Sunday 30 January 2022

Something Magnificent from Pelikan

The latest challenges from Pelikan are as gorgeous as ever!
Last week a delivery from the Czech Republic arrived much to my delight and much to the disgust of Mrs S! I haven't put anything away in my study in months and months - there are puzzles everywhere in my study. She says it is a terrible mess and I call it organised chaos - I know where everything is and it is a bit of a mess but I haven't really had much time for tidying up, All I seem to do is work and eat and sleep really really badly. She sort of agrees with that which is why I am not being murdered in my sleep or actually even being nagged about it very much. When it comes down to it, Mrs S is a keeper (after over 27 years of being married I should sort of hope so!)

I was a little surprised that there was going to be a new Pelikan release so soon. These things are always hellishly complex and more recently with non-rectilinear shapes must be pretty tough to manufacture to such incredible tolerances. Yet here we are just 6 weeks since the last batch and we have some more beauties for me to review as quickly as I possibly can and for you to buy (Friday Feb 4th 10am CET, 9am GMT, 4am EST, 1am PST). I have worked as quickly as I possibly can to solve as many as possible to show to you with an opinion.


Victoria by Christoph Lohe (in Wenge)
Much to my amazement and pleasure, Jakub and Jaroslav have been venturing out over the last few years into non-rectilinear grids and it’s not surprising to see them venture into the amazing realm of puzzles inspired by the Star puzzle that Stewart Coffin has taken so far with extensions to the shapes whilst retaining the familiar interlocking mechanism. These puzzles need incredible accuracy to construct and have some very odd angles involved. I had been informed by Christoph that he has been experimenting with this grid for a while and had come up with something new. When it arrived I was amazed at the beauty of the puzzle and how well it has been constructed. It is very easy for puzzles like these to have small gaps here and there but this one from Pelikan is absolutely perfect. Having solved quite a few of this type of puzzle before, I knew how the basic approach to dismantling it and once I’d found the separation axis and direction I quickly had my six pieces. 

Perfect cuts - 6 identical pieces
I was surprised to see that all 6 were identical and am even more surprised that Mr Coffin had never found and published this shape. I had taken it apart pretty quickly and scrambled the pieces and deliberately not paid attention to the orientation. Reassembly was a lovely fun challenge that requires a little planning (especially fun if you’ve never seen one of these before) and a fair bit of dexterity. Be careful… those corners are sharp. This is a wonderful new design from Christoph and it is great to see him branching into different geometries. As always Pelikan has made masterful job of the woodwork.

Seven woods

Seven woods by Stewart Coffin
This is another puzzle by the master himself, Stewart Coffin, and is one that I’ve heard of but never actually seen before. It is another of his fabulous designs similar to the classic star puzzle. These are notoriously difficult to make well and accurately. Needless to say, Pelikan have made them absolutely perfectly. This is a gorgeous mix of beautiful woods with no gaps where there shouldn’t be. Despite having been around in the puzzling world, I have never actually seen this puzzle before and certainly not played with one. I spent almost an hour searching for the correct place and orientation where it slides apart - it is rather like one of the Pennyhedron puzzles in that if you don’t put your fingers in just the right place and try to move in exactly the right direction then it ain’t coming apart. At one point I started the move and was called by Mrs S to do something so slid it back together and when I returned to it, I couldn't find the correct way to slide the pieces again. Eventually I was further astounded at just how smooth the movement was - the tolerances are absolutely spot on - this is almost held together by what seems like suction. Once it has been dismantled be careful, the points on the pieces are very…erm… pointy. Stabbing yourself is not fun. It is not difficult to work out how the puzzle is reassembled but care has to be taken to line up the points properly or it won’t go (it has to be mm perfect) and also avoid hurting yourself (I swore having stabbed myself quite a few times much to the amusement of the cat on my lap and the wife next to me). 

6 pieces
This is what happens if you don't pay attention
My first reassembly ended up with 2 faces not correctly matched (which does look lovely) and I had to do it again with more stabbing - great fun…ouch! 


Pedals by Alexander Magyarics in Ash and Jatoba
The packed delivery arrangement is lovely
Yet another wonderful 3D packing puzzle from Alexander Magyarics - there seems to be no end to the extent of his talents. It has been beautifully made by Pelikan as always. In this one (named for the shape of the top of the box), there are just 3 pretty complex pieces made out of only 17 Voxels. This means there will be quite a lot of empty space inside. Is that helpful? Not to me it wasn't! It actually makes it quite a bit harder as a challenge because there are many more ways to assemble the pieces into a 3x3x3 shape but finding ones that cover the 6 holes in the top of the box is a fun challenge which is made much tougher when you suddenly realise that the complexity of the pieces significantly restricts the way they can be inserted into the box. They are all quite long as well which means they block each other during manoeuvres. I have to admit that I’m always going to rate these highly - I adore them. This one has just the right challenge level for me. It took me most of an evening to find the right assembly and work out how to insert it.

Very clever solution
After triumphantly showing it off to Mrs S and then watching some TV with her, I was slightly horrified when I found that I was completely unable to dismantle it. Interestingly, the visibility inside is quite limited and I couldn’t see well enough to work out what to move where. It took me about half an hour to take it apart! Absolutely Brilliant!


