Saturday, December 31, 2016

Time Passages

“Time is an illusion” – Albert Einstein.  I might add that all good illusions could be considered puzzles, and derive that time is a puzzle.  Which is quite literally true this time.  Kelly Snache, the puzzle box philosopher and spiritual guide, has created a unique play on time which spans the generations.  One of his favorite ways of expressing his art is by re-purposing old wooden objects into new puzzles and giving them new life.  This “time” he has taken a vintage mantel clock case which was merely an old shell, and built it full of surprises and adventure.  Time waits for no man, so let’s explore his timely creation.

The Gates of Time by Kelly Snache

The clock case has a wonderful provenance.  It was originally from the Seth Thomas clock company, one of the preeminent clock makers of the 19th century.  Seth Thomas himself was born in 1785 and established his own clock making brand in 1813 in the town of Plymouth Hollow, Connecticut.  After his death in 1859, the town was renamed Thomaston.  His sons continued the business and introduced modern clockworks, mechanisms and materials to stay current and compete with the French.  One of their most famous inventions was the “Adamantine Clock” from 1880, which incorporated a veneer developed by the Celluloid Manufacturing Company.  The patented finish, according to the original label inside the back cover of the clock case, “is very desirable, will not chip, and cannot be scratched or dented in any ordinary usage.”  Indeed, the original finish remains bright and lustrous to this day, over 100 years later.

Lustrous "Adamantine" finish withstands the test of time

Starting with that illustrious, albeit empty and hollow, clock case, Kelly rebuilt the entire internal compartment, filling it from “stem to stern” as he likes to say.  He even added the front glass bezel and clock face, which were long gone.  Visible from the front, back and insides are an impressive assortment of exotic hardwoods and other materials including zebrawood, snakewood, walnut, ash, purpleheart, paduk, bloodwood, curly maple, ebony, wenge, American holly, cocobolo, pau amarello, brass, steel, metal gears, red coral, and Falcon’s eye gemstone.   The clock face on front is set to 1:50 or thereabouts.  The back of the case has been replaced with a gate, which of course does not open.  Through the gate the internal workings of the “clock” can be viewed – a wild array of colorful wooden gears, levers and knobs.  There is more going on in there that can’t be viewed, yet, as well.  The goal of the puzzle is to, in Kelly’s own words, “Transcend the Gates of Time so that you may manipulate the gears of The Universe and make it 5 o’clock within your time stream and usher in Happy Hour! … you will be justly rewarded!”

What secrets lay beyond the gates?

A few words about the puzzle itself are in order, but will be abbreviated as we are on the clock. The first task is obvious, you must open the gate to gain access to the internal workings.  Once accomplished you are met with layer upon layer of mechanical wooden gears.  Some will move, others, not so much or at all.  There is a bit of fiddling in the dark as well.  Sometimes, if you are paying attention, you may find that the time is changing.  If you aren’t paying attention, you may well get lost in time, which is no bad thing with this beautiful work of art.  Will you succeed in setting the clock to the desired time?  Or perhaps fall into a trap?  If you are a master horologist you will unlock the final secret, a hidden compartment which is yet again locked tight, biding its time.  An apropos triumph awaits the tenacious time smith.

A glimpse of the Gears of the Universe

One last bit of provenance deserves mention.  Kelly Snache is friends with another North American puzzle box maestro, Robert Yarger, and the two often trade stories, secrets and schemes.  Such was the case with this clock as well.  Robert happened to have a few vintage 1930’s functional clock mechanisms he discovered in his grandmother’s attic many years ago.  Kel was interested and Robert sent them along.  Time ensued, so to speak, and along with the bespoke wooden gears and mechanisms Kel built inside the case, he also scattered about some of these authentic vintage clock parts as well, for decorative whimsy and added beauty.  There is so much loving attention to the most “minute” detail.

Thyme Passages

And now it’s time for a drink, don’t you think? Kel turned something classic and timeless into something new (and timely), which seems like a good theme for a special drink to toast this masterpiece.  I love a good classic cocktail, as you may be aware, and there’s nothing more classic than the drink which likely started it all – the “Old Fashioned”.  This combination of spirit, sugar and bitters was the father of all cocktails.  But it’s a new year, and the theme requires something new from this old classic.  I’ll include the lessons learned over time - a little bitter, a little sweet, as we look to the future to create something new.  I’ve also played some word games with the flavors, but it’s forgivable – it tastes really good.  So let me offer this sage advice with my limited wisdom: take your time to laugh and love a lot this year. Thanks for reading my ramblings and from me and my family to you and yours, Happy New Year!

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” – J. R.R. Tolkien


Time to enjoy the new year - cheers!

Thyme Passages

2 oz thyme infused bourbon
½ oz Averna
½ oz sage agave syrup

Stir ingredients together over ice and strain into a favorite glass with a large cube.  Garnish with lots of time to enjoy it.

For prior puzzles by Kelly Snache see:

For more opening photos of the Gates of Time see the solutions pages:
WARNING: spoilers: Messing with Time

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