Introduction: Solving the Horseshoe and Ring Puzzle

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first to…

I was looking at an Instructable on  a Homemade Stick Welder From Microwave Parts by The King of Random. Step 6 caught my eye. He had made a horseshoe puzzle for welding practice. I looked for some videos at YouTube on solving this puzzle, and there are several. The object is to remove the ring from the chains, but it is too small to slip over the horseshoes. In those videos, the crucial moments in solving the puzzle go by so quickly, or they do not show everything I need to answer my questions. So, I decided to make my own horseshoe puzzle to understand it better.

I have put masking tape around each end of both horseshoes and marked them with numbers. The numbers on the reverse side are marked 1', 2', 3', and 4' so the viewer gets a better perception of exactly what he is seeing.  

Step 1: The Parts

This Instructable is really about solving the puzzle, not about making the puzzle, but, here is a brief verbal description of what I did to make the puzzle. You can also buy one of these puzzles many places for around ten dollars US. Or, here is an Instructable for a horseshoe puzzle that involves no welding.

I did not have horseshoes, so I made my own simulated horseshoes from steel rod a neighbor allowed me to pull from the garbage can when she had to replace the grass catcher on her power mower. I had some chain left over from a suspended porch swing I made almost 20 years ago. And, I had some 3/16 inch steel rod to make a ring. I was a pastor for 40 years and the rod was from a tripod flower stand a family left at the church after a funeral. 

I clamped the wall of the large steel pipe into one side of a 4 inch vise. I clamped 3/8 inch steel rod  to the pipe with a Vise-Grip locking pliers, heated it in short sections with the carbon arc torch, and pounded it to fit the contour of the pipe. I used the angle head grinder and cutting wheel to cut my horseshoe away from the rest of the rod. I bent the 3/16 inch rod around the large piece of pipe by hand. It needs to be an inch or more smaller in diameter than the widest portion of each horseshoe. My horseshoes are about 4 1/2 inches at their widest. I welded the ends of the ring closed and pounded on the ring where it was not as close to a circle as I wanted. I clamped a horseshoe to a piece of aluminum and welded the end link of chain to the end of the horseshoe. I cut the chain at five links in length. I put both pieces of the chain through the ring. I welded the end of the other horseshoe to the other end of the chain. I repeated the process for the other piece of chain. When finished, what I had looks like the photo in the Introduction.

  • Two horseshoes or 3/8 inch steel rod to make facsimile horseshoes
  • Ten links of chain
  • 3/16 inch steel rod for a ring
  • Steel pipe 3 1/2 inches in diameter for a bending form
  • Carpenter's rule
  • 3 pound hammer
  • Vise
  • Vise-Grip locking pliers
  • Angle head grinder with a cutting wheel
  • Wire feed welder
  • Aluminum angle for a welding platform
  • Spring clamp
  • Carbon arc torch and a 230 volt stick welder

Step 2: Beginning to Solve the Puzzle

The object is to remove the ring from the horseshoes. When you know how, it is unbelievably easy, although I am doing this Instructable so I can recall the steps a few months from now after I have forgotten.

Raise leg 3 from the table so the horseshoe on the right is twisted a quarter of a turn. 

Step 3: Slip an End Through the Ring

Slip end 4 through the ring as shown.

Step 4: Slip Another End Through the Ring

Keep end 4 through the ring as in the previous step. Also slip end 1 through the ring.

Step 5: Bring the Horseshoes Together

The two horseshoes are brought together so one is on top of the other. Do this by bringing end 4 to the forefront so that end 2' is behind it. Look closely at the photo. The horseshoe in the rearward position has been inverted so that the labels 2' and 1' show, not 1 and 2 as before. Notice also that the ends of the horseshoes and the pieces of chain are open so that the ring slides off of either side with ease.

Step 6: Putting It Back Together

In one of the YouTube videos on solving this puzzle, the creator of the video said he sometimes has difficulty getting the puzzle back together. It really is quite simple. 

Hold one horseshoe in the air and let the other dangle to remove any twists in the chains. With the ring on the two horseshoes as in the photo from the previous step, slide the rearward shoe (ends 2' and 1') slightly to the left, or clockwise. At the same time, slide the forward shoe (ends 4 and 3) slightly to the right, or counter-clockwise. Notice how the ring hangs where the horseshoes cross over one another. 

Step 7: Move Ends Back Out of the Ring

Pull end 1' to the left so it is out of the ring. Pull end 4 to the right so it is out of the ring. Bring end 2' upward from the table and make a 1/2 turn rotation toward yourself. 

Step 8: Ready to Go Again

The puzzle is now back in its original condition with the ring around the chains ready for someone to attempt solving it.