October 8, 2009

Cast O'Gear and Cast Violin

I was down at Eureka and decided to pick up a few more Hanayama puzzles. As I mentioned way back in my fourth post, I first learned about Eureka from a fellow on the subway who saw me playing with Cast Vortex. He was familiar with the Hanayama series and said that one of his favorites was Cast O'Gear, since it had such an interesting movement, so I finally decided to purchase it. I also followed another one of David's recommendations and decided to pick up Cast Violon. He said it wasn't too hard, but was a well designed puzzle.

When I got home, I started off with Cast O'Gear. This is an interesting two-piece puzzle by Oskar van Deventer that won an Honorable Mention in the 2001 Puzzle Design Competition at the International Puzzle Party. The object is to release the gear from the cube to which it is attached. The shape of the gear allows it to rotate from one face of the cube to the next, crossing the edges. Certain edges cannot be crossed however, though this is not visually obvious. I think this is my only complaint with this puzzle, it was hard to tell whether the reason it wasn't able to cross an edge was because you didn't line it up right, or because it just wasn't supposed to travel that direction.

As you can kind of see in the picture, each face of the cube has a hole in it, into which the teeth of the gear fit. These holes are cross-shaped, with the inner corners of the cross rounded in certain places. This allows you to turn the gear and change directions, but this turning is limited by the rounding on the holes.

This is a maze-type puzzle, similar to Cast Duet, but with a completely different mechanism. After examining it for a moment, I determined how the gear had to exit the maze: the challenge was just to navigate it to the correct orientation to release it! I played around with it for about 20 or 30 minutes and was able to figure it out. It did take a bit of logic: I ran into a situation where I needed to figure out a way to change which tooth of the gear was in the cube, keeping the face the same. George Bell wrote an interesting article for the November 2008 edition of Cubism For Fun #77 about mapping this type of puzzle that can be downloaded from George's website. Robert Stegman also analyzes route finding puzzles on his excellent website.

I would agree with the fellow on the subway that this is a great puzzle. The mechanism is quite cool: it seems like it would be impossible for the gear to walk along the outside of the cube without coming off easily, but that's exactly how it works. The finish is a nice brown color that somehow feels appropriate for this puzzle. I also like how there are grooves cut in the side of the cube that allow you to rest the gear in place for display, otherwise it would just flop around. Another great puzzle by Oskar and Hanayama!

The second puzzle I tried, Cast Violon, was designed back in 1965 by Joseph L. Litle, though this version has been altered substantially by Nobuyuki Yoshigahara. It is a three piece puzzle where the objective is to disassemble the three pieces. It is fairly easy, but could challenge a less experienced puzzler: my girlfriend had some trouble with it. I think I figured it out in a few minutes.

The finish on this one is a nice shiny copper tone, which I liked. I think my only complaint about this one is the last move: perhaps it is just my specific puzzle, but the first piece to be removed does not slide out smoothly. This is not a huge problem when you are taking it out because you can wiggle it, but it is a bit of a pain when you have to put it back in, because the pieces need to be held in a specific position for there to be enough clearance to fit it at all. I brought this one to a party and folks were able to get it apart but then I had to keep putting it back together, which was a bit annoying.

Tomorrow, I'll write about some great puzzle boxes I got straight from Japan!


  1. Your link to my website is messed up ...

    Rob Stegmann has many solutions "mapped out" on his web page, including the Cast O'Gear. I actually do not have a Cast O'Gear!


  2. Thanks George! I fixed the link to your site. I wanted to point your article out even though it wasn't specifically about O'Gear. I also added the link to the route finding page on Rob's site. I had forgotten about that!


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