Sunday 20 November 2022

Anyone Want a Pelikan for Christmas?

Upcoming delights from Jakub and Jaroslav
10 or 11 days ago I received a rather large box! Mrs S was very unhappy about the rather large box and I had to apologise profusely about the state of my collection and how it had spilled everywhere in the house. She did have to admit that my recent partial tidy up had improved things but foresaw (probably realistically) that the latest set of arrivals might just undo all that. But...I have readers to think of and the danger I take on with every delivery is just for you!


Bornage by Stephane Chomine
I adore Stéphane Chomine’s designs - they always have a simplicity to them yet also are a real challenge. This is definitely the case here with a level of How can it be so difficult? There are just 4 burr sticks (gorgeous Purpleheart) in a very simple frame (made from Merbau). Starting off, there are only a few moves possible and they stop in a blind end very quickly. Only one sequence seems to progress and this promisingly opens up the visibility inside very quickly. After a short while it really looks like progress has been made and it would separate soon but I came to a hard stop here. Despite great visibility, I could not progress and was locked going back and forth to this position again and again. I must have been missing something but could not see it for the life of me. Eventually after putting it down for an hour I came back to it and then was able to find the sneaky move and dismantled it. 


As always with Stéphane it is a stunning design, beautifully made with moves as smooth as silk that was a delight to solve.


Vega by Stewart Coffin - 2 versions available
Vega is another classic Stewart Coffin puzzle based on the triangular star base puzzle. They are absolutely gorgeous in a Zebrano with either Purpleheart or Wenge corner tips. As you all know these puzzles dismantle into 2 groups of 3 pieces before fully falling apart. The 6 pieces here are identical and I thought that this would mean that there was only one solution. Interestingly this one only comes apart in one specific direction which took me a good few minutes to find. The craftsmanship is absolutely perfect with no clues whatsoever as to which direction it dismantles. Eventually I found the direction of travel and had it apart to admire the precision of the angles. 

Classic triangular star pieces
Then I reassembled the trios of pieces to put together in 2 halves and they were blocked! This surprised me - the puzzle has handedness and can be assembled in either way but the pairs must be correctly grouped. I corrected the assembly and after a little while fiddling to get the alignment just right (it needs to be absolutely perfect to get them to slide on each other) I reassembled the beautiful star. Later, I disassembled again and thought about my initial difficulty and realised that there are 2 distinct assemblies of these pieces which have a set “handedness” - the end result is identical but they are different assemblies. As a mark of the precision, they fit together absolutely perfectly regardless of how you pair up the pieces or which handedness you choose to assemble them in. All decent puzzle collections should have an assortment of these star based designs.


Rosebud by Stewart Coffin
I have never actually seen one of the Rosebud puzzles in the flesh/wood before! I have seen photos and blog posts but people seldom bring them out to let others play with them because it's such a difficult challenge to reassemble it. This amazing design by Stewart Coffin is one that sets the masters of their craft apart from a mere journeyman woodworker. Rosebud is a coordinate motion puzzle that is one of the most challenging to manufacture as the tolerances have to be accurate to fractions of a millimetre to allow the pieces to slide on each other and for it to close up into the rosebud form without showing any gaps. I have never owned one of these because the level of craftsmanship makes them very rare and very expensive. Of course, Jakub and Jaroslav have managed to make a superb version that is absolutely perfect with the wood choices being evocative of a rose and the precision being simply spot on. Finding the proper pressure points to cause it to slide apart is difficult but then you need to control it so that it doesn’t fly apart. You need to catch it in the expanding splendour that reveals the Rosebud come into bloom before the petals fall off and it dies like a fading flower. 

Just like the Vega, this puzzle is another based on the triangular star base but is fully coordinate motion. As are many puzzles based on the star, there is an alternative assembly which is a fun challenge even if the result is not interesting. You need to work out the proper combination and orientation to allow the pair of triplets to interlock. Having found the incorrect assembly and taken my photo, I couldn’t for the life of me remember the orientation that it went together and spent a frustrating time trying to find the disassembly. 

I definitely recommend buying the jig!
Reassembly into the true Rosebud form is the real challenge. It is so difficult to assemble that most puzzlers need a jig (or 4 more hands) to hold the pieces properly for the assembly. Luckily Pelikan have made a jig to help you which you may choose to buy with your puzzle. I heartily suggest that you do and I hope that you use it correctly unlike me! I didn’t realise that it has one side for display of the blooming rose and the other for reassembly. I spent a good hour or more desperately trying to assemble the puzzle using the jig the wrong way around. Even using it the correct way, the reassembly is a massive challenge. This puzzle is a masterpiece and should be on every serious collector's shelf.


Dracula by Alfons Eyckmans - NOT just another 6 piece burr
Alfons Eyckmans is a master at designing burrs (in fact all interlocking puzzles). The Dracula is a member of his Burr zoo set of puzzles but unlike previous designs this contains a blood drinking vampire in his coffin. Fittingly, he is made from a very pale Maple inside the light excluding Wenge six piece burr. This is one of the most enjoyable burrs I have played with for a long time. The design is very reminiscent of the fabulous 6 piece burrs designed by Stephan Baumegger which have the sticks based on a 3x3x9 grid which allows very complex interlocking shapes to be created. They must be an absolute nightmare to manufacture but, as expected, they are absolutely perfect. The disassembly did not take me very long but was absolutely delightful and even Mrs S laughed to see the contents hidden behind the spoiler button.


