Tarea of TheMetagrobologist is devoted to puzzle enthusiasts that wish to read more about creating their own mechanical puzzles.
The DIY mechanical puzzles area will feature free downloads, step by step guides and small interviews with some of the world’s best puzzle designers and craftsmen on the creation of some of their individual puzzles along with links to purchasing them. Interested in the creation of a Robert Yarger mechanical puzzle box? Wanting to read how Eric Fuller created that latest puzzle? Fascinated by the Turning Interlocking Cube of William Hu? Want to know how Stephan Baumegger made that Burr? In this article Tamas Vanyo (Tamás Vanyó) explores his puzzle making process…
Birth and evolution of a Puzzle by Tamás Vanyó
The purpose of this article is to share the process of how a mechanical puzzle is formed from its initial conception in my mind and thoughts about the level, solution, pieces, symmetry, shape, through the design stage and configuration of the pieces and first prototypes, to the final creation of a unique puzzle.
The FourKey puzzle design by Tamás Vanyó
Being what some call a metagrobologist, I think I should explain that I am a Hungarian puzzle designer. I have been enthusiastic about puzzles from my early childhood. A few years ago I found my friend, Péter Gál’s site and immediately felt I should try and create some of these puzzles.
While I indulged in the creation of more and more mechanical puzzles, I came across the Puzzlewillbeplayed website. This website is devoted to the publishing of new puzzles from designers worldwide and I watched with admiration as new original plans emerged every day. I was incredibly impressed by Stéphane Chomine’s work among others.
I decided to attempt to start exploring my own designs and create them. After exploring the internet I downloaded and then started to enjoy and understand the BurrTools software, and bought a LiveCube set. With BurrTools and Livecubes, I did a lot of experimentation with my computer and cube models. Ishino Keiichiro, from Puzzlewillbeplayed, published my initial designs on his homepage and received lots of encouragement, praise, and congratulations. For that, I would like to thank him.
While my plans were being revealed, I started to explore creating more puzzles myself from wood. With new wooden hobby equipment, I was able to build some puzzle for myself, for presents and for exchange gifts.
This is my journey so far, and in this article on TheMetagrobologist I would like to share a puzzle plan, that shows my development and my transformation. I have always been very interested in strangely shaped puzzles, mazes etc and many of my mechanical puzzle designs share my interests.
I designed, developed and shared a new interlocking mechanical puzzle known as FourKey in 2013 and it was presented on Puzzlewillbeplayed. Tamás Vanyó
The FourKey is a nice puzzling experience with a square cage. The object of the puzzle is to slip 4 “keys” (2 congruent pairs) inside the square frame, with a small cell to hold them all together. To remove the pieces, you’ll need to complete the unique level 18.104.22.168, with two solutions, so it is relatively easy to assemble together and then disassemble. When designing the FourKey I thought through the design and then discussed the numbers of the steps with other designers. When designing a puzzle it can be hard to tell if a puzzle is too difficult or not, especially when it has a lot of steps. I gained lots of experience in this regard.
Over the last two years, I have discovered, for example, that there are some individuals who can easily create mechanical puzzles, whilst there are others, who attempt to, and then give up when they realise that the puzzles they are creating have too many levels.
As a process, I started to make more amendments to design plans, wherein some designs had more than 10 or maybe 100 steps needed to set the puzzle together. I believe these high-level puzzles push the envelope too far and offer what many would consider too much of a serious intellectual challenge. They are possible, but many would undoubtedly only solve it with a computer, and not experience the puzzle solution themselves.
From experience, I believe that after you have designed and come up with a specific final shape, it should have a limited number of pieces and an average (20-40) numbers of steps that is ‘doable’ for most puzzlers who have never solved many of these puzzles before.
Occasionally, as a puzzle designer, something occurs that forces you to re-examine your old designs and transform and then remake them. Recently I took a fancy to one of Stephan Baumegger’s mechanical puzzle designs, in which you couldn’t remove all of the pieces totally from the fully made puzzle. His puzzle contained pieces, that only slipped in and out of each other and you have to assemble additional exterior pieces to solve the final puzzle.
Using his design as an inspiration, I focused on the original FourKey and redesigned it. I named it the Four Key 2.
FourKey IIThe objective in FourKey II is very similar: insert and assemble the 4 a-like keys into the frame. In FourKey II, I introduced 4 tumblers that make this reassembly a lot harder. You have to slip them back and forth to place in the keys.
The original FourKey had a unique level 22.214.171.124 with two solutions, FourKey II was more complex with a level 126.96.36.199, so to take out the first key, you are required to solve 17 steps, and the following 3 steps and so on. Not too alike to make it too simple to take the puzzle to pieces.
The objective in FourKey II is very similar: insert and assemble the 4 a-like keys into the frame. In FourKey II, I introduced 4 tumblers that make this reassembly a lot harder. You have to slip them back and forth to place in the keys.
The original FourKey had a unique level 188.8.131.52 with two solutions, FourKey II was more complex with a level 184.108.40.206, so to take out the first key, you are required to solve 17 steps, and the following 3 steps and so on. Not too alike to make it too simple to take the puzzle to pieces. In re-designing the puzzle I developed my skills with BurrTools and utilised the grouping function. This helps develop a puzzle that can’t be totally taken apart. (An explanation of this will be offered in the future on TheMetagrobologist).
After developing the puzzle, I made it from wood, to have a copy it available. I do this with many of my own puzzles.
Here you can see it on the right side of my desk with several of my other puzzles including Noncsi, Hidden Pentominoes and a “guest”: the W-Toast. One of the hardest tasks is in the creating of the final puzzle. The cutting, glueing, and varnishing can take a great deal of time if every piece is separate and individual. I like designing, building and solving mechanical wooden puzzles and believe everyone should have a go. I’m not sure if which one makes me happier: the design and planning, or the making and building it together.
~ Tamás Vanyó
You can purchase a number of puzzles of Tamas at the sites below:
The goal of this area is to provide puzzle enthusiasts with an additional resource for the background and creation of individual mechanical puzzles. If you are a designer and would like to contribute to the area, please e-mail us if you have anything to add.