Saturday, 20 September 2014

I think this career change will be a success

Wood Wonders! Just soo beautiful!
Even a busy weekend working doesn't stop the intrepid puzzler posting reviews for you! But now it's time to lie down for a while! I'm shattered!

Over the last few years I have posted quite a few puzzle reviews extolling the virtues of the workmanship of Brian Menold from Wood Wonders. Numerous times I have exclaimed at how accurately everything was made (his quality is up with the very best of the craftsmen) and the beauty of the woods chosen. A month or so ago I found out that poor Brian (who has already had a LOT of upset in his life) had been made redundant from his previous employment. Choosing not to be brought down by the change, he immediately saw it as an opportunity to change his life around and undertake something professionally that had previously been just a hobby for him. Brian decided to turn puzzle making into a career - it was something he enjoyed and this would give him a chance (his own words) to "push his boundaries a bit".

I immediately wanted to support him in his endeavours and vowed to buy as many puzzles as I could afford (although I seem to do that to ALL puzzle craftsmen!) and I also offered some advice about his site and purchasing mechanism. I managed to nab a couple from his last batch - he has been in contact with the amazing Turkish puzzle designer Yavuz Demirhan (amazing because as of writing this he has 369 puzzles published on Ishino's site) and has produced quite a few really beautiful and really interesting puzzles from his catalogue.

These two particularly appealed to me - I love the look and they seemed different to the usual burrs that I had bought previously.

Luna
My nemesis
This one was just too stunning for me to resist. I have very few board burrs - partly because I find them very difficult to solve but also because few people make them. I still have my copy of Fermium staring down at me from my shelf and have been unable to solve it. The designer, Donald Ossalaer, has even been in contact with me to insist that it is a perfectly logical solve process but I just cannot seem to manage it! I had even bought another smaller board burr in the hope that it would help me beat my nemesis (which it didn't)! So when Brian produced Luna, I simply had no option but to buy a copy - there were 3 different wood combinations available and they were disappearing in front of me as I surfed his site! My version is made from English Sycamore and Redheart and is absolutely gorgeous! It's also quite a bit larger than many of the puzzles made today - it is 11cm across in each dimension. The difficulty level is not high at 7.5.1.2.5 and may not really help me with Fermium's monstrous 102.95.11 but still I HAD to support Brian didn't I?

Looks just as good dismantled!
There are a couple of dead ends and to remove the 2nd piece requires a really quite interesting sequence of moves and, to me, an unexpected exit. I managed to remove the first board in about 15 minutes but the next one really took me quite a while! It took me about 45 minutes to find it over a couple of evenings. After that the rest comes apart easily. The reassembly is just as much fun - because I knew I could do it with Burrtools if needed, I just scrambled all the boards and went for it! Foolhardy? Probably, but what the heck! The reassembly from scratch was a fabulous challenge! It took me about 3 hours and even that was because I did remember a little of the disassembly - had it arrived disassembled then there would be no chance I would manage it. This puzzle has become a bit of a worry bead for me and a minor annoyance to the present Mrs S! The former because it is just so smooth to assemble and disassemble that I do it over and over again whilst sitting around the house and the latter because the boards slide home with a lovely noise "Thwack" noise which she really dislikes when it happens over and over again!

Nembus 2
Nembus 2 is made from Wenge and Holly which was not my first choice of woods but the one I wanted was bought out from under me whilst I was logging in to PayPal to pay for it! However the one that I managed to purchase in the end still looks absolutely gorgeous. This is also a 6 piece board burr but the boards are not planar - each of them has 2 feet sticking out which ensures a totally different approach to solving. It is not as large as Luna (thank goodness! I really do have space problems) and is 7.8cm in each direction. I was not sure what to expect but knew that I would not be disappointed with it on display!

Also stunning in pieces!
There are a few blind ends to this but luckily not so deep as to get lost inside - the level is 5.3.6.2.3 and for me is a perfect little diversion - the disassembly also is very interesting and rather different to what I expected - very pleasant! In fact my friend Richard Gain (of Microcubology), who really knows a lot about these interlocking puzzles printed his own copy when he saw mine and thoroughly enjoyed solving it. Again, I scrambled the pieces and had a real job to put it back together. The reassembly was a bit quicker than Luna because the feet do give a clue to orientation of the pieces!

Hopefully Brian will be producing another batch sometime soon - the puzzles are beautifully made, from gorgeous wood and designed brilliantly to be a nice little challenge without making your head explode. I hope that he will start to offer some slightly more difficult puzzles too. The prices have gone up over the years but he does have to earn a living from it and wood is more expensive now. Keep an eye on his site for an update - I know I will be! I now have 22 puzzles from Brian and definitely need more!

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