Hello again, Kubiya Kommunity! We hope everyone has been having a cool, calm, and collected summer. It’s the perfect weather to chill out in public parks with a good book …… or even a good puzzle! Lately we’ve been trying to highlight our favorite puzzle collections and designers, and this week the topic is Dutch designer Oskar van Deventer - a true legend. The world of mechanical puzzling has come a long way, far beyond devices like the Rubik’s Cube - which might be best known to the general public. Puzzle designers come and go, but some have been here a long time and have staked their claim with deep roots. Inventors and creative minds alike have contributed a great deal to the community, and command great respect as pillars of the puzzling world. Oskar van Deventer is no exception to this rule.
Born in 1965, Van Deventer has made significant contributions to many different styles of mechanical puzzles. Puzzles dreamed up in his mind might begin their journey as 3D printed prototypes and then transition to mass production by large puzzle companies. On top of all this, Van Deventer also manages a popular YouTube channel with hundreds of videos archived. He gives brief introductions to new creations and demonstrates the puzzle and its mechanism/secret. The videos go fairly in depth, elaborating the functions of the interconnected pieces and how they mesh together to form the final shape of the puzzle. Oskar’s videos are as insightful as they are practical, a perfect watch for those seeking to break into the world of puzzle design or learn some puzzle-making techniques of their own. The best way to break into a new industry is to see the masters at work.
Take a look below at some intriguing puzzle creations straight out of Van Deventer’s crazy brain. We’ve highlighted our favorites, but there are countless others to view on his channel or on the Kubiya Website.
First up from the collection is the Equa Puzzle - definitely worthy of a closer look! The general shape resembles a dark gray, metal orb confined within layers of planetary style rings that keep the orbs locked in place. The goal of this cast metal puzzle is to separate the two interlocked loops and remove them from the surrounding celestial structure. Afterwards, the complementary challenge is piecing the parts back together. It might feel silly to call it a second challenge, but you’d be surprised how often the pieces to a puzzle don’t fit back together as easily as you would have hoped. The metal rings positioned tightly inside the structure look as if they cannot possibly be removed, all you can seemingly do is rotate the orb on its axes. There is obviously more than meets the eye, and the distributor offers a keyword (and possible clue) of “Heaven” if you get stumped. Van Deventer created this engaging master class in engineering as part of the Hanayama Collection, and it was released in 2008.
Why do we love this puzzle?
In terms of a challenge, the Equa Puzzle is one of the most difficult in the entire Hanayama Collection, which immediately sets it apart from other, simpler puzzles, but with the same sleek design. What’s even more peculiar is that it’s next to impossible to actually describe the solution set of moves with words. The method is specific, nuanced, and extremely movement based. You’ll need ample amounts of dexterity, confidence, and finessing to make progress. Even if you look for a video solution — you will, most likely, have a hard time solving it! That’s why the Equa is a real gem and a must-have.
If there was ever a puzzle to leave you feeling like a nutcase ….. look no further! The main objective for this Nut/Bolt style contraption is to unleash the small, metal nut that is locked within! This one is an interlocking puzzle, and basically the player must figure out how to maneuver the pieces so that the nut and bolt slide apart. For the extra hardcore puzzle enthusiasts (hopefully YOU), try rearranging the two larger nuts so that they read “Case Nut,” rather than “Nut Case”. We have no idea what “Case Nut” means, but it sure is fun to do it anyway! And, it’s more challenging - we love when there’s an extra layer to any puzzle. The player gets more time toying with the apparatus, an extra challenge to overcome, and another feat to be proud of and show off to your friends. Unscrew the cap off of your imagination and let those brain juices flow before you go nutty.
Why do we love this puzzle?
The fun of this puzzle is that even if you figure out the main “trick”, a.k.a realizing what type of inner mechanism you’re dealing with, carrying out the procedure proves to be considerably tougher. You’ll be feeling like a safe cracker in a high stakes bank heist (although we do NOT condone bank-robbing). Because of the nuanced, delicate approach, it truly feels like a substantial achievement when all is said and done. The technique is similar to lock-picking in the sense that you know how everything works in theory, but it requires a lot of trial and error. Try feeling for minute changes that occur inside as you work it out, and always remember to have fun!
The objective of the Chain Puzzle is to unlock three metal chain-links and then reassemble the chain afterwards. “What’s so difficult about that?” - are the famous last words for anyone who stumbles onto a challenging puzzle masquerading as a simple metal instrument. It’s true, the devil is in the details with this puzzle, and the simple appearance can be misleading. The chain requires patience and a keen eye to achieve success. On top of that, the puzzle can be completed in three distinct ways, depending on which link has been chosen as the middle connector. That means once you have solved the puzzle, you still have two more tests to prove that you have mastered the process. Chain Puzzle is just another gem from the mind of Oskar van Deventer, again using the process of cast metal to carve a precise shape. Mechanical Puzzles have universal, international appeal that can’t be denied, and it’s a marvel how puzzles and games can be shared between countries with no translation or adaptations required.
Why do we love this puzzle?
The interesting thing about the Chain Puzzle is that it requires careful planning of sorts to reach the end goal. Naturally, it’s essential to fiddle with and jostle the links for a while to get used to the movements that are possible. But then, we recommend just looking at the pieces and making a game plan of how you might prevent the lock-ups and allow the inevitable release. Not all puzzles require this kind of foresight without actually fidgeting constantly with the mechanism. Overall, it’s clear that a careful thought process went into the design, and it’s nice to know that if you DO solve it, it won’t just be a lucky guess. A piece of advice that gets repeated over and over - no force required! These chains should glide like butter if you find the right moves.
H & H Puzzle
Yet another stellar puzzle from the mind of Van Deventer, The H & H Puzzle is composed of two pieces shaped like the letter H - go figure, huh? Someday, if we’re lucky, there’ll be a puzzle for every letter of the alphabet! The goal of this H & H Puzzle is to separate the two pieces. They jostle around in a peculiar, tricky manner, which complicates the discovery process. The 2 H’s look identical but they are subtly unique, and the puzzler must take advantage of the differences to work their way through the labyrinth of possible moves. To make matters even cloudier, the individual pieces have notches and gaps for various protrusions to pass over/through one another along the complex, maze-like path. This cast metal puzzle is bound to challenge even the most brilliant minds.
Why do we love this puzzle?
First off, the design really catches your attention right away, as if it were a work of art (which it is!). The attractive aesthetic, sculpted shape, and complexity of the puzzle make it a favorite among Van Deventer’s collection. The sophistication of design is truly what establishes Oskar as an elite puzzle maker among the community: he not only imagines these fantastical concepts, but he crafts his designs in a nuanced fashion to stand out from the pack. It’s also worth noting that the H & H Puzzle can still be rather challenging even when you attempt to solve it multiple times. Most likely, you would need several tries before you memorize all the necessary movements, meaning more quality time with the puzzle!
A Titan of the Industry, Methods to the Madness
Many of Deventer’s puzzles feature a style of puzzle-making that uses cast metal. The question, “what exactly is cast metal?” might be the first thing that comes to mind (it certainly was for me), and it’s actually a really interesting method. Basically, “casting” refers to the process of pouring hot, liquid metal, like magma, into a mold so that the metal forms the shape of that mold as it cools. The sleek, metal materials add a little something extra to the puzzle-solving experience with smooth surfaces and durable construction. They all feel nice to handle, like a fidget spinner. You just can’t get the same level of charm from wood or plastic polymers. We love ALL types of mechanical puzzles, but it’s healthy to shake things up, and having metal in your hands to fidget around with can be a real game changer if you get bored on your puzzling journey.
In addition to his puzzle endeavors, Oskar van Deventer is a research scientist in the media networking field, and he holds a PhD in optics. His contributions to other fields has amounted to over a hundred publications, over 50 patent applications, and over 500 standardizing contributions. Some of the smartest people around are the ones who have the widest ranges of interests, and who are constantly expanding their circles of knowledge. To this day, Van Deventer produces intricately crafted puzzles and continues to upload to his YouTube channel, showing off his latest contraptions.
As always, stay tuned for more highlights from the puzzling world. The worldwide community of mechanical puzzles is constantly growing, and getting to know the eclectic bunch of brainiacs who’ve dedicated their lives to these games is heart-warming to say the least. Genius can come from any place, from any person, so keep your eyes open!