The essential elements of puzzles are centuries old. The knot to be unraveled, the wordplay to be processed, the pieces to be reassembled, the message to be decoded, the inconsistency to be spotted.
And yet, puzzles continue to evolve, finding new ways to express and employ these ancient components into fresh, satisfying solving experiences.
We recently discussed the evolution of Rubik’s-style twisty puzzles thanks to 3-D printing and computer modeling, and the same is true for an even older puzzle style: wooden puzzles.
Wooden puzzles frequently adhere to one of several formats:
- disassembling a puzzle into its individual parts (chinese tea puzzle, wooden snowflake/flower puzzle)
- assembling a puzzle from its separated parts (star puzzle, jigsaw puzzles, 3-D jigsaw puzzles)
- removing a single piece from an elaborate setup (Waiter’s Tray, Sword in Stone, rope puzzles)
- working out the necessary steps or the hidden trick to open (puzzle boxes, puzzle furniture)
Many of these puzzles are still effective and satisfying challenges today. If you’ve ever tried to hold four pieces in place at once in order to assemble a wooden camel, or suss out the dozen or so steps to open a himitsu-bako (or Japanese puzzle box), you know what I’m talking about.
Of course, like their twisty counterparts, these puzzles have only grown more complex over time.
And a relatively recent addition to the arsenal of wooden puzzle designers and creators is at-home laser cutters allowing for efficient production of puzzles and pieces at an affordable rate.
Over the years, we’ve seen projects like Cirkusu and the Baffledazzle line of specialized jigsaw puzzles, as well as the hit Kickstarter project Codex Silenda (which even appeared in an episode of NCIS: New Orleans), thanks to crowdfunding campaigns and affordable laser cutters.
Check out some of the most recent wooden puzzles I’ve encountered, created through laser cutter design:
Martin Raynsford’s Antikythera Tablets
This collection of five puzzle tablets, each themed around different aspects of Greek mythology, create a beautiful and well-constructed narrative chain that feels brilliantly unique and immersive.
iDventure’s Cluebox Escape Rooms in a Box
These multi-stage puzzle boxes are completely self-contained. You need to explore every inch of its surface to find clues and tools to unlock each stage of the puzzle box and reveal further challenges!
The field has advanced so far in just last few years, so who knows where wooden puzzles will go in the future?
Have you seen any mind-blowing wooden brain teasers that you’d recommend, fellow puzzlers? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!
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