Showing posts with label Bits and Pieces. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bits and Pieces. Show all posts

Sunday, September 6, 2020

There's another world out there...

...and it comes in the form of a map.  We love to travel and in our journeys we spend a great deal of time puzzle hunting.  We aim to get one puzzle from each country we visit and thus far, have managed to do just that.  To keep track of our travels, we have built a pinboard in a hallway off the garage.  You'll notice to the right of this large map, 3 smaller ones.  The USA map was made and distributed by Bits & Pieces.  It is made of cast resin with a pewter finish and consists of 44 pieces. It was designed by Fred Szatkowski and retired in 2008.  This puzzle differs from the American puzzle made by Makoulpa.  This version has only 39 animals and is made of sterling silver.  
The large European map is of unknown providence.  I purchased it for a few dollars on Etsy.  The only thing we know about this is that it is written in German.  The wood base has been hand routered and glued to yet another piece of plywood.  The pieces themselves are made of some type of metal and are warped.  The pieces don't fit well into most of the map.  

The final piece here is a map of Africa made of pewter.  It was made by a company called Kubwa.  Other than this I have no information on this puzzle.  It appears to be a copy of the African Puzzle Paul Gibbs and Anthony Prischi.  Our copy of this is made in sterling silver and was originally designed in 1994.  They sell the puzzles under the company Makoulpa which they started in 1996.  Both African puzzles have 34 pieces.  They made another puzzle called the big 5.  This one has as its name, only 5 pieces; all of which can be used as pendants.  

he last batch of puzzles of this ilk are from Angiolo and Ilaria Logi.  The Southern Cross consists of 7 pieces and made of phosphorated Bronze.  The First Black Swan has 12 pieces and is made of the same material.  The larger puzzle, The Discovery of Australia, is made of Sterling Silver and is a limited edition of 88 pieces.  This couple has made a total of eight different puzzles.  A fourth, Land and Seas has just been purchased, but has not arrived at the date of this blog.  When it does, I shall update this posting.  These puzzles also have the added beauty of the boxes.  The lids are covered with lacquered Eucalyptus leaves. 

These are nothing more than very expensive, very heavy jigsaw puzzles.  But don't let them fool you, they are actually rather difficult to assemble without the use of the instructions.  Only a few more to find...


Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Following on from my magpie self, I've decided I may as well just give in to it.  So I went on an eBay hunt for brass puzzles.  Locks a plenty, but those don't really do it for me (yet).  So I'm off looking using a different search term and came up with the puzzle shown here.  

This puzzle was first invented by Rocky Chiaro. The original design can be found on his webpage.

This version was sold by Bits and Pieces a while back. I missed it in the original run but when I saw it on eBay I recognized it for what it was and snapped it up. A lucky purchase at a halfway decent price.

I won't post a solved photo of it as it gives away the solution. Overall, it's an easy puzzle to solve. I've given it to friends who are puzzlers and non-puzzlers alike and both were able to solve it within a few minutes, it's a fun little time waster that won't let you down. I'd highly recommend one if you can find it. Money well spent.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Two keys lock

Well, I started this magpie thing so I may as well continue with it. The puzzle I bring you today was invented by VESA Timonen and was given out as an IPP32 exchange gift by Nancy Alliegro. The box has written on it that it's manufactured by Bits & Pieces so I'm guessing that it would be offerd up for sale at some point in the future. I've yet to see it though.

The puzzle starts off as seemingly impossible to solve. There are two keys attached to the shank of the lock and the puzzlers job is to unattached them. A bit of twisting and turning reveals a split shank that spins freely. The novice will notice that the split can be slightly separated, but that won't do any good. It wouldn't be much of a puzzle if the keys could be removed in the same fashion as a regular key ring now would it?

I won't tell you any more about the solving because I don't want to give its secrets away. I will say that it threw me a good surprise. As I was sitting with it under the table trying to not make too much noise, the keys suddenly went flying. If I weren't mucking about when I should have been concentrating I would have laughed out loud.

There is a nice little twist to this one that tickled me. While the solve only took a few seconds(!) it would be worth getting for that chuckle moment when it's solved. I wonder when it will be released to the market....

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Toys, testing, and trial and error.

