Reversal of Fortune Jeffrey Aurand

Story Highlights

  • Jeffrey’s primary interest is puzzle boxes.
  • He started building puzzles around the same time as he started collecting
  • In addition to puzzling, I enjoy playing board games.
  • Monhegan Sinpossible is the prettiest box of the three I’ve made so far.

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

Reversal of Fortune by Jeffrey Aurand!

The Rochester Puzzle Picnic is a small gathering I’ve hosted for the past five years. It’s very much a social event. Jeffrey Aurand


Jeffrey Aurand currently resides in Rochester, NY, has was originally from central Pennsylvania. He has had a lifelong interest in both puzzles and woodworking and began to collect puzzles about ten years ago, directly influenced by the amount of time he had spent enjoying the puzzle collection of a good friend, Dr. James K. Strayer.

Jeffrey’s primary interest is puzzle boxes although he has many other puzzles in my collection. As a collector favours really beautiful looking puzzles over technically challenging puzzles and considers his puzzle box collection to be an art collection as much as a puzzle collection.

He started building puzzles around the same time as he started collecting and has now made three original puzzles to date – the Reversal of Fortune box, and two others that were given to Jim as part of two puzzle hunts he designed.

He explained to The Metagrobologist that he is fortunate to have developed a nicely equipped wood shop, but sadly struggles to find enough time in it.

As a result, he currently has a notebook with lots of puzzle ideas, but not much more than sawdust and firewood coming out of the shop.

I’ve only made a few puzzles – limited to three original designs! Jeff

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?

Jeff: I believe my introduction to the idea was on an older puzzle forum that has since been retired. Robert Yarger (aka The Stickman) shared his intent to assemble a project that involved many craftsmen to build puzzle drawers for a puzzle chest. I had some woodworking experience, but very limited puzzle-making experience. Still, I threw my hat in the ring and Robert was very encouraging.

I’ve only made a few puzzles – limited to three original designs. The first two were made as gifts for Jim Strayer as part of a vacation puzzle hunt. Reversal of Fortune (my apothecary box) was the third design of mine that I’ve built.

TheMetagrobologist: The “Reversal of Fortune” is a lovely looking 3” puzzle/trick box puzzle drawer that was your unique contribution to the Apothecary Puzzle Chest. Can you tell us what is made from and what can you share with us regarding the development of this puzzle? What makes it unique and can you tell us about its mechanism?

Jeff: The exterior of the box is primarily black walnut. The top is made of quilted maple and features a frame of white oak. The interior of the box is redwood.

The design of the box is based on a Japanese puzzle box from my collection. The puzzle starts off as a typical sliding panel box. Once you’ve moved a few panels, you’ll find a different type of move – pressing on one end of the lid causes the lid to tilt within the box. The change that I made was in how the lid is then removed. Rather than sliding out of the box, it slides into the box and out the end.

TheMetagrobologist: Why did you choose this as the name and how long did it take to design and then develop the puzzle? You stated on your Apothecary Puzzle Chest unboxing video that it was hell producing it and you really struggled wth your design. Can you explain?

Robert encouraged me to start over and to not give up.
Robert encouraged me to start over and to not give up.

Time spent designing!

I spent more than a year trying design a different box. I actually wrote Robert and explained how I was struggling, and even asked for advice on that design. He said he didn’t see a way to make it work. I told him I was thinking that maybe I had bitten off more than I could chew, and suggested I might drop out of the project.

Robert encouraged me to start over and to not give up. I went back to the drawing board and started thinking about boxes I liked, and then I came up with this idea. I spent a bit of time in the shop and came up with a working prototype. I didn’t think it was a great puzzle, but I’m happy to report that people seem to enjoy it.

I named it Reversal of Fortune for two reasons – this was a complete change that allowed me to stay in the project, and the mechanism operates in the reverse of the Japanese box I own.

The real challenge came in building multiple copies. I was in the process of building a large batch when on the last step I realized I had made an error. So instead of 25 puzzle boxes, I had 25 fire starters. it was really heartbreaking.

I went to the lumber store, purchased more material, and then focused on completing them – very cautiously to ensure no further mistakes. It was a good experience, and it really makes me think about whether or not I want to build any more puzzles.

Monhegan SinpossibleReversal of Fortune

TheMetagrobologist: The “Reversal of Fortune” is said to offer real surprises and a unique mechanism. How many moves does the ‘Reversal of Fortune’ have. Were there any elements you would have liked to improve or further develop?

Jeff: It’s a seven move box. There are two things that I would improve if I had it to do over. One is to ensure that the box stays closed when it is in the closed position. Due to some pressure from a spring, the first move may start to occur without anyone helping it along. The second is that I really like the idea of having to do something different to lock the box – basically, adding an extra step before the box can be returned to the starting position. One last catch before you can say you’ve solved the puzzle.

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

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