December 27, 2010

Bits and Pieces Puzzle Boxes (Part 3)

I actually purchased this set of puzzle boxes from Bits and Pieces way back in January but never got around to writing about them! I recently got a few more and was getting ready to write about them, but figured I should write about the older ones first. Check out my first and second post about other Bits and Pieces puzzle boxes.

My favorite of this batch was The Elegant Kamei Ribbon Box, shown here. As you can see, the appearance of this one is quite striking. The bow on the top looks nice, as do the splines on the sides.

Fortunately, on top of looking nice, it is actually a pretty good puzzle. It is a reproduction of a design by Akio Kamei of the Karakuri Creation Group, and there are two interesting tricks that Kamei included here. I don't want to spoil it by going into any more detail.

The actual solution is the same as Karakuri Small Box #4, though the appearance is different and the tricks I mentioned previously are not present, which makes it somewhat easier.

This is one of the more difficult puzzle boxes that Bits and Pieces is currently selling, from what I have seen. Definitely worth checking out if you don't have a copy of the real thing! Due to its complexity, it is a bit more expensive than some of their other boxes at $30 currently, but I think it is worth it since the quality is quite good.

This next box is The Elegant Kamei Heart Box, which requires multiple steps to open. As you can tell from the name, it is also designed by Akio Kamei. It looks pretty good in this photo, but the red dot in the middle of the bow is painted, which I don't think looks very good since it isn't painted evenly.

When I tried to solve this one, I got stuck pretty quickly, though I felt like I knew what needed to be done. I checked the solution and confirmed my suspicion that the box was jammed! Fortunately, I was able to free it by applying a bit of extra force. The wood used for the mechanism is not smooth at all, which can cause problems if splinters get caught up in the mechanism.

Another big problem with this box is that the drawer is not spring loaded, but the interior is not smooth enough for it to slide out on its own with gravity. Because of this, I needed to dig my fingernails in to pull the drawer out. They really should provide some kind of drawer pull or smooth things out more. This is probably not a problem for every copy of this box, but something to be aware of. I found this really annoying, and wouldn't recommend buying this one. The solution is pretty simple, but what makes it difficult are the design/construction flaws I mentioned, which is not a good thing!

Next up is Oval Trick Box, which was designed by Jean Claude Constantin. It has an interesting shape, with the dark wood on the lid and base contrasted by the side panels.

I solved this one almost immediately, as did some friends that I showed it to. It is a fairly simple solution, but the implementation of the actual mechanism is a bit unusual. However, this mechanism also makes for a pretty small opening for storing things in the box.

Due to its simplicity, I would say that this box would be good for younger children, but more seasoned puzzlers will probably be a bit bored by it. Still, the price is not bad at $15!

Finally, we have Shut Case Box (a.k.a. Cam Box), which is a design by Eric Fuller. Unfortunately, it is not currently for sale at Bits and Pieces, though I feel like I saw it there a few weeks ago. The photo is by Jeff of MagicPuzzles.org: check out his entry about Shut Case Box.

This is an interesting variation on the usual sliding panel design, with the end panels inset as shown in the photo (the other end looks the same). I'm not really sure of the reason for the original name, as there doesn't appear to me a cam involved, though I'm sure there is some explanation.

I'm sure it varies somewhat, but in my version one of the end panels is slightly too large. This doesn't seem to be a problem when opening the box, but makes it a bit difficult to close. Bits and Pieces is quite good about sending you another copy if your box isn't working right, but I usually don't bother unless it is really bad. If you have a chance to pick up a copy of this puzzle, I think it would be worth doing so, since it is quite reasonably priced. Just hope that your copy works well! In Jeff's entry, it sounded like his worked fine, so it does vary somewhat.

In all, I was moderately happy with this batch of boxes. The prices are so low that you can't really gripe too much if they're not perfect, and you sometimes find a real gem like the Ribbon Box. Stay tuned for another batch of boxes that I purchased this month!

2 comments:

  1. Found your blog while looking for reviews regarding the boxes on Bits and Pieces. Drives me nuts that they don't have product reviews on their webpage, though this is probably why! I am thinking of getting a box for my brother for Christmas, he used to do puzzle things/brain teasers before having kids, so I thought a box might be fun and different. Thanks to your reviews I think I will go with the Kamei Ribbon box, though I wish you'd get the Kamei treasure chest they have now as I LOVE the look of it and wonder if it is good or not. Will definitely have to fiddle with whatever box I get though, with help of the solution, to be sure it works for him! (I've never done a puzzle box before)

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  2. Hi Abigail,

    Good choice! Ribbon Box is a fun one. I have tried Treasure Chest as well, and it is pretty good, though I have had issues with some of the decorative pieces popping off unintentionally. You can glue them back on pretty easily, but still not ideal.

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Please don't post spoilers! Thanks for commenting!

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