Thursday 31 March 2016

Snake Box

Kagen Sound (nee Schaefer) makes beautiful puzzle boxes… very beautiful puzzle boxes. They tend to inhabit that lovely intersection between puzzle-space and works of art, and they tend to be investment pieces, not impulse purchases – at least they are for this humble puzzle-scribbler…

So finding one for sale privately is a cause for celebration. 
Celebration and piggy-bank raiding – it had to be done!

The first time I saw one of these in the flesh was on a visit to James Dalgety’s several years ago… I spotted it in a cabinet and asked if I might have a go at it… and then spent a while happily manoeuvring the little tiles around the lid to open the box… satisfied that I’d done that, I admired the innards for a little while (equally beautiful!) and then proceeded to lock it up, returning the tiles to their original pattern…

As I was virtually done, James glanced up from across the table and nonchalantly asked if I’d found the second compartment… of course I hadn’t, so it was all the back again to get the box open once more in order to investigate the alleged second compartment… of course there was one, delightfully camouflaged by some rather wonderful wood-working skills…

Flash forward a few years, and if someone offers me a copy of Kagen’s Snake Box at a reasonable price I’m hardly going to turn it down… it arrived a couple of weeks ago – just in time for me to take it along to MPPXXi… where several folks seemed to enjoy playing with it.

A few days later I found the time to enjoy it myself, and it’s every bit as good as I remember it… sure, some sliding tiles are a bit sticky from time to time, but the general rule is that if things all look lined up and they won’t move the way you want them to, then there’s a darn good reason… keeping things neatly lined up definitely makes things behave better. Most of the tiles are joined in sets of two or three tiles with the odd singleton thrown in here and there for good measure…

Finding the first set of tiles to move isn’t trivial as the edges are obscured so you can’t easily find where the gap is to move the first tiles into… in its unsolved state, the tiles make a neat repeating snake-shaped pattern and your goal is to rearrange the tiles (not entirely trivial) into a checkerboard pattern, which once complete, will release the locking mechanism and allow the box to open, as if by magic!

The locking mechanism is rather cunning, with the combination of sets of tiles forcing you to complete the whole pattern before you can move the critical pieces that unlock the lid – very elegant!

…and that second compartment?

Yip – wonderfully simple, beautifully camouflaged and if there wasn’t a coin rattling around in there (I couldn’t help myself!) you’d easily overlook the fact that there was a second compartment!


  1. Beautiful looking puzzle box from the master.

  2. I've had that box for 10 years and never noticed a 2nd compartment. I think it's time for another look. I heard rumor of it...fiddled around, but never found it. Maybe a hint..

  3. Bingo. Found it! Ok, so it's only been 7 years as the inside is dated 2009 but I was great to discover the hidden compartment after all those years. Great puzzle box.

    1. Excellent - isn't it fun discovering something like that that you hadn't known about... :-) and well done!