Cast Equa (天)

Posted on by Gabriel | 4 comments
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(Click to Enlarge)
My quest to review all Cast Puzzles is over... Or so it seemed. Just when I thought I had all of Hanayama's flagship puzzles, comes yet another two great additions to the family, the Cast Box and the Cast Harmony. I hope I can get my hands these two before they release another one, so I can say, yet again, that I have all Cast Puzzles.

So, the not so final Cast Puzzle review is for Oskar's Equa, released in September 2008. The Equa had previously been entered at the 2004 24th IPP Design Competition and, curiously enough, the original version, manufactured by Tom Lensch, was made entirely of wood and had a different name, Space Rings. The puzzle represents a planet and its surrounding ring, with the main theme being "heaven".

The design of the puzzle is quite intriguing, reminiscent of some model that you'd probably see on an astronomer's desk. You can see two rings, perpendicular to each other, that seem to be trapped inside a symmetrical frame. What you're supposed to do, even though it looks like an impossible task, is to free the rings from the frame. You also need to separate both rings afterwords, as well as returning the whole puzzle to its original form.

(Click to Enlarge) - Partially Disassembled
Rated by Hanayama as a level 5/6, I would expect it to be less of a challenge than any of the 6/6 tier, which is not the case. Harder than this, in my personal experience, are only the Nutcase and the Vortex. I've had the Equa for more two years now. In fact, it was one of the first Cast Puzzles and it took me forever to solve. I only solved it recently, as the last Cast Puzzle review was fast approaching.

Although I was able to successfully remove the rings from the frame, I'm still uncertain on some of the steps, because they weren't done in the same session, but over the last couple of years, whenever I got a little patience to pick it up.

It's important to note some of the puzzle's tricky workings. Each ring has a small pin that prevents it from moving freely around the frame. Instead, you can only rotate the rings around the axis of the pins. If you're able to separate the rings, still inside the frame, then it's possible to shift one of the pin's position in relation to the other. The openings on the rings can easily fit on the frame's edges, and by constantly fiddling around with this notion, I was able to slowly progress... Really slowly.

On some occasions, the puzzle almost got stuck on one of the frame's edges. I suspected the tolerances might have been a little tighter on mine, but I eventually got it unstuck. The final couple of steps, when I could finally see the rings almost out of the frame was a real treat. It'd taken me over two years to see this happening, so you can imagine my excitement.

After removing the two rings, it still took a couple of minutes to separate them. This was one though nut to crack. The reassembly, like almost always, is a pain and no different from the reverse process. After a few unsuccessful attempts, I knew I wasn't going anywhere and, unless I wanted to spend another couple of years trying to get it back together, I had to follow a video.

Well, even looking at a video, this process is anything but easy. It's not going well as of the writing of this review, but I refuse to give up. This has to go back to its original state. I did notice something, though. My previous suspicions that my copy had tighter tolerances were correct. In the video, the guy seems to move the rings effortlessly from one place to another, but mine seem to have a mind of their own and they insist to get stuck all the time. I have to take breaks in between sessions, just to let my fingers get a rest. We'll see how this goes over the next sessions...

(Click to Enlarge)
Closing Comments:

Having had quite the experience solving the Cast Equa, my overall feelings towards the puzzle remain unchanged, even though it took me a long time to solve it. The puzzle looks fantastic, and the concept, as if we ever expected something different from Oskar, is a masterpiece. Don't take my word for it about the difficulty. You might get luckier than me. Let me know in the comments section how was your experience with it.

Availability: If you want to get a copy of the superb Cast Equa or any of the other great Cast Puzzles by Hanayama, visit the website Sloyd.fi. Worldwide shipping available. If you'd like to try your luck at one of the rare original wooden "Space Rings", contact Tom Lensch.


Oskar van Deventer Official Website

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) 


mhuti said...

I agree Gabriel, I found this is a challenging puzzle and a very interesting variant of cage puzzle. This is one of my favourite Hanayama puzzles.

Gabriel said...

Some of my favorite puzzles are from Oskar. This man deserves a statue somewhere!

Lucas said...

Hi Gabriel, I'm glad I found your blog because I was completely puzzled at the hanayama difficulty ranking! I'm glad to hear your point of view is similar to mine in terms of how hard the equa and vortex are.

I recently got my first hanayama puzzle, the vortex, was really impressed by the difficulty and wonderful complexity. Even after solving it many times, I still enjoy untangling and putting it back together.

Anyway, so we went back to get more, chose the marble and spiral. Was really surprised with the spiral, supposed to be the same level as vortex, but took only a few minutes to solve and reassemble! The marble at level 4 was much more difficult, and a lovely piece.

After that we thought we should try to most difficult per the rankings - the enigma! (We also bought the equa at that same time.) I started on the enigma and was really disappointed when the first piece came free after just a few obvious moves. The second piece wasn't so hard to remove either, but at least it had a nice twist. Overall, if enigma is level 6, vortex should be 10.

So finally the point of my comment ... I opened the equa and wow! Definitely up there with vortex in terms of complexity and difficulty!

I haven't tried the nutcase yet (must be next one to get), but so far, in order of easiest to hardest to solve initially I would rank: spiral, enigma, marble (even though once you know the solution it's simple, this one really was a mystery for a while), with equa and vortex sharing the top spot. To be fair on enigma, it will have more repeat value than the marble, but really I can't understand why it was the most difficult by their rating!

Gabriel said...

Hi Lucas,
Thank you for your comment.

Apparently, Hanayama changed their ratings on their website to more appropriate difficulties. I now agree with most of them. Seems my reviews had an impact on that, or I'd like to think so ;-)

You will still have a few surprises, after all each one of us is different at solving the puzzles, but in general the ratings are much better now.

Puzzling Regards,

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