ExclusivesPuzzle Making

Peter Wiltshire Talks Puzzle Boxes

Story Highlights

  • Peter Wiltshire Talks Puzzle Boxes!
  • The Apothecary Project
  • Bank Heist

TheMetagrobologist consistently presents exclusive interviews articles and features every month. TheMetagrobologist is delighted to present an interview with the puzzle-box maker Peter Wiltshire about his puzzle designing, crafting and collecting.

Peter Wiltshire Talks Puzzle Boxes!

Peter Wiltshire originates from Hamilton, Ontario in Canada and makes the most incredible puzzle boxes. We wanted to know more about Peter, how long he has been woodworking and of course puzzle making and collecting. Does he have a favourite type of puzzle? Enjoy…

TheMetagrobologist: As someone who really appreciates the craftsmanship of some of the world’s best puzzle designers, can you explain your participation in the project and how you the idea was first introduced and by whom? How long have you now been making puzzles?

Peter: I live in Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada approximately one hour outside of Toronto. I’ve always had an interest in magic, and my love of mechanical puzzles has grown from that interest. When I was younger I spent a lot of my time in my father’s workshop tinkering and creating things. Once I purchased my first house I set up a small workshop and in 2003 I became serious about designing and building puzzles with a special interest in puzzle boxes. I’m also am a puzzle collector and my collection includes puzzles from almost every classification. But most of my display shelves are occupied by puzzle boxes.

The Apothecary Project

TheMetagrobologist: Can you explain your participation in the project and how the idea was first introduced and by whom?

Peter: The Apothecary Project started as an idea that was tossed around several of the puzzle making forums. The motivating force behind the project was Robert Yarger, and we all became interested in the idea of bringing several craftsmen from across the planet together to create puzzle boxes that would be incorporated into an Apothecary Puzzling Chest. When the conversation turned to serious talk of creating the chest I jumped at the opportunity to be involved.

TheMetagrobologist: “Ferris’ Box” is a beautiful looking 3” puzzle/trick box puzzle drawer that was your unique contribution to the Apothecary Puzzle Chest. Can you tell us what it is made from and what can you share with us regarding the development of this often so-called unusual puzzle and its unique characteristics and mechanism? It is often described as being like a Rubik’s Cube captured in a cage!

I often like to take inspiration from the things around me… Peter Wiltshire

Peter: Ferris’ box design actually started with a little inspiration from a local sales flyer. In the flyer, I had noticed a small portable USB drive that had an interesting protective sleeve. I often like to take inspiration from things around me and I liked the mechanism that was used in the protective sleeve and pondered whether I could incorporate it into a puzzle box. With some quick design sketches, I came up with a concept that worked. When it came to crafting the design I knew I wanted to attempt to represent where I am from. I choose Walnut and Maple woods which are both native to Canada for their contrast, and also for the fact that I had worked previously with both species and found them to be stable woods that were well suited for puzzle making.

Bank HeistFerris Box

TheMetagrobologist: You recently made me aware that the Puzzle box was named after George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. the inventor of the world’s first Ferris Wheel. Why did you choose this as the name and how long did it take to design and then develop the puzzle?

Peter: I had a bit of fun with the name and wanted it to hint at the mechanism incorporated into the puzzle box. Hence, the name is in homage to the inventor of the Ferris wheel. I began designing the puzzle box first on paper.

This process gave me the opportunity to play with the overall look of the puzzle before heading into the workshop. When I eventually began construction I could only work on the project in between days that I wasn’t busy with my day job. This was difficult and the actual crafting of the original 20 puzzle boxes was spread out over a 9 month period.

TheMetagrobologist: “Ferris’ Box” has three unique moves. Were there any elements you would have liked to improve or further develop?

Peter: I tend to like puzzle boxes with interesting mechanical movements and I feel Ferris’ box falls into that category. Creating a puzzle box with something new and unique is an interesting challenge. In the end, most of what I wanted to design for Ferris’ Box was achieved so I am happy with the final design.

TheMetagrobologist: “Ferris’ Box” was entered in the 2012 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition and you duly went and won a Jury First Prize. How did you find this?

Peter: Winning a Jury First Prize award for Ferris’ Box was a thrill and a big surprise. There are always fantastic entries in the design competition and to be recognized and singled out for your work is truly an honour.

TheMetagrobologist: All of the puzzle drawers have their own uniqueness and creativity. Do you have a particular favourite?

I really let my creativity run wild and ultimately the design was a real challenge to produce
Peter Wiltshire

Peter: The Apothecary’s chest holds the work of a diverse group of craftsman, from seasoned professionals to first-time creators, but all of the puzzle box entries were painstakingly and lovingly created. Each one of the designs has something unique that I am drawn to and to single one out would be to minimize the chest as a whole. Each and every entry brings something that elevates the Apothecary Chest and collectively makes it a really cool puzzling piece of art.

TheMetagrobologist: Were you proud to have been involved in this project?

Peter: I was incredibly proud to be a part of the Apothecary Chest. It’s an amazing feat to coordinate craftsman from all over the planet to focus on a single project and stay with that project to completion. The fact that everyone stuck with it and created something so beautiful is a huge accomplishment and something I will always be proud of!

TheMetagrobologist: How did you find the process of the project and what did you think about the final complete Apothecary Puzzle Chest?

Peter: From start to finish the project took several years. So at times, it was difficult to see the project moving forward. All the craftsman were very secretive in what they were creating so that we would all be surprised when the Apothecary Chests were complete. Besides keeping in touch with the other craftsman on the forum Robert was the only one that we could really turn to and bounce ideas off of, and he was great at giving us feedback on each of our prototypes and how they could be incorporated into the solution of the chest. In the end, it was a beautiful thing to see all the varied work of the individual craftsman come together.

Apothecary Puzzle Chest!

Apothecary Chest
I proudly display my Apothecary Chest on the top of a bookshelf in our dining room.

TheMetagrobologist: Where do you house your chest and have you attempted the sequential puzzle in its entirety?

Peter: I am very lucky to have an understanding wife and she currently lets me proudly display my Apothecary Chest on the top of a bookshelf in our dining room. I have attempted solving the Apothecary Chest in its entirety and it had me scratching my head several times. There are some very clever designs incorporated into the Chest and I had a great time solving its secrets. One thing I haven’t done is to solve it again but keep track of its move counts. I think it would be interesting to know how many moves the chest requires solving from start to finish. I just need a rainy week to get the chance to do that : )

Bank HeistBank Heist

Bank Heist

TheMetagrobologist: You have been producing mechanical puzzles for almost a decade now. In 2008, you produced “Bank Heist” and entered the Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition. What can you tell us about the origins, design, and production of this take apart puzzle?

Peter: Bank Heist was my very first serious attempt at designing and crafting a mechanical puzzle. The design competition was a fun and interesting idea to me and I liked the challenge of creating a puzzle from the ground up. My main focus for the puzzle was to design something that would look like a piece of art. I liked the idea of a puzzle that required unlocking a trapped coin. To make it more artistic I crafted the puzzle to show off the coin as if it were on display in a gallery, complete with a chained off barrier and bars that would prevent viewers from making off with the artwork. In the end, I like the look of the completed puzzle and I have even returned to the design on paper to update it and add a more sophisticated locking mechanism. But with my focus now on puzzle boxes I haven’t found the time to craft that new design.

Read the rest of the interview in the pages of TheMetagrobologist Magazine Issue 3.

Show More

Related Articles