I went through a bit of an ordeal to get hold of these puzzle boxes, but I'm glad I did as they have turned out to be some of my absolute favourites. A huge thanks to Brian who played a major role in making sure that I could get hold of these great boxes!
These are a pair of wooden puzzle boxes made by Makishi in the USA. The smaller box will take you 30 moves to open, whereas the larger one will take 50 moves. I have to admit that I'm not entirely sure how to count the moves though, I've opened and closed both boxes many times and I always seem to get a different number every time I count. The boxes have four moving panels (left, right, top & bottom) and two keys on either side panel.
The main thing that you are likely to notice about these boxes is how plain they look compared with Japanese Puzzle Boxes that tend to be covered in a bright coloured pattern of some sort. Not only does this make the production cost of these boxes a lot cheaper than their Japanese counterparts but I also happen to prefer the look of natural wood. And Makishi's signature brand in the corner really finishes the look off very nicely.
Now you may look at the above pictures and think that they are just Japanese puzzle boxes with a single key at either end, and what's so difficult about that? But these boxes do not behave as you might expect. The real trickery lies in how the key ways interact with the four sliding panels, and it really makes these boxes special. I won't go into too much detail as I think it's so much fun to discover those sorts of things for yourself. I know I was surprised!
When I attended the Midlands Puzzle Party (MPP) in February I opened several great Japanese puzzle boxes, but most of them I did with very little difficulty. Makishi's boxes on the other hand took me significantly longer to work out. I decided to start with the 30 move box, and managed to have it open within 15-20 minutes or so. Then I went on to the 50 move box expecting it to be the same mechanism as the 30 move but with more permutations, but I was a little wrong. I could get to about 30 moves in, but then I kept hitting a dead end. Then I'd turn myself around in circles and end up closing the box again! It took me a good few hours and many attempts to open and completely understand the 50 move box, and I think that it is a brilliant bit of puzzle workmanship! I am very likely going to end up buying the rest of Makishi's puzzle boxes as he also makes 8, 13 & 18 move puzzle boxes.
Edit: So here is the whole Makishi Puzzle Box Family. I expected all of the sizes to be different, but the 8, 13 & 18 move boxes are all the same size with only the movements to tell them apart. All of the boxes have sliding keys apart from the 8 move.
The prices of these puzzles have to be seen to be believed! I won't post them here as they may change over time, but you can contact Makishi for an up to date price list and order form.
I bought these boxes directly from Makishi in the USA, and although he doesn't have an active internet presence you should be able to place any orders at this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also take a look at Brian's review of his Makishi puzzle boxes, as it was his review that convinced me that I needed these in my collection.