Friday, 2 August 2013
Stickman #3 is the last in my latest bunch of new acquisitions. I'd come across one in Wil Strijbos' collection a couple of years back and Louis and I had fiddled around with it a bit - I got nowhere... so when it arrived I was pretty keen to have a bash at it.
I started exercising the various gears and levers and sliders and gizmos while feeling for any give on the part that I was expecting to be a drawer of some description - hoping it would give some sort of clue when it was near to moving ... but it gave absolutely no feedback ... so I played some ... quite a bit more ... until, certain that I was doing what I should be doing and getting no feedback, I took out the solution booklet and worked my way through the first part of the solution ... and where it said slide the drawer - NADA!
At this stage I was pretty confident that things should be moving, and weren't, so I got out the screwdrivers and removed all the gears and gizmo's from the top of the box (this is probably the only Stickman design you can remove almost all of the locking mechanism using a screwdriver! - Lucky me!), made sure there was nothing left that could be stopping the drawer from moving and then squeezed the drawer until it eventual let go and came sliding out ... with a movement that felt almost like a bond of some form of finishing product that had stuck to itself...
Having dislodge the drawer took off some of the sticky bits with some high grit paper, testing the fit every now and then until I was more or less happy that it should slide pretty freely now. Then I got out the Renaissance Wax and gave the drawer a light coating to lubricate things a bit before reassembling the all the gears and gizmo's once more ... making sure that everything was in a known possible position so that I wouldn't have the take it all apart again. Once the screws were all tightened I had another go at trying to open it ... and this time things went like clockwork!
Right, so you have a main driver dial over in the top left hand corner that will turn almost 360 degrees ... and at the extremes it moves a slider up and down. While the main driver dial is turning, it drives a gear train that in turn drives one of a pair of floating gears which in turn drive the right-most gear, sending a pair of sliders in opposite directions ... and those sliders can each get blocks by another pair of linked sliders running perpendicular to them. (Just look at the picture!) Oh, and that floating pair of gears - there's a way to immobilise them... sometimes that's useful!
Work out how that all works together, or doesn't and you can use that to find a series of moves to open three interior compartments ... and depending on how you approach this, you might find it rather difficult to realise where the final compartment is, and what you need to do to get into it ... and for the record, this box's nickname of 106-move box assumes that you got it all right all the way through... so I'd expect most puzzlers using considerably more moves to find all three compartments.
...and closing it up is not just the reverse of opening it - that'd just be way too simple!
It's a clever design that layers a couple of puzzle mechanisms on top of one another in a wooden mechanical kinetic sculpture.
It may have taken a little TLC to get the 8-year-old working smoothly again after being carefully protected from both the elements (and potentially dangerous puzzlers) by its previous owner, but it's working beautifully now and I intend to call upon my puzzling mates to help me keep it well exercised in the future - just like all Stickmen should.
Saturday, 27 July 2013
Looking at the usual pictures of this box on the web gives the impression of something a lot larger than it is in real life – I’d always pictured something akin to my mom’s old sewing box, so the first time I saw one at James Dalgety’s marvellous emporium I was really surprised to see how small it was – it’s dinky!
Back in 2006 these puzzles were originally sold for just over $100 when they were described as fairly trivial puzzles by their maker, albeit puzzles that begged to be picked up and played with. Nowadays they regularly change hands for many times their original price on the specialist puzzle auction sites – but finding one that’s available remains a huge challenge.
You’re told that there are two compartments to be discovered and you’ll discover a few panels that might slide if they weren’t connected through a series of interlinked arms that are in turn tied to sliding locks on the sides… and depending on how you start moving the panels, you either get a tiny bit of movement or immediately block every other potential move ... or that's what it can feel like!
A bit of experimentation and you can find a pathway through the various sliding panels that will enable you to move forward until the first compartment slides open... and couple more moves and the second opens up, with the inside of the top panel revealing Rob's customary Stickman signature... good enough to sign cheques with!
Easily the dinkiest Stickman in my collection - and definitely one of the cutest.
Tuesday, 23 July 2013
A.K.A. the Clutch Tile Puzzlebox, this is another pretty unique Stickman puzzle – one part sliding tile puzzle , with a twist, two parts secret opening puzzle box and a bonus Lee Krasnow burr thrown in for good measure… it’s one heck of a puzzle.
Stickman Puzzlebox #4 was first offered for sale back in 2004 as a collaborative effort between Rob and Eric Fuller (and Lee Krasnow if you include the mini-burr hidden inside). Each of the four long sides of the box has a channel running the length of the side with a number of sliding tiles trapped in the channel. Those channels are interrupted in the centre by a rotating square collar – free to rotate in either direction … for as long as you like …hmmmm, therapeutic …
Examining the collar a bit more carefully, you’ll spot a pair of holes on opposite sides that should just accommodate a tile in each and provide a mechanism for moving tiles between channels – as soon as you work out how to get the tiles in there in the first place.
Once you’ve done that, and spotted the clues to which tile you might want to get where, it’s all down to working out a strategy for how you can make spaces where you need them and have the right tiles “available” to be moved into their eventual resting places… which isn’t all that tough, except that our friendly puzzle designer has included a few double-sized tiles which severely restrict the options open to you on some channels. Think a few moves ahead and you can work around them as well, though…
…and once you’ve got everything to where you think they need to be, there’s one last little killer move to get the drawer to open… one that evaded me for quite some time! Once you’ve got the drawer open, there’s a latched cover over the top of each drawer to stop anything in the drawers getting in the way of the insides – neat!
One of the drawers has a cute little surprise in the form of a Lee Krasnow miniature laser-cut burr – mine’s a little 6-piece offset board burr – a nice little reward for having solved the puzzle.
