Thursday 20 September 2012

Burrtastic & an apology!

First of all, let me please apologise to you all for not having posted for a while! I haven't lost interest (blog-fade), but I have been very busy at work and the present Mrs S has gotten rather worn out by constantly having to open the door to the postman to accept puzzle deliveries! At one point she fired up the laser stare and burnt me very badly!! So much so that I couldn't type (and even went temporarily deaf - I'm obviously wired up wrong!!) - this has meant that I have had to read about puzzles, play with puzzles (ocasionally solving puzzles), buy puzzles, photograph puzzles but I haven't dared actually sit down in front of the computer to write about puzzles!!! You can tell from this paragraph why she might have been a very teeny tiny touch miffed at me????

I've promised to improve my ways (and to do some DIY around the house!) and in exchange she will let me carry on my puzzle obsession! Oh yes, and she's out just now so I can write a blog post too! Let me know if you hear her coming back soon!!! I did figure that with the huge swathe of blog posts coming from Rox, NeilAllard, Scott, Jerry, Jeff and Brian (forgive me if I forgot anyone!!) all about exciting occurrences and puzzles discovered at the IPP then you might forgive me my small lapse!

Over the last 2 years, I initially became known for being a bit of a savant for the wire puzzles and whilst I do enjoy these (especially those by Dick Hess), they are never attractive enough to leave on display - PLUS they jingle, which puts my life at risk from Mrs S! More recently I have ventured into twisties because there is so much variety and they are so logical - all that is required is to use a few techniques and gradually you can expand them to solve almost any new puzzle - PLUS they are relatively cheap. Again, however, they are not attractive!!

I have an absolute love affair (please don't tell her!) with beautiful wooden interlocking puzzles - both burrs and cubes! They look fabulous on display and can have a real "Aha!" moment! Some can be incredibly difficult as well as beautiful - see my review here. So here we go! I think I will introduce a few new puzzles of this type that I have acquired recently.

Piston Burr
Recent contact with the fabulous craftsman, Jerry MacFarland, revealed that he had a number of new toys to play buy. This is the Piston burr, designed by Peter Marineau, and made by Jerry in Kingwood. I had heard the other guys talking about how great this puzzle was but I had actually NEVER touched one. It is a level 9.4 burr (one of the highest level 6 piece burrs there are) but actually not difficult to solve. I can see why everyone raves about it - the series of moves are beautiful! Unusually for me, I immediately scrambled the pieces without trying to memorise where they came from and it took a really pleasant 1/2 hour to reassemble it! It comes apart into this nice little set of pieces:

Piston Burr Pieces
You can see from this how accurately cut it is, with Jerry's mark on one. I had never heard of Kingwood but Jerry suggested that this would be a nice one to have and that he would probably never be able to get this wood again! I can only say thank you, Jerry. It's beautiful!

Allard has just blogged about Burrblock here. About 3 months ago, shortly after Jerry made the amendments to the prototype that Allard and Chris suggested, Jerry offered me one of these to try and to see whether I had any suggestions before he entered it into the IPP competition. He didn't swear me to secrecy until after I had posted about my acquisition and then about 2 hours later he contacted me to remove it from the blog (although not before 3 or 4 others had requested one from him having seen it!!) Sorry Jerry!! This is a BIG puzzle and the picture just doesn't do it justice! It solves in two phases - the initial phase uses lock-picking techniques to remove the 4 central pieces (please don't mention to the General Medical Council about my ability to use lock-picking techniques!!) Now, usually with burrs, once the key pieces have been removed the frame will come apart easily. This puzzle is much MUCH tougher than that - the key pieces are the easy part. The frame requires more lock-picking and this time it is not clear what parts to do it with! I think it took me 2 or 3 days to solve it! When finally solved you end up with a rather large assortment of pieces:

A whole lotta Burrblock parts!!
Putting it back together is just as much fun as taking it apart! This is quite an expensive puzzle but is a serious work of art and if you can afford it then get one, it is fabulous on display! In fact the present Mrs S actually let me leave it in the living room on the coffee table for a whole week before it had to be put away!!

This post is getting rather long so I'll wrap up with one more puzzle! (I will post some more as soon as she'll let me!). I have to mention Blind Burr, designed by Gregory Benedetti and made by Maurice Vigouroux in Purpleheart, it was also entered into the IPP32 design competition where it was in the top 10 voted for by the attendees! This is a limited edition with only 50 made (mine is #44).

Blind Burr
Gregory says about this one:
"I like to define Blind Burr like a tricky opening burr. It's not a matter of number of moves, but I can say it can be solved in 3 steps. When you know how to solve it, it can be solved in 3 seconds, when you don't know, you can turn around a very long time … It's not easy to reassemble"

This is a great description - it looks like a normal burr, except that 3 pieces move very easily independently of any other pieces and no further steps are revealed. It requires quite a bit of very careful exploration to discover how it works. All of a sudden you have a very subtly but very definitely changed position and again no further movement. From here it comes apart quite easily (in fact it might fall apart if you tug it in the right way) but you'd better hope you were paying attention because it requires a very accurate movement to put it back together. This is a REALLY clever puzzle and Maurice's work is just beautiful. A friend at work failed to solve it but loved the look and feel of it!

When dismantled the pieces look like this:

Blind Burr Pieces (secret carefully hidden!)
Hopefully a bit more to come soon - if I survive!!!


  1. Lovely post Kevin! Excellent pic of the Blind Burr pieces!! :-)


  2. What do you mean twisters aren't attractive?!? You're breaking my heart Kevin! Pretty pretty pretty they are. Keep this up and I'll ask Mrs. S. to teach me the stare via the net.

    Love that blind burr. Mine came in last night and was a real laugh for me. It's got a mind of its own doesn't it?

    1. No Rox! No! Don't learn the laser stare! When used over the intertubes you could wipe out the human race!!

      Don't get me wrong - I love my twisties! But if I'm not allowed to display my wooden toys around the house then the plastic ones stand no chance!!!

  3. Nice post about some very nice puzzles! Burr Block and Blind Burr are some of my new acquisitions from this IPP.

    The Burr-Block is simply beautiful and only something for lock picking experts. :)

    About the Blind Burr ... I can solve it, but I believe only Greg is the only one who can do it as quickly, as he demonstrated at IPP. You have #44 -- in case you wonder where #43 is, that's with me. ;)

    1. All the best people are in their 40s!!!
      I can open mine now in just under a minute!

      I'm currently struggling with the other one of Gregory's burrs - odd repartition! Lots of moves but nothing come loose yet! Another great puzzle!

    2. Yes, that "Odd Repartition" is astonishingly stubborn for level 9.13 .

      Took me a long time to get out the first piece and then the second is another challenge.

    3. Solved it last night!!! Took a hell of a long time - fabulous set of moves to get it apart. After the 3rd piece came out - it fell to bits! Not a chance I will be able to reassemble! Burrtools, here I come!!!