|Tronc Commun 4|
Just before New Year I received another lovely package from Brian Menold. Inside was a lovely copy of his wooden Puzzle crafting crafting book (nicely signed) and the puzzle above which I just could not resist! It is Tronc Commun 4, another fantastic design by Gregory Benedetti). I have quite a few of Gregory's puzzles from various craftsmen and the overwhelming feature of his designs are that they require some very special and interesting moves - it may be coordinate motion or unexpected rotations but always something unusual. So with a fairly mundane level description of 188.8.131.52.9.4, I knew that this was going to be something very special.
Now, I had helped Bernhard Schweitzer produce his seminal series of articles on "Turning Interlocking Cubes" for the CFF journal a few years ago and remembered that he had waxed lyrical about the Tronc Commun 1-3 puzzles and at that time he had actually made me a basic copy of the version 3 for my collection and I recall even after several years how incredibly amazing and special the solution had been:
Looks can be deceiving! This harmless looking puzzle has some devilishly difficult moves. Several rotations, some that coordinate with other moves, make this design brilliant! I was unable to replicate some moves even after doing it many times. I had to constantly look at the solution in order to assemble these. These were made with close tolerances to avoid introducing other possible moves. This is a real challenge! Due to the extraordinary amount of time it took to make these there were only 15 copies made for sale.As if that wasn't enough....my guru and very close friend who seems to have one of the widest knowledge of puzzles anywhere immediately gave me the heads up that this was definitely a puzzle to obtain and he reminded me that we had discussed this series in the past. So basically as soon as Brian's site had gone live and I had checked my emails I immediately went on line and sent him some more of my money! Brian seems to have quite a bit of my money now but I don't begrudge him at all. I would suggest that he stay away from Mrs S though.
The copy of Tronc Commun 4 that I received is gorgeous made of Yellowheart, Canarywood and Padauk with Brian's usual oil and wax finish. It is 7.6 x 7.6 x 7.6cm in size and simply stunning - the colours are amazingly vibrant. In the box that it arrived in was a little note that Brian had significantly tightened up the tolerances and this had the effect of making the puzzle MUCH more difficult to solve. There is a solution sequence on Ishino's site and the alterations that Brian made has ensured that this solution is no longer correct - I have tried it and it definitely won't work. There is now a single solution which requires absolute precision and it is VERY hard to find. You are on your own for this one as neither Ishino nor Burrtools can help you.
The first 3 pieces come out fairly easily but due to the many rotations the voyage of discovery is fabulous. Then the removal of the 4th piece requiring a further 7 moves is an absolute delight as it is so unexpected. At that point I hit a very hard wall! The removal of the next piece only requires a further 9 moves but there is a lot of leeway in positioning the various remaining pieces. It all becomes really very loose and pieces can be rotated around each other with great ease. However, despite a huge selection of positions and moves everything remains very well locked together. On numerous occasions I thought I had it only to find the last few mm of the proposed turn were blocked. On several occasions I had a bit of a panic when I thought that I couldn't return the pieces back to the start position for reassembly but despite having performed hundreds of different rotations, I always found my way back.
I was stuck at this position for about a week! I just couldn't seem to find the correct move at all. Suddenly during the week whilst watching Silent Witness on TV with a rather poorly coughing Mrs S I suddenly had the 5th piece perfectly positioned for removal with no idea how I had done it. QUICK!!! Backtrack fast! After about 30 minutes I was back to the start point and unfortunately couldn't reproduce the move - damn! In the end I had to put it down and wait for the following day - during episode 2 of Silent Witness I had an epiphany and found the required move again.....my goodness that requires some very very precise positioning! After that another 4 moves with rotations and I had 7 very interesting pieces:
|Perfect accuracy and a stunning design!|
This is as close to the perfect "turning interlocking cube" as I could possibly imagine. Brian has done a phenomenal job on a phenomenal design! I hope that if he receives enough demand for more then hopefully Brian might consider making another batch of these.
I am pretty sure that as one of the first puzzles that I have solved in 2017, it has a VERY high chance of ending up in my top 10 puzzles of the year to be posted on January 1st 2018. Looking at the quality of what I chose from last year that is quite an accolade but Brian never disappoints and always gets something on that list. I cannot wait to see what he has in store for us over the next 12 months.