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Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Rocky Chiaro Brass Bolt Puzzles

Okay, so somehow I neglected to write a post before disappearing abroad, so I apologise for that. However to make it up to you I thought I'd do a review for a really great series of puzzles that I have looked at for a while, but was only given the opportunity to solve just recently. A huge thanks to Ali for loaning his set to me to share them with everyone here.

Rocky Chiaro Bolt Collection
This is a collection of puzzle bolts hand-machined from solid brass by American puzzle designer and manufacturer Rocky Chiaro. They are widely classed as being the benchmark when it comes to puzzle bolts, and for good reason too!

You can tell that these are machined by hand simply by the feel of them. Every surface is polished to a perfect finish, and the tolerances are incredibly high in many of the connecting pieces. Each puzzle is finished with an engraving of Rocky's signature, and I really do love that little touch of personality in a puzzle. These pictures make the bolts look a little bit grubby, but they weren't re-polished after I played with them, but they do come from Rocky mirror polished and wrapped.

I could just write a bit about how they look and feel as a whole, but instead I thought I'd write a little bit about each of them individually.

This first one is called the Pin-N-Nut, and the object is to remove the lower nut from the bolt. There's quite a bit of movement between several parts of this puzzle, but that's not necessary helpful when solving it. I would class this as the easiest of the bolt puzzles if you are giving it to a puzzler. Just by studying it I was able to guess how the mechanism looked, and after that it was only a matter or working out the correct implementation. This is a beautiful puzzle, but it is also my least favourite due to the simplicity of the solution, the rattle whilst in the resting state, and also how much more 'bulky' it is in comparison to the others due to the protruding 'pins' on all sides.

This is One-L-Nut, and all you have to do again is remove the nut from the bolt. This is a little trickier, and has more to it than meets the eye, but that will become obvious once you handle it. The bolt is quite clearly sprung in an interesting way, but you have to work out how this can help or hinder your progress when solving this puzzle. Although it is not very difficult it does have a really satisfying solution. This would be a great one to hand around for a bunch of people to try out as an introduction to puzzle bolts as it is not very intimidating to look at, and most will be happy to pick it up and give it a go.

Dub-L-Nut looks like an extension of the last bolt, but the mechanism is totally different. The objective once again is to remove the lower nut from the bolt. I found it to be a very clever idea, but unfortunately it is very likely that you will solve it completely by accident the first time. I did. I think it's mostly because there is quite a bit of play between several pieces. After looking at the insides you will know how the bolt works though, so you can solve it properly every time from then onwards. Either way it's a nice and unique mechanism that is great to look at, but not one that is as fun to repeat as the others.

Ring-N-Nut has a really nice touch to it, the object is to remove the ring trapped between the two bolts. It's nice that it has been machined into a ring shape rather than it just being left as a simple washer. The solution to this bolt is really clever, and very original! You are unlikely to solve this one by accident. The great thing about this bolt is that it appears to be in two halves that are completely free-wheeling against each other. This is my second favourite out of these six bolts, and I would thoroughly recommend that you make getting it a priority if you are wanting to get any of this series.

One-Wa-Sure is by far my absolute favourite in this series. I found it to be the hardest to solve, and the 'ah-ha' moment that came from solving it was fantastic! The object here is to remove the washer trapped between the two bolts, but with the bar going through the end of the bolt it does look completely impossible. The upper end of the bolt is sprung a bit like One-L-Nut, but in the opposite direction. I came up with all kinds of elaborate solutions in my head, but the actual solution was far more elegant and unexpected. As this bolt series is quite expensive as a whole then I would say that this is the one to go for if you wanted to try out one before taking the dive for the full whack.

Dub-L-Wa-Sure has two washers as the name suggests, and they can both be removed once the puzzle is solved. When fully closed one washer is tightly trapped between two nuts and the other is left loosely rattling at the upper end of the bolt. Curiously there is also a hole that looks to go straight into the bolt from the bottom end. There's a bit of a knack to solving this puzzle, and you actually need to pay attention when putting it back together again as well. If you look very closely at this puzzle long enough then you will likely notice something that will hint at what the solution is, but you really will have to pay very close attention or you will miss it.

Well that was my very brief look at what I would call the premier puzzle bolt series available at the moment. Each bolt costs between $80 and $85, which sounds like quite a lot but I promise you that each and every one of them is worth it. Considering that they are hand made solely by Rocky in his small workshop, and that the quality of them really is phenomenal, that price is hardly anything at all really.

As I said, if you only wanted to buy one to see what you think before considering getting the whole series then I would very highly recommend One-Wa-Sure. But I doubt that you would be disappointed with any of them.

All of these bolts are currently available only from Rocky Chiaro directly. You'll have to contact him using his email address on his site and he will get back to you pretty quickly to sort out payment etc.


  1. Nice review Oli, these bolts are the high quality and silky smooth. The One-Wa-Sure is my favourite to. I’ve never seen a mechanism like it.


  2. Very nice review Oli, thanks very much!

    I have had my eye on these for quite some time - only their price has prevented me! I will now have to make it a priority for next year. I will need to cut down on Mrs S' shoe and handbag budget so I can get the set.


  3. Good review! I got a chance to try some that Rob Stegmann had, but never got around to buying any myself. Hopefully at some point!

  4. thanks for the tips, got the more difficult three and the new one, screw-e.

    will you review anytime soon?

    1. It's a truly awful one that one. I found it on eBay a while ago for a couple of pounds, and even that may be too much to spend on it to be honest. It uses a traditional trick bolt mechanism. Sorry if I miss the odd comment here. Follow me on my Facebook page for speedier responses. :)

    2. Through an odd string of events I got all the five aside from the one-l-nut. My favorite is the dub-l-wa-sure since I've not seen the mechanism before and it took twice as long to put back together than it did to open up. I think I'll write a review on these, too?


No puzzle spoilers please!

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