What else can I say – it’s a piece of Stickman history and with nine years on the clock it still looks absolutely perfect and everything works precisely as intended, but then it’s a Stickman- would you expect anything less?
Tuesday, 16 July 2013
The first time I saw a Stickman # 5 Puzzlebox in the flesh was at James Dalgety's puzzle heaven. I'd read a bit about it on the Cubic Dissection Gallery pages and it sounded pretty amazing ... seeing one for real was something else entirely - it actually looks like it's from another planet - so it's not surprising that it's been nicknamed the Borg Box and that's the name that's stuck!
Originally christened the Takeapart Puzzlebox, I'm sure that Rob's love of science fiction means that he doesn't mind (possibly even enjoys!) the name that appreciative puzzlers have bestowed on it.
A little while back Wil introduced me to a fellow collector who had a few Stickman boxes that he might just be willing to part with - he'd managed to collect some of Rob's earlier puzzles but hadn't managed to get hold of some of the later ones and found himself reluctantly deciding that it might make sense to specialise in a smaller number of puzzle box craftsmen going forward. So it was that we found ourselves swapping a couple of emails and comparing which Stickmen we each had and which ones he might be prepared to sell - a day or two later I'd prioritised the ones I was keen to get hold of and we'd agreed on some prices and thus it came to pass that I was able to purchase four rather collectable Stickman puzzleboxes.
...and I'm sure it won't surprise you to find that the Borg Box was right at the very top of that list - that was the one that I was most keen to grab a copy of, by a country mile!
A couple more days later and I'd managed to transfer some funds across The Channel and a large wonderfully packaged set of puzzles had arrived in Barnt Green. I've been like a kid in a candy store ever since...
The Borg Box functions like you'd expect a puzzle box to work - there are locks and sliders that interact and at some point some side panels will be released to move, a bit... move them all a bit more, sometimes in the other direction, and some more panels will move until after about 30-odd moves the top slides open.
Up until now you could be forgiven for thinking that Rob's just been a bit eccentric in his decoration of the outside of the panels by using oddly shaped pieces of wood to disguise the sliders and the locks and latches ... but on the inside, that same "decoration" appears in mirrored form - which is a bit extreme for decorating ... and then it dawns on you that each panel is made up of a raft of interconnected and interlocking pieces - including the locking mechanisms themselves ... and from there if you perform a couple more moves, and remove a few key locking pieces, you can not only take the box apart into its constituent panels, but each of those panels then breaks down into a set of interlocking pieces... the entire box is constructed of pieces that hold together due to their shape alone - no glue (or nails or screws!) has been used to build these boxes ... that is bonkers!
Thoroughly AWESOME, but totally BONKERS!
The Borg Box consists of 78 pieces, each of which has been cut from a single lump of wood (no gluing remember!) - that means that although the final box 'only' weighs about 4 lbs, each one started out life as a pile of wood weighing 15 lbs ... and took an average of 38 hours to build...
One last little story about these boxes - Rob reckoned that they were that hard to reassemble properly once they'd been fully disassembled that he imposed a
charge of $50 on any puzzler who shipped a Borg Box back to Stickman-central in
bits for reassembly - having seen just one panel in bits (Rich, you're a
maniac!) I'd imagine that paying $50 to get one back together again might be a
mighty reasonable offer!
This box is definitely on my list of all-time favourites already.
[Thanks to those who had a hand in getting it to me... I'll be in your debt for quite some time]
Monday, 8 July 2013
When you get the email from Robert Yarger offering you a new puzzlebox there really isn't an awful lot of thought process required in determining a suitable response - just send him the money!
Almost exactly a year after offering his marvellous Milestone Puzzlebook, Rob offered his Stickman #26 in three variants - I chose variegated cedar because I like interesting-looking woods and that one really looked interesting ... if anything, it looks even better in the flesh.
Having made the trip across the pond, #26 went via Customs who sent me their usual ransom note. Gill spotted it in the mail and managed to pay the ransom in time for it to be delivered the next morning ... just in time for the weekend ... isn't she great?!
The top of the box has a little train of (star-shaped) gears that snake half way across the box ... one of them stands proud, making it easy to twiddle them a bit and watch the gears run backwards and forwards - it's the obvious thing to do and you know you're going to play with them at some point...
Two of the sides have a series of overlapping circles (or half-moons - see where the name comes from now?) on them and they turn out to be attached to one another - the respective circles, that it is. Some of them can be pushed in a bit - popping their opposite numbers out a bit on the other side ... it's definitely worth fiddling around with those gears a bit and every now and then you'll spot some movement on the big circles while you're playing with the gears ... leading you to believe there's some form of mechanical linkage between those two sets of thingamies... and you may start developing a couple of theories about that linkage, but as for exactly how they're linked, that's a bit harder as there seem to be quite a few interdependencies on the go in there... and then one of the gears engages and disengages itself!
After a fair amount of fiddling around I decided to head in a particular direction and began making good progress - only to discover that I'd chosen exactly the wrong direction and had to head back the other way ... discovering something really unexpected along the way... I hadn't really given much thought to how I was expecting the box to open, but it certainly caught me unawares... it opens in a rather unexpected manner...
Having opened and closed it a few times now, I'm still not totally clear in my head exactly how all the gubbins inside are physically linked, but I can usually get it to do more or less what I want ... there is however a second challenge from the Stick-meister which still evades me: open the box without twiddling the gears at all... that one has me beat for the time being... but I haven't given up yet.
I've really enjoyed discovering how things behave and interact and coming up with all sorts of theories and mental pictures of what's happening inside there... and I'm probably totally wrong, but I'm enjoying myself! Hopefully the MPP-gang will enjoy it as much as I have at our next get-together.
Great new puzzle, Rob! Well-worthy of the Stickman moniker!