Monday 11 February 2013

Midlands Puzzle Party 9 (MPP9) 09/02/13

I've been on the Revomaze Forum since March 2011. Since then I slowly got more and more interested in puzzles and last year (2012) I properly started collecting puzzles. I also kept reading about this Midlands Puzzle Party and looking at all the pictures people have posted on the forum and their own blogs. 

Unfortunately for me, because I work nights, it has been difficult for me to get the time off to go, as it's always held on Saturdays. However, this time I managed to shift a few holidays around and actually get there and I'm glad I did!!!

First I must apologise for lack of pictures. I was too busy playing with all the wonderful puzzles to stop and take pictures and before I knew it people began leaving and then it was time for me also to trek back home!!

The party was held at The Gap Community Centre in Warwick, which is about a two hour drive for me. But the drive was good, no real problems there, apart from the little snow storm which I had already expected. I actually arrived earlier than I expected to (without breaking speed limits, of course!!) but luckily Nigel, the event organiser, Chris and Bruce were already there setting up. After the brief introductions, we all carried on unpacking as several more turned up.

One of these was a quite a strange character, who later turned out to be "The B*****d" of the group, Allard!!! I had already sort of gathered that from the Revomaze forum but I quickly experienced it first hand when he questioned why I didn't have a puzzle in my hand, promptly handing me a piece from his prized Stickman collection. By the way, he's the one that "pays" people to dismantle puzzles that they know they won't be able to put back together themselves and then offers no hints to help them reassemble them!! Fortunately, the Stickman he gave me was the easy one, the Chopstick Box, which I must say is brilliantly simple and very elegant. His other Stickmans were beautiful and I daren't touch them knowing how much they cost!!

Another one of Allard's that I very much enjoyed was Jane Kostick's 3-Layer Tetraxis Array. Such a beautiful piece and great to take apart. I was a bit hesitant to start with because I thought if I touched it the whole lot would fall apart and I'd spend the rest of the day trying to get it back together. Luckily though, it's held together with magnets which makes it great to take apart and a little easier to get together. It's made of three layers, so therefore all three layers can be assembled on their own. So I took the lot apart, except from the last innermost layer and attempted to make each one on it's own. However the last outermost layer proved too fiddly for me even though I'd worked out how it went together, so I gave up and put the whole lot back together. It's a great piece, very well made and very beautiful to look at. It almost looks 2D from every angle!! I would love to own one at some point, though as they're made on commission, I'll have to check the prices first!!!

Ali's table, missing out the Popplocks!! :(
After more people arrived and set up the fractions of their collections, I gradually made my way round meeting people, putting names to faces (and forum usernames!!) and helping myself to their puzzles for a play.

Ali arrived with his collection of Popplocks as well as some Karakuri Boxes and KCubes. Ali's New Secret Box III caught my eye and was great to open. I have been swooning over the KCubes for a while and seeing them in person was great, though I wasn't able to open the K-419, because it takes 419 moves!! One of Ali's puzzles that I was specifically interested in seeing was his Danlock. I've heard lots of people praise the Danlock and for a while it didn't seem to interest me for some reason. So Ali handed me his Danlock at some point and the last step definitely had me puzzled for quite a while, until Kevin gave me a little hint. Therefore, I must admit, it  is a very good puzzle and although I may end up getting one, I don't think I'll rush around trying to hunt one down specifically.

Steve's table
Steve also brought along a couple of his KCubes, one of which was the MMMDXLVI which takes 3,546 moves to open, so once again it was just great to see one even though I had no hope of opening there and then. He also brought along some of his puzzles that he had made in his 3D Printer. Two of which that have just been made and are just recently the hardest 18 piece burrs ever made. I have the (now) fourth hardest burr called the Tiros, which takes 150 moves to remove the first piece. The only one that was harder was the Burrly Sane for Extreme Puzzlers at 152 moves. Now Steve has made two beating these, one at 156 moves and the other at 164 moves!!!! (correct me if I'm wrong). Another one that rightly caught my eye was the Morphing Cube made by GarE Maxton. A very clever interlocking solid cube made out of solid brass, aluminium and steel so as you can guess it is very weighty!!! Oh and the price tag matches the weight!!!

Oli's table
Oli brought along his collection of Karakuri Cubes and Small Boxes as well as a some other very interesting pieces. One of which was Eric Fuller's Topless Box, which has a very clever solution. As does the Magic Billet Box. He also brought along his copy of Shiro Tajima's Uroboros Box made as one of 2012 Karakuri Christmas Presents. Very clever box with an even better design, which celebrates the Chinese Year of the Snake this year. Another one of Oli's that caught my eye was his Sideways Burr by Ray Stanton. Although it was fairly simple to put together, it is a very beautiful piece in its striking matt blue finish.

Kevin's table
Kevin kindly brought a selection of his twisty puzzles that he'd recently wrote about. The shapeshifter cuboids (3x4x5 and 4x4x5) definitely intrigued me and it was great to have a play with them, though I was scared to scramble them up completely in case I couldn't get them back. I shall be adding those to my list!! His interlocking cube puzzles from Bernhard Schweitzer looked great too, lots of beautiful woods, but seemed to be struggling with the temperature of the room.

Chris had brought along some of his Karakuri boxes and one really stood out. It's called Casseopia after the constellation which is inlaid on its lid. As well as the constellation, the Pole Star has also been inlaid, which may give you an idea on how you should go about opening this Japanese Box. It only has two sliding panels, including the lid, so the process is quite simple, but the mechanism is not so much. It is ridiculously ingenious and mind-boggling how its designer (Akio Kamei) managed think up such a mechanism, let alone how delicate it must be and how it managed to get to Chris still in working order!!!

