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Mechanical Puzzles

The Martha Stewart Show, February 2011

Mechanical puzzles are three-dimensional games comprised of mechanically interlinked pieces. Unlike word or jigsaw puzzles, these fun and educational toys are handheld physical objects -- like a Rubik's Cube -- that must be manipulated to achieve a specific goal. Here, entrepreneur Richard Garriott shares highlights from his extensive collection of mechanical puzzles.

Puzzle Jugs
Often found in taverns or guildhalls, puzzle jugs are mugs or pitchers that challenge the drinker to consume (or pour out) the contents without spilling or dribbling.

Take-Apart Puzzles
Take-apart puzzles are made of interlinked pieces of wood cleverly assembled to create a finished form.

Tavern/Blacksmith Puzzles
Commonly found in old pubs, tavern or blacksmith puzzles are a complex set of chain, rings, and horseshoes.

Impossible Objects
The goal of impossible object puzzles is to discover how the object was made. They are not intended to come apart, though some puzzlers have taken them apart in cases of extreme frustration. Only one fact is given to eliminate an obvious solution: No glue or adhesive was used to make the impossible objects.

Ji Ga Zo
Ji Ga Zo is a contemporary puzzle game that requires a computer and printer. To play, begin by uploading a digital image to the Ji Ga Zo software, which will break the image into a series of shaded pieces on an icon map. Print your icon map, and then reference it to arrange Ji Ga Zo's pieces on the included assembly grid. As you put the pieces together, a mosaic-style image will start to take shape.

Karakuri Boxes
Karakuri, or "secret boxes," are the core of Richard's puzzle collection. The puzzle aspect of the intricate wooden boxes lies in figuring out how to open them. Originally created in Japan so craftsman and merchants could hide their valuables, karakuri can be simple boxes that are hard to open or detailed puzzles built into wooden furniture. Some of the most complex karakuri boxes require many hundreds of moves to open.

Comments (6)

  • KRumanes 24 Feb, 2011

    Thank you for the information bkuehner. I'll check out Rob's Puzzle Page.

  • JamieDGrant 23 Feb, 2011

    What an honor to be on the show! My name is Jamie D. Grant and I'm the creator of the decks of cards in a bottle, the "Anything Is Possible" bottle:

  • JamieDGrant 23 Feb, 2011

    What an amazing honor to be on the show! My name is Jamie D. Grant and I'm the creator of the deck of cards in the bottle, called the "Anything is Possible" bottle:

  • craftmama297 23 Feb, 2011

    where did the dice puzzle come from?

  • bkuehner 23 Feb, 2011

    You can see details on the tooth puzzle here:
    but they no longer sell it. Typically wooden puzzle boxes are made in very limited editions, and the best sell out quickly.
    If you want information on all sorts of puzzle boxes, check out Rob's Puzzle Page:

  • KRumanes 23 Feb, 2011

    I loved the tooth and toothbrush puzzle. Any chance of finding out where that was obtained? My husband is a dentist and wooden puzzle collector, and I'd love to get one for him.