Showing posts with label John and Jane Kostick. Show all posts
Showing posts with label John and Jane Kostick. Show all posts

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Kostick’s Oct-Tetraxis Assemblies

Jane Kostick entered another of her wonderful magnetic assemblies in this year’s Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition. I’d been trading emails with her in the weeks running up to IPP33 and she’d said that this year’s entry was definitely a bit harder as a puzzle than her previous entries, and having seen some pics, I knew that they looked smashing, so in the course of those emails I asked if there might be a set for sale ... and duly secured one of them.

Knowing that I’d bought one of the sets, I just had a bit of a play with them in the competition room at IPP33 but didn’t really get very far at all… not because I wasn’t able to, you understand, but because I wasn’t really trying! [Well that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!]

In fairness, I had a pretty good bash at it and got nowhere! 

After the end of the competition I picked up the spare copy from Nick Baxter and a couple of days later I got to spend some time playing with it.

There’s a solid cuboctahedron (picture a uniform polyhedron made up of square faces each of which has an equilateral triangle hanging off each side – 6 square faces and 8 triangular faces in total) and two sets of sticks. The object of the two challenges is to use a set of sticks to properly cover the cuboctahedron.

The simpler of the two challenges uses 12 sticks that are all roughly the same length. This set consists of 4 different coloured sets of sticks and there’s a fairly clear difference in the angles on some of the pieces … fiddling around with how the sticks snap together around the block you can work out more or less how they’re going to go together and once you have the beginnings of a little nest for the block, the rest goes together reasonably simply … and then when you’ve got a nice solid structure you might want to pay some attention to the colour symmetry and get each of the three and four-fold joints so that there aren’t any duplicate colours – and then notice the overall colour symmetry that always gives you a pair of like colours parallel to one another on each side – neat! (...unlike the construction in these pics!)

The second of the two challenges is supposed to be a little harder (and IT IS!) – it uses 24 sticks in two lengths, the shorter ones in Bloodwood and the longer ones in Tigerwood. (The eagle-eyed might spot that it’s not quite the same construction as the main set used in the Design Competition.) 

Fired up with my victory over the first challenge, I launch myself into the second and start building random structures around the block hoping that I’ll stumble across something that looks promising that I can develop into something useful…

I seem to spend quite a while playing before I realise that the structures I’m coming up with aren’t behaving as predictably as I think they should, and the one time that I think I’m getting close, I find that the last couple of sticks don’t sit flush – and I know that there is no way that Jane would have allowed a piece out into the wild that didn’t fit perfectly – I know that I’m doing something wrong.

So I go right back to basics and lay out the pieces in groups of identical pieces, except that I find that they aren’t quite, or rather, there are more types of pieces than I’d realised … and the number of types leads me to think of a particular sort of sub-structure … and when I find the right one, it hangs together properly – not like the sub-assemblies I’d been trying earlier that hadn’t wanted to hold their shape at all… from there it was a short hop, skip and a mental jump to work out how to wrap those sub-assemblies around the block and in-between one another to form a very elegant, and perfectly fitting assembly that totally covers the block. 

As usual the eventual assemblies are beautiful objects. The pieces are perfectly crafted to snap together solidly, and they provide a rather nice puzzling challenge... Thanks Jane!

Friday, 12 July 2013

Double Duals

Jane Kostick entered three designs in last year's Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition and I've already written about two of them over here. I hadn't bought a copy of the third, Double Duals, at the time, but recently I managed to remedy that. 

I'd been trawling through John and Jane's website just in case there was anything new when I stumbled across a couple of interesting new things (you can see a sneak peek of one of them below) so I shot off an email to Jane to ask about some of the new designs. Her reply was the usual mine of wonderful information about the designs and how they came about, but unfortunately she went on to describe how she was in the process of moving out of the building that had been home to her woodshop for quite some time, as the owner intended re-purposing and developing the building. The upside was that she and John were in the process of building a purpose-built woodshop (and star-factory?) in their backyard - complete with an awesome looking wooden cupola - the downside was that the woodshop was currently out of commission, so she couldn't make me anything new ... however she did happen to have a couple of interesting things lying around looking for a good home ... and that's how I managed to snag a copy of Double Duals. 

