Wednesday 28 December 2011

Mirror Image

Puzzle Master's Mirror Image
I blush to admit that I have even more puzzles to review from Puzzle Master. When I placed my last order, I must have had a rush of blood to the head - because this series of reviews seems rather prolonged!!! But, you all know by now that I cannot resist a new puzzle! The next one on my list is the Mirror Image wire puzzle. Oh god! Not another wire puzzle, I can hear you shout. It is you shouting isn't it? Not the voices again, I hope! Actually it could be Mrs S - she hates puzzles that jingle and has taken to shouting at me if I "do it in public" or within earshot! It's not fair really, I don't complain about the noise her shoe and handbag collection makes (and it really is a large collection) and I certainly don't complain about the space they take!!

This puzzle is one of Puzzle Master's own brand and comes in their standard clamshell package with the insert explaining that the aim is to remove the shuttle (they call it the handle). When solved, the string remains wound onto the large interconnecting ring. It consists of 2 "mirror images" with a string attached and the shuttle entwined through a ring and around the string. The shuttle cannot just slide off due to the presence of a ball which will not pass through. It has been rated as a level 9 (Gruelling) out of 10 - I don't actually think it is quite that tough, more of an 8. When unfolded, it is 15.2 x 7.5cm and yes, it jingles!!!

No solution is provided (and the more experienced of you shouldn't need one) but if you find that it is required (hopefully only after several hours of trying!) then you can download one from here.

Sunday 25 December 2011

Back where I began! After 100 posts!

Gold and Orange Revomazes
It all began with revomazes and now we have two more!!!

This is my hundredth post!! That is a hell of a milestone to have reached in such a short time! I began this blog to describe my journey through the puzzling world of mechanical puzzles and within a year I have had 100 posts and more than 27,000 page hits! I never expected anyone really to read it - well maybe a few of the crazy people out there (you know who you are!) but from the comments I have received to various posts and via my contact form, quite a lot of you are, well, NORMAL!!!

I have really enjoyed myself and have been in contact with many very interesting people. The puzzlers themselves are great and always willing to provide suggestions to help solve something or to point me towards something else I might like to torture myself with. I have been in touch with many fine craftsmen too - all are uniformly proud of their work and the apparent joy we take in solving their contraptions. Most are more interested in the craftsmanship and joy than the actual financial gains that can be made. Some have even sent me puzzles to play with and told me I could pay at a later date when my finances allowed. You wouldn't find such trust amongst very many other groups of people - puzzle people are pretty unique.

This whole thing started when a very stressful event at work (life and death - more death really!) caused me to need a diversion. I found that every time I stopped working and sat quietly, I began to have some very disturbing flashbacks and struggled to relax or even sleep. Believe me when I say that this was very new to me - in my particular sub-specialty I am very used to dealing with the critically ill and dying. But this really caught me by surprise. So I began my puzzling journey...

It all started out with the blue Revomaze - I had seen this (and met Chris Pitt, the designer and MD) at the Gadget Show Live in April 2010 but did not buy at the time because of the cost and the dirty looks from Mrs S. But, when I really needed something to take my mind away from everything this rather beautiful and very well made puzzle was just what I needed. From here on, I was completely hooked and have worked my way through all 4 of the metal Revomazes that were routinely available. I completed the silver at the end of last year and Mrs S had ordered the Gold as last year's Christmas present. Unfortunately due to manufacturing problems there were some rather prolonged delays - I am really pleased to say that it has finally arrived and I am about to start all over again! Next to the gold is the orange, a special limited edition puzzle designed by Mark, one of the amazing group of Revo puzzlers on their forums. Now I really don't know what to do first!!!

So, I would like to say to you all, dear readers:

Have a very Merry Christmas and a
truly puzzling New year.
Good health to you all!

I would like to thank all the wonderful people who have helped me on my journey:
(I apologise if I have missed anyone!)

