Siebenstein-Spiele Puzzle Maker

Posted by Gabriel Fernandes for Brilliant Puzzles on 3/17/2015 to Educational
Which company/craftsman makes the most beautiful puzzles?

Another article, another contender for the coveted title. This time I return to the theme of wooden puzzles by the hand of one of German's leading manufacturers, Siebenstein-Spiele. The company started out as a board game developer and manufacturer over 20 years ago, and in the recent years branched out to the design and crafting of quality wooden mechanical puzzles that are both interesting items of exquisite craftsmanship as well as beautiful decorating objects.

The company founder, Jürgen Reiche, is a jack of all trades, designing, manufacturing and distributing his work all around the world, at the same time competing in an ever-growing market full of great choices. To do that, he needs a constant stream of new ideas and fresh concepts in order to attract new customers, puzzlers that are always hungry for unique and fascinating new challenges.

Siebenstein-Spiele's puzzles are easily recognizable by their laser-cut wooden pieces and natural colors. Their designs often combine various types of wood with acrylic and metal parts, giving different contrasts and textures to an otherwise bland and banal puzzle. Reiche cares a lot about presentation and that is clearly witnessed in all his creations, no matter how simple or complex a design is.

I usually say that Jürgen's designs have some resemblance with Jean Claude Constantin's, but I don't mean it in a derogatory or mean way. Quite the contrary. Jean Claude Constantin is my favorite puzzle designer, and despite the similarities between the two craftsmen's work, I always welcome Constantin-like puzzles. The two designers are German and have been working with puzzles for many years, so it's quite possibly they've known each other for a long time and took inspiration from each other's work. Whatever the reason, puzzle fans all over the world are the ones who benefit from both craftsmen's creativity and ingenuity.

Even though Siebenstein's puzzles have this high quality, their price is anything but expensive. Yes, you may find some of their puzzles with a high price tag, but the majority of them have rather reasonable prices, considering what they offer in terms of challenge, appearance, and of course, a rewarding and satisfying experience. That's quite an impressive feat when you compare their puzzles with other, more expensive brands.

Like any good puzzle manufacturer, Siebenstein-Spiele has a wide variety of designs and puzzle types that are certain to fascinate any puzzle enthusiast. If you're a true puzzle fan, chances are you're going to find something to like from Siebenstein-Spiele, whether it's sliding puzzles, packing puzzles, entanglement puzzles, or even the most uncommon and unique designs you can think of.

Packing puzzles are my favorite type of puzzles, and Siebenstein-Spiele has some very nice examples with superb designs. Take the Bermuda puzzle, or the Mephisto puzzle, for example. So different from one another, and yet both are equally remarkable, each with its own unique characteristics that make them fascinating:

  • The Bermuda puzzle takes a simple concept (pack the extra piece), but is complemented with a gorgeous and functional design, made in the shape of seven sea creatures. Your task is to take advantage of its curves and recesses so that extra space is freed for the seventh piece.

  • The Mephisto puzzle, on the other hand, cleverly combining the use of wood and acrylic parts, gives you a totally different challenge by combining the 10 acrylic stripes in such a way that you should see four identical shapes within each of the 25 squares in the frame.

As you can see, even within the same puzzle type, the designer managed to create two completely distinct puzzles made with different materials.

Other than packing puzzles, sliding puzzles are among my favorites, and here Jürgen Reiche almost reinvented the genre by creating very unique and unorthodox designs unlike anything you've seen before. Below are two examples of this unique approach to the sliding puzzle category, such as the Colour Match and the Up & Down:

  • The Colour Match mechanism works by sliding two handles horizontally. Eight discs in four different colors comprise this intriguing puzzle, although the goal is pretty simple. All you have to do is get each disc on the top row to match the same color of its counterpart in the bottom row. Also, each disc has one of two symbols, a star or a circle. For a tougher challenge, you need to get all discs with the stars on the bottom row. You can try and create your own challenges as well, by combining different colors and symbols.

  • Up & Down is yet another completely different concept, a twist on the classic sliding piece puzzle. With numbers from 1 through 8, the goal is to rearrange them in order from the left column down and to the right. The movement is quite unusual, since the frame moves up and down. As you push it to one of its two positions, you can move one tile at a time to the available free slot at the edges of the frame. You can also attempt other number arrangements.

Fortunately for any puzzle lover, though, Siebenstein-Spiele is not just packing or sliding puzzles. The designer creates a wide variety of puzzles, many of which are sometimes hard to even put in a single category. He also ventured into other popular puzzle categories such as n-ary puzzles (sequential movement), like the Auf dem Holzweg, seen below.

Final Thoughts:

If Jean Claude Constantin is my favorite puzzle designer, Jürgen Reiche is probably a close second, for sharing the same philosophies of puzzle design and craftsmanship. His new creations always amaze me, for his unending ability to come up with something new and bold. As a puzzle enthusiast and collector, I can only look forward with high expectations for Siebenstein-Spiele's upcoming ideas.

See all Siebenstein-Spiele's great puzzles here.


Meffert’s Twisty Puzzles

Posted by Gabriel Fernandes for Brilliant Puzzles on 2/18/2015 to Educational

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.

Meffert's Puzzles

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.

Meffert's Puzzles

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.

Meffert's Puzzles

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.

Meffert's Puzzles

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.

Meffert's Puzzles

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.


Final Thoughts:


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

Meffert's Puzzles

Vaclav Obsivac (Vinco) - Puzzle Maker

Posted by Gabriel Fernandes for Brilliant Puzzles on 1/20/2015 to Educational
Which company/craftsman makes the most beautiful puzzles?

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

Vinco Puzzles Collection

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.

Vinco Puzzles Collection

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 Puzzles Collection

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 Puzzles Collection

Final Thoughts:

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 many puzzles as you can and enrich your collection. You'll certainly not be disappointed.

Vinco Puzzles Collection

See Vaclav Obsivac (Vinco) Puzzles.

*All photos used in the collages are courtesy of Václav Obšivac at

Jean Claude Constantin -Puzzle Maker

Posted by Gabriel Fernandes for Brilliant Puzzles on 12/22/2014 to Educational
Which company/craftsman makes the most beautiful puzzles? 
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.

Jean Claude Constantin Collection

Japanese Puzzle Boxes

Posted by Gabriel Fernandes for Brilliant Puzzles on 11/14/2014 to Featured Puzzles and Brain Teasers

Which company/craftsman makes the most beautiful puzzles?

This was the question I raised on my previous article, but since there's no right or wrong answer, and each reader will have his/her own opinion on the subject, I will continue my effort to show you some of the best puzzle makers out there capable of designing truly stunning puzzles. My choice this time goes to an absolutely amazing type of puzzles, the Japanese Puzzle Boxes.

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