Posted by Gabriel Fernandes for Brilliant Puzzles on 2/18/2015
Which company/craftsman makes the most beautiful puzzles?
...The eternal question...
So far, I've been focusing on companies that make wooden and metal
puzzles - my favorite - but there are other companies out there that make
beautiful puzzles with other materials, for example, Plastic - such a simple
and common material, used in pretty much everything you see around you, and
that includes puzzles, Twisty Puzzles, to be more specific.
Now, if you're an aficionado of Twisty Puzzles, chances are you've
probably heard about Uwe Mèffert (or his company, Meffert's), and if not, well,
you can't call yourself a true aficionado. Over the last 34 years - 1981 was
the year his first-ever puzzle, the Pyraminx, was produced - Meffert's has done
more for the Twisty Puzzle community than any other company, and dare I say it,
it's today's most popular Twisty Puzzle brand, even more than Rubik's.
The reason why Meffert's puzzles are so popular is mostly due to
his close relationship with the community's top designers and how well they all
work together. He not only invents and makes his puzzles, but he also
mass-produces other designer's puzzles. In turn, these top designers have
themselves a close relationship with all the puzzle community, they participate
in the forums, they take and give advice on puzzle making and designing, they
get feedback and, ultimately, they inspire a new breed of designers that, in
the long run, will be the future of the Twisty Puzzle industry. In short, there
isn't any other company with such a practical and efficient business model as
successful as Meffert's.
As mentioned above, Meffert's first puzzle was the Pyraminx, which
is also his most popular puzzle, having sold millions of copies - only the
original Rubik's Cube has sold more. Since then, Meffert's has produced more
than a hundred different Twisty Puzzles - many of which essential to any
starting collection - some variations, and other types of puzzles as well.
One of Meffert's most recognizable features in his puzzles is the
fluorescent sticker colors. Its puzzles have a color scheme of green, blue,
pale orange, bright orange, yellow and pink. Such bright colors make Meffert's
puzzles stand out among other more bland-colored puzzles. It's like your
Meffert's puzzles are the stars of your collection.
Fluorescent colors are nice, but Meffert's puzzles would be too
generic if they'd make all their puzzles look the same. Variety is the key word
for the success of Meffert's - A lot of variety. Another popular material used
in Meffert's puzzles is tiles. These colorful plastic tiles are glued on the
surface of the puzzles and are a nice alternative to the stickers, since they
can't be peeled off. Not that their stickers peel off that easily, though.
I have some old puzzles from Meffert's that still have their
stickers in very good condition. But the tiles give the puzzles a totally
different look. Some prefer stickers, others prefer tiles. Some of Meffert's
recent puzzles don't have neither stickers nor tiles. They're just made using
colored plastic parts. I used to prefer puzzles with tiles, but now I'm not so
selective and I think it depends greatly on the puzzle it's for.
In the subject of colored parts instead of stickers or tiles,
Meffert's has gone even further and some of its puzzles now use metallized
parts. These puzzles have a striking beauty, as they're coated with chromatic
colors - the puzzles aren't made of actual metal though - and are actually some
of my favorite Twisty Puzzles. They're quite reflective and have a shiny and
smooth surface, just like a mirror.
Another rather popular type of puzzle that Meffert's brought to
us, in collaboration with prolific designer Oskar van Deventer, was the gear
puzzle. Ever since the introduction of the Gear Cube in 2010, dozens of other
impressive designs and variations were developed by Oskar himself and other
talented designers, inspired by his original creation.
The gear puzzles offer a completely different challenge, because
when you rotate one face, it affects the movement of all the other parts in the
puzzle. The first Gear Cube was relatively easy to solve, but the movement of
other more complex puzzles can be extremely difficult to understand and solve.
I only recommend gear puzzles for experienced cubers.
