Thursday 11 October 2012

Stars - Variations on a Theme

Over the last 2 years I have tried as much as possible not to repeat myself (at least too much) and have tried not to buy the same puzzle twice. However, sometimes the woods used are too beautiful or craftsmanship of one is just too good to avoid getting a duplicate and sometimes I didn't realise what the underlying mechanism was until I opened it. I repeat (yet again!) that I'm really not very bright and I cannot help it if I'm drawn towards the shiny shiny!
One of the very first wooden puzzles I ever bought was the Moth Ball - part of the Bamboo collection from Professor Puzzle - I got mine from Puzzleguru in the UK. It is extremely cheap but very attractive and as it is a classic I have kept it on my shelves!

The Moth Ball
Moth Ball Pieces
My first attempts with it were rather interesting - I took it out gave it a little shake and as is usual with this particular design it fell apart! There are 6 identical pieces making up this puzzle and being a newb I had no real idea what was required to put it together properly so I built it up from the desk up and then had a rather hilarious (and precarious) jiggling motion to do to get it back in one piece. Eventually I noticed that if I took it apart in a certain way then I could reassemble it the same way - in 2 pairs of structures each made from 3 sticks.

Star Puzzle
Walnut star pieces
My next version came to me free courtesy of Brian Menold at Wood Wonders. I had made a fairly significant purchase from him and he added this to my delivery as a thank you. This time it is made from a beautiful Walnut and nicely polished up. Unlike my first version this one can be squeezed tight and then it will not just fall apart. By now, I obviously knew how to do this one so it didn't cause any issues and I stored it in a fairly prime postion due to it's beauty!

Etoile 6 pièces
More recently I bought some very special puzzles from Jean-Baptiste at Arteludes (Nickel box and Fermium). Again, having spent so much money at one time, he was kind enough to throw in a free gift - this time in French it is the Etoile 6 pièces.

Etoile 6 pièces - pieces!
Being a bit dim (and not thinking what etoile meant in French), I didn't realise until I held it what it was. This one is beautiful too and is made from 6 different woods - Padauk, Purpleheart, Difou, Wacapou, Sycamore and Cherry. It is a little looser but is a lovely looking puzzle. I keep this one on the shelf right next to the Wood Wonders version and they look great together. By now I think I might finally have learned how to solve it!!!

Now more recently I bought some new toys from Brian and missed most of what I wanted. Luckily I did manage to get these:

OMG! She's going to murder me in my sleep!
On the right you can see a puzzle made from Plum and English Sycamore - it's called Second Stellation and is number 14a in Stewart Coffin's puzzle catalogue.

Second Stellation
It is a modification of the Super Nova (#14) which Allard reviewed here. You will see from his blog post that the central sections of the sticks are just the same as the others but the outer parts vary, making for a much more interesting shape with the same puzzle strategy/movement.

Second stellation pieces
I did not know this as I had not done any of the research yet and I just did my usual tugging, twisting, blowing (?) etc. to try and prise it apart! Brian has done an extraordinary job on this one - it is wonderfully tightly put together with no clues as to which pieces move! After about 5 minutes I managed to get a slight movement and then to my enormous surprise it came apart in a very familiar manner. You can see now how the pieces are basically the same design.

Putting this one back together requires exactly the same movement as all the others but this one has been made so perfectly that alignment has to be absolutely milimeter perfect to make it work. Actually finding the alignment is also made harder by the additional pieces/tips added to the sticks. It took me another few minutes to get it to work! Yep! Not very bright!

I now have 4 similar but dissimilar puzzles and have to work out how to display them to best effect! If you can find a nice one don't hesitate - everyone should own at least one or maybe 4!!!


  1. Hi Kevin, the puzzle you mention as a Second stellation is in fact a 'Vega' number 46 in Stewart Coffin's numbering system...John:)

    1. Thanks John! Looking at the pics on Puzzle-place, they are identical to this one!
      Vega is still a star at least!

  2. and Stewart Coffin would call all these "Diagonal Burrs".