Bruce brought along some of his hedgehog puzzles, which are basically different items stuck in cages, that ultimately must be removed from their respective cages. Most of these were made of wood though some were aluminium, all with a variety of different items and shapes inside, from minature Japanese puzzle boxes to animals and dinosaurs. The first ever design of these was called the Hedgehog In A Cage (hence the collective!!) which was simply a spiked ball (the hedgehog) inside a cage.

Joe's Braided Bill
Joe brought along a nice collection of Joe Devost's packing puzzles which were great to fiddle with and ultimately fail miserably at!! Another packing puzzle he brought along specifically caught my eye, designed initially in 1933 by none other than the son of the famous inventor Thomas Edison, Theodore Edison. It's called the Calibron 12 and I've had my eye on it for quite a while. It's made of 12 pieces of beautiful hardwood which have to be arranged to fit in the square tray. Did I mention there is only one solution to this!!! I had no chance in solving it there and then, so I just admired it and moved on. Plus I plan on buying one at some point too, so I wouldn't want to spoil it!!

Joe also kindly brought along some impossible cards sent to him by a fellow blogger by the name of Ralf. They were brilliant to look at and totally mind-boggling. Joe also made several Braided Dollar Bills and was handing them out to people who wanted one. I shall have a go at making the Braided Bill at some point and if I'm successful I might try some of the impossible cards as well. Provided I can find a deck of cards I'm not too fond of!!!

Chris and Nigel's table with Ali and Steve's at the back
Nigel, who arranged the event, had a few selections of puzzles on the go during the day, as he kept popping home and getting more!! I managed to catch a glimpse of his Wil Strijbos collection, most of which I have already, except an accidental Mistake Burr Wil had made out of Aluminium. Wil produces two Aluminium Burrs, based on two different designs, a 7 move and a 10 move. However, when he was producing one of these he accidentally got one of the pieces wrong, without knowing at the time. Though the great thing was the burr still went together and still works!! Also included in Nigel's Wil Collection were some of Wil's Impossible Bottles, which are bottles with objects inside and wrapped around some acrylic tubes. Unfortunately I didn't get to have a play with them this time, but hopefully I'll have chance next time, unless I buy some form Wil in the mean time!!

Later on in the afternoon he also whipped out his box of puzzles from Brian Young, aka. Mr Puzzle. A lot of these I'd just ordered and will be arriving any time so I was reluctant to have a proper look, but I did catch a glimpse of The Opening Bat, a puzzle I'd narrowly missed out on at auction a coupel of weeks ago. Hopefully I'll get to have a play with that next time.

The Cubis, with the King in the middle
Nigel also brought along a Japanese puzzle box that again I've been swooning over for a long time, the King Cubi. It's the highest move Karakuri Cube  made (that I know of) which takes 1,536 moves to open. It was great to see one in person, even though I wasn't allowed to touch it, as it too was struggling with the temperature.

Also knocking around were some of the King Cubi's younger siblings, the Super Cubi. Taking 324 moves to open, it's the easier and more widely available high move Japanese puzzle box. I aim to own one at some point, and hopefully a King Cubi (but that's highly unlikely!!), but they are both quite expensive. The King Cubi costs a little over £1000 and the Super Cubi, about £500, so I've got some saving to do!!

The Karakuri Boxes I bought: New Secret Box I,
Small Box #7 and Cube #2
Satomi was also invited (with her husband) as she is able to get all the currently available Karakuri Boxes at quite reasonable prices. So I'll definitely be putting an order in with her once I have some money spare!! She also brought along some boxes to sell, so obviously I couldn't come away empty handed. So I started off my Karakuri Collection with three boxes, the Small Box #7, Cube #2 and New Secret Box I (after playing with Ali's New Secret Box III).

Just a note, I blame Oli (FYI, all blame should be directed his way!!) for starting my Karakuri Collection, as it was based on his recommendations!! I always knew I'd be getting into Karakuri Boxes though, because they are brilliant and beautifully well made, but it's just nice to blame someone else!!!

Eventually, there were about 19 of us there, with people coming and going at different times. I've been told it was the largest yet.

It was a brilliant day and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was great to see everyone I've spoken to on the Revomaze Forum and put names to faces. I'll definitely arrange to get to the next one and hopefully by that time I'll have some nice puzzles to share with everyone too. I'll also aim to take more pictures than I did this time!!!

In the mean time, I had best start saving my pennies as I now have quite a large shopping list ...... I blame Oli!!

That's all for now!!!

UPDATE: I had a go at making my own Braided Bill and here it is ....... though I must confess, my mother worked it out before me, but I wasn't far off myself!!!!

My attempt at a Braided Bill
RE-UPDATE: Joe kindly(!) pointed out that my attempt at the Braided Bill above wasn't quite finished. So I have rectified the mistake and here is the finished piece. See if you can spot the error ;)

My fixed attempt at a Braided Bill


  1. Hey Jamie! Thanks for coming along, it was great to meet you ... Sounds like you MAY have enjoyed yourself, so hope you'll be back... :-). allard. (AKA the B.....d)

    1. I'll definitely be back :D (provided work allow me!!) Yeah it was great to meet you too, and everyone!!

  2. Not bad - but you haven't fully braided the middle strip :-)

    1. Damn, right you are. Just needed to invert the creases and flip the middle strip. Well spotted :D

    2. Excellent. That's it :-)

  3. Nicely done with the braided bill ... that last 'braid' is a tricky one.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.