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Trick Locks and Puzzle Locks

Welcome to Part II, in which we will now explore popular Puzzle Locks and Trick Locks and history. Amusingly locks are not only part of our everyday lives but are also common in literature as well as in recreational math riddles such as this famous one from Lewis Carroll.

John gave his brother James a box:
About it there was many locks.
James woke and said it gave him pain;
So gave it back to John again.
The box was not with lid supplied
Yet caused two lids to open wide:
And all these locks had never a key
What kind of box, then, could it be?

Answer at the bottom of the page.

Popular Puzzle Locks and Trick Locks

As previously stated, Locks (e.g. ‘trick’ locks) are defined by the Hordern-Dalgety classification system as an Opening Puzzles (OPN), in which the principal object is to open it, close it, undo it, remove something from it; or otherwise get it to work.

If you are interested in exploring mechanical puzzle locks where do you start and what options are available? Well, this is where the adventure begins and the fun starts as there are so many ingenious, quality puzzle locks.

Dan Feldman – Danlock
In Feb 1998, Puzzle collector extraordinaire Edward Hordern in his article What’s Up for Cubism For Fun
(https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Puzzlocks) stated that the problem with most trick locks, from the ardent solver’s point of view, is that the large majority of them consist of finding just one secret in order to open them. So for most people, you can either solve it . . . or you can’t. By contrast, a Soma cube or a set of Pentominoes provide a gradual solving process as well as providing a variety of different puzzles. You can get many hours (days, weeks, even) of enjoyment from the latter, but only minutes from your average puzzle padlock. Unless, of course, you are unable to solve a particular lock and enjoy thinking about how to solve it for hours on end! To a lesser extent, the same applies to many puzzle boxes. So it is always with some surprise and joy when I find a padlock that consists of several puzzles and keeps you guessing for some considerable time. I recently found a lock that fits this description exactly.

Edward Hordern went on to describe that if he had to give away his entire collection of locks (explaining he possessed over a hundred or two hundred of them) and keep only three, that the best version of the modern padlocks would be his “DanLock” acquisition from Dan Feldman.

What makes this puzzle so special? Unlike other padlocks, the DanLock once opened, is not as easy to then close. It comes with one key locked onto the shackle and another that is “broken” in half. What you do with the small broken piece of the key and the lock itself is simply brilliant. Pure genius and it is indeed one of the best, if not the best, trick locks.

If you want a DanLock, you could try obtaining one from the designer Dan Feldman himself although it is an expensive and rare puzzle that is the pride of many a metagrobologist collection along with other earlier works of Dan including the Temptation Lock and

Rainer Popp – Tricklocks
Rainer Popp is an engineer, craftsman and puzzle designer/collector from Germany who is now considered the undisputed master of trick/puzzle lock design and has produced some of the very best puzzle locks in the world.

He has now been making extremely beautiful, high quality milled puzzle locks known as Popplocks for several years, with a new puzzle lock virtually every year. All come with a signature “cat face” logo and all are unique, highly collectable and expensive.

Many of his puzzle locks employ elaborate, ingenious internal designs and mechanism/tricks that require many sequential steps to open. He has now produced 9 different locks to overwhelmingly positive reviews and they generally sell out within hours due to being very limited in number and the superb craftsmanship. Older versions of his puzzles are only obtainable from puzzle auction sites when and if they become available.

The Popplock T11 is one of his latest exceedingly heavy puzzles (largest locks in the Popplock collection) constructed of brass and stainless steel, looking like a standard padlock with a single keyhole and a simple key. The puzzle consists of three main stages, each with a number of steps and like most sequential discovery puzzles requires lots of subtle moves and well-hidden steps in sequence.

All of his puzzles are definitely worth buying if you are a serious puzzle collector and you can find one for sale. Link:http://www.popplock.com

Gary Foshee’s – Open Lock
加里Foshee开放锁(also called the Transparent Lock) is a large skeleton lock with everything (well almost everything) showing. The lock is considered as a “sequential discovery” puzzle that is opened through various steps with nothing else but the tools and implements that come within the lock itself.

It consists of a square aluminium frame with a shackle constructed of forged steel with a shackle that is locked in place by a couple of interfering horizontal bars on ‘the inside’ which can clearly be seen. One is thicker and threaded (and can then be screwed in and out of the frame), and the other is thinner that stops the shackle from being removed.

Open Lock is considered a truly excellent puzzle that hides some wonderful surprises (and A-ha moments). TheMetagrobologist hopes that Gary decides to make another short run of these puzzles in the future as it is only available every couple of years and in very small numbers.

