November 17, 2009

Visit to Brett's House (Part 1)

They day after the puzzle dinner, Brett was kind enough to invite me to his home, which was on my drive back, the following day to check out his collection. Brett told me that Rob Stegmann would also be there with a bunch of puzzles from his collection. As you can imagine, I was very excited. So excited, in fact, that I dragged my poor girlfriend out of New York at 11:00 in the morning so I could get an early start puzzling.

On the drive, I was eagerly watching the ETA on my GPS and counting down the minutes till when we would arrive at Brett's house. When we got there, I could barely contain my glee at the amazing feast of puzzlement that Rob had laid out on Brett's dining room table. Akio Kamei, Eric Fuller, Stewart Coffin, Rocky Chiaro, and even a Berrocal! I recognized them from all the pictures on Rob's site, and here they were! I hardly knew where to begin!

I sat down at the table completely dumbfounded for a moment. I couldn't decide which of these amazing puzzles I would try first. I decided to start with some of the puzzle boxes by Akio Kamei, since I love puzzle boxes and he is one of the best puzzle box artists around. I started with Cube Box II, which is on the left in this photo.

It was flawlessly crafted and looked very nice. It took me a little while, but eventually I started to figure out how the panels slid. Similar to the less expensive small boxes, the best approach on these was just to try sliding everything in every direction that it could slide. This box was tricky because every outside surface moves, so it became tricky to hold it without inadvertently closing it back up again. Finally, I managed to carefully pull it apart. I admired the amazing precision with which it was crafted, it was very elegantly designed both inside and out.

Next, I tried Cube Box I, which is similar but has a somewhat different mechanism. Since it is similar, I'm not going to go into detail, but suffice it to say that this is also a very nice box.

After that, I tried Twin Box 3, shown on the right, which was also created by Akio Kamei. This one was a bit larger than the previous two and had a nice weight to it. The craftsmanship was superb with nice light inlays on the dark exterior panels. The mechanism to this box was very interesting: the panels slide, but not in the typical way. It was only moderately challenging, but I really enjoyed the way the mechanism worked.

After trying these three great puzzle boxes, I briefly tried Impossible Lock by Rainer Popp. I think I discovered the first move, but quickly realized that this would probably take me all day (and more) to solve, so reluctantly abandoned it.

Brett brought out a small lock from PuzzleMaster called Broken Heart. I fiddled around with it for a bit and was amused to find that what I hypothesized was the first move on Impossible Lock was the solution to Broken Heart. Not too tricky, but it could stump you for a while if you didn't think of it. Definitely good value for the money.

When I walked in, I knew that I couldn't leave without taking a look at Miguel Berrocal's Portrait de Michele, so I decided to try that next. Berrocal is a Spanish sculptor born in 1933 who was known for his puzzle sculptures. Portraite de Michele is a sculpture in his limited edition 'mini' series.

I took it apart very carefully, laying the pieces down in the same orientation that I took them out. I also kept them in order so I wouldn't get confused. I was intrigued to find that it didn't come apart as easily as I expected. Once the base was unlocked, the pieces came apart in a specific order, sometimes requiring one or two sliding moves to release it.

The eye of Michele is actually revealed to be the "stone" of a ring that is hidden within the sculpture that is released about half way through the disassembly. You can see the ring in this picture that shows the pieces disassembled (from Rob's site).

Even keeping careful track of how I took it apart, it was a bit tricky putting it back together. A few times a piece wouldn't fit like I expected and I started to worry, but eventually I figured it out. I hate not leaving puzzles the way I started!

I would imagine that it would be quite challenging to assemble after scrambling the pieces. In addition to being an interesting puzzle, it is quite nicely made and a beautiful sculpture. It had a great weight to it and was beautifully polished.

There are a bunch more puzzles that I saw, so I'm going to have to continue this entry tomorrow since it is getting late. Stay tuned!

Update: Check out Part 2!


  1. Thankyou for posting such rich and intensely interesting content about puzzles. I am hoping that I could ask a favour? My Father had a great puzzle that I had mastered when he was alive, alas the puzzle has been lost. This puzzle consisted of a plank of timber that fitted across one's knees, it has six rings of steel that were interlinked and mounted on posts going through the plank. Through the rings was a long loop of wire. The object was to gradually side the loop back and forth while dropping and picking up the loops until ultimately taking the loop off.
    I wonder!! Can these be purchased, what are they called?! Many thanks indeed for any head scratching.
    Tony Lohrey
    Sunshine Coast Australia

  2. Thanks, Tony! I'm glad you are enjoying my blog. I am indeed quite familiar with the puzzle you describe, because it was actually one of the puzzles that inspired me as a child (check out my very first entry: here).

    This is called the Chinese Rings puzzle, Patience puzzle, or baguenaudier (time-waster in French). There is a bunch of good information on the web, such as on Richard Whiting's site.

    It sounds like the puzzle you describe is a bit larger than what I have seen, but the mechanism should be the same. If you search around the web, you'll probably be able to find one that you like. I like the ones that have a more solid base (some are just made of wire), but that is more of a matter of preference.

    Another thing you may want to note is the number of rings. Each additional ring increases the number of moves exponentially. I think the ones with more than six or seven rings are a bit tedious, but that's up to you!

    Hope that helped and let me know if you have any other questions!


Please don't post spoilers! Thanks for commenting!

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