Toy: a material object for children or others to play with (often an imitation of some familiar object); a plaything; also, something contrived for amusement rather than for practical use.
-the Oxford English Dictionary
Well, today's puzzles certainly fit that bill. Imitations of other items, and something designed for amusement.
I've got two from Vesa, one from Puzzle Master and one from Derek Bosch.

Shapeways had their annual sales recently and once again I took advantage of them. I really don't like the feel of these things, but over the years they have gotten less gritty so I thought what the heck and put in an order. Now I frequent a number of forums, and thought what the heck, I'll get them in white, buy some dye and color them myself....famous last words....

I'm not at the level of Cantonese where I can just go out into a shop and ask for dye. After many trials with this, I gave up and went for a different tactic. I tried food coloring! That I have plenty of. The results were mixes to say the least! My yellow was orange, my green was yellow, my blue was pink(!) and my red was, well, red. So maybe food coloring isn't the best of puzzle dyes. But someone had to try it!

So on to the puzzles. First, I got two from Vesa: a breakfast egg and an onion. I've looked at these two for years now but always just passed them by. Well this time around I hit the purchase button and I'm glad I did. The egg is four pieces and the object is of course to put them together. It's a nifty little thing, but it is easy to spot the solution for it just by looking. To solve it I had to assemble it without the yolk (or orange?) just to loosen up the pieces a bit. A one minute puzzle but fun none the less. The onion is made of six pieces and a tad bit harder to solve but not very much harder. This one was a two minute puzzle I'd guess. These two I didn't purchase for the puzzling factor, but rather for their appearance. Vesa has designed an orange as well which Hanayama has mass produced under the name of Globe Ball. It's hard to come by now, but if you can find one its a great little puzzle as well.

On to the torpedoes. Now this one I have many different versions of. After quite a long discussion about this the other day, I decided to buy yet another version. I'm sure I got it from Bits and Pieces during their last sale. 25% off AND free shipping! I'm in. I'll have to check the packaging again, but I'm pretty sure it's a Puzzle Master product. At any rate, it's listed as an 8/10 and that about sums it up. It's not as easy as the hedgehog and not as difficult as trying to get one of those birds out.

My last puzzle today is Derek's tubular burr. What a hoot that one is. I've sat here grinding away at it for the past three hours off and on and have managed to get. Nowhere yet. I see what it needs to do, I just can't get it to do it without looking. It's not a "by feel" puzzle. Well, at least it hasn't been for me. It's only a three piece puzzle and the object as always is simple, put the pieces in and take them back out again. What could be easier? (A lot of things, believe me!) This one would be a fantastic puzzle for the magpie in me! I'd love to see it made of silver and gold. Shiny smooth metal bits would make it even better fun!

This one is a bit odd. When I colored it, it got a bit 'squishy' I'm not sure if it is meant to be that way, but I can tell the area between the walls of the barrel bit are hollow. It still plays, but I'm afraid ill deform it if I squeeze too hard.

So back to my start. Toy: a material object for children or others to play with (often an imitation of some familiar object); a plaything; also, something contrived for amusement rather than for practical use. I think that definition holds. And today, we've had all three. Although I'd argue that helping me maintain my sanity through 5 hours of low level speakers is a very very practical use for a toy!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Arch burr, candy, and cold fusion

Ok, these are little beasts! Enough said. Post over.

No not me. I could never be that short in any thing I say or write.

The candy twist one I bought from George Miller a year or so ago and put it in a box. It was. From an IPP lot so that's understandable. Cold fusion was Oskar's exchange puzzle last year and the Arch Burr came from B&P this week. It was metal and I've taken a liking to those lately. I thought as long as it just came in I'd dig out the others and compare them all at once so today it's a three-in-one post.

I started off by taking the usual photos of a completed puzzle so I could look back at what the final state needs to be. Logical right? Then as each piece came out I photographed that as well. Again, logical. And that's where it ends.

After the third piece came out of the Arch Burr it just fell apart. There was no photographing the last disassembly procedures. But hey, I'm half clever so I know I can put it back together.