Puzzle makers and designers: Fellow puzzle bloggers: MPP people:
Wil Strijbos Neil Hutchison Allard & Jill
Chris Pitt (Revomaze) Brian Pletcher Chris & Helen
Václav Obšivač (Vinco) Gabriel Fernandes Oli
Jerry McFarland Jeff Chiou Ali
Eric Fuller (Cubic dissection) Jerry Loo Nigel
Bill Cutler Mike Vodovoz Karl
John Devost Rob Stegmann Louis
Tom Lensch Roxanne Wong Graham
Leon Stein (Puzzlemaster)
Brian Menold (Wood wonders)

Bernhard Schweitzer

Richard Gain (Microcubology)

Brian and Sue Young (Mr Puzzle)

George Bell

Richard Whiting

Guillaume Largounez

Maurice Vigouroux

John Rausch

Gregory Benedetti

Dave Janelle (Creative Crafthouse)

Ben Meldrum (Puzzleguru)

Frank Gregory (Livewire puzzles)

Stephen Chin

Dan Feldman

Oskar van Deventer

Andreas Röver

Saturday 24 December 2011

Time to rename Wil Strijbos - "The Puzzle Pusher"

More goodies from Wil
Yep! Wil is officially my puzzle pusher!

Recently he sent out a series of emails detailing some more goodies that he had in stock for purchase and of course I couldn't resist ordering a few more things that are shiny. At the same time as ordering from him I suggested that he would be the death of me - my wife is probably going to murder me in my sleep for all the clinking noises I make playing with his puzzles and the swearing under my breath!

In the same email I asked him about the future production of other puzzles. During a little to and fro of emails he copied in the whole group of puzzlers!! His own response was to berate me for asking for more puzzles when they would be the cause of my demise! He also expressed the sincere hope that Mrs S wouldn't murder him as the mere "inventor, maker and seller" of these puzzles. Laurie replied to all of us that he is actually the:
"PUSHER" of the puzzle-drug! (REAL ecstasy!)
Hence I am officially renaming him!!!

They arrived on Thursday and are as lovely as expected. This time I got the Concave Aluminium Dovetail, the Strijbos Bolt #3, Aluminium Washer Cylinder and the Bird in Cage. Puzzling heaven (or hell?)

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Sheffield Steel 6BB

Sheffield Steel 6BB
By now, you all know how much I love wooden puzzles (actually all puzzles) and I have a particular penchant for wooden burr type puzzles. So when I put in my last order at Puzzle Master, I just couldn't resist this one - particularly because I live in Sheffield (the home of the UK steel industry). This is called Sheffield Steel 6BB presumably because the pieces, in cross section, look rather like steel girders. I assume that the 6 denotes the number of pieces in the burr but I have to say that I have no idea where the BB comes from.

It was originally designed by Ronald Kint-Bruynseels, a rather prolific puzzle designer who seems to have specialised in burr type puzzles. The original version and the one reviewed here is manufactured by the German puzzle/toy company, Philos. In 2006 one of my favourite puzzle craftsmen, Eric Fuller, produced a limited edition run of this puzzle in a variety of different woods (I cannot tell what wood the Philos version is made from). His versions look absolutely stunning. I would love to obtain a copy of Eric's - if anyone has one for sale then please contact me.

Eric described this puzzle as follows:
"The beauty of his designs is that he achieves incredibly high level puzzles with relatively simple shapes. While simple, the high precision necessary due to the extreme degree of interlock makes producing his puzzles a challenge. Sheffield Steel 6BB is no exception. This beautiful and unconventional puzzle has a unique level 17.14 solution. An incredibly difficult puzzle that can easily be displayed as a work of art once solved."
I could not describe it more eloquently than this - It is a lovely shape and truly difficult to solve. It is 10 x 10 x 10cm in size and, at least in my version, is pretty loosely held together which gives the false impression that it should come apart very easily. It arrives in a very nice Philos box with the puzzle on display - this would definitely make a good present for the puzzler in your life. It does come with a solution in the box but if you lost it and want to download a new copy then you can get it from here. I have created a Burrtools file for it to confirm that there is only one possible assembly - if you would like a copy then just contact me and I can email you a copy.

Sunday 18 December 2011

Poplock T6

Poplock T6
Rainer Popp is a master puzzle maker who specialises in the production of puzzle locks. So far he has made 6 different locks over the years and all have received rave reviews. Unfortunately they are mostly unobtainable now and when one does come up for sale they are hugely expensive (Puzzle Master still have the T5 version for sale at the princely sum of $350!!)

