Sunday, 26 October 2014

Cubic loveliness - a great investment?

My last 2 cubic lovelies!
Eric Fuller has, over the last few years, managed to obtain a fairly large part of my savings! He can be found at 2 places on the internet - his puzzle shop & his own hosted auction site (next auction due in Feb 2015). He's one of very few full time puzzle makers in the world and seems to make a pretty decent living at it. In fact he's done such good business (not all from me) that he has managed to employ an assistant to help in the workshop. Over the last year or so, prices have risen (due to the increased cost of wood and cost of living) but I still keep coming back and buying more. The only thing that has changed is that I only buy 2 or 3 puzzles each time instead of the usual 5 or 6! I attempted to buy 3 items last time and lost one by having it snatched from my basket just as I was entering my purchase details so ended up with just the 2 lovely puzzles above.

But having watched the last auction at which quite a few of his older puzzles were sold from his own personal collection for absolutely staggering sums of money, I am beginning to wonder whether I should just buy everything that comes for sale straight away as an investment! The increase in value on most of his puzzles has been amazing and certainly would have made better returns than almost all of my other savings! The only problem with that approach (pointed out by my wife, I might add) is that in order to cash in on my collection, I'd need to actually sell something! This is a something that leaves me in a cold sweat at just the mere thought of it!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Cast Ring II

Cast Ring II
Having recovered from yesterday's horrendous rota writing episode and completed today's DIY chores, it is now time for a puzzle review - again, one of the more affordable puzzles. Today it is another from my Hanayama stash, the Cast ring II. I do not own the Cast Ring I and chose this one because of the high difficulty rating - it is level 9 (Gruelling) on the Puzzle Master scale and a 5 out of 6 from Hanayama.

As with all the others, it arrived in the lovely black Hanayama packaging and when I picked it up I realised that "ring" is a bit of a misnomer! I had not really looked at the full description on the product page and did not see the size. This is only a ring in terms of shape - you are NEVER going to be wearing this on your finger! It is enormous! The dimensions are 4.4 x 3.9 x 1.5 cm making this even bigger than your thumb but not big enough to be worn by a girl as a bracelet (Rox wore a fabulous huge Oskar 3D printed puzzle ring as a bracelet at the IPP - to the right is a photo of it on Oskar's table at IPP). I noticed that as soon as I took it off the backing card that this puzzle is extremely unstable - it just wants to spring apart. I therefore kept one of the wire ties on it for storage and photography purposes.

Quite a size disparity!
This is the 3rd puzzle ring in my collection. I have a 6 band gold one which I seldom wear but play with intermittently to keep my memory up to date. Many puzzle rings on the market are based on a similar mechanism of interlocking and it is useful to be able to do them for the occasional time when confronted by exasperated friends and colleagues who have a similar ring but cannot reassemble it. Over the years I must have done 15 or so for people! The other is a jigsaw ring in 3 colours of gold designed by the amazing Danish Jeweller, Georg Jensen. It is not in any way puzzling but I have been told many times by colleagues that it is wholly appropriate that I should wear it. This is my preferred ring to wear because it was bought for me by the present Mrs S (doing OK for a first wife!) for our 10th anniversary - she received something equivalent with diamonds in!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Thank you thank you thank you!

Incredible numbers!
I am supposed to be writing the consultant on call rota today - this one includes Xmas and the New Year and is a bit of a nightmare! I am very easily distracted so I thought I would take a small break and post this screenshot from my phone!

I cannot believe that so many of you read my rubbish and keep coming back! I don't think that it is all due to my mother as she really doesn't approve of my puzzle fetish!

Yesterday I passed the 400,000 page view mark! Thank you everyone for visiting and keeping me going!

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Traiphum's Tetrahedral Terror plus Torturing the Mother-in-law!

Three tetrahedra from Traiphum
This will need to be a fairly short blog post this week - my in-laws arrived on Thursday and I have had very little time to myself for writing or puzzling and if I try then I get the evil eye/laser-burning stare from the present ogre erm wife! The girls have just gone out for coffee and shopping (God help me!!) and left the boys at home. The "old boy" has felt the need for a lie down in the afternoon so I have some time for a quickee!

This post is another post about a special twisty puzzle which I have owned for quite a few months and as yet have singularly failed to solve since receiving it in March this year! Traiphum is a master twisty puzzle modder (probably the best in the world) and I have bought quite a few puzzles from him over the last few years and love them all! They are not cheap but the quality is truly amazing - if you do choose to buy from him then you will not be disappointed. He can be easily contacted via his Facebook page or through the Twisty Puzzles forum private messaging service. His specialty is to convert one particular shape of puzzle into another. In the picture at the top of the post are 3 cubes which he has carved and smoothed into perfectly formed Reuleaux tetrahedra. On the left is a 4x4 cube (Megamorphinx) and on the right is a 5x5 (Ultramorphinx) and I hope one day to be able to get a Hexamorphinx too. In the middle is my nemesis!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Cast Heart

Cast Heart
Back to review another less expensive puzzle from my collection. My hoard from Puzzle Master is getting really small now and I guess it might be time to place another order again soon! I can't possibly allow myself to run out of small shiny things to play with and with which to taunt my colleagues!