Well, I thought so anyway. After an hour into my Cougar Town marathon I still didn't have it. When Mr. Man came home I resorted to pulling out the instructions. How unhelpful we're they. An hour later I was ready to throw them across the room. It didn't help by being bitten by the puzzle either. This one has lots of sharp edges in it and I swear I caught every one of them. It is yet again a prime example of a great puzzle made rather shoddily. When will I ever learn? Odds are never.

The Arch Burr is made of aluminum and looks pretty cool in black and silver. Sadly though the craftsmanship is lacking a bit on this one as well. The outside is nice and smooth but the internal parts-especially those around the cut out bits are rough cut to say the least. There was no rounding off of those parts and yes, I really did get cut by them. Mr. Man offered to sand them down for me but I passed. I really don't think I'll go playing with it again.

On to the candy twist! This one is made by shape ways and I'd hazard to guess its Oskar's design as well. I'd twisted burr bits to wiggle around. It's been nicely died with six different colors. I did the photo shots with this one as well. Luckily by the time I unraveled this one I had experience with the Arch Burr. With the exception of the twist they are pretty close to the same. Ok maybe not but they were close enough that it didn't take two hours to reassemble. A nice little puzzle if it weren't for the 'scratchiness' that is inherent in shape ways puzzles. It would be a fantastic puzzle.

The Cold Fusion should be renamed a Cold Day. It's a real pain. Disassembly and reassembly. I played with this one through an entire episode to take it apart. And another FOUR to put it back together. If you want a challenge, this is the one out of the three to buy. And you are in luck. It's available from

All in all it was an entertaining evening for me...stupid television and puzzles! Oh and I had a glass of Cloudy Bay so I was truly in seventh heaven.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bits and Pieces-The company.

Wow!  What a company.  I have a real love/hate relationship with them. Over the years I've had good and bad service and I really don't know which way to go.  And yet, like a battered wife, I keep going back for more.  We already know I'm a glutton for punishment because I'm a puzzler, and anyone who is a puzzler is a glutton for punishment.  We keep going back to the same old things time and again.  Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.  And that folks is my relationship with Bits and Pieces.

I first encountered this company way back in the mid 90's.  They had a booth at the HK toys fair and I went.  At that time, companies were still allowed to give out free samples and many did give out little bits and bobs in the hopes of drawing in customers.  Bits and Pieces was no exception to this and I have a couple of these puzzles within arms reach.  At that time, the quality was pretty good.  Although, the puzzles were small so I guess that may have had something to do with it.  Now, I'm not so sure.  The puzzles are getting larger, and it seems to be hit and miss with them.  Don't get me wrong, some are fantastic designs.  Others are just bad quality.  Wil's puzzles these are not.  But that's no reason to NOT get them.

Looking at the photo below, all are from Bits and Pieces.  Yes, I have many more that aren't shown here.  These are just the ones that were within reach, or from the batch that came in today.  The wooden 5 piece (The hole in one) in the right hand side is nicely done.  I've no complaints.  Hercules, just below it, is also a nice puzzle.  The Kamei gift box is not too shabby although you can see the lines where it opens.  The One way packing puzzle on the bottom center is ok.  It's a bit loose for the pieces that pack in, but with my humidity I almost like that.  Others will not.  The Kamei heart box on the bottom.  Boy that one is not so good.  It looks pretty, but the opening and design of it is just cheap.  You can see every glue line there is.  To open it, you just need to wiggle it a bit.

On to the metal puzzles.  The top left is called Sputnik and it's ok.  It's more of a guessing game than a puzzle, and other than the rather sharp edges, I've nothing to say about this one.  The next two: EZ Unlink and EZ Galaxy are very different. The EZ Unlink is nice.  it doesn't fall apart in your hands and has a nice heft to it.  I'd get this one. The EZ Galaxy I would pass on.  Go for the Puzzlemaster verion called Great Collision.  Moving down there is a 4 leafed clover and ying and yang.  Both hold together fairly well.  Not too problematic.  The torpedo is a different version of a classic and a bit on the light side.  I worry that this one isn't very sturdy.  The Knot Simple puzzle is dead easy.  In fact as a take-apart puzzle, it isn't a puzzle. It's a joke.  When I unboxed it it fell apart in my hands.  This one is a pass.  Secrets of the heart (that's a Sacajawea dollar on it for those of you who were wondering.) Is ok.  No complaints.  It works as it should and has a bit of weight to it.  The key with the ring.  What a joke!  It is so flimsy and sharp that I've never bothered with it.  It has a carry case, and I took a few photos then tossed it in the box. I don't think it will surface anytime soon.  All Hail the King (Marcel, you don't think highly of yourself do you?) I have two of.  One is boxed, the other is open.  Both are B&P versions.  Go figure.  And finally, Fit to a T.  The puzzle that started my long running affair with B&P.  A nice little puzzle that is just a tiny bit loose in the box. But hey, I'm not complaining, it was free!

