November 7, 2009

Pagoda Puzzle Box

Matt Dawson is a puzzle box collector who I have been corresponding with for about 10 months. Matt also designs puzzle boxes, and has been collaborating since September '08 with puzzle box maker Makishi to realize one of Matt's designs.

The result of this collaboration was Pagoda Puzzle Box (a.k.a. MakDaw #1), which was entered in the 2009 International Puzzle Party Puzzle Design Competition. A total of 25 of these boxes were produced. After receiving some feedback on the design, a revised version was developed, MakDaw #2, that covered up a big clue that made it easier to solve. 40 copies of this improved version were released last week, in the beginning of November '09.

I had heard Matt talk about this puzzle quite a bit and had seen pictures. As you can see, it is a very cool looking puzzle. Plus, I know Matt is a real connoisseur of puzzle boxes so I knew anything that he came up would be very unique and an excellent puzzle. As such, I decided to purchase one as soon as it came out! (You can buy one here, if they are still available.)

It arrived quite quickly and I couldn't wait to give it a try. My first observation was that it is a very cute little box. I love the detail around the roof and the little door. It is made out of red oak, walnut, and maple and has a nice finish.

I had a general idea of how the puzzle worked, because I had seen a picture of it open, but it was still fairly challenging. Matt and Makishi did an excellent job designing the puzzle in such a way that you need to be paying attention to solve it. There are a number of dead ends (though they are not particularly deep) and it is not obvious when you are stuck in a dead end due to the mechanics of the puzzle.

I think it took me about 10 minutes to get it open the first time: I like sequential puzzles like this because you get a small "a ha!" moment each time you find a new move. Also, it was quite satisfying when the box finally opened. Even though I had solved it, I still didn't fully understand the sequence of moves required to get it open. After opening it five or six more times, I started to get the hang of it. Doing this really gave me an appreciation for the little details that made the puzzle tricky, which was very cool.

Overall, I would say that this is a great puzzle! It has everything I look for in a puzzle: a novel mechanism, a nice physical appearance, and a good difficulty level. Check it out on if you'd like to purchase it. It is a great deal on a nice limited edition puzzle.

As you may have noticed, I'm up to the present day, which means I have gone through my whole backlog of puzzles! Whew! I still have a bunch of puzzles that I am currently working on: I purchased a box of puzzles from Allan Boardman that will take me a while to go through, but I'll be writing about the interesting ones as I solve them. Also coming up: a report on a gathering at Saul Bobroff's home (!!) and reviews on a number of Bits and Pieces boxes that I recently purchased.

Update: Check out Oli's review of the the third puzzle in this series, Pagoda #3.


  1. If you are looking for more of Mr. Makishi's puzzle boxes, you can email

  2. Thanks for posting this, Naomi! I've gotten a number of questions asking about Makishi's boxes.


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