Hummingbird by Osanori Yamamoto in Bubinga and Garapa
Osanori Yamamoto has done it yet again with a stunning 3 layer design containing 4 identical looking branched pieces that interlock on a frame. As always the aim is to remove the pieces either using linear or rotational moves. This is made into a real challenge by the sheer accuracy and incredibly tight tolerances that Pelikan has built into this creation. The moves are very restricted by the shapes and the way they get in the way of each other. There is no bevelling to make things easier so everything has to be lined up correctly and there are no cheeky shortcuts. After a nice fun exploration, it took me a little while to find the right path and with a nice smile worked out which pieces needed to be rotated and which just linear moves.

Just look at the accuracy of those pieces!
Having taken the pieces out and scrambled them it became a seriously tough challenge to reassemble it. To my shame it took me a couple of evenings - a brilliant challenge by Osanori-San.

Euklid V2

It is gorgeous even if I will never manage to solve it!
Yes, it’s another packing puzzle by Dr Volker Latussek and it’s a brilliant one. Volker emailed me to tell me that it was coming my way and to say "that I won’t like it". But I have to say that he is most definitely wrong - I always love his designs even if I cannot solve them. The original Euklid (made with all the blocks in one wood type) was a hugely tough puzzle that I only ever managed to solve with a little help. Then along came the second in the series, Euklid for Kids (only 3 blocks to pack) was one that I did actually manage to complete by myself. To Volker's horror, it was eventually revealed that V1 of Euklid had more than 20 solutions (I only ever found the one with help) and in response he designed the third, Euklid for Nick, (made with 2 types of wood for 2 types of block) which I am rather ashamed still lies unsolved. This was a success for Volker but he couldn't leave the series with the faulty puzzle and so has has redesigned a Euklid version 2 so that it only has one solution (hopefully). He specified that Pelikan make this from 7 different hardwoods and I have to say that it is simply stunning! I cannot remember the original solution and don’t know whether it has changed. As Volker predicted, I have so far not been able to solve it. I know there will be some lovely rotations and quite possibly some will be coordinate moves. Having taken all the blocks out of the box (with some difficulty) for my photo, I am ever so slightly chagrined that I cannot even return it to the delivery packing position. I hope to solve it one day but it will look great on the shelf until I do. I eagerly wait word from the master (Nick Baxter) of news on the number of solutions. I hope for Volker's sake that there will only be one!

Jakub’s Cube

Jakub's cube by Alfons Eyckmans
Alfons Eyckmans is one of the best designers (and craftsmen) of burrs and interlocking puzzles in the world! Over the years, I have collected many many puzzles from him (I daren't admit how many to Mrs S) and absolutely love them. Over the last few years he has been designing beautiful cubes made from interlocking burr pieces as opposed to classical burrs. Some of them I have even managed to solve! The process always involves a wonderful period of exploration and fun - I adore these puzzles! They are fun to play with and look incredible on the display shelves. Many of these beautiful cubes have been named for or by well known members of the puzzle community. Michel has named a few after his family, I have named some after my Burmese cats and one of the best of them was named for Pelikan’s own Jakub. Alfons made me a copy early last year and I’ve never managed to solve it despite several weeks of attempts (I must be missing a hidden move). 

Identical cubes - one from Alfons and one from Pelikan - both gorgeous
Alfons never expected it to be produced in any significant numbers because the pieces are incredibly difficult puzzle to make - he was absolutely delighted to see Pelikan create their absolutely stunning version. To be perfectly honest I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so beautiful from anyone! I have not had time to play with this one yet (apart from the several weeks spent on the original) but have found all the moves available to me to be extremely smooth. There will only be 35 of these made and it is extremely unlikely it will ever be produced again. Get this whilst you can even if it is just for display purposes! At some point I need to get all the cubes together and take a photo of them all in one place.


Belopo by Alfons Eyckmans in Wenge and Zebrano
This stunning burr made from Zebrano and Wenge is another design by Alfons Eyckmans. I have to admit that I was really quite frightened to attempt it…I have a few mixed board and stick burrs from Alfons and a couple are trapped in a position that I cannot get out of. The movements can get very complex and a simple man like me easily gets confused/lost. This puzzle is a 6 piece burr trapped in a frame - only later on did I realise that the frame is not what I thought it was - surprisingly, the frame is actually constructed from 12 identical very simple burr sticks. Movements of the pieces are smooth as silk and there are only a few blind ends. I needn’t have been frightened as this particular design is very logical to explore and reveals its secrets without getting lost too easily. It remains stably assembled for quite some time allowing careful removal of individual pieces and keeping track. I was able to keep it together as an ordered puzzle right to the very end.

6 burr sticks and 12 frame pieces
I should have been able to reassemble it had I not had a cat move and scramble my careful organised pile of pieces in my lap and chair. Creating a Burrtools file will be a real pleasure for this one. 

Which are my favourites? It is difficult so difficult to choose. For me, the pick of the bunch has got to be the incredibly complex and gorgeous Jakub's cube (even if I will never manage to dismantle it without Burrtools). My next favourite is the Pedals by Alexander as I just love the supposedly simple nature of a 3x3x3 packing puzzle which is made so much more difficult by having the extra constraints of the restricted entry. Belopo is fabulous as a variant on the 6 piece burrs which I adore. The star puzzle variants are stunning and beautifully made even if not terribly tough to work out. You, of course, should buy them all when they come up for sale soon.


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