Okto Cube – Yavuz Demirhan

Today, we have another beauty from Eric over at Cubicdissection.com. This one is called Okto Cube and was designed by Yavuz Demirhan. This particular puzzle immediately caught my eye when it was listed, and I was very excited to work on it. I love the looks of it and it was equally fun to manipulate and discover it’s secrets.

This is a six piece board burr encased in an eight piece cube. The cube pieces are made out of solid wood which gives this puzzle an overall weight that is pleasing and the boards are well made and strong.

Solving this puzzle took a while. I brought it with me on Thanksgiving vacation, hoping that I would have some quiet evenings to work on it. Well, I didn’t have many quiet evenings, but I did get to work on it extensively, which was great.

I had played with this puzzle a handful of times before I made any real progress. I could move a few of the burr pieces, but always hit the same dead end. Eventually, I discovered that it wasn’t a dead end after all. Once in the “dead end” position, I found that the signed burr piece could move freely. I had missed this move because its quite easy for the pieces to bind up a little. I often had to pull on board pieces to make sure they were fully extended before manipulating the next piece. It seems to loosen up after a bit of use, but is something to watch out for.

Once, the signed burr piece moved, I was then able to remove 2 of the cube pieces, which was a very cool (and scary) moment. I was expecting the puzzle to fall apart at this point, but that wasn’t the case at all, in fact, I had a long way to go.

The Signed board makes an appearance and one cube is removed.

Removing the 2 cube pieces revealed more of the interior and allowed me to see just how complex this puzzle is. There sure are lots of moving parts! I continued to manipulate the puzzle and was able to remove the first board piece. Soon after, I found that 2 more cubes were ready to fall off. Awesome! This thing is really fun.

4 cubes and a board removed. This puzzle is fun!

I continued to manipulate the parts feeling certain that I was close to the end. But no.. the puzzle still held secrets for me to unravel. I persevered and after a bit more manipulation and I removed 2 more cubes! I was now down to the final 2 cubes!

This is where things got really interesting for me. I was working on the puzzle in front of the tv, sitting with family, and I just didn’t have the focus I needed. I began to worry that I wouldn’t be able to get it back together again! I was hoping that the final 2 cubes would come off easily, but that wasn’t the case. I was having to do more movements than I could keep track of and I made the decision to stop and reassemble. Bah! I always seem to do this. Luckily, I was able to get the puzzle back together, but I was a bit ashamed that I didn’t finish it.

I ended my vacation and flew home defeated. I had come so close to the solution, but didn’t quite get there. 

Well, last night, I sat down, determined to redeem myself and finally solve this puzzle. I progressed through all the stages and once again found myself with the final 2 cube pieces attached to 4 burrs. I slowed myself down and analyzed the situation. There were a surprising amount of available moves and positions that I could find and eventually, I tried a combination of positions not previously attempted and voila! The 2 remaining cubes slid right off! Disassembling the final 4 burr pieces was not trivial either, but I got it done.

Okto Cube Disassembled

Whew! That was an awesome puzzle! 

But.. it wasn’t over yet. I still had to assemble the puzzle. Interestingly, I didn’t have much trouble on the assembly. I think that my aborted attempt during thanksgiving vacation had given me a better understanding of the moves required, and so assembly felt rather easy. I think the most difficult part was getting it started. For some reason, I seem to have trouble assembling the initial 4 burr pieces. But once that is complete and I had slid on the first two cubes, it was all downhill from there. 

I’ve since solved this puzzle a couple of times. I had to take some pictures and also wanted to better understand the mechanics behind it all. It is truly a remarkable puzzle and it is very repeatable once you understand the required positions. This is now one of my favorite puzzles! Check it out if you can!

Okto Cube looking all dramatic in the light

Two Face 3 – Alfons Eyckmans

This week, I have another fantastic burr puzzle created by Eric Fuller and designed by Alfons Eyckmans. This one is called Two Face 3 and is one special puzzle – I’m still reeling from having just completed it.

To begin with, this puzzle is a beautiful work of art. Its visual appearance is stunning – the construction is superb and the choice of woods really elevates the whole design. It’s a 6 piece burr, but unique in that there are two outer cages that can move independently of each other. The inner cage has a few strategically placed cubes and cutouts that combine to make this not only a difficult puzzle, but also a very clever one. The construction of the cages is incredibly sturdy and they fit together very tightly making for a very solid feeling puzzle.

Beautiful construction and and high difficulty make this puzzle shine

The overall design is very clever. The use of two cages is not just for looks either, it factors into the solution. 

This was another intimidating puzzle for me. It sat on the shelf for a couple of weeks before I started to tinker with it, and then it was another week until I really decided to put some effort into it. Whether it’s intimidation or a desire to relish the puzzle as long as possible, I find that sometimes, I’m just content to let it sit. Maybe I don’t want the experience to be over, so I procrastinate a bit, I let the puzzle breath like a fine wine, until that perfect moment arrives and then I sit down with a job to do.

And so, I finally sat down with this one last week and began to seriously work on it. I began exploring different moves and discovered some typical burr-type moves, but didn’t make any real progress. I kept going in circles, with no real progress made.

Going in circles moving pieces around

I spent a number of sessions doing this. Moving pieces, feeling like progress was made only to find myself back at the beginning. Early sessions like this are enjoyable to me – I don’t really want to solve it quickly, I just want to enjoy the experience for a while and Two Face 3 really delivered the goods. But, that said, after a certain number of sessions, i start to feel like I need to make some more progress – so, I increase my focus and start trying abnormal moves.

