Monday 14 January 2013

Wil's Cylinders

Time for my first double review and my first review of Wil Strijbos' own puzzles.

Firstly, I'd like to mention that Wil states that NO external tools or magnets are required, NO bashing, NO blowing and NO excessive force is needed to open any his puzzles. (and if you do try any of these techniques, take it from me, they don't work!!!)

Right, I'll start with a puzzle which is simply called the Aluminium Cylinder (or sometimes Wil's Cylinder) and is just that, a cylinder made out of aluminium!!

Aluminium Cylinder and Washer Cylinder
Obviously there is slightly more to the puzzle than that, but not much more!!! Firstly, as you can see, the cylinder is made of two parts, the lid and the base. Secondly, the two parts are numbered. In my case the lid is 03 and the base is 10 (my only guess its that the former is the batch number and the latter is the puzzle number, but I may be wrong). Thirdly, once you pick up the puzzle you can hear things rattling inside, but how many 'things'?? Lastly there is a small hole in the bottom of the base, which you may, or may not, be able to see these 'things', which turn out to be ball bearings (surprised?!), but you can't see enough to work out how many are in there.

Obviously the first thing you must try is twisting the lid, which works but doesn't seem to do much. Then you promptly notice the lid is spring loaded and can also be pressed , as there is a small gap between it and the base. Although again it doesn't do much.

So, by fiddling around, twisting, pressing and observing through the hole in the base, you begin to work out what is happening inside there. Except that's how it's supposed to go. I only noticed one small thing through the hole in the bottom and was messing around with it but I couldn't work out what exactly how it was useful. Then, PING, the lid flew off and it was open.

Some people say it's almost impossible to open this one without knowing exactly how it works, but I did. I noticed one helpful thing, but it wasn't enough (for me) to work out how the mechanism worked, though I knew it must have been relevant!!!

Height Comparison
Anywho, after studying the mechanism and putting it back together I eventually worked out how it works. It's an ingenious mechanism and beautifully simple, but not one of my favourites. This is only because I haven't worked out how to open the puzzle flawlessly every time. (So if anyone has an insight, send me an email or PM!!)

Onto round two!!!

Wil's second iteration of the cylinder is the Washer Cylinder. Straight off the bat you can see the similarities between the two; they are both cylinders, they both have lids and they both have holes in the bottom. But that's where the similarities end. The puzzle is numbered, on the lid, but not on the base. The Washer Cylinder is slightly taller, by about 4mm, and the hole in the bottom is larger as well, however, it doesn't allow you to see more of the internals. What it does let you see, and the only thing, is the washer (hence the name!!) that you must remove to solve the puzzle. In some earlier versions the washer was on a small post, but that was deemed irrelevant and removed in later versions.

Holes in the bottom
Once again you first try twisting the lid. Although it does spin quite freely (even more so than the Aluminium Cylinder), as before, it doesn't seem to do anything. The lid isn't spring loaded on this one either so there is relatively no feedback from the puzzle whatsoever. The only feedback, as such, is the familiar sound of ball bearings rattling inside, but again, how many?? Just as before, the fiddling and twisting begins.

So far, it seems the only thing this puzzle will do is twist. Therefore, I found myself fiddling in different orientations (... with the puzzle, fiddling with the puzzle!!!), but none got me anywhere.

It's about now, regrettably, where the bad news steps in. A lot of people have had problems with this puzzle locking up, although not everyone. This is because the tolerances are so fine in the mechanism of this puzzle. Therefore any single "foreign object", most likely a rogue burr from inside, can easily jam the mechanism and either, render the puzzle unsolvable, or, in my case, lock the mechanism allowing the puzzle to be opened in an improper fashion.

Yup, I had got my Washer Cylinder open improperly, so I thought I'd completely disassemble the mechanism, free it up and clean it so I could put it back together and solve it properly. However, the mechanism was completely locked up so I couldn't even disassemble it. So a quick email to Wil, explaining the situation, and a replacement was kindly sent out to me. Opened the package and had a play, all was well. Until, once again, the mechanism locked and the puzzle opened in the improper fashion. So instead of emailing Wil again, I asked about on the friendly Revomaze forum, in case anyone had the same problem and how they fixed it. I got a PM back from Rich, who had repaired his own and another members Washer Cylinders, which both had the same problem as mine. He explained his "trick" for freeing up the mechanism, and it worked, on both puzzles!!!

After I got them both completely disassembled, I got my dad to clean all the burrs off with a file and polish all the pieces. I then reassembled them both and now they both work a treat.

Washer Cylinder completed with washer removed
I have to say, the Washer Cylinder is a huge step up from the Aluminium Cylinder, however the only thing that lets it down is the high tolerances inside. The mechanism is truly fantastic and, because of the minimal feedback given from this puzzle, I've heard of these being unopened for months on end.

It really is a brilliant mechanism, when it's been cleaned and is working properly. Definitely a worthy successor to the Aluminium Cylinder, and one of my favourite puzzles in my collection ..... so far!!

Once again, Wil doesn't have a website, so if you like the look of any of Wil's puzzles, send me an email (found on my blogger profile) and I'll give you his email and you can request to be added to his newsletter that he rolls out every once in a while.

That's all for now!!!


  1. Thankfully I did not experience any problems with my Washer Cylinder. Both are really great puzzles and excellent quality, but of all of Wil's puzzles, personally I still prefer the sequential discovery First Box and Lotus as well as the Cross.

    1. You were one of the lucky ones then!! Yeah I love the First Box too and I haven't opened my Lotus yet. The Cross is also good but isn't one of my favourites, though I'm not sure entirely why.

      Do you think this review is a bit too long?? Looking at it I'm tempted to split it into two reviews ....

      Thanks for reading though!! :D


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