This time we have the Cast Heart from Hanayama which is quite different from the other fun heart-shaped puzzle they make (the Cast Amour) which I reviewed here. This is another very attractive one in shiny silver and gold coloured metals with a gold linked chain wound through the various parts. The aim is simply to separate the 2 hearts and like all good things to do with "the heart" this should not be easy. The difficulty rating for this one is 4 in the Hanayama 6 point scale or 8 (Demanding) in Puzzle Master's 5-10 point scale. It looks absolutely stunning in the classic Hanayama black box with the twisty ties holding everything in place against a card backing plate. Unfortunately when released from the packaging it does tend to slop about quite a lot and not look quite so nice. Plus these shiny metal finishes show off fingerprints rather badly (I had to polish it a fair bit before taking the photos). It is a decent size (quite a bit bigger that the Cast Amour) at 6.3 x 6.3 x 0.5cm. It does look quite nice from the back too so here's a pic:

Cast Heart rear face
This puzzle has received three 4 and 5 star reviews on the Puzzle Master product page and it has also been favourably reviewed by Gabriel here - he found it quite challenging and by Brian here - he found it a small challenge at that early stage in his puzzling career.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Not a box! A sequential discovery puzzle with a cavity!

It's a sequential discovery puzzle!
It is a standing joke amongst the puzzling community (mostly MPP guys but now some of the IPP guys too) that for someone who doesn't collect puzzle boxes, I do seem to have some absolutely stunning examples in my collection! My excuse is that they must always have some other puzzling aspect too and so I can classify them some other way! Why do I do this? It's to save my sanity and my bank account from total annihilation! I really have collected quite hard the last few years and upset Mrs S considerably with the sheer extent of my madness. If I was to completely give in and properly collect puzzle boxes like some others I know, then I might also have to pay for a divorce or, even worse, end up being murdered or buried alive! You and I (and more importantly "SHE") knows that starting a puzzlebox collection would end up with a massive expansion in my collection and I already have no space or money left!

Still not open!
Having said that I don't collect puzzle boxes unless there is another aspect to them, I can categorically say that I have learned from Allard and Neil - that when the Stickman (aka Robert Yarger) offers me something then the answer is an emphatic YES! I bought my first Stickman from a fellow puzzler 3 years ago - he needed cash fast and I had never tried a Stickman box so I resolved both situations without telling the present wife and the Perpetual Hinge entered my custody! It is stunning and sits above me as I write and to this day I have not managed to solve it! I'm pretty crap at puzzle boxes because I don't collect them - I do have the instructions for it but have refused so far to look at them! It remains one of the longest unsolved puzzles in my collection - at least it looks gorgeous sitting on the shelf taunting me! Last year I was offered the Constellation Puzzle Box and immediately said yes. Mine was one of only 2 made from Bloodwood and not only is it stunning but I actually managed to solve it! It only took me a week of hard work and I still don't understand how it actually works!!! I'm definitely not very good at this particular category of puzzle but I do try to practice as many as I can at the MPPs.

Stickman Constellation box in Bloodwood
Neil has taken to reproducing one or 2 of the Stickman puzzles and has adopted the nom de guerre of "Stickboy" - unfortunately at the last MPP, at which Neil was present, I was only able to afford to buy one Stickboy puzzle - I managed to finally obtain a stunning craftsman version of Iwahiro's ODD Puzzle and it is another of the very few puzzles that is allowed to sit in my living room. I look forward to more from him in the future!

The Stickboy's version of the ODD puzzle!
I had a minor heart attack when the latest Stickman was released! They are very limited edition and I heard the other collectors receiving theirs and Allard wrote a review. I assumed that I was not being offered one this time but I did contact Robert and was told that I had been offered one but had not replied yet. Hmmm! I might be getting old and senile but I am sure I would have remembered an offer for one of these! A quick visit to my spam folder and Aaaargh! there it was. Luckily Robert had not released mine to the public yet and a quick email back and an exchange of cash occurred and I was to be the proud owner of the latest Stickman puzzle - "The Pirate's Wallet Sequential Discovery Puzzle Box". Another reason to buy it...... not only is it sequential discovery but it also includes a puzzle lock! All made of wood! Now I DO collect puzzle locks and this is a puzzle in it's own right. In fact several of these went up for sale at the last Cubic Dissection auction and fetched a serious amount of money!

A wooden puzzle lock as a bonus with the puzzle
It had been sold separately

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

A great collaboration!

