Cast Puzzles by Hanayama

Posted on Aug 19, 2010 by Gabriel | 8 comments
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The Cast Series are metal disentanglement puzzles made by Japanese company Hanayama.

The first puzzles were released in 1983 and since then, more than fifty different designs have been made. Some of them are remakes of old classics that were popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Puzzle designers Oskar van Deventer and Vesa Timonen have contributed with several designs through the years and many more had their designs picked up by Hanayama.

Each puzzle has its own theme, its name and the company's engraved, which makes each and every one of them, very unique. Their packaging presentation is exquisite and it's very nice to see, in the box, the correspondent Japanese character for each one. Also, the build quality is top-notch, with very nice finishing touches. If you're a collector and like to have them displayed on a shelf, their box is a nice way to do this.

There's six levels of difficulty, from the easiest (like the Bike) to the extreme (like the Elk). The goal is always the same. Can you take them apart? Some of them are so difficult that sometimes you don't even know where to begin. And, as if it weren't enough, you have to put them back to their original state when you solve them. Don't be fooled, as some might be even harder to assemble back together than to take apart, because when you're trying to separate their pieces, you might not pay attention to the method that you used or you may as well got lucky and you don't know for sure what you did to solve it.

Next, I'll present some of these cast puzzles, the ones that I currently own and solved. I managed to solve most of them (six out of nine), but I'm still trying to figure out those three that keep intriguing me.

Cast News ()

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This was the puzzle that got me into the Cast fever. Designed by NOB (Nobuyuki Yoshigahara) and released in May 2003, the design is one of the most beautiful from Hanayama's series, with the American Text font used for the N.E.W.S letters.

This is rated as difficulty 6 (the maximum), although I was able to solve it in a couple of minutes, mainly because I recognized the mechanics involved from a similar puzzle I solved a while back (X Marks the Spot). When I heard the pieces move around inside, I knew what I had to do in order to open it. If you're unfamiliar with this concept, then you'll have a hard time figuring out what's going on inside it. It's still a wonderful puzzle and very fun to watch your friends trying to take it apart.

Solution: Click here to download the solution.

Cast Bike ()

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The Cast Bike was released in 1994 and it's a remake of an old classic from the end of the 19th century and I must say, perfectly made, as it turned out to be a very elegant and neat design.

This one is actually very easy to solve. Rated as difficulty 1, it uses the same principle as the ABC Puzzle, which is to follow the maze on the bike with the ring, through the entire length of the puzzle and free it from the frame. It's a little harder than the ABC, but not that much, because you'll eventually solve it by trial and error.

It's a nice puzzle to get started in the Hanayama series and one that everyone can pick up and solve it without any frustration whatsoever.

Video: Click here to see a video solution of the Cast Bike.

Solution: Click here to download the solution.

Cast Marble ()

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Created by Bram Cohen and Oskar van Deventer, the Cast Marble was released in April 2009. It's one of the most beautiful in the series and for someone that may see it for the first time, might not even take it as a puzzle.

It's rated as 4 in difficulty, but it can be very tricky to understand how to separate the marble from the other two pieces of the frame. This one is actually harder to put back together than to take apart, because once you separate all the pieces, you probably won't even understand how you did it. It can be very frustrating, trying to put the pieces in a way that can fit properly together into the cubic shape again. No shame in checking the solution for this one, but only for putting it together, as the main goal is already conquered...

The Marble was the only Cast puzzle so far that I've seen with a little imperfection. It has some air bubbles around it that were perhaps caused by the coating finish not to dry properly. It doesn't hinder you from enjoying the puzzle, but it's unfortunate nonetheless.

Solution: Click here to download the solution.

Cast Claw ()

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The Cast Claw (or Crab), released in March 1999 is part of the Marine Series by Hanayama and designed by Akio Yamamoto. Currently, there's six different designs and they vary from difficulty 1 to 3. The Starfish is my favorite and most certainly, one of the next purchases in the Cast series.

