Monday, 8 June 2020

Sixteen Move Puzzle Box

The name doesn’t really give much away (other than it’s probably going to take you at least sixteen moves to open this guy!) – it’s as though this beauty is trying to pretend to be a generic standard Japanese puzzle box – BUT just one look at a picture of it will immediately banish any chance of that and make it very clear that this is an exceptional piece of puzzling craftsmanship. 

Made by Kathleen Malcolmson back in 2003, the splashes of wood around this puzzle make it stand out in any crowd – and those splashes are solid bits of perfectly joined wood making up each panel – muku, not veneer! Run a finger along those joins and it feels just like a single piece of wood.

OK, so it looks gorgeous – what’s it like as a puzzle?

To be fair, it looks that gorgeous that even if it were a fairly pedestrian puzzle, I’d still love it… 


…but it isn’t…

This puzzle might well contain several nods to its heritage in the Japanese puzzle box tradition, but it will never be described as a simple sixteen-move Japanese puzzle box. This thing has puzzling teeth – you might think you know what’s going on one minute and then find yourself totally confounded the next… I think Kathleen is literally using your expectations of how a demure puzzle box should behave against you – letting you think you’ve got a handle on it only to figuratively smack you about the chops and demand even more respect. 

As you’d expect from someone who really knows her craft, the bits that should be disguised or hidden, are well hidden, and there’s only the slightest hint of where you’re heading along each step of the way. 

Very chuffed to have found one of these looking for a new home!


  1. Hello Allard,

    Congratulations on managing to get a copy of that one! It's one fromf my "early collecting days", but still one of the finer ones, woodworking-wise. The only surviving (active) artis from the Cleverwood Crafts days have to be Kathleen and Kagen. Some others have come and gone... Enjoy this huge gem!