November 18, 2009

Visit to Brett's House (Part 2)

Check out Part 1 if you're just joining us.

Among the puzzles that Rob Stegmann brought over to Brett's was his collection of trick bolts, which Rob says are one of his favorite groups of puzzles. Rob has found a nice wooden book box that he uses to house part of his collection: he cut foam to fit the interior and keep the bolts from clanging around.

I had seen these on his website before and always thought that they would be interesting. The concept seems so simple, but he has over twenty five of them, most of which have different mechanisms!  I was quite eager to see how they worked, so I decided to tackle a few of these next.

As you can see from the photo, there were a ton of them, so Rob was kind enough to suggest a few of his favorites that weren't going to stump me for the rest of the day. I started off with One-L-Nut by Rocky Chiaro. He hand-machines each of these out of solid brass, which I love. As far as I'm concerned, there are few things more badass than machining puzzles out of metal. I would love to learn how to do this. Here is Rob's complete collection of Rocky's Trick Bolts:

One-L-Nut wasn't too difficult, but it was a nice little puzzle that was very well made (far left in above photo). The goal is to remove the nut from the bolt, but when you try to turn it it doesn't come off. Next I tried Dub-L-Nut (2nd from the left), which was quite a bit trickier. You can see it disassembled on the left, but I don't think it'll do you much good! I am quite amazed at the precision with which Rocky produces these puzzles. Very nice work!

I tried One-Wa-Sure next (third from the left), which was also quite cool. This one was about the same difficulty as One-L-Nut. I was starting to get the hang of these, so I figured it out pretty quickly. I would have loved to work my way through his whole collection, but many other puzzles awaited, so I decided to move on.

The next puzzle that I attempted was "Irmo" Box designed and made by Eric Fuller. It was one of the First Prize winners in the 2008 International Puzzle Party Design Competition, so I had seen this box many times before online and always wanted to give it a try. Jerry Slocum confirmed that this mechanism is completely unique, so I was very curious to see how it worked.

First off, Irmo Box is beautifully crafted. The wood has a great depth and color to it, and it is nicely accented by the light inlays on the edges. On the bottom, there is an inscription that would probably have helped me out a bit if I could figure out what it said. The font was a bit hard to read and with so many other puzzles to try, I didn't take the time to decipher it.

I futilely tried all the usual things that one would try when working on a puzzle box, but I wasn't optimistic because the mechanism is supposed to be different than anything else I've seen. I did discover a few moves, but was unable to make any progress. Rob kindly offered to show me how it worked, but I declined. Hopefully one day I will have the chance to solve this one for real!

Another puzzle that I knew I had to try was Kagen Schaefer's Maze Burr. This puzzle won the both the Puzzler's Award and the Grand Prize in the 2006 IPP Design Competition. It was quite exciting that I got the opportunity to give it a try! This is another puzzle that I have drooled over for quite a while.

The cool thing about this box is that the movement of each face of the cube is controlled by the 'runes' carved on the plates on the outside. After taking the box apart, you can rearrange the plates in a ton of different ways to make a new puzzle with a different solution.

Another very cool thing about this puzzle is that the black frame completely disassembles, so it is both a burr and a box in some sense. Definitely check out Kagen's site for more info and pictures of this puzzle. Very cool!

Ok, enough raving, on to my experience with the puzzle. I had a great time trying to figure this one out. Rob said that it was currently configured in its default configuration. I shifted the panels around and started to figure out how the different pieces interacted. Before seeing it, I didn't really understand the mechanics of how the panels slid, so it was great being able to try it firsthand.

I think it took me about 15 or 20 minutes, but I was able to remove one of the rune panels and open the box, which was quite satisfying. It is very well made and definitely a joy to work on. My only gripe is that the fit was a bit loose: this made it easy to accidentally make a move (or undo a move you just made), because the panels could slide under their own weight. Overall, though, this is an awesome puzzle that I would buy in a minute if it was ever on sale for a reasonable price (fat chance).

I think it was about at this time that Brett was kind enough to whip up some lunch for us, which was great. I was barely able to tear myself away from the puzzles, but I figured I could use the brain fuel!

Continued tomorrow!

Update: Check out Part 3!


  1. Great post, I wish I was close enough to meet all these guys and puzzles =)

  2. Thanks Jonas! Wish you were around too! Let me know if you're ever in the area.


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