Contributing for its ever more popular brand, Meffert's created in
2010 the Jade Club - An exclusive membership that includes two very special
puzzles, not available anywhere else, and discounts on recently released
puzzles. These two puzzles are called Jade Pyraminx and Jade Cube, and they
look absolutely gorgeous.
No stickers have been applied. The surface of the puzzles have
this soy-milky color (it's difficult to describe) and on each of their faces
you can see a different type of symbol, raised and painted in pale colors.
Meffert's later released another "Jade Puzzle", in 2012, called
Chopsticks. It's not as good-looking as the previous two, but the design is
still quite impressive and creative.
Some of Meffert's puzzles acquire over time some rarity and can
even reach prices in the hundreds of dollars in auctions. This is sometimes due
to the limited production numbers, and when they're all gone you can't get them
the regular way, hence the crazy high prices. It can also be a smart
investment. If you buy several copies at the time they're released and let them
gain rarity over time, you can get a nice hefty profit.
With the current business model that Meffert's has, it will be a
long while before we see the number of new puzzles dwindling. Always at the
forefront of new ideas and concepts, at the same time keeping close to the
people that know a thing or two about Twisty Puzzles, Meffert's has a bright
future ahead, and I'll be sure to keep an eye out for what's to come. See all Meffert's Puzzles
Which company/craftsman makes the most beautiful puzzles?
Posted by Gabriel Fernandes for Brilliant Puzzles on 1/20/2015
Over the last few months, I've been trying to answer this question and every time I attempt to do so, I come up with several more candidates for that prestigious title. And you know what? No answer is wrong. Each one of us have our own preferences. There are many talented puzzle designers out there that fulfill our requirements of what truly makes a beautiful puzzle. My job is just to focus on one of them at a time and hope I make them justice by showcasing their fantastic work and, who knows, maybe helping you to discover a new artist you didn't know about.
My previous articles have highlighted the creations of the highly popular Hanayama's Cast Series, the magnificent Japanese Puzzle Boxes and the prolific Jean Claude Constantin. This time, I will focus on another incredibly talented puzzle designer and maker, Václav Obšivac.
Born in 1962 in the Czech Republic, Václav Obšivac - better known in the puzzle community simply as Vinco - is an avid fan of skiing and biking, but what gets him the most recognition is his exceptional craftsmanship working with local wood. His puzzle-making adventure started in 2001, and since then, he has created countless designs, many with several versions featuring different types of timber.
Vinco mainly makes two types of puzzles, each one quite impressively made: packing puzzles (2D and 3D) and coordinate-motion puzzles. He has also ventured into other types of puzzles, but I will focus more on the two mentioned above, since they're the ones that have been fascinating more puzzle enthusiasts all over the world.
First, let's start with the coordinate-motion puzzles. The term invokes something that seems difficult to achieve, as if you needed to be extremely dexterous to solve it. Well, in fact, it's not far from reality, because you do need some dexterity skills to solve these puzzles, especially when you're reassembling them.
So what exactly are coordinate-motion puzzles? As the term might've suggested already, you need to coordinate all your moves simultaneously in order to take apart or put together all the pieces of each specific puzzle. Each move will affect all pieces in the puzzle at the same time, and any other type of moves will result in no progress whatsoever. The best example to explain this is a figure, seen below, where all three pieces have to be pushed in at the same time, thus locking the puzzle until an opposite move can take them apart again. (Figure courtesy of John Rausch from johnrausch.com)
From this simple example you can then move on to much more complex structures and interesting shapes, naturally with more pieces. This is exactly what Vinco excels at better than anyone, and to prove it you can see below a few extraordinary examples of some of the most impressive geometrical shapes he makes.
Not only do Vinco's designs impress visually, but the texture of each puzzle is also remarkable. To get a perfect finish on his puzzles, Vinco polishes and waxes each one so the pieces slide easily on and off the puzzle and have an extra smooth surface, but also to protect the wood itself against dust and other elements.