Apparently Rainer has had many many requests for a less "limited" edition at a more reasonable price (obviously, still with his customary difficulty and attention to detail) so he decided this year to make the T6. This one is smaller than his previous ones and is available in two finishes - I chose the stainless steel with copper rivets, but it is also available in steel with aluminium rivets. Interestingly the 2 versions are made as mirror images of each other. This came to me courtesy of Wil Strijbos (he is costing me a fortune) for the very reasonable price of €85.

Being made of steel it has a very decent weight to it and is quite small, measuring 5 x 3.8 x 1.5cm. The key is shiny and the lock is matt steel with very attractive brass rivets. It has already been reviewed by my fellow puzzle bloggers, Allard, Neil and Oli, all of whom gave it a very hearty thumbs up.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Hanayama Cast Baroq

Cast Baroq
I have been looking over my posts recently and realised that I forgot to write about this puzzle. I completed it a good few weeks ago and absolutely love it. It is the Cast baroq by Hanayama. I received this in my recent rather "large" batch from Puzzle Master. I chose this one as an intermediate difficulty puzzle which, hopefully, would provide me with a reasonable challenge but not have me hurling it at the wall! Hanayama class it as difficulty level 4 out of 6 and Puzzle Master make it a 8 (Demanding) out of 10. I think this rating is about right. Most people will solve it in a reasonable amount of time. Brian has reviewed it on his blog here.

It is supplied in the usual Hanayama black box with the 2 pieces of the puzzle tied to a piece of card. The box just gives instructions to separate the pieces and put them back together again, no other information is provided and no solution is given. If you want one (and I don't think you will need it) you can download it from Puzzle Master here. Designed (again) by Akio Yamamoto, it consists of 2 odd shaped pieces (named after "the image of intertwining Bach melodies") of brassy metal which are linked at one end. It is 10.1 x 2.5 x 2.5 cm in size and is reasonably substantial in your hands. I had high hopes that I could do this one in the living room but once again, I got told off for jingling!

Saturday 10 December 2011

More Vinco's! and I'm in trouble again!!

Latest batch of Vinco puzzles
At this moment in time I have a blackened area right between my eyes!!! No it's not dirt! During the week I received another parcel from Vaclav Obsivac (aka Vinco) - this parcel was not expected by the present Mrs S and I became victim of the laser stare!! I swear she has had the power increased! It's true, I probably deserved it - I hadn't actually told her they were coming and my study is now getting out of control! There are puzzles everywhere!

My Precioussssss!
My big problem is she won't let me keep them anywhere else in the house, despite them being beautiful. Every time I place some of my lovelies (preciousssssss!!!) on the coffee table in the living room they miraculously reappear in my study again within a few hours. For this reason I have also bought a Kindle - if I can get rid of my fiction/paperbacks then I will have more space for puzzles!!

So a week ago Vaclav opened his new website and let everyone know that he had more puzzles to post. I received the email at about 11pm and immediately disappeared from the living room to have a look (she wasn't suspicious at that time). The new website is really nice - definitely an improvement and he has really been hard at work designing and building more goodies. In fact there must have been a mad scramble initially because thing were disappearing even as I surfed and something went just as I tried to add it to my cart! I still managed to get some nice stuff - his prices are very reasonable. I do feel slightly guilty as I haven't actually managed to finish all the last batch yet! From the back left: Two U's, Prism halfcubes, Double pyramid, Kiss, Coming of age, Vinco Octahedron. I blame the voices!!!!

Saturday 3 December 2011

Drunken Dancing Fraulein

Drunken Dancing Fraulein
Last week I posted a review of Brian Young's Gold coast parking meter. I bought it from an anonymous seller via Allard and was very restrained!! There was a huge list of positively droolworthy puzzles and I only ordered the two! I suspect it was thoughts of the giant credit card bills I had been having from the purchase of a new kitchen.

This one was designed and made by Stephen Chin and presented at the Berlin IPP (#31) this year. It has already been reviewed by Brian and Jeff on their respective sites. Both bloggers really liked the rather unique mechanism. After reading their reviews, I knew I had to have one when the opportunity arose. They were made from a variety of different woods and I liked the look of this light coloured one. It has obviously been turned from a solid block and looks like it should be quite heavy, however, when you pick it up it is very light and is obviously hollow. There are 3 rings around it and a stand too, all in the same lovely wood and very beautifully made.