Gary Foshee’s Lunatic Lock is made from brushed aluminium which makes the puzzle lighter than other types of metal

Splinter Spierenburgh – Swing Lock
Splinter Spierenburgh has been designing mazes for many years and entered his MazeRoll puzzle into the Nob Yoshigahara Design Competition in 2013.

His Burgh Lock and Swing Lock are two very popular puzzles and if you are a collector of trick locks, they are often classed as a must-have for any collection The Swing Lock is available in machined stainless steel and in a more affordable acrylic. His Burgh lock is manufactured from 3D-printed nylon.

收集器的评论,Swing锁是缺点idered completely unique and original and an amazing puzzle to own.

Jean Claude Constantin – Lock 250
Jean Claude Constantin is a prolific puzzle designer from Nuremberg, Germany who is the creator of many ingenious and original popular laser cut puzzles which have a very characteristic ‘Constantin’ looking design. He has produced a wide range of fantastic mechanical puzzle locks implementing sliding pieces, unique mechanisms and sequential (n-ary) movements: including the Lock 250 puzzle lock, Kassenschloss, The Sliding Lock and the Maze Lock.

The Lock 250 is constructed of layers laser cut veneer wood with steel screws and sliders. It isn’t a trick lock in the traditional sense, rather an “n-ary” puzzle shaped like a giant padlock that requires 250 moves to open, and a further 250 moves to close it again. The Lock 250 is in the same family as the Chinese Ring puzzle which is a binary puzzle, the Lock 250, however, is known as a quinary puzzle.

Marcel Gillen – ABUS Trick Locks
Marcel Gillen is a prolific puzzle designer and manufacturer who is perhaps better known for his very popular aluminium chess piece puzzles such as the King, Queen, Rook, Pawn as well as the Fire Plug that are the pride of many collectors.

His very rare ABUS trick locks ‘1’, ‘2’, and ‘3’ look just like standard locks that have been milled and doctored with clever perplexing mechanisms.

Robert Yarger – Stickman Pirate’s padlock
Robert Yarger (the Stickman) is one of a small handful of craftsmen worldwide that pursue the art of wooden puzzle box making. His designs are acclaimed among puzzle enthusiasts and art collectors alike for their eclectic style.

Robert produced The Pirate’s padlock in a limited edition after making the Stickman Pirates’ Wallet Puzzlebox. He ended up with roughly 8 extra copies of the padlock puzzles and is a beautiful looking padlock that requires 8 steps to take fully apart.

Ivo Splichal – Neat Lock
This Neat Lock uses a variation of a device from a large 19th Century iron padlock whose mechanism Ivo simplified and produced in a small brass version.

Frank Chambers – Mikslok
Frank Chambers’ famous for his extensive range of Corian puzzles.
IPP20 exchange puzzle called Mikslok doctored lock.

Shane Hales – Locks
Shane Hales is a puzzle designer, talented carpenter & joiner from the UK. He has produced a number of puzzle locks TheMetagrobologist has yet to puzzle with, however, his Initiation and Padlock SH-AW have proved highly collectable with positive reviews.


Akio Kamei – Wooden Lock (K-18)
Akio Kamei is the single most famous maker of trick puzzle boxes and he produced a very rare, expensive puzzle lock made from wood.
A range of his puzzle can be found here:https://www.puzzlemaster.ca/browse/inventors/kamei/

Lambert Bright – ACE Puzzle Lock
Lambert Bright produced an ACE lock and modified it to be a puzzle.

Tim Detweiler – Working Wood Lock #1, 2, 3
Working padlock and key made from oak, walnut, maple, cherry and mahogany. The base is stamped with TD logo. One corner is scratched up. The designer is the author of Making Working Wooden Locks.

More affordable Locks

A range of more affordable puzzle Trick Locks can also be found online such as The Houdini locks including the Ace Of Hearts, Dead Lock, Under Lock and Key!, Lockout! and The Fiendishly Perplexing Lock etc although many consider them relatively easy to solve.

The IQ Locker Series Wooden Trick Locks series is also a good place to obtain some fun Trick Locks. Currently, the Combination Lock, Dial and Turn Lock, Locky and Key and Lock Maze all provide some unlocking stimulation.

Puzzlemaster Trick Locks series currently has 5 authentic looking padlock puzzle locks object is to just unlock it,

Whatever it is, one thing is certain, Trick Locks are here to stay and challenge our most inner curiosity.

Lock and Key – History

As curly haired James was sleeping in bed,
His brother John gave him a blow on the head.
James opened his eyelids, and spying his brother,
Doubled his fists, and gave him another.
This kind of a box then is not so rare
The lids are the eyelids, the locks are the hair.
Image © Popplock-T4-by-Rainer-Popp

Part I
To read Part I click here.

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