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Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Zen (Charles O. Perry)

Some of you regular readers may remember that back in May I wrote about a puzzle called The Ball Puzzle by the late sculptor, designer and architect Charles O. Perry, and very recently (largely through both luck and generosity) I managed to obtain another of his rare and brilliant puzzle sculptures.

 This puzzle is called 'Zen', which was designed and made in 1987, and like several of Perry's other designs it is made from very high quality materials. In this case the five pieces are made from machined solid brass and the casing from Delron (Delrin) which is a form of high quality engineering plastic that is ideal for machining. The diameter of the whole puzzle is 2 and a half inches.
Despite the fact that I had seen pictures of Zen several times I had never actually seen any images of it disassembled, so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect once it was apart. In fact I didn't even know how it came apart!

The reason I referred to Zen as a 'puzzle sculpture' earlier is because I wouldn't really say that it's primary purpose was to only be a puzzle. I only think this because as a puzzle it is not very difficult and most people won't take much time in taking it apart and putting it back together again providing that they apply a little logic. But going on the quality of the materials and effort that went into the design and manufacture it was clearly designed to look awesome, and I think it succeeds at doing just that!
 Just like all of Perry's other puzzles this one is also signed by him in the form of an engraving of his surname as can be seen up close in the picture to the left. I love puzzles that have been signed by the designer or manufacturer, it really makes the puzzle feel so much more unique.

Now as a puzzle: Zen consists of five brass pieces which have been machined in such a way as to fit around each other in the form of a spiral. And as you can see the Delron casing has also been machined to snugly hold the pieces in their spiral configuration.

Because the casing is shaped as it is it means that the pieces have to be placed into it in the right orientation and also in the correct sequence. As the casing is open on both sides the puzzle will look identical whichever way you decide to display it, however only one of the pieces is engraved on only one side.

When I took it apart it turned out that three of the pieces are in fact identical. One other piece is solid with no cut grooves and a built-in sprung ball bearing, this is the final locking piece. The exact same technique was used in Perry's Ball Puzzle to hold the final piece in place.

If you pay a bit of attention to the pieces and apply a little logic then the order of insertion should become pretty obvious, and for that reason I won't class it as a difficult puzzle. It took me no time at all but it could take a non-puzzler perhaps a few minutes to work it out properly.

Even though Zen is not a very difficult puzzle it has easily become one of my favourites because of it's sheer quality and design. It is a very rare puzzle to come across, so I'm incredibly happy and privileged to actually have one in my collection.

For anyone interested in owning some of Charles O. Perry's puzzles then it may be worth checking over on Puzzle Master as it seems that they still have some stock of his Ball Puzzle in both Brass and Plexi Glass.

5 comments:

  1. Oli, looks like a very nice collector's item and good review. Thanks

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  2. I just bought myself one of these on eBay; it should be arriving next week, and I'm very happy. It cost me $265, by the way. I also have Perry's six-piece 'ball' puzzle. I got that one years ago for much less (maybe $50?). I love his work.

    -- David

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    1. Excellent David! I'm very sure you won't be disappointed with it. It's worth getting hold of both of the Ball puzzles if you can as well, I'm sure they'll be real collectors pieces further on down the line.

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  3. If you own the brass ball, is it worth the case having the plexi ball? Because it seems they are the same (the only thing different is the material used)

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    Replies
    1. You are right, it is indeed exactly the same puzzle. Perry's puzzles however are highly collectible, so from that standpoint I have both versions. But if you're only after it from a puzzling point of view then one would probably be enough.

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No puzzle spoilers please!

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