Sunday, 26 October 2014

Cubic loveliness - a great investment?

My last 2 cubic lovelies!
Eric Fuller has, over the last few years, managed to obtain a fairly large part of my savings! He can be found at 2 places on the internet - his puzzle shop & his own hosted auction site (next auction due in Feb 2015). He's one of very few full time puzzle makers in the world and seems to make a pretty decent living at it. In fact he's done such good business (not all from me) that he has managed to employ an assistant to help in the workshop. Over the last year or so, prices have risen (due to the increased cost of wood and cost of living) but I still keep coming back and buying more. The only thing that has changed is that I only buy 2 or 3 puzzles each time instead of the usual 5 or 6! I attempted to buy 3 items last time and lost one by having it snatched from my basket just as I was entering my purchase details so ended up with just the 2 lovely puzzles above.

But having watched the last auction at which quite a few of his older puzzles were sold from his own personal collection for absolutely staggering sums of money, I am beginning to wonder whether I should just buy everything that comes for sale straight away as an investment! The increase in value on most of his puzzles has been amazing and certainly would have made better returns than almost all of my other savings! The only problem with that approach (pointed out by my wife, I might add) is that in order to cash in on my collection, I'd need to actually sell something! This is a something that leaves me in a cold sweat at just the mere thought of it!

Accordion 3.5
William Hu has burst onto the puzzle design scene recently with some absolutely stunning new ideas for interlocking puzzles including a few which involve rotations. I began my early days of puzzling with a fascination for the beautiful puzzles made in printed plastic by Richard Gain of Microcubology and under his guidance as well as a great friend who contacted me via my Contact Page, I have become extremely addicted to those interlocking cubes that require one or more rotations during the solve process - this really makes for a much more challenging puzzle! Eric produced two different versions of the Accordion 5, 3 puzzle and I couldn't resist the one made from White Oak and Chakte Viga which made such a lovely contrast.

Ken Irvine's version
William Hu's version
2 Accordion puzzles stretched out

It reminded me very much of a previous interlocking puzzle which caused controversy a couple of years ago - the Accordion cube by Kevin Irvine. Another reason I had to have this one was because of the comment by Eric on the description page:
This seemingly simple puzzle uses a very interesting and difficult type of rotation. Ultra tricky and not like anything I've tried before. Level nine and fun...watch out, this one will have you pulling your hair out! Construction was tricky...the solid side spine and endgrain key pieces were fun to make, but very labor intensive.
He made 42 made and I'm afraid they are all sold out now so if you want one then it will need to wait for an auction! Good luck with that!

There is a lot of movement possible in this puzzle and there appears to be at least 1 dead end. I was stumped by this for quite some time and thought I had found the point where the rotational move was supposed to occur but could not make it happen. I put it down for a while and moved on to the next one I received for a quick play but inexorably was drawn back! Eventually I found a new rotation and was a tiny bit disappointed that I needed to use a little smidge of force to get the 2 pieces of wood to slide over each other. I ended up asking Jerry (who had also reviewed it) how he had done it and whether he needed any force. I was surprised that I had had to yet he in his high humidity home had not. But I was very pleased to manage to dismantle it and had an even nicer challenge with the reassembly after I had left it in pieces for a few hours! In fact my final photo was taken just before writing this post and I fear that I might not be able to reassemble the damn thing again!!! Jerry!!!!

Signed and dated as always - hopefully I can reassemble it now
Another puzzle in that batch from Eric was also designed by William and is totally different to the others showing just how skilled Mr Hu really is. This one is a hidden maze puzzle and allowed Eric to put his laser cutter to use. I would have preferred the maze to be made of wood rather than acrylic but I suspect it would have been prohibitively expensive to do so - Eric had already stated how difficult it was to make even using the acrylic.

Simultaneous maze
This time made from Maple, Jatoba and Acrylic and measuring 3.5" x 4", it is simply stunning!

The acrylic maze piece is sandwiched inside the frame and there are three key pieces which must be simultaneously manipulated to allow the maze to be moved up and down and eventually out of the puzzle. Eric said that it begs to be solved and he is quite right - everyone that sees it cannot resist picking it up and fiddling! It does take a little while to understand the process required and having watched a few other people try, it seems to be quite a challenge to the non puzzler.

I had a very pleasant Aha! moment after about 10 minutes of fiddling with it and once you have made that little spark go off in your head then the actual solution is pretty easy. If you cannot make that leap of knowledge then it will prove quite tough. I managed to solve it within about 15 minutes but others have worked on it for much longer without success. I am particularly happy to have gotten this one and am looking forward to the next one in the series from Eric, hopefully quite soon.

Even more stunning in pieces!



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