Monday, 9 July 2012

Dancing with Eric! (As well as Richard and Chen!)

Batch of 4 - yes 4! puzzles from Eric
Recently I acquired a rather lovely little group of puzzles from the workshop of the great Eric Fuller! When I got the email about his new "stuff" (luckily not in the middle of the night this time!) I very quickly bought 3 of the puzzles which I had never seen before and decided not to buy the 4th. As with many puzzlers I had buyers' remorse - not the "I shouldn't have bought that" or "I shouldn't have spent that much" sort of remorse! No! No! No! My remorse was I should have bought the other one too!! So, I contacted him quickly the following day and luckily he hadn't sold out and agreed to add it to my order if I would pay the extra plus postage! Needless to say I was delighted, even if my bank account wasn't!

Which one did I not buy? Which was beneath me? I hang my head in shame and say that it was the Slow Waltz puzzle. I had already bought it in printed plastic from Richard Gain, solved it and written about it here. Having danced with Richard on several occasions, I was thoroughly happy. After placing my order from Eric, I went back to the plastic Slow waltz and Wow! I remembered how fabulous a movement and how difficult a puzzle it is - I had to have it in wood! Mine is in Canarywood and Cocobolo.

Two versions of Slow waltz
Having solved it before it is no real problem to repeat it in wood. The extra size and the marvellously finished wood is just a dream to behold and I am delighted to have both in my collection! The plastic one can come to work with me and the wood I save for home use. It is delightful! if you do get a chance to own this particular interlocking cube in any format then do not hesitate - Jeff Namkung has done a wonderful job designing this one! At present it can be bought in plastic from Richard's Shapeways store.

Slow waltz pieces - stunning!
My next purchase from Eric was Chen's 6 Board Burr. I love burr puzzles (even if I am not particularly good at them!) and always am on the look out for more. When I saw this on Eric's site, I jumped without question! I have almost no experience of board burrs but I have seen several very special ones made by Maurice Vigouroux on the French based Arteludes site and feel that I need a little practice at smaller ones before I buy one of these monsters!!! The 6BB is 3" across in each direction and made from Walnut, Ash and African Mahogany with splines made from contrasting exotic woods. Eric apparently believes in his construction techniques and hung a 45lb weight from one to show how robust it is! Needless to say, I have treated mine more carefully!

The parts of Chen's 6 Board Burr
When I purchased it I expected to receive a nice burr ready for me to carefully disassemble and learn how it went together (like I have with several of my previous burrs). I had originally asked Eric to delay my delivery due to being away on holiday so I saw Allard's review before I had received mine. I was absolutely horrified to see that the burr was being sent out unassembled and that it required rotations to assemble it! This usually would make this sort of puzzle much much more difficult!! Now compared to Allard, I am a small child playing at placing round blocks in square holes! He said it took him an hour to solve it! I don't stand a chance!! Have I said before that I'm not very bright? Also, I'm rubbish at puzzles! I really had the p... taken out of me at the last Midlands Puzzle Party!!!

So one Friday night after a good amount of wine, I settled down to play whilst watching TV. It was made harder by having a rather happy purring cat on my lap who just wanted to play with the pieces! Like Allard, I realised that the colours are to be paired up - this really helps. Then how to proceed? The first piece removal requires 2 moves - how could this be? Hmm! There is only one piece that would allow such a thing. At this point you have enough information to know where all the pieces must go and all that is left is to work out an order and which rotations are required!!

I got a nasty scratch down the inside of my thigh when my shout of success upset the now sleeping cat and he zoomed off my lap with claws extended!! As I said I am a rank amateur compared to Allard!! It took me about 2 hours! It is a stupendous puzzle! The design is wonderful by Chi-ren Chen and Eric's implementation is superb! The tolerances have got to be seen to be believed - it is a good thing that it is not particularly humid here as I think it would quickly seize up! I have given the assembled puzzle to several friends to see whether they can do the considerable easier disassembly and all but one have failed. I was very gratified when the one who took it apart was unable to put it back together again - maybe I am not quite as stupid as I think I am (almost but not quite!!!)

If you think the boards look nice in the photo above then what do you think of this?

Fully assembled board burr
Now I can't wait for the next Fuller instalment!!!

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