Saturday, May 7, 2016

Circular Logic

Sometimes a puzzle will keep you going around in circles.  In this case, it’s quite literal as well.  Kagen Sound is a well known wood worker, mathematician, artist and conservationist who resides in Denver, Colorado.   In his workshop there he applies his mathematical background and consummate wood artistry skills to create some of the most beautiful and mesmerizing puzzle boxes in the world.  His creations are not merely “puzzle boxes” - they are works of art.  From a mechanical, functional point of view his creations often advance a classic concept literally into new directions.  For example, his sliding panel boxes are modeled after traditional Japanese puzzle boxes, which typically incorporate unidirectional movements on 3-4 sides which in sequence allow the box to be opened.  Sound’s panel boxes have sides which all move, and each panel may move in 3 or 4 different directions.  From an artistic viewpoint, his creations also exhibit the highest level of craftsmanship.  He uses beautiful and rare hardwood with purposeful attention to grain patterns, intricate wood inlay to add detail and contrast, and finishes his boxes with techniques normally reserved for fine musical instruments. 

The Lotus Box by Kagen Sound

In addition to boxes, he has made a few pieces of puzzle furniture.  One of his most notable is his Lotus Table, which hides six drawers that only open when the correct geometric pattern is created on the surface of the table.  This is accomplished by rotating a series of concentric circles set into the table top, each inlayed with contrasting wooden lines and curves, until they line up.  Each drawer will only open with a unique pattern.  Somehow Sound has developed these rings to generate six different beautiful patterns.  When all six drawers are opened, the table has the appearance of a lotus flower.  He has also magically transformed this large format concept into a series of puzzle boxes, starting with the Lotus Box.  The box follows the same principle on a smaller scale, with four hidden drawers dependent on four separate patterns.  There are eight concentric rings which must be manipulated to create the different patterns.  Along the way there are clues to be found which guide you on to the next pattern, with a final clue at the end which links to the other boxes in the series, the “Caterpillar” and the “Butterfly”, which will be released in the future.  The Lotus is stunningly crafted in Claro Walnut, Curly Maple, Wenge and Madrone for the inlayed pattern stripe.  The Curly Maple literally shimmers along the sides.  Simply rotating the rings around is a tranquil experience, as you watch new patterns form and reform.  It’s truly beautiful.  Opening the drawers is almost superfluous – almost! 

The concentric circles turn into mesmerizing patterns

For the Lotus Box I have taken some liberties with a classic cocktail known as the “Seelbach”.  The Seelbach cocktail hearkens back to the Pre-Prohibition era 1900’s and was created at the grand old hotel in Louisville, Kentucky that bears its name.  It’s a celebration of fine Kentucky bourbon which includes the boozy combination of bourbon, orange curacao, and two types of bitters – Angostura and Peychaud’s.  The curacao, an orange liqueur, adds a bit of sweetness.  To modify this for our purposes, I substituted the curacao for a “flower” derived liqueur – bear with me here.  I’m not aware of any “lotus” liqueur, although there may very well be some out in the world.  In lieu of lotus, I used a hibiscus flower liqueur.  There are a number of these available, but I like one called “Hum” which is rum based and includes other flavors and lime.  The orange liqueur is replaced with Hum, but we keep some fresh orange to balance it all out, and get the “Lotusbach” cocktail.  I warned you to bear with me, didn’t I? Now you will have to humor me as well.  I raise my Lotusbach to toast the Lotus Box, a magical, beautiful work of art.  Cheers!

The Lotusbach

The Lotusbach:
2 oz bourbon
½ oz Hum (or other hibiscus liqueur)
One fourth of an orange
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1-2 oz champagne
Muddle the orange in a mixing glass until its juicy.  Add the other ingredients and mix with ice to chill.  Strain into a favorite glass, top with champagne and garnish with an orange peel.

Why not take these for a spin?

For more information about Kagen Sound:

For a prior Boxes and Booze about Kagen Sound please see:

For the original Seelbach cocktail:

For a (sanctioned) look at the beautiful patterns which open the drawers, please see the solutions page (Warning – these are the solutions, so don’t peek if you don’t want to know):

1 comment:

  1. This is yet another spectacular puzzle that I do not own.
    I think this should be classified as kinetic art. No doubt, Kagen's work is going into museums.