Karakuri Small Boxes

By | 2014-09-08T09:02:35+00:00 August 3rd, 2012|All Puzzles, Wood Puzzles|0 Comments

The Karakuri Creation Group make some seriously incredible puzzle boxes, a few of which I have written about before. Many of them also come with a pretty hefty price tag to match their beautiful craftsmanship, however they do make a series of smaller than usual puzzle boxes that due to their size are also much cheaper.

They are all part of the Karakuri Small Box series which is made up of eight separate boxes, all of which have very different opening mechanisms despite their similar appearances. They all have unimaginative names, but at least it makes it easy to distinguish that they are part of a series.

I’m going to try and go through now and write a little bit about each of them, it won’t be too much as they are all relatively simple (only a few steps each) and I don’t want to give away their solutions.


Karakuri Small Box No.1

Solve Time = ~5 Minutes
Move Count = 3

The first box in the series has a walnut exterior with a lovely multi-wood inlay of the Karakuri logo. You’ll notice that this logo inlay features on all but one of the Small Boxes. No.1 requires only three moves to open and the mechanism is very simple. The craftsmanship on these boxes really is incredible, you can barely see the joins where each wooden panel meets another, and this is one of the things that add difficulty to them. Personally I enjoy simple mechanisms, so this was great. The mechanism was a little stiff on my copy which is likely due to the humidity in my house at the moment, which shows how tight the tolerances are in these boxes.

Karakuri Small Box No.2

Solve Time = ~4 Minutes
Move Count = 2

At first glance No.2 obviously differs from the first in both size, shape and colour. This one is longer, and the outer panels are made from a lighter cherry. The solution technically requires two moves, but as one of those moves is pretty unconventional I wouldn’t class it as very easy at all. The only reason I managed this one so quickly was because I had come across this mechanism before, but it had me stumped for a decent while before I finally got it. A very fun puzzle! I just gave it to my fiancée who also managed to open it in only a few minutes.

Karakuri Small Box No.3

Solve Time = ~3 Minutes
Move Count = 4

No.3 looks very similar to No.2, except the box is slightly wider and made from a nice recognisable oak. It has one of the higher move counts in the series at four moves. The first two moves come very easily, but the third is a bit different and may just trip you up if you’re not paying attention. The moves on this one have to be done fully at each step otherwise the next move won’t be possible and you might miss the solution. I’d recommend this one just for the unusual third step.

Karakuri Small Box No.4

Solve Time = ~4 Minutes
Move Count = 1

No.4 is the first significantly different puzzle box in the series so far, this is because of the fact that it has an obvious base as opposed to the others which have all equal sides. The outer panels of this box are made from a lovely red coloured wood called rengas, and it is my favourite wood colour in this series. Although it’s one of my favourite looking boxes in the series, it is also my least favourite box in terms of its solution. It’s only one move and I found it rather underwhelming. I’ve seen this trick used before in another box by a member of the KCG, and I have to say that I didn’t like it then either. It’s just not elegant enough for my liking.

Karakuri Small Box No.5

Solve Time = ~15 Minutes
Move Count = 3

No.5 is exactly the same size and shape as No.4, but it is made from the lightest wood in the series, maple. It also has an obvious bottom side like No.4. Personally I found this one to be the hardest box in the entire series taking me a good 15 minutes to solve it. I probably opened it the first time in less than 10 minutes, but it did take me the extra time to work out how to solve it reliably every time. It turns out that it is possible to solve this box with unintended solutions quite easily, but I’ll say now that you do not need to tap or hit this puzzle at all to solve it. If you stay away from excessive force you’re likely to find the proper solution first.

Karakuri Small Box No.6

Solve Time = ~3 Minutes
Move Count = 2

No.6 is once again the exact size and shape as both No.4 and No.5, with the obvious square base and this time the outer panels are made from a nice dark walnut. I do love walnut, but I found it a bit of a shame that they made the wood type the same as No.1. Although in fairness various wood versions of these puzzles have been made, so I could just get a different version of No.1 if I preferred. The solution to this puzzle should be easy to most amateur puzzlers, it may just take a little while to get the solution just right to be able to open the box. While the solution is very familiar the actual implementation is different from the norm. It’s worth solving this with the lid off just to see if you notice why it’s a little bit special.

Karakuri Small Box No.7

Solve Time = ~2 Minutes
Move Count = 3

The wood choice for No.7 is teak, and you’ll notice that it is visibly different from all of the other boxes in that its logo is not made from inlaid wood, but rather it has been branded on instead. Many people don’t like this look, but personally I like the simplicity of it and don’t think it detracts from the puzzle at all. It reminds me of how Mr. Makishi signs his puzzle boxes. This isn’t very difficult as the mechanism is much closer to the traditional Japanese style, but it is my favourite because of how simple and elegant it is. Pretty much anyone should be able to open this box, which makes it my first choice when starting a person off with their first ‘trick’ puzzle box.

Karakuri Small Box No.8

Solve Time = ~5 Minutes
Move Count = 2

I think it’s safe to say that No.8 is the odd one out in this little series of puzzle boxes. It is completely different from the others in several ways. Although it is symmetrical, it does not have even sides, you can see two wood colours on the outside (keyaki and walnut) rather than just the one and also it has no visible logo. I’m not a fan of this box being in the Small Box series purely because of how different it does look. I quite like puzzles in a series to visibly relate to each other, and while the other boxes differ in subtle ways it is still obvious they are part of a set. This however is very far removed from the others.

No.8 was actually designed by Akio Kamei and used as an exchange puzzle at IPP16 under its original name 3D Box. As a puzzle it again isn’t very difficult, but I do like the solution. It has a very satisfactory feeling when opening, although it could take some practice to get the method just right. This box is no longer produced by the Karakuri Creation Group due to the difficulty of manufacturing and subsequent failure rate. Luckily Wil Strijbos had a copy of this box available, otherwise it could’ve been very difficult for me to complete this collection.

Well, there we have it, the full collection of the Karakuri Small Box series! I managed to get hold of my collection from Wil Strijbos, who has been known to have copies of many of the Karakuri Creation Group’s puzzle boxes available relatively regularly. If you are after something specific I definitely recommend you drop him a message. Failing that they are also available from retailers such as Puzzle Master and Sloyd.


This article was originally published July 10, 2012, and is used with permission from Oli’s Mechanical Puzzle Blog.

About the Author:

Well, my name is Oli and I am a puzzler and puzzle collector, also known as a Metagrobologist. What a word eh?I'm 24 and living in a county by the name of Hertfordshire on the rainy little island of England.I have only been a part of the 'Puzzle World' for a relatively short amount of time compared with many of the other puzzlers out there, but I've really been drawn into it over the last couple of years or so. You will honestly never find a more welcoming and friendly group of people than the puzzlers.

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