Saturday, September 30, 2017

Triple Twist (Apothecary Part V)

Delving yet deeper into the secrets of the Apothecary Chest we move on to section three.  This is now possible thanks to something discovered in section two which is “key” to advancing.  One of the first drawers encountered in the final section has another quite distinctive appearance which also sets it apart from the other boxes.  It features a prominent brass circle on its face, with three little holes set into the circle and a ring of inlayed wooden dots surrounding it.  There are more dots arranged in a symmetrical pattern below the circle.  The wood is lustrous and exotic, and the box is surprisingly heavy.  You also won’t get very far trying to open the box without using a little of the observational skills you employed up to this stage in the Apothecary journey, as there’s more needed for the box than meets the eye.  This is A Twist of Fate, a very special, bittersweet puzzle box, from the incredibly talented Aussie Dave Cooper.  The name may reflect the puzzle box, but has taken on additional meaning in the wake of events which occurred soon after the production of these boxes.  In 2011 Cyclone Yasi hit Queensland with Category 5 force winds and left a huge path of destruction, which included much of Dave Cooper’s fine work. 

A Twist of Fate by Dave Cooper

Dave’s day (and night) job provides enough stress to warrant a set of full time hobbies.  In Dave’s case he is also a professional at his hobbies.  He apprenticed in his youth building hovercraft, submarines and warships for the Royal Australian Navy and is an expert machinist and metalworker.  As if that weren’t enough he developed master woodworking skills as well, including lathe work and wood bending, he flies solo aircraft and he is a published poet.  His self-described “signature style” of puzzle boxes refelct a combination of elements found in the work of his friends Robert Yarger, Randal Gatewood, Kelly Snache and others.  Dave developed an entire series of limited edition puzzle box concepts and had completed prototypes of each one awaiting production when the cyclone hit, wiping out all of his work and schematics.  Dave’s friends from all over the world reached out to him at that time to lend support and consolation.

For his Apothecary Chest contribution, Dave had a few self-imposed stipulations.  He felt that people who knew him would expect some kind of mechanical component machined from various metals.  The brass circle on the front of the box is only one such element in the box.  He also wanted to reference one of his very first puzzling experiences with this box as a tribute to that time and place in his life.  The puzzle is therefore an homage to one of his earliest childhood memories, of playing with a puzzle which his grandfather owned and which is now in his personal collection.  He also wanted to avoid common mechanisms that had been used before in many ways, such as centrifugal pins, magnets, and sliding panels, which he admits was almost impossible.  In the end he came up with an unusual mechanism for a puzzle box which combines all these requirements and elements.  The result is truly a twist of fate. 

A Twist of Fate adapted from Seth Friedus

Two additional points merit mention.  Dave Cooper was the official coordinator for the Apothecary Chest project during its four year development and production schedule, so in addition to Robert Yarger the project owes a debt of gratitude to him.  Additionally, he inserted a clever clue into each of his boxes which actually identifies the chest and original owner.  On the face of each Twist of Fate box there are symmetrical wooden dot inlays, but each box has a unique pattern with a unique number of dots ranging from one to fifteen, the total number of chests planned.  If you look at Cooper’s box and count, you can identify the chest number.

It's best to keep your trusty Akubra close at hand

I’d like to raise a glass to this fine fellow, a truly talented and selfless man with a fantastic sense of humor, who has dealt with life’s twists of fate and continues to embrace all that life has to offer.  Dave grew up in the Australian bush and never leaves home without his trusty Akubra – a classic Aussie bush hat.  He also enjoys a dram or two of Scotch now and then.  I discovered an apropos cocktail called, remarkably enough, “A Twist of Fate”, created by Seth Freidus from Alden and Harlow in Boston’s Harvard Square.  The drink is originally based with vodka, but for this pairing I’ve taken the liberty of exchanging that for a nice smoky scotch, which really does the trick and is Dave Cooper approved.  Smoky and sweet, it’s a twist on your typical scotch cocktail and really compliments this remarkable box quite nicely. 

These twists of fate are of the pleasing variety

Twist of Fate adapted from Seth Freidus

1 ½ oz smoky scotch
1 oz homemade grenadine
¾ oz fresh lime
2 dashes grapefruit bitters

Shake ingredients together with ice and strain into a favorite glass.  Garnish with a grapefruit Akubra.

Super-Cubi (Trinary Box) by Hiroshi Iwahara

Next to A Twist of Fate is another amazing drawer, arriving all the way from Hakone Japan.  Hiroshi Iwahara is one of the well-known and highly respected artisans from the Karakuri Creation Group who has designed and produced well over fifty individual puzzle boxes with the group.  One of his earliest designs was the “Super-Cubi (Trinary Box)”, a developed version of the “Cubi” box by his mentor and Karakuri Group founder Akio Kamei.  Cubi opens via a binary set of moves, based on a “U” shaped internal mechanism.  Super-Cubi functions via a trinary system of movements, achieved with an “S” shaped internal mechanism.  It takes 324 individual moves to open, which was a new record when Iwahara created it in 2000.  He bested his own record in 2010 when he created the King Cubi, a quaternary mechanism box which requires 1536 moves to open!  For the Apothecary Chest, Iwahara shrunk the Trinary Box down significantly in size to meet the chest drawer restrictions, while maintaining its exact functioning.  It remains an incredible feat of engineering and skill, and opening the box is a satisfying exercise in focused meditation.

Trinary Motion

For Iwahara’s trinary masterpiece I wanted a cocktail with three ingredients which blended seamlessly together.  I’m a huge fan of the Negroni (and have featured many variations before) which is the ultimate three part cocktail.  The original, which you may know, includes gin, sweet vermouth and Campari.  For this version, which I call “Trinary Motion”, the gin is replaced with a fine Japanese whisky.  I’ve also swapped the Campari for its lighter and brighter sibling, Aperol.  The drink is pleasantly balanced, elegant, and smooth, with a distinctly Japanese flavor. It’s a perfect pairing with which to toast this incredible artist.

Japanese whisky puts a spin on this Negroni

Here’s to life’s unexpected twists, which add increasing complexity to the puzzle. May our fates be made richer for them.  Cheers!

A triple toast to Japan - kampei!

Trinary Motion

1 oz Japanese Whisky
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
1 oz Aperol
Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a favorite glass.  Garnish with an a-peeling trio.

For more about Robert Yarger:

For the prior Apothecary Chest drawers:

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