It's only difficulty 2 and the method is similar of the ones used in ABC and Bike, in which you have to follow a path in order to release the other piece. It's harder than those two, because the final step to release it, is not so straightforward as you'd think. The design is very original, with a small fingerling as the ring.

Solution: Click here to download the solution.

Cast Coaster ()

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Released in April 2006, the Coaster was designed by Ukranian Serhiy Grabarchuk. 

Looking at it for the first time, it's one of those puzzles that actually don't look like one. It's made by three interlocking rings that when put together, form a perfect bond that looks like a glass coaster. This bond resembles the one used to make the 'Lucky Clover' by Oskar van Deventer, where the four pieces are also intertwined in a way that looks impossible at first sight. 

Rated as level 4 of 6, this is pretty tricky to separate. You have to pay close attention to where each of the three pieces are joined together and slowly try to pull them apart. You'll see that the pieces will move more freely, and when you least expect they're separated. Putting the puzzle together is another great challenge. I'm not sure which task was more difficult, because when you try to link them back, they have to fit perfectly into each other's grooves. The key is to always start with the middle ring, as it is easier to see its orientation due to the engravings on it.

Solution: Click here to download the solution.

Cast Cuby ()

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Another clever design by Oskar van Deventer, the Cuby was released by Hanayama in October 2005. 

Rated as difficulty 3, the puzzle is a cube in which you have to guide the piece trapped inside, through a maze and free it. There's small grooves on every face, but only one of them is large enough to allow the piece to go through. You move around by sliding this piece on the smaller grooves' adjacent faces until you find the way to the larger and last groove. 

The starting position on the Cuby is a smiley face made by the central piece and the eyes in the frame. When you solve it, you have to return it to this starting point, so if you pay attention to the steps used in freeing the piece, putting it back is just following those steps backwards. Sounds simple, but when you're just concentrated in taking it apart, it's easy to forget how you did it.

Solution: Click here to download the solution.

Closing Comments:

The Cast Puzzles are definitely a must have in every collection, not only for their beautiful designs, but also because each one provides a different challenge, leaving amazed even the ones that don't like puzzles very much. None of them comes with a solution inside, because the company believes that "you have to experience the fun and frustration in solving these puzzles". Doesn't matter how many of them you solved so far and how good you are at solving puzzles, because when you have a new one in your hands, it will make you think, for it will be so different from the others that what you did with them, it won't help you in solving this one.

I still have three unsolved, the Dolce, the Equa and the Elk with difficulties of 3, 5 and 6 respectively. With the exception of the Equa, the other two seem so simple that it's hard to think of them in another perspective. Maybe I'm missing something or I need to approach them in a different way.

All of the Cast Puzzles being sold right now are available at PuzzleMaster.


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

Cast Puzzles Official Website


Anonymous said...

I just recently discovered these. They're fantastic! I got 2, and quickly had to buy a ton more. Worried I might be addicted now :)

Gabriel said...

Oh, sorry to tell you, but it seems to me that you're already addicted. Enjoy the fun ;-)

Anonymous said...

I love Hanayama puzzles and I also think the starfish is a great one.

Chris, Debra, Clare and Drew said...

They're like potato chips: You can't have just one. I have a boatload of these things and I love them. Plus, they're VERY affordable at about $12 a piece.

Gabriel said...

Couldn't agree more with you. I now have the entire series and they're among my favorite puzzles in my whole collection. It's hard to pick just two or three of the best, as most of them are so unique.

Puzzle Regards ;-)

Unknown said...

I just completed my collection and then this years releases came out :D makes me happy to have new challenges. I also found a good Facebook page that could use some support.

Achie said...

hi Gabriel.. my name is Asri from Indonesia, absolutely a big fan of puzzles too.. unfortunately it's not a common hobby here, and quite difficult to find puzzle collection.. well I need to order them online overseas, which is not easy too.. :(

it is fun to read your blog, a bit envy too of course.. :)
I also love Hanayama, I only have two of them now.. I will collect them too someday, someway.. my first crush is also Rubiks.. :)

Keep sharing the puzzles here..


Anonymous said...

These puzzles are both fun and frustrating

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