Vinco's coordinate-motion puzzles are strikingly beautiful. What contributes most for this is the high contrast between the various types of wood used in his puzzles. Vinco does this very effectively, from two up to several different colors, depending on the design and shape of the puzzle he's working on. The contrast always helps in the solving process, as the lines that separate the colors are usually the edges of pieces that move. You just have to discover in which direction they slide away from each other.
Another popular type of puzzle Vinco excels at is packing puzzles...extremely difficult packing puzzles. Just like its coordinate-motion brethren, this type of puzzles have a very distinct way of being made. Vinco takes small oddly-shaped pieces and glues them together at different angles, resulting in even odder and bigger pieces. As expected, these puzzles are very challenging, perhaps harder than his coordinate-motion range.
Vinco's packing puzzles may not be as visually attractive to some as the coordinate-motion ones, but in my opinion they're as impressive as any of his other types of puzzles. Packing puzzles come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and Vinco's are no different. Whether it's a 2D or a 3D puzzle, the design always gains from Vinco's great sense of style, with his contrasting wood colors and odd shapes. No two pieces are the same, which means that the patterns created are some of the most remarkable currently seen in the market.
There's another puzzle type by Vinco that I find quite fascinating, which is the interlocking spheres. Currently, I don't own any of these, but judging from the eye-candy designs and shapes, I can only imagine they're as extraordinary and beautiful as any other I've tried from this talented craftsman.
Vinco is among the best puzzle makers around, and when it comes to wood puzzles it's almost impossible to find any faults or imperfections in his work. He's very passionate about what he does, and that's clearly visible in his incredible works of art, worthy of every penny they cost. If you have yet to discover the works by Vinco, please do yourself a favor and buy one, or two, or three...as many puzzles as you can and enrich your collection. You'll certainly not be disappointed.
See Vaclav Obsivac (Vinco) Puzzles.
*All photos used in the collages are courtesy of Václav Obšivac at vinco.cz
Which company/craftsman makes the most beautiful puzzles?
Posted by Gabriel Fernandes for Brilliant Puzzles on 12/22/2014
In my endless pursuit to answer this question, this time I will focus on one of today's most prolific puzzle designers out there - and my favorite - Jean Claude Constantin. The name suggests a French origin, but Constantin is in fact from Nuremberg, Germany, where he produces in his shop over 70 new designs each year; and having been a puzzle designer for so long, imagine the total number of different puzzles he's been able to make so far. I currently own about 100 of his puzzles, so I can only dream of having, one day, all of his puzzles...and at the current rate he's making them, it's an almost impossible feat.
Posted by Brilliant Puzzles on 1/11/2013
Teachers and parents can
enhance the education of children, represent them with brain teaser puzzles or
play brain teasers games for pleasure, help them develop complex cognitive processes by
integrating enjoyable activities into their curriculum.
There are many ways you can
represent, and expose children to brain teasers, here are a few suggestions:
1. Teachers can provide a brainteaser to get mental juices flowing in the morning activities. This practice creates an atmosphere of learning and helps students get ready to learn and into a mind frame that is conducive to learning.
2. By the middle of a school day, students often begin to tire.
Teachers can use brain teasers as a refocus break between long
stretches of work.
3. Parents can encourage family puzzle solving. Encourage family game night
by providing kids with puzzles that they can complete with all the family. This
practice creates an opportunity for family together time and allows students to
demonstrate their masterful puzzle solving abilities to their loved ones.
4. As kids become more adept at the solving of
brainteasers, engage them in discussing how they solved each puzzle. Prompt students with questions such as "What did you do
first?" or "How did you reach that answer?"
5. Teachers can use brainteasers as a means of evaluating student
understanding by creating puzzles that are directly related to the curriculum.
6. Once kids are familiar with various puzzle forms, allow them to create
Puzzles, teasers and
brain games can liven up any lesson and encourage students' active engagement
in the learning process, try and use
them as much as you can.