Cast Spiral (渦)

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(Click to Enlarge)
Kennet Walker might not be a household name in the puzzle community, but his Cast Spiral might be one of the most impressive designs in the Hanayama series. It was released in June 2003 and its key word is - You guessed it - "Spiral".

The Spiral is one of those puzzles that really puts the phrase "Looks can be deceiving" into perspective. When you first look at it, doesn't even seem like a real challenge, because its design is made to look like a trivial jigsaw puzzle. When you pick it up, however, you're in for a surprise, as the five pieces comprising the puzzle are interlocked and appear to defy logic. The object, although seemingly impossible, is to separate all five pieces and then put them back together.

The concept is not that hard to understand once you thoroughly examine the Spiral. The pieces look identical, but in fact they're slightly different from each other with precision-cut tolerances. These differences can't be seen with the naked eye, though, but you can tell them apart with a simple method (read further below).

Hanayama rates the Spiral as a 5/6 level of difficulty, and while I have faced harder level 5 puzzles - the mighty Cast Equa - I can see why it's not lower, even though it could as well been a 4/6. For a casual puzzler, however, it can be a seriously tough challenge.

Solving the puzzle takes more dexterity than wits actually, especially the second part of the challenge, putting it together. Every time you hold the puzzle by one piece, you can see it spiraling down, sort of like a round staircase. Each piece will produce the same visual effect, which leads you to think that the pieces must be identical. As mentioned above, they're not identical, but without giving away too much about the solution, I can give you a couple more key words: "Twist" or "Bend".

(Click to Enlarge) - The "Spiral"

Now, the other part of the challenge, returning the puzzle to its original state. If you thought that separating the pieces was tough, what to say about this one? - Prior to solve the puzzle, I read some comments about it and how some people jammed it beyond repair, leaving the pieces completely stuck. With this in mind and some concern that I could mess up the puzzle, I started the assembly process a little apprehensive. As it turns out, within 10 minutes, I had no more reasons to be preoccupied.

Getting the puzzle back together was actually way less complex than I was expecting. To assemble the puzzle and avoid jamming it, you have to make sure that every two pieces you try to fit can go one and a half times past the entry point. Each piece that fails to perform this simple task is a clear indication that it's not the right fit and another one should be tried. Don't try to force them in place, because they slide pretty well once they fit. There may be one or two identical pairs of pieces, because there were a couple of times where more than one piece fit the same way. When you have all the right pieces in place, do the same movement  you did when you took them apart, except backwards. Again, this process takes more dexterity than wits.

(Click to Enlarge) - Taken Apart

Solution: For a clearer solution guide, check the Spiral's page at Sloyd.

Closing Comments:

The Spiral is now one of my favorite puzzles from the Cast series. The concept is very original and the manufacturing is Hanayama at its best. It feels great in the palm of your hand and it's quite sturdy for a small puzzle. The amazing visual effect made by the pieces is great to impress some friends at a party or at work. Highly recommended.

Availability: The Cast Spiral can be found at Sloyd.fi, as well as all the other Cast Puzzles from Hanayama.

Links:

Hanayama Cast (in English) - Very useful website in English, with plenty of information on all things Cast.

Hanayama's Factory Visit (Many thanks to Roxanne Wong for sharing these pictures)


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