Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Mangling Wood With Style - In Brackets

It’s 2021!  A brand new year!  And just like how everyone who wants to forget the prior year, I’d like to leave behind my initial puzzle making attempts.  Then along came Cubicdissection’s announcement that In Brackets by Sam Cornwell (released in 2009) may be rereleased in January 2021.  

Back in 2012, when I saw In Brackets on Cubicdissection’s website, Eric Fuller was mostly releasing new puzzle designs and there was no indication that he would change his approach and rerelease prior puzzles.  I also didn’t see any indication that In Brackets was going to be made by anyone else.  So I did what any other wood mangler would do and headed to the garage.

In addition to the nice photos of In Brackets on Cubicdissection’s website, Eric Fuller included the following details in his description (
Crafted from fine peruvian walnut and zebrawood, this puzzle has a very nice fit and feel.  The cube is precise but not tight, and the brackets have a good feel with a generous .012 offset from the cube. Brackets are constructed with finger joints at the edges to insure strength and long life.
As a new woodworker, I loosely translated this into my own frame of reference and ended up with the following build process:
Cobbled together with Red Oak and Cherry so it won’t fall apart in your hands.  There’s enough slop in there to ensure that the cube doesn’t get wedged in the brackets.  Butt joints are used on the brackets to expedite the build process.
Armed with a solid plan, I marched into the garage and mangled some wood into something that could be reminiscent of In Brackets if you squint at it just right.  This puzzle was one of the first victims of my newly purchased miter saw many years ago and is now part of my eyesore puzzle collection.  However, it is a fully functional puzzle and served to satisfy that particular puzzle itch.  

Before, I describe the puzzle, please keep in mind that these comments are based on my homemade copy and a professionally made version may give you a whole other, potentially sublime, experience.

The puzzle consists of 3 pieces that make a 3x3x3 cube with 3 voids and 3 brackets that hold the cube together.  As a puzzle, this one is pretty easy.  Taking it apart is trivial, but to be fair, if the puzzle were tight or incorporated a magnet, it would provide more of a challenge to find the first move.  Of course, since I had made the pieces, it started out as an assembly challenge.

Assembling In Brackets is not difficult and would make a good challenge for new puzzler.  It’s easy to create a cube from the 3 internal pieces.  Once you have the cube, it doesn’t take a lot of analysis to determine how to add the brackets.  Since any 2 brackets can be trivially added to the cube, you only have to determine where those 2 brackets have to go to allow the cube pieces to move into a configuration that permits the insertion of the final bracket.

If you are looking for a challenging puzzle and have been enjoying the wave of Turning Interlocking Cubes (TICs), this one is not for you.  However, if you want an attractive, very approachable puzzle with a novel approach, you will enjoy In Brackets.  Cubicdissection’s 2009 version of In Brackets looks fantastic and I’m sure that if it’s rereleased, it will look even better.

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