Wednesday 3 October 2012

Is Wood Puzzling?

Recent Puzzlewood Delivery
Is wood puzzling?? Of course it is!

Puzzlewood is a brilliant site run by the fantastic puzzle collector and puzzle craftsman, Bernhard Schweitzer. He manufactures some wonderful puzzles for various people to exchange at the yearly International Puzzle Party and afterwards puts them (and some others he finds or makes) up for sale. Recently he announced the availability of another batch and being my usual indecisive self I couldn't choose which to have so I bought them all! Luckily his prices are very reasonable - although the present Mrs S may not agree when she noticed quite how many puzzles I had bought over the last 3 months!!!

A few weeks ago I received this first batch from him - Yes!!! there are more coming!

I'll start with my favourite - Changing Partners:

Changing Partners
This arrived boxed like this - it is a Walnut box with some Maple lattices within. It was designed by the Taiwanese puzzle designer ChiRen Chen and mad by Bernhard. Now Bernhard is probably the worlds' foremost authority on the history and development of interlocking cube/solid type puzzles (especially those requiring rotations) and he has said that this puzzle design is absolutely unique and having solved it, I can only agree.

Pieces on show
The maple lattices/cubes seen above are each formed by combining 2 pieces made from a complex (and each one different) snaking shape. The individual shapes are picture right. On the box there is a label depicting each shape and the aim is to combine each possible pair into a 4x4x4 cube lattice. In the box it comes with the lattice formed from A & B as well as C & D. So the first aim is to work out how to separate them. Sounds easy? Let me say that it is a serious challenge! Burrtools is absolutely no use whatsoever with any of these solutions - they all require several and sometimes many rotations! This puzzle obviously has several challenges to try - A & C, A & D, B & C and B & D as well as the 2 positions it arrives with - this is 6 for the price of 1!!!

The tolerances on the pieces are minute - it only just fits together so you have to get every piece absolutely perfectly aligned to separate the pieces and make a new shape. I posted on my Facebook page about this puzzle and was contacted by the designer who pointed out that I was wrong and there are actually 7 challenges! There are 2 different ways to assemble A & B. You might think that this would get repetitive and boring but I adore this one. To finish all 7 of the challenges kept me entertained for a good couple of weeks! It looks fabulous and is a real challenge!

Next up is Tango. Many of you will recognise from the fact that it is named after a dance that it must have been designed by Jeff Namkung who has been tremendously prolific this last couple of years and has produced some of my favourite interlocking designs - I have mentioned these before. Previous Namkung puzzles have been made by either Richard Gain (Microcubology) or Eric Fuller. Knowing Bernhard's fascination for "rotationally" interlocking cubes, I knew it would not be long before he produced some. (I actually did not buy the Slow Waltz from Bernhard because I already have 2 versions of it and a third would be greedy). This version is made of Walnut and Maple and again is absolutely stunning in the accuracy of the workmanship. It is not particularly difficult to solve but the last few pieces come out with some very interesting rotations which are reminiscent of the dance it is named for! You end up with:

Tango Pieces
Next up for this blog post is the Three Piece Burr:

Three Piece Burr
This very clever puzzle was designed by our good friend Andreas Roever (forever to be thanked for giving us Burrtools) and given as an exchange present at the last IPP (by Abel Garcia). It looks very simple as there are only three pieces to the burr made from Maple, Padauk and Walnut. It is quite loose when you pick it up but it is not going to fall apart. Bernhard claims that Andreas' world famous program is not capable of solving this puzzle! But I think that it probably could - the issue for Burrtools is that it (at least at present) cannot cope with rotations. This particular puzzle does not require rotations but does have some very unusual moves in its' solution. In order to get Burrtools to solve it, you would need to use one of the non-cartesian grids! The puzzle is not tough enough to warrant the enormous work that would be required to do the modelling but it might be a fun way to learn how to model non-cartesian shapes. My good puzzle friend Neil has sent me a Burrtools file (already!) which he got from another great puzzle friend and designer, Derek Bosch (one of the co-writers of Burtools) - If anyone would like a copy of the file then just let me know.
After 5 really rather unexpected moves you have these pieces:

3 Piece Burr Pieces
As you can see - this is no ordinary burr!!!

I think that Bernhard still has all three of these available - contact him if you want to try them.

The present Mrs S has chores for me just now so I will write about the others at a later date - I cannot risk the laser stare again! Especially as I have just added a report form to my puzzle database which gives an amount I have spent over the last 2 years!! This is NOT a small amount!!! It came as quite a shock to me and even more of a shock to her!!!


  1. A nice review Kevin. May I suggest you delete the cost column from the puzzle database though.

    1. Trouble is - the cost field is quite useful for me! It's unfortunate that she has seen the grand total!! Gulp!

  2. Hi Kevin

    thanks for the nice words about the puzzles, but only one fact is not absolute correct; I`m not producing all of these new items, I organize that they are produced in the New Pelikan Workshop; I organite the permission to produce a small batch and I have to thankf to the different designer who are very polite to give it to me for very cheap "royalties"
    So I`m only the guy between the idea of the designer and the possibiltity that you can have these nice puzzles in your hands
    happy puzzling

    1. Never ONLY the organiser! If you are the one that makes it happen then you are the MOST IMPORTANT one to us collectors!!