Double Duals is probably a bit more puzzle-y than some of her other designs and it comes with its own poem describing the goal:

Assemble a shape that resembles a jack
and one that has traits of a box.
Hide the ebony block inside of the jack,
and then put the jack in the box.

Separate the two shapes, and invert the box.
Spread outward the sticks of the jack.
Put both shapes together around the black block
so all of the parts tightly pack.

You get a set of 24 sticks and 15 blocks ... one of the blocks in a contrasting wood has no magnets and forms the centre of the eventual structure. One set of 6 blocks are used to form the corners of an octahedron whilst one half of the sticks and the second set of sticks will be combined with the other 8 blocks forming the corners of a cube... or rather, in terms of the instructions - form a Jack-shaped structure around the black block, and then a cube shaped structure around the Jack ... putting the Jack-in-the-box!

OK, first things first: when you start with a pile of bits and the poem, it's not exactly obvious how these things are going to go together and some experimentation is definitely called for. I found that starting with one of the blocks and a few sticks I could more or less work out how the ebony block might be cradled inside a Jack-shaped structure ... and then building on that you can add pieces until you start seeing gaps being left that happen to be just perfectly shaped and sized to accommodate the final few sticks, and you realise that the triangular sticks are all flush up against the ebony block on every side...

I still find building the cube-structure on its own isn't trivial - even after several goes at it - my brain wants to put the sticks on the edges of the cube and it simply won't work that way ... whereas building the cube on the outside of the Jack is a relative doddle as the Jack shows you where to put the blocks and then joining the blocks with the sticks is a relatively straight forward exercise. 

I took my copy along to MPP11 and noticed a few of folks fiddling around with the pieces but only a couple of them actually managed to assemble the full structure properly starting from scratch - so perhaps it is a bit more puzzle-y than some of Jane's other designs after all...

A sneak peak...

The thing that really caught my eye on Jane's website was a new design called Quintetra - take a look at the video and you'll see why I was so totally hooked on it. I loved the three layers of the construction that just all look so totally different, yet fit snugly inside one another... unfortunately, Jane only had a set of the outer pieces on hand and wasn't able to make up a set of the innards before her woodshop got temporarily packed up and placed in storage ... so I have the outer shell in the mean time and hopefully when the new woodshop is up and running she'll be able to make me a set of the inside layers ... and then I'll write about this one properly, but in the mean time, here are a couple of pics to pique your interest.  

Saturday, 2 February 2013

EPP 2012

Back at the end of December I found myself on a train heading into London with a couple of treasured puzzles in my rucksack – Gill and I were heading to Peter Hajek’s annual End-Of-The-Year Puzzle Party, or EPP. Peter’s been hosting these puzzle parties at his home for the past six years and attracts a mix of puzzlers and magicians all of whom take turns to present their best puzzle finds of the year to everyone else. 
Each year he also arranges some sort of entertainment and this year his friend Clive Panto had us somewhat flummoxed with his short magic show. Clive started out with a great effect that had coloured light bulbs slavishly following their colour-coded switches irrespective of where they were placed ... and a brilliant card trick that had his prediction impaled on a hunting knife embedded in Peter’s table – Clive had forgotten to bring his own! :-) 
Steve Nicholls gave us a talk on his newest toy – a Makerbot 3D printer that he’s been using to build all sorts of interesting puzzles with. He gave us a demonstration of the printer in action over the course of the afternoon and showed us how easy it is to design and send files to the printer, for it to magically produce puzzles.  He’d brought along a box full of things he’d printed recently including a bunch of his wonky burrs that I’d seen on his Facebook page and had been featured on Thingigverse. They’re fairly simple burrs, except they’ve had their main axes twisted or slanted a bit and as a result are rather disorientating. Steve was dishing out samples left, right and centre and I was very chuffed to be given one of the wonky ones! Cheers Steve!

