Sunday 15 September 2019

A New Kid on the Block...

Makes His Premiere Puzzle

Premiere from Terry Smart
I have known Terry Smart for quite a few years now. He appeared in the various Facebook puzzle groups around 2013 (as far as I can recall) and seemed to be as good at buying puzzles as I was and just about as bad at solving them! My excuse is that I am not very bright but his excuse was that he spends a huge amount of time off-shore on oil rigs and and doesn't have access to all his enormous collection for very long. He also freely admits that he is more of a collector/hoarder than a solver. So, not only does he have less time at home than me, but he also doesn't necessarily aim to solve everything.

I remember in 2013 he and I began to develop a little bit of an interest in understanding Burrtools more so that maybe we could use it to design puzzles of interest. I managed to make a couple of designs but really had no idea what I was doing and gave up after a month or so. Terry, on the other hand, kept at it and produced quite a few nice designs and interestingly gave them all wonderful Greek and Latin names...he's obviously much better educated than me too! As far as I know, none of them have been manufactured for the puzzling community to enjoy as yet.

It was with great interest that I watched in the last 12 months as Terry became very interested in starting to manufacture puzzles. Unlike many puzzlers, he chose to try the woodwork route rather than 3D printing which kept me watching with fascination as this is exactly what I want to do on the off-chance that I am ever going to be able to retire from the NHS (at the moment my retirement age is supposed to be 67 which fills me with horror as it is soooo far away). Over the last year we have been chatting intermittently on FB messenger and I have seen him spend ENORMOUS amounts on beautiful equipment from the US and then add a huge customs ransom on top. I was staggered at the amount of spending on something that might go nowhere! In private, he showed me a picture of the design he had produced which I thought was rather advanced for a beginner - the frame was incredibly complex - it would need to be glued to perfection and the tolerances would have to be perfect to get a working puzzle. The trouble with puzzle making is that every tiny error in alignment can be magnified further along a stick until you end up with a non-functioning puzzle once all the tiny errors have been added up.

Just a week ago, he showed off a completed puzzle which looked looked like it had been created by one of the established "masters". A bunch of us expressed interest and Terry wanted a quick assessment by someone with knowledge, experience and puzzle skills. Unfortunately he could only find me and I quickly agreed to evaluate his first produced design which is fittingly called Premiere. I couldn't resist it - it is one of my favourite types of puzzle - a 6 piece burr in a frame! He had attempted to make 4 but, after one broke and the others failed to work, he was left with just the one working copy and during the week it arrived chez moi whilst I was out at work.

So, how is it? I can hear you all screaming at the internet (those voices again!). The puzzle looks lovely - the burr sticks are Maple and the frame is made from Jatoba aka Brazilian Cherry. It has been waxed and lacquered and feels beautifully smooth. The burr sticks have had their external ends all chamfered nicely and amazingly the endgrain all matches perfectly (Terry admits this was more luck than anything else). In the frame, all the glued joints are perfectly aligned and no join can be felt. For a first attempt (or for any attempt) this is BLOODY AMAZING!

What about the solve process? This sort of puzzle is one of my favourites for a is never too high a level and the process always tends to be fun without being too arduous. In places a few of the moves are a little tight but no real force is required and this is no more than I would find happens with puzzles from Alfons or from Pelikan. There are a number of moves possible and a few blind ends. I got to a point where it looked like a stick or two could be removed but the frame got in the way and I was unable to find another move further along that track. A few rewinds to the beginning revealed that one stick was a little awkward to click into place (possibly due to the very sharp/perfect internal edges catching) and I worried that this was the reason that I was unable to progress. Back and forth I went, peering inside the puzzle to see why the move I wanted to make wasn't happening. In the end, I saw that the move wasn't happening because it was impossible and the wrong move entirely! As I have said...not very bright! Now what? Think©!

I thunked and realised that there was another delightful set of moves to try which I had not noticed the first few (10 or so) times. After this, I had a breakthrough and a piece came out followed by a few more. At no point did it collapse in a heap which was very satisfying. I had a lovely set of pieces for a photo:

Even signed and dated like those by Alfons or Eric
Reassembly was just as much fun. I had some recollection of how it had come apart but had scrambled the pieces and lost my orientation on the frame. Nevertheless, I was able to reassemble the puzzle in just a ½ hour. Wonderful! The puzzle is not quite perfect but is 99.99% there - maybe a tiny adjustment of the interior tolerances or an internal chamfer?

So what is my verdict for this "new kid on the block" or "new kid on the burr"?

AMAZING design! AMAZING craftsmanship!

Even though he is a friend, I would say that he is someone to watch. His skills will continue to evolve and I am sure that his puzzles will be very collectible. He already designs some fabulous puzzles but if he can make them too then we might have another Alfons or Stephan on our hands. Just look at the detail on these pieces:

Terry is planning on making another 10-20 of the Premiere puzzle available within the next month or two and I advise that you should all consider getting hold of a copy! I will be watching out for future designs being produced.

An assembly puzzle that I am supposed to solve logically?

Logical progression
Eric Fuller has been at it again! He has produced lots of womnderful loveliness to tempt me. Unfortunately, I have spent all my pocket money over the last few months and only had a little bit of change left over. A difficult decision was required and I made it quickly - I had been facsinated by the Logical progression puzzle that had sold out before I got a chance to buy a few months ago. Eric had gotten permission from the designer, Rick Eason, to make another batch. I had missed out (even in just an hour) on the Walnut version but luckily there were (and still are) a few copies of the Maple version left - I snapped it up and it arrived yesterday.

I'd seen it at the MPP and shied away from disassembling it and failing yet again to assemble something in front of all the guys. At home, I just went for it and now wish that I hadn't:

What on earth have I done?
This is supposed to be logical? Lord help me! The cats were very interested in all the protruding dowels and, in an attempt to prevent a lot of chewing occuring, I quickly reassembled it. Something tells me this isn't right:

Less to chew on!
I'll let you know how I get on...IF I get on.

1 comment:

  1. I agree! Fantastic quality for a first puzzle, or any puzzle for that matter.