Friday, 2 August 2013

Stickman #3 Mechanical Puzzlebox – aka 106-move Box

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.

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