And now for the reason I started this post.  Last July I ordered a bunch of puzzles from B&P.  They sent them to the wrong address even though I changed the one on record.  Nothing came in and around September I called to find out what was going on.  I mean they were only sending it to Florida.  When I found out I was more than a little bit upset. Mostly because they no longer had stock of the puzzles I wanted.  The company issued me a credit certificate in November and washed their hands of me.  around 4 months isn't too slow.  Or is it?

It turns out you can only use these if you call in the order. OK, I'm in HK.  The company is in the US.  Toll Free numbers are charged at international rates.  Long and repetitive story short, over the past year I've ordered twice from B&P both over th phone and neither time did the operator let me use that certificate even though I tried.  Well tonight I finally got an operator who was new and I got to use my refund certificate!  Finally. Only 11 months after it was issued!  Nice deal that is.  They have you don't they?  No money back and over a year to get your refund!  WOW!  Ok, so I got a bunch more puzzles that I hope will arrive before Christmas.  Oh, and for my trouble of spending 1/2 hour on the phone, they knocked $5 off the shipping.  Big whoop! 

See, hit and miss.  Love/hate.  B&P and Rox.  I suffer through and will continue to buy from them as the years go by I'm sure.  But I do so willingly and know exactly what I've gotten myself into.  Go check them out, but remember I warned you.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas day puzzling

While the majority of my puzzle friends are dreaming of sugar plums, I've been puzzling the day away.
Santa was all right. But I would have to say, Christmas Eve present opening was much nicer! Thanks to a silly bug I had a few more presents under the tree than I expected.

So there are a lot in there from Bits and pieces, and a few from Eureka, a Smart Games, a Karakuri, and one from the Juggler.

Now while any and all of these are pretty neat, I would have to say thus far, my favorite has been....oh don't hate me....Oskar's Matchboxes. :-) There is just something mesmerizing about the way those blocks come apart. They have this sliding motion to them that is just plain fun to watch.

Solving wise. Well, the configuration it is in when it arrives is easy to do. I've managed that with the cardboard set I made a while back. Now I've seen somewhere that there are 2 more solutions to this puzzle. I guess I'll have to spending bit of time giving it a think.

What? Not fair I hear you scream out! I shouldn't like a toy I already have? Ok then, this time I'll agree with you.

I'll be serious then. I like all of them and will post later on each of the other puzzles I received, but first. I want to talk about Neil's Unhappy Childhood.

I saw this one and was taken by it. Why? I'm not entirely sure. It's a 5x5x2 checkerboard. Maybe it was the pretty wood. Maybe it was the poor finger. Or maybe it was a temporary bout of the "I think I can solve that" Well, what ever it was, I now have that puzzle in my possession. and it is pretty.

Upon closer inspection, there are 10 pieces each with 5 cubes. The puzzle is simple. Put it back in the box so that there is a checkerboard pattern on both the top and bottom layers. So is it possible? I've been told, but after about 2 hours on it today??? I'm beginning to wonder. And for all you naysayers who think I never muck up a puzzle that is difficult to solve...

Nice of Mr. Coffin to make another devil of a puzzle. Nicer of Neil to remake it. I won't bore you with telling you about the way it was made or anything like that. I've A major snowstorm brewing in my bedroom right now that I need to put an end to. I'll just say I love the box the puzzle is in. Very creative. I wish I knew what the smell was that is in there. It's not the wood that is for sure. And I'll leave you with a link to Neil's page on how he built this thing.

Oh yes, and for those of you who are wondering, there is no blood to be found.