Trick Locks

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
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(My modest Trick Lock collection)
Over the last few months I've been writing about the most beautiful puzzles out there, made by talented craftsmen - like Jean Claude Constantin or Vinco - and respectful companies, like Hanayama or Meffert's. There are so many more to talk about, but in order to keep writing about varied topics I must change the subject to other interesting themes.

So, this time I want to focus this article on Trick Locks, a much beloved type of puzzles with very dedicated aficionados, some of them committed only to collect these puzzles and nothing more. Now, I'm no big authority on the subject of Trick Locks, but I'm a curious and informed enthusiast with many impressive designs in my collection, and I hope I can get you interested in the subject if you're not already a fan or a connoisseur.

The specific origin of Trick Locks (also called Puzzle Locks) is not exactly known, but they date back several centuries. The first ones may have been manufactured in China and Japan, which has a long history of producing furniture and other objects with secret compartments and other locking devices. India has also been a major producer of Trick Locks for a long time now and, in the process, it's also a country brimming with talented designers and avid collectors.

One of the most well-known Trick Lock collectors is Dr. Hiren Shah, a native from Ahmedabad, India, who turned his house into a museum (a Houseum) with a few thousand Trick Locks from around the world, spanning centuries of cultures and other influences. It's one of the most impressive Trick Lock collections in the world.

Trick Locks were invented more as a mean to lock other people's possessions, and not as much as a traditional puzzle. With Trick Locks it's much more difficulty to tamper with their mechanism, since many of these locks don't even need a key to be opened. To discover their solution one must find hidden clues around the lock, like a sliding part that reveals a hidden keyhole, or a well disguised button you need to push, a hidden mechanism you need to uncover...Anything out of the ordinary could just be a red herring or yet another clue to unlock the puzzle.

Other mechanisms simply work by using the force of gravity, as you need to tilt the puzzle in different directions to unlock certain elements. Everything about Trick Locks is made so the solution is always a mystery to the casual observer, as if it were impossible to open them without resorting to brute force.

Today, Trick Locks have a very dedicated following, and since their traditional use is no longer needed, or less used, curious people find them fascinating and become eager to unravel their secret, but only the most cunning and observant will succeed. Trick Locks are a type of puzzle that intrigues people, and even the non-enthusiastic about puzzles will find these objects quite interesting and will try their luck by attempting to open them.

There are so many types of designs for Trick Locks that a single article would not be enough to describe all of them. Instead I will only scratch the surface by pointing out a few of the most interesting and important mechanisms, and at the end providing you with enough information to help you make your own research.

One of main issues about many Trick Locks, if we mention the most sought and the higher quality. is their high price tag. Many of these puzzles can easily reach hundreds of dollars, due to their high quality materials and the fact that many of them are hand-made, one at a time. These are the ones serious collectors go after - The most prestigious designs. If money is no object to you, I highly recommend taking a look at a few ones.

In the high-end spectrum of Trick Locks, one of the most respected designers is Rainer Popp. His Popplock series is extremely popular among enthusiasts and collectors all over the world and, of course, the price matches the expected high quality of his creations, as each one is painstakingly turned and milled by the designer himself.

(PoppLocks (Courtesy of popplock.com))
You should also consider a couple of Trick Locks from a not so well-known designer, Splinter Spierenburgh, but just as talented as any other.

(Splinter Locks)
If you prefer a more affordable option, there's always some good choices from a different number of manufacturers. Over the years I tried many of these and, despite some disappointments, I have encountered some nice designs that I can easily recommend to any fan, like the Houdini Lock Series, a good introduction to Trick Locks.

In the mid-range of Trick Locks you can find a whole different selection, and with completely unique mechanism that require dozens of moves to be opened. I'm talking about the n-ary puzzles, and in the Trick Lock (or Puzzle Lock) category there are some really impressive designs by Jean Claude Constantin. The trick to open them is also a bit different, as it has more to do with finding the correct sequence of moves rather than finding out how the hidden mechanism works. One of such puzzles is the Generation Lock with a whopping 340 million + moves. If you find that a bit excessive, you can settle for a more modest choice, the Lock 250+ (with...you guessed it...250+ moves).
(Generation Lock & Schloss 250+)
Another type of Trick Locks and probably the most appreciated and sought after by collectors are the antique and vintage locks. These locks have the most unique and fascinating mechanisms, and were often decorated with whimsical designs. Many of these locks were clearly designed to impress rather than being practical or to keep your secrets locked, even though their mechanisms were usually quite tricky to figure out. In the end, their purpose was spot-on, because there are many enthusiasts around the world who appreciate the qualities and nature of these fascinating objects.

(Antique Trick Locks (Courtesy of liveauctioneers.com))


Final Thoughts:

Trick Locks have been around for several centuries, and judging by how much they're appreciated by collectors and aficionados alike, I bet they'll be around for many more centuries to come. This is a type of puzzle that can capture the attention of any curious-minded person and can be a great way to entertain a group of friends and family.

Availability: Many of the puzzle locks here mentioned and many more can be found at PuzzleMaster.



Quad L

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(Click to Enlarge)
Quad L, a member of the anodized metal puzzle family, is quite an attractive visual design. Designed by Mr. Gong, this puzzle is made with four different colored L-shaped pieces that are joined together inside a black frame. A nice challenge that can keep a puzzler entertained for a while.

In its solved state, the Quad L has its four pieces joined around the center of the frame and some leeway to move the pieces about. The goal is to remove the pieces, one by one, by sliding and rotating the pieces around the frame until you can make room to remove the first piece. Once that's accomplished, the others will be easily removed.

(Click to Enlarge)
Although the pieces appear to be all identical, only two actually are. Because of these differences you need to carefully analyse each piece and understand how they can be moved around the frame. It's an interesting concept, akin to what you'd expect in a Cast Puzzle, for example.

Taking it apart, as usual in this kind of puzzles, is much easier than the opposite. Be sure to memorize the order in which the pieces are removed, so you can invert the process to put it back together. I did find it a little challenging, although nothing to be frustrated about. This is a difficulty level 9/10, but I'm not sure it's that difficult. It will vary from person to person.

(Click to Enlarge)
Closing Comments:

The Quad L is the perfect level for a nice and enjoyable time, but don't expect the hardest of challenges. Just a thought: should an enjoyable puzzle need to be extremely difficult to be fun? - Fun and difficult don't always need to be together in the same sentence.

Availability: The Quad L is available at PuzzleMaster for $19.99 CAD. Check out the other anodized metal puzzles.


#1 Puzzle

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(Click to Enlarge)
The #1 Puzzle is yet another interesting member of the anodized metal puzzle family by PuzzleMaster. This shiny emerald green puzzle looks like a scary one, but it's actually not that difficult when you attempt to solve it.

Comprised of four different flat pieces, the #1 Puzzle sort of resembles the classic Gordian's Knot puzzle, one of my favorites. It's not that complex, though, because the classic version has six pieces. The pieces move in a certain direction, but only to a point, as it's blocked by the others. You have to figure out how the cuts in the pieces work and how to disentangle them.

(Click to Enlarge)
For its price range, the puzzle is actually quite well built. These metal puzzles are usually prone to scratches, but my copy is, so far, more or less scratch-free. Sometimes the best option for these puzzles is to get two copies - one for playing and another for displaying...

I thought this was going to be quite a challenge, as it's rated as a level 8/10, but surprisingly it wasn't that hard. Taking it apart was pretty easy and done within seconds, but like every puzzle in this category, the hard part is putting it back together. While it wasn't particularly as easy as it was to take it apart, I was able to solve it in a few minutes. Either I'm getting better at this sort of puzzles or the puzzle wasn't as challenging to begin with. I'm inclined to go for the second option, since I was never that good at solving this kind of puzzles.

(Click to Enlarge)
Closing comments:

I have some mixed feelings about this puzzle. On one hand, I was pleased to solve it fairly quickly, for a change, but on the other hand I can't say I'm not a bit disappointed by how easy it was. For an 8/10 puzzle you'd expect a tougher challenge than this. Nevertheless, it's still quite a great-looking puzzle.

Availability: You can find the #1 Puzzle at PuzzleMaster for $19.99 CAD. Check out the other anodized puzzles in this series.


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