fun to solve it again and again and to torture people's mind trying to solve it.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Cast hook: level 1

This intriguing puzzle was designed by Vesa Timonen, who designed several cast puzzle by the way, with usually a common point: some twists involved.

The shape of the pieces is pretty strange and I feel it may be a nice idea for earings ;-)

Anyway you will have to make several steps to separate the pieces, many more than what should be required to solve a level 1 cast puzzle. Moreover, the steps are not that easy and the last one can be forgotten easily. Plus if you have a bit of friction between both pieces (unfortunately, even if Hanayama's puzzle are mass produced and are usually of good quality, you will likely not have a whole collection of perfectly made cast puzzles....unfortunately), then it may be difficult to guess some steps.

In my opinion, it deserves a level 3 for ranking difficulty, and certainly not a level 1!
Not sure how Hanayama classifies the cast puzzles....obviously it goes with the wrong rating (too) often, even if it depends on one's skills.

Don't start with this puzzle if you intend to start from easy to difficult. A beginner will have a lot of difficulties.

Not my favourite among the level 1 cast puzzles, but still a nice one!

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