|The Luddite's Mill by Thomas Cummings|
Some might consider the love of hand-made, intricate wooden puzzle boxes to be old fashioned, and point to all the mind bending, eye popping software and technology in the world. I’m not out to avoid or even destroy anything new, and in fact I adore new tech as much as I love the old school crafts. So you could hardly call me a Luddite, but I’d like to appreciate one now. Thomas Cummings produces his unique style of puzzle boxes under his Eden Workx label, turning reclaimed and recycled wood and brass into tricky little boxes. Each of his puzzles features a distinctive mechanism, with rotating, sliding or shifting parts, magnets, and usually a sly deception in the end.
|An intricately carved Reuleaux adorns the top|
His “Luddite’s Mill” box may be the most unusual yet. The lid features a lovely curved triangular piece with beautiful carved details set into an elliptical groove. There is also a brass rod protruding from the front, which doesn’t want to move. Give the triangle a little push and it pivots on its axis in an eccentric sort of motion around the inside of the ellipse. If you are particularly mechanical or engineering minded, you might recognize this construction as a “Wankel engine”, designed in 1929 by Felix Wankel as an efficient way to convert pressure into rotary motion, and still present in a few automobiles today. Cummings has created a puzzle version, complete with the special three sided piece known as a “Reuleaux triangle”. A Reuleaux triangle is constructed by rounding the sides of an equilateral triangle, and represents the central shared space created by three equally overlapping identical circles. There are loads of interesting mathematical properties to be found in the Reuleaux, the most notable of which is its constant width between parallel supporting lines. All of this makes for a fascinating and confusing puzzle mechanism, and it gets worse once the entire lid of the box starts to spin as well. You’ll be going around in circles, or ellipses, or perhaps even epitrochoids before you crack the lid on this one.
|Things really start spinning out of control ...|
The Reuleaux triangle presents a nice opportunity for a “spin” on a classic three-part cocktail. The Negroni is one of those acquired taste cocktails that can set you apart from the vodka martini crowd if you want to act pretentious and impress your fellow puzzlers. It may be obvious by the number of Negroni variations I’ve featured on these pages, but I love them. It’s just so easy to play with the basic formula of gin, sweet vermouth and Campari, and the classic proportions are equal parts for all three ingredients, so pretty much any measuring device or container will serve you.
|The Reuleaux cocktail|
For the “Reuleaux Negroni” I really pushed the envelope – anchoring it with a base of mezcal and adding a few unusual items. For the vermouth, I used Cocchi Americano, a crisp and citrusy aperitif with flavors of cinchona (quinine) and for the amaro I used Meletti, a lesser known alternative to Campari. Meletti is unique as an amaro due to the prominent use of saffron in its flavor profile, and it is often described as caramel-y or chocolate-y. I love the bright orange notes as well. It really shines in this combination, but if you don’t have Meletti try Campari or Aperol instead. Stir things up and let the good times reuleaux! Cheers!
|Take this pair for a spin!|
1 oz Mezcal
1 oz Cocchi Americano
1 oz Meletti Amaro
Stir with ice to blend and dilute, then strain into a favorite glass. Garnish with a generous expressed orange peel and let the wheels in your brain start spinning.
For Thomas Cummings’ Eden Workx shop:
For prior puzzles by Thomas Cummings:
For more Negroni variations see: