Puzzle Trick Locks – Haleslock 4 & Chinese Combination Locks

Haleslock 4

Apart from being hosted in the beautiful city of Paris, France, IPP37 is also an event to remember for the wonderful exchange puzzles; most notably the exchange of not one, not two but three trick puzzle locks. Not your usual 3D printed, acrylic or wooden pseudo locks but solid metal and brass ones that are either the real thing or crafted to feel like a real lock.

My post here covers the 1st of these three puzzle locks and that is Shane Hales’ Haleslock 4. I already have the Haleslock 2 courtesy of Shane a while back and I was looking to his new offering. The Haleslock 4 was fellow puzzle blogger Allard Walker’s exchange puzzle. Like most of the exchange puzzles I receive, I would typically store them away and take out one at a time to play…whichever captures my fancy for the week. But not too long ago, a Facebook thread appeared on my social media feed which mentioned the Haleslock 4. And of course once I participated in the thread, I just had to take my copy out for a play. More of this below.

The Haleslock 4 is a typical looking brass padlock with a steel shackle of a normal size. Upon external examination, nothing unusual could be can be detected, even if it is obvious that some modification must have been carried out to a normal lock to make it a puzzle or trick lock. Additional touches include Allard’s initials at the top of the lock body and Shane’s squiggly signature on the side (can’t be seen from the photos sorry). The Haleslock 4 comes with a key that has a “+” cross-section and with a chain attached. I have never seen such a key before but the key didn’t look very out of whack for a padlock key.  The “hole” for inserting the key is a “+” slot where the key should go in. Was the original lock like that or not? I can’t tell, but it certainly appeared that the Haleslock 4 fell within the class of trick locks where a normal off-the-shelf lock was modified into a trick or puzzle lock by the designer, much like a Danlock, and not a puzzle built ground up to resemble a real lock, the latter of the Popplock category.

As with all trick locks, I started with the obvious…insert the key and try to turn. For the first few attempts, the key would not turn. But having played with more than several trick locks over the years, I tried a couple of other tricks. And surprisingly, after less than a minute or so later, the shackle sprung free and I had solved the puzzle! This was too good to be true and I half suspected I had stumbled upon an unintended solution, which was the subject of of the Facebook discussion I mentioned earlier.

The intended (and correct) solution required a different way of solving and Allard even suggested in let in a drop of oil into the lock itself which will prevent the unintended solution – not sure how this would work. I also shot an email to Shane and he confirmed that there was a correct but much more challenging way of solving. Well, I have yet to find this solution even though I have enough info on what I need to do. I won’t divulge any more here so as not to create any spoilers. I will update this post once I make further progress on the Haleslock 4. But hey, I did open the lock after all!

Chinese Combination Locks 

I was shown these two locks by a dear friend over a dinner party over the weekend. She had bought them in Hong Kong while she living there. She is not a puzzler and had no interest from a puzzle aspect, but she thought they looked interesting and matched some antique Chinese cupboards she had at home. And they were functional too as a tool to secure her cupboards. But they were in a locked state and she could not use them other than as vintage paperweights. 

The lock came with stickers which apparently showed the combination for opening but the Chinese text had faded somewhat over the years. The right combination would spell out a Chinese proverb/phrase of sorts. So she could not get the locks to open and as there were 256 possible combinations, she enlisted the help of yours truly to unravel her problem.

These two Chinese locks are somewhat similar to our modern combination locks (the type where you press the correct 4 buttons etc)…except they used a rotating combination (similar to the book/movie Da Vinci Code’s Cryptex). I took a stab at the locks and to my surprise, I could actually feel my way around to unlocking the shackle…with trial and error, rotating the dials and gently pulling and pushing the shackle of course. Amazingly easier than the run of the mill combination padlock that one sees on luggage and suitcases.

Pretty nice as a collector’s item (there is a whole community of vintage lock collectors out there as well as puzzle/trick lock collectors) and functional too.  And of course I took the necessary photos less I forget the combinations.

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