This yielded some success for me as I discovered an interesting placement for one of the pieces. Surely I was on to something here! But, even with this new discovery, I couldn’t make any progress. I was able to revert back to the beginning position and then repeat the move, but it still didn’t yield any solution. 

After a few more sessions, I discovered a similar move at another location and then knew I was making progress. But, to my dismay, the solution still wasn’t there. Man, this puzzle really takes some work! I spent another day working various moves but couldn’t make progress. I had to be on the right track didn’t I?

Well, one morning, I took the half-solved puzzle to work with me and sat there fiddling with the pieces when suddenly, one fell out! Holy crap! I didn’t expect that, but apparently I had done the right thing and was rewarded. I spent the next 15 minutes carefully removing the remaining pieces and then bathed in glory as I examined all the pieces and marveled at the craftsmanship.

Then, fear set in. I went from joyful elation to fear. I was so happy to have solved the puzzle that I forgot to pay attention to the orientation and position of the 2 cages and the burr pieces. I didn’t really think about the fact that the 2 cages could be put together in 8 different ways… and if they weren’t put together correctly, then there’s no way the burr pieces would fit… How on earth was I going to get this thing back together…?

All the pieces have been removed! Halfway there!

Well, the good news was I had taken various photos while tinkering with the puzzle. So, I went back and took a look at those photos and was able to deduce the orientation and placement of the 2 cages – phew – crisis averted. Although, that would have made one heck of a challenge – to start with this puzzle completely disassembled and go from there. Maybe one day..

Anyway, even though I had the orientation of the cages documented, I still didn’t know how to reassemble this thing. I did keep track of the order in which I removed the burr pieces, and that would prove helpful, but it wouldn’t move the puzzle for me.

In the end it took me at least another 3 hours to put it back together. It’s a tricky puzzle and requires a very specific sequence to solve it. Interestingly, I employed a rotation to put it back together – I’m not convinced that it was entirely necessary, but at a certain point, rotating the burr piece allowed another piece to move where I wanted it and then I rotated the original piece back. Again, not sure if it was necessary, but I remember playing with a rotation when disassembling too, so perhaps it is required.

This may be the most difficult burr puzzle I’ve ever solved and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m not eager to solve it again anytime soon, but I do think I will revisit it one day and see if I can get a better handle on how it works. Highly recommended if you enjoy this type of puzzle – and there are even some left at cubicdissection.com

Six Rings #2 – Andrew Crowell

Today, I’m looking at a puzzle designed by Andrew Crowell and built by Brian Manold at Woodwonders. This is my first purchase from Brian, but it definitely won’t be my last. In fact, I’m having a hard time not pulling the trigger on the Perfect 11 and Evolution II puzzles still available on his site. Where does one draw the line when it comes to purchasing puzzles?

I was attracted to the description of this puzzle – “I learned that Andrew had written his own program to design his puzzles. He was able to come up with some very creative rotations in this way.” Creative rotations sound fun and a custom program to design puzzles? Color me intrigued!

Anyway, the puzzle arrived quickly along with a couple of other ones I had ordered, and Brian even threw in a free gift puzzle since I was a first time customer. Awesome! (I’m still working on the gift puzzle..) And my first impression of these puzzles – They smell great! No, seriously, these puzzles have a unique smell and I can’t get enough. There must be a light stain or oil on the wood, and as weird as it may sound, I was delighted to rip open the shrink wrap and awaken my olfactory senses. In my mind, I was transported to the workshop and could feel the fine craftsmanship oozing from the mix of woods.

Ok, ok, enough of how the puzzles smell. How do they solve? Well, this is one interesting puzzle. It really has some fun moves and the shapes are so unusual that it presents a nice challenge.

I spent the first 5 minutes just trying to get something to move. The puzzle felt solid and tight and no matter how I tried to pull, push and twist, I couldn’t get anything to budge. This made me happy, clearly there was something going on that I hadn’t figured out yet. The puzzle required me to focus, to concentrate, this wasn’t going to be an easy stroll through the park.

Where to begin? Push and Pull as I might, the cube didn’t budge.

After a few more minutes of play, I found the opening move and shortly after that I discovered the first rotation. Wow, this is a really fun move that I had to repeat over and over because it was just so well executed.

Finally, I was ready to move on and solve this thing. But alas, I was stuck. Surely I had the opening moves correct, but I wasn’t sure about the 5th move. There was a small “trapped” piece on the inside of the cube and I spent a good amount of time manipulating that piece. It could rotate a few different ways and there were several pockets it could be moved into. However, none of these options seemed to release any pieces.

It only takes a few moves to turn this symmetrical cube into a lopsided monstrosity.

I re-assembled the puzzle and started again. I wasn’t in a hurry to solve it because the opening moves were fun to execute, but eventually, I had to move on, so I tried something different and finally discovered how to unlock the first piece. The trapped piece came out next and I was left with only 3 pieces.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but the way these 3 larger pieces interlock is really quite beautiful. It isn’t particularly difficult to get them apart – In fact the pieces are so unique that there aren’t that many options for them to move, but it is very satisfying and even a little surprising how they interact.

What happened to the cube!

The first time I re-assembled the puzzle I was a little intimidated. I didn’t spend much time memorizing positions or anything, I just figured I could get it back together – and I was right, it’s not too difficult, a little perseverance will do the trick. But, it sure was fun.

This is a very enjoyable puzzle that had enough surprises to keep me interested and was difficult enough to keep me engaged. There is one rotation in particular that is very enjoyable and made me feel like Indiana Jones pulling the lever on some ancient treasure. I think the tolerances, build quality and design all work together to really make this puzzle shine. I look forward to purchasing many more puzzles from Andrew and Brian both.

The Puzzle is disassembled. Take a look at those funky pieces!