Saturday 11 June 2011

Wil’s not-so-heavy metals

Wil Strijbos is a Dutch puzzle designer and supplier of note. His puzzles have followed a number of notable themes in the past – I’m quite new to all this stuff, but even I’ve noticed a series of bolt puzzles, a series of cola bottle puzzles and a couple of scotch bottle puzzles, but the one that I like most of all, is that he’s produced an eclectic bunch of puzzles in aluminium. They look great, last forever and you can safely pass them out to all comers – regardless of how careful they are with your puzzles!

I first became aware of Wil’s Cylinder a couple of years ago – it was referred to in hushed tones by the cognoscenti but never appeared for sale anywhere that I was looking at the time – the original run of 100 being sold out quickly, and no-one was going to part with their copy. Flash forward a bit to the beginning of this year and Wil has had another run of Cylinders produced and I discover that Sloyd has some for sale… it doesn’t take long to arrive – and it’s a brilliant little puzzle. It not only looks enigmatic, but it moves just a bit in one direction, makes some interesting noises seems impervious to most attacks…there’s more about it over here

Six-piece burrs
Next up, one of Wil’s regular emails announced the availability of a couple of six-piece burrs in aluminium. They were advertised as a pair of 7-move and 10-move burrs, without mentioning the actual designs. I missed out on the first manufacturing run, but managed to secure a pair from the second run. Saying they’re solid is a pretty large understatement! The fit is simply tremendous and any fears you might have of a loose burr that you could shake apart are instantly banished when you pick these up. At the start, there is simply no wiggle or give on any of the pieces, except the one(s) that should move – and the movement is smooth and precise. 

Wil’s aluminium version of Peter Marineau’s Piston Burr is great – while technically a level 9.3 burr, it was designed by Peter in 1986, by hand, and at the time it was the highest level 6-piece burr with a unique solution known to man! 

Wil’s 7-move burr is a copy of Philippe Dubois’ Gaby Games –while technically a level 6.4 burr with a unique solution, Bill Cutler comments that most people would describe it as a 7-move burr. [See Oli's Blog for a longer review of Wil's aluminium burrs.]

Wil’s Cross
Wil telegraphed his recent decision to have a batch of his Cross Puzzles made in an email to all the collectors whose habit he regularly feeds. This was the very first puzzle Wil designed back in the 1970’s in honour of his first meeting with James Dalgety, he of the Puzzle Museum and formerly Pentangle. While it may look a lot like a similar puzzle usually produced in wood requiring a little centrifugal force, Wil’s email “helpfully” notes that this puzzle requires no spinning or knocking ... my copy arrived a couple of days after his original email... 

[Am I the only guy who wonders whether he should set up a subscription service with certain puzzle makers? “Just put me down for one of whatever you make and let me know what I owe you ...” - sort of thing?] 

On the outside there are clearly two interlocking aluminium blocks with a pair of rods, one through each piece that appear to be linked, somehow ... with not much giving a clue to how they interact and what you can do with them ... at first the rods don’t offer much movement, but a little fiddling and jiggling will get one of them moving, and then the other, and then you can start exploring the interplay between them and once you’ve got that sussed, you can remove the first rod – which then gives you a bit of a view on the mechanism inside – at this stage you might think that the major part of the battle is over – and you’d be quite wrong ... getting the other rod out is quite tricky and actually had me going for a lot longer than getting the first one out...
Wil’s Cross is a really brilliant puzzle – there are a couple of tricky bits where things sometimes work and sometimes don’t – and working out how to get past them is quite tricky. Wil being Wil, there are dead ends and red herrings along the way ... realising this was the first puzzle he ever designed, he was clearly going to go on to great things, and has ... Thanks for taking us back in time Wil.


  1. I love metal puzzles, wish I had gotten a Cross.

    It is cool that on your blog under "stuff I read" it shows the blogs and also the latest post from each, stored in order of the most recent change! That way I can check on blogs I haven't read.

    Suggested addition:

  2. Cheers for that, George - Done!

  3. Oh, that is a handy feature! I'd seen it before but figured the 'links' list was just as good, but it is nice how it pulls in the latest entry.