Most of the afternoon was taken up with each person presenting their best three puzzle (or magic) finds of the past year. I think these events are great as they not only let me live vicariously through others’ puzzle acquisitions, but they also invariably give you an insight into what they’re like as puzzles and where they came from. 

My three best puzzle finds of 2012 were:
  • Jack Krijnen’s Level5 Burr Set – because of its incredible workmanship and attention to detail, not to mention years of puzzling!
  • Robert Yarger’s Stickman Checkmate Puzzlebox – because I’d been lusting after one of these puzzle / automatons for years and finally managed to get hold of one in 2012.
  • Jane Kostick’s 3-layer Tetraxis Array – because it’s a beautiful object and stacks of fun to play with!

After everyone had presented their finds of 2012, Peter and Katja treated us all to a wonderful spread for dinner, then there was a free-for-all while folks rooted through everyone else’s boxes of swaps and items for sale... Wil had brought several crates of goodies over from Holland and seemed to have at least two people poring over his wares pretty much all the time. I picked up a copy of Cast Harmony from Wil and a copy of Peter’s Z-Shift that I’d previously missed out on before rooting through Martin Watson’s crates of surplus puzzles and relieving him of a few odd and ends as well.

Peter takes nominations from puzzlers around the world via Nobnet and then combines all of the submissions into a booklet with photos and a short write-up on everyone’s three best finds of the year... and about a week after the EPP, the first draft of the latest booklet arrived and it made fascinating reading...

This year’s most coveted puzzle was Jack Krijnen’s Level 5 Burr Set ... with 5 people selecting it among their best puzzle finds of the year – what makes that SO incredible, is that Jack only made 8 sets in total! 

A number of great puzzles were nominated three times, including Iwahiro’s Square in Bag, Chinny’s Ze House of Mouse Ze Duong, Tajima’s Snake Box, Scot Elliot’s It’s Nuts and Wil Strijbos’ Dovetails.


Sign up to Nobnet if you want details of this year’s inevitable EPP and if you’d like to nominate your best finds for inclusion.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Thanks Wil!

When I saw Wil Strijbos at the Dutch Cube Day, he gave me a couple of rather nice goodies to add to my little puzzle collection...

The first was a wooden copy of a Four Axis Folding Star that David Bruce brought along to the 14th Annual Puzzle Collector’s Party (now IPP) in Seattle in 1994.  David had come across some of John Kostick’s bronze stars at a craft market in Portland in 1991 and then done some research to find John’s 1970 patent on the construction of “Symmetrical Non-Cartesian Multiple Axis Joining of Beams”. (U.S. Patent # 3546049 in case you’re interested.)

He presented his wooden version constructed of bamboo meat skewers with wooden beads on their tips along with the challenge to come up with a simple jig for manufacturing them...

The wooden star functions exactly like its bigger bronze brethren... and still looks great after almost 20 years ... thanks Wil – it looks good next to the rest of the family. 


The other little item he gave me was my first ever puzzle jug ... a Strijbos take on a puzzle jug, or should that be puzzle jugs? (or should I have left the reader to make that little joke themselves? We’ll never know!) 

Hand-blown in glass, Wil assures me they were originally available in both Adam and Eve models ... and I’m secretly pleased that I got an Eve...

There are strategically placed holes around the edge that will ensure that just drinking from it normally will produce an embarrassing dribble, and the handle is hollow enabling it to be used as a straw of sorts ... although it’s not quite that simple as there are a couple of holes in it and not pinching one of them closed will produce a neat little fountain of whatever-it-is that you’re trying to sip... 

Thanks Wil – it’s really cute, and it’ll always be the first puzzle jug(s) in my collection!