Doors and Drawers
Trigo cube (Chain loop edition)
Mike Toulouzas is an amazing craftsman who I was very pleased to meet and attempt to solve a puzzle with at the last IPP. He is a brilliant craftsman, designer and a perfect gentleman who for very good reason won the Puzzler's award at the IPP design competition this year. Allard had extolled his virtues as a craftsman several times over the years. The only puzzle of his that I owned up until the IPP was the Trigo cube (Chain loop edition - made from Bubinga, Rosewood, Palisander, and Sugargold Maple) of which there have only been 17 made and because of the difficulty in manufacturing them there will never be any more made. For some reason I have never reviewed this puzzle and I'm afraid I cannot recall enough about my attempt at solving it to do so now! After one of Allard's and Neil's reviews I couldn't resist trying to get another one and am on the waiting list for an Illusion puzzle and hopefully it will arrive this year! I very nearly bought one of his entries (Cross Links) in the design competition but unfortunately had already spent more than my budget had allowed - sigh!

So how does this make for a "collaboration" as stated in the title of the post? Many people admire Mike's work and puzzles but he is never able to make enough to keep up with demand! At the beginning of his puzzle designing career he designed a 3 piece burr with blocking pieces - hence it is a sort of combination of a burr and packing puzzle. Mike is a good friend of Bernhard Schweitzer and during their discussions about his puzzles they made an agreement that Bernhard would employ the New Pelikan workshop under Jakub and Jaroslav to partially manufacture his design and Mike would make the more fiddly pieces. This would allow a decent number of this puzzle to be manufactured and make it affordable to the general puzzling world. Bernhard told me about the design months before IPP and I knew that I would be buying one when we met! It is now available from Bernhard for a very reasonable price.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

I think this career change will be a success

Wood Wonders! Just soo beautiful!
Even a busy weekend working doesn't stop the intrepid puzzler posting reviews for you! But now it's time to lie down for a while! I'm shattered!

Over the last few years I have posted quite a few puzzle reviews extolling the virtues of the workmanship of Brian Menold from Wood Wonders. Numerous times I have exclaimed at how accurately everything was made (his quality is up with the very best of the craftsmen) and the beauty of the woods chosen. A month or so ago I found out that poor Brian (who has already had a LOT of upset in his life) had been made redundant from his previous employment. Choosing not to be brought down by the change, he immediately saw it as an opportunity to change his life around and undertake something professionally that had previously been just a hobby for him. Brian decided to turn puzzle making into a career - it was something he enjoyed and this would give him a chance (his own words) to "push his boundaries a bit".

I immediately wanted to support him in his endeavours and vowed to buy as many puzzles as I could afford (although I seem to do that to ALL puzzle craftsmen!) and I also offered some advice about his site and purchasing mechanism. I managed to nab a couple from his last batch - he has been in contact with the amazing Turkish puzzle designer Yavuz Demirhan (amazing because as of writing this he has 369 puzzles published on Ishino's site) and has produced quite a few really beautiful and really interesting puzzles from his catalogue.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Arrow Dynamics plus a special N-ary puzzle

Arrow Dynamics
Just a short blog post today! This week I have been away at a medical conference for a couple of days and then off on leave for the rest of the week. You might think that this would give me plenty of time for puzzling and blogging but she with the 'cat-o-nine tails tongue' and the laser stare had other ideas! Every time I settled down to try and play with something, I was given another chore to do or some DIY! Finally towards the end of the week the cats went into the cattery (much to their disgust) and we headed off for a very nice relaxing long weekend in North Yorkshire where I proceeded to eat and drink too much and managed absolutely no puzzling whatsoever! I did take this one with me in the hope that I could solve it and write about it - but as you can see it might be called "jingly" and the fear of retribution came over and hit me with paralysing accuracy. I got home a while ago and having unpacked and had a refreshing (and finally non-alcoholic) drink and was given kind permission to play with this whilst she pottered out of earshot.

This is the Arrow dynamics puzzle from Puzzle Master's own range of wire disentanglements. I have almost the entire set now and I think this must be the last of the high level ones for me to try. It is a good price at $18 and is level 10 (Mind Boggling) at the top of their difficulty scale. It is clamshell packaged and the simple instructions are just to remove the arrow (inside it reminds you that no force or bending is necessary). It is made of beautifully anodised thick wire and is good and strong - dimensions are 35.6 x 10.2 x 2.5cm. No solution is provided but it can be obtained on request at this link.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Some nice puzzles from IPP and torturing the sick

Load's of metal!
I'm off to a conference soon and don't have my usual amount of time on the Sunday to write a post so I thought I'd highlight some of my recent puzzle escapades and publish a day early. At the MPP, Louis showed up with 4 beautifully made bent nail disentanglement puzzles. He had bought them from the proprietor of the Majorcan puzzle shop. I solved them all fairly quickly at the MPP but with each successive puzzle solved a whoop of delight came from me. These were absolutely beautifully made, really chunky and nicely anodised. But more important than the look was the fact that each of them had something new and interesting to their solve process - they all look very similar to the cheap puzzles of our childhood but were very different to them.

I was really surprised and pleased when Louis contacted me just before IPP to tell me that he had found the same 4 puzzles available at Village games in Camden Lock (their own website appears to be dead). He bought them for me and I picked them up when we met at IPP - this was one of the first parts of my haul. I have had fun playing with them myself as they make great worry beads and don't jingle enough to invite the wrath of Mrs S. They also are perfect for taking to work as no-one can resist them.

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