An Interview with Vesa Timonen puzzle designer

Vesa Timonen Interview

Last year TheMetagrobologist contacted the incredible Vesa Timonen regarding his range of unusual puzzle designs and IPP puzzles as we are huge fans of his Double Squared, Capital H as well as Lox in Box.

We hope you enjoy the interview as originally presented on out Facebook community in which we explored his puzzling background, design process and inspiration for his puzzles.

Cast Cylinder Puzzle Vesa Timonen
Cast Cylinder Puzzle Vesa Timonen

TheMetagrobologist: Can we ask when did you first start designing puzzles and do you collect as well as design them?

Vesa: I started collecting puzzles when I was about 8 years old. The first puzzle was the traditional wooden burr which I did by myself at the woodworking class at school. I was only consuming puzzles until 1993 (a 23 years old student) so I decided to try design something by myself.

After prototyping phase, I travelled to Amsterdam and found that puzzle at the shops. This was before google time and I was not able to search if my designs were already there. At this point, I thought that everything was already invented and I gave up. In 1996, Prototyping. got one puzzle idea (Timonen’s butt simple) and at the same time I met Tomas Linden who was willing prototyping. From there we started co-operation with Tomas and many of my ideas are fruits from this co-operation.

TheMetagrobologist: Have any existing puzzle designers or puzzles been an inspiration in your development as a puzzle designer? If so who?

Vesa: The biggest inspiration for me has been the twisting movement which Oskar van Deventer showed me 2005 at Finnish IPP. I have worked with this movement a lot and one result of this work is Cast Loop. I also like a lot of Iwahiro puzzles since they use only so few pieces. I always want to use as few pieces as possible.

TheMetagrobologist: When did you first start selling your puzzles and how has the puzzling community reacted to your designs?

Cast Donuts Puzzle Vesa Timonen
Cast Donuts Puzzle Vesa Timonen

Vesa: I don’t sell my puzzles, but Tomas Linden does. He introduced Lox In Box at the IPP around year 2000 and it got really good critics: “Unknown Finnish designer has come up such a great design.” They wanted to see me and I participated IPP 2002 in Antwerp where I met all the famous designers like Oskar there. And since then I have been to IPP meeting almost every year.

A list of some of Vesa’s Puzzles not including some IPP-exchange puzzles and his dynamic logic maze game ‘ Tilt™’ co-designed with Timo Jokitalo.

TheMetagrobologist: You refer to the ‘Twist Movement’ Can you clarify this for those that don’t understand to what you refer?

Vesa: By twist-movement I mean the movement which we use daily when we open bottles or use screws. Maybe screwing movement is the better term for this.

TheMetagrobologist: Vesa Timonen, you have now produced a number of different puzzles including Put Together, Disentanglement, Packing and Sequential Movement. Of the numerous puzzles so far produced do you have a favourite?

Vesa: From my own designs I like the best are those which does not need any instructions to solve. Like it is quite obvious what you have to do when you see Lox in Box or Cast Loop. But I think the Cast Loop is the puzzle which level I will never reach again. Only two identical pieces and still quite difficult.

TheMetagrobologist: How do you come up with your designs. Do you use Burr Tools or any other program?

Vesa: I like to design a puzzle where I can use the computer to analyse it. I like coding! Like Solitaire Chess. I wrote a program which I could use to generate all possible Solitaire Chess challenges in the world. There are about 3.5 million of those with the 4×4 board and those pieces. I really enjoy when I can analyse the whole puzzle space and get all the results on my hard disk. But there are also downside to this approach. After that one has to go through those 3.5 million challenges and select only 60 to the physical implementation. This is a huge task. I played like 10,000 challenges when I selected those 60 for the physical game.

For the ideas I use “clean room” -method. At my home I there are no puzzles visible. Except those prototypes which are under construction. I try to keep my head as empty as possible from existing puzzle. By doing so, I try to get as fresh ideas as possible. Also, I keep my notebook always with me and next to my bed.

TheMetagrobologist: What material do you prefer to work with? Where do you design and build your puzzles?

Vesa: I like a wood a lot. But currently I do all my prototyping with 3D printer (Shapeways). It is so fast, cheap and easy way to do prototyping.

Solitaire Chess Puzzle Vesa Timonen
Solitaire Chess Puzzle Vesa Timonen

TheMetagrobologist: You mentioned to me previously that you have Lox in Box 4 in development. Can you describe how this puzzle is developing and why the jump from 2 to 4?

Vesa: Lox in Box 4 is on prototyping phase. Maybe it will come to the market some day. Let’s hope so. I have also designed Lox in Box 3 which I also did prototypes, but it was not working as I expected and it will never come to the market. With Tomas, we decided to keep naming according to prototypes.

TheMetagrobologist: Where can fans purchase some of your IPP put together and packing puzzles?

Vesa: There has been like 5 exchange puzzles which did not come commercially available. Maybe the best is Vesa burr -family. Some of those you can find: and as well as

TheMetagrobologist: You explained you have been to every IPP since 2002 at Antwerp. Which has been your favourite IPP so far?

Vesa: The favourite IPP is of course, the one I was organising for 2005 in Helsinki. Apart from that the “next one” is always the favourite. It is so nice to see the new ideas and puzzle family at the IPP.

TheMetagrobologist: Has any puzzle stood out for you?

Vesa: There are few puzzles which I don’t understand how someone could have been able to come up with those ideas. Like Iwahiro’s “Square in the bag” or Sam Loyd’s “Buttonhole puzzle” or Rubik’s cube. Those are designed which the first of the kind. So the designer has really created something new not just modified something existing.

TheMetagrobologist: We would like to personally thank Vesa Timonen for taking the time out of his busy schedule to chat to us. It was and is greatly appreciated. Look out for more interviews soon.

Images ©



A list of some of Vesa’s Puzzles not including some IPP-exchange puzzles and his dynamic logic maze game ‘ Tilt™’ co-designed with Timo Jokitalo can be found below.

Capital H – Put Together
Cast Donuts – Disentanglement (Many Metagrobologists favorite cast puzzle)
Cast Hook – Disentanglement
Cast Loop – Put Together
Cast Cylinder – Put Together (On our list to get!)
Cast Square – Put Together
Double Squared – Put Together
High H – Put Together
Lock Puzzle – Sequential Movement
Lox In Box – Packing
Lox In Box II – Packing
Solitaire Chess – Sequential Movement
Symmetrick – 2-D Assembly – Tomas Lindén’s IPP32 exchange Puzzle.
Timonen’s Burr Simple – Burr: Put Together


This page has been created to act as a constantly updated, archive of interviews with many of the world’s most popular, foremost and prolific mechanical puzzle designers and craftsmen. Stay connected with us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram and add your comments below.

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