Pearl by Lucie Pauwels
This attractive puzzle by Lucie Pauwels is sent out in a special travel conformation - it is a nice hollow 3x3x3 cube containing a nice marble (pearl) and held in a frame by long dowels that go through each corner along each axis. The dowels need to be pushed out and the cube dismantled. I scrambled the pieces and left them for a while to lose any memory of the positioning and then set to rearranging the pieces back into shape. This is a nice logic puzzle that shouldn’t take long for experienced puzzlers but might be a decent challenge for a beginner. I found it quite fun after the effort required for the others. Looking at a Burrtools file there are 2 possible assemblies but I have so far only managed to find one of them.

Twinkle star

Twinkle star comes in a beautiful box
Inside a lovely puzzle
There are two puzzles by Osanori Yamamoto in this selection and they have been beautifully made in miniature form with extreme precision and are sent out in a lovely little box made from Cherry which also has been beautifully made. The box could definitely be used elsewhere like a bedside table for jewellery or another small object. Inside the box is one of Osanori-san’s delightful puzzles with captive pieces on a board. The aim is to rearrange everything so that the Merbau pieces can be removed from the Wenge frame and then reassemble later. This one requires a couple of nice rotational coordinate motion moves before they can be removed (there is also an alternative route of disassembly that requires some linear moves as well). This was not as difficult as some of his other challenges but fun all the same.


P-Badge comes in a lovely little box
Beautiful puzzle inside
The second of Osanori Yamamoto's lovely little sliding piece puzzles in beautifully made boxes is P-badge. This one has 3 P-shaped pieces made from Wenge held on an Acacia frame. The gorgeously precise puzzle is perfectly encased in an Ash box. The removal of the pieces requires only linear moves and is delightful in the sheer perfect precision of the manufacture. The real challenge is the reassembly after scrambling the pieces and leaving them for a while. It’s not a hugely difficult challenge but a nice one to show off to beginners.


Eros by the incredible Dr Volker Latussek
Did you enjoy Casino by the amazing Dr Volker Latussek? If not, then there’s something wrong with you - in my opinion it is one of the best puzzles of all time. If you did like Casino then you will love Eros! Volker has altered the Casino design he has split 2 of the circles in half and added them to adjacent edges of a square to make a couple of hearts. These 2 hearts (made from a lovely red Bubinga) need to be placed in the beautifully crafted box with the rest of the disks which have been made into rounded squares to make the challenge tougher. Initially, it’s even pretty difficulty to work out an arrangement that could possibly fit in the box...the dimensions will not allow a stack of 4 pieces (they all have the same thickness). Then, once you think you have worked out an assembly, the actual insertion of the last 2 pieces is incredibly hard to work out. The lip on either side of the entry hole really gets in the way. There is no squeezing it just won’t work that way. The correct sequence of moves is essential. I absolutely adored this puzzle, I personally think it is slightly simpler than Casino but the Aha! moment is just as delicious. I think this is the pick of this release from Pelikan.


Snooky by Stephan Baumegger
Stephan Baumegger designs some very interesting puzzles and my favourite burrs from him have been his 6 piece burr variants with complex piece shapes that turn the puzzle into a sort of burr with a maze. The Snooky is just one such is just 6 pieces but the basic sticks (Pink Oak) have been modified by the addiction of small Wenge extensions. These extensions make it look very attractive but block many moves that you might want to try. The difficulty level is not particularly high at (which to me is a good thing) and the number of blind ends is just right. There are quite a few moves to start with, but once the beginning of the correct pathway is found then the disassembly is a matter of exploration. I really enjoyed it and had done enough back and forth that I was also able to reassemble it without Burrtools.

Snooky pieces
All in all, a lovely addition to any burr collector’s display.

Corner pack

Corner Pack by Lucie Pauwels
Corner pack by Lucie Pauwels looks absolutely stunning with a pair of very striking woods - the box is made from Acacia and the rather complex pieces to be placed inside the box are a nice grained Wenge. It arrives with all the pieces inside but flush with the top surface. There are 3 L-shapes of various sizes and 7 corner pieces as you can see in the photo. All the pieces need to be placed inside the box to end up with the pieces under the lip which is on 3 of the 4 sides. This means there are a lot of complex shapes to be placed and a restricted entry as well. Once packed, the entrance to the box will be completely filled.

This is an incredibly difficult challenge which I have failed to solve after 3 days of attempts. There is certainly a logic to this because the pieces are quite complex and the correct way to make them link together is rather awkward and then trying to get that to happen through the top hole has proved completely impossible for me so far - I will keep at it! This is an essential for you packing puzzle aficionados.


Detonator by James Fortune
James Fortune has appeared in the puzzle world in the last couple of years and this is the first puzzle of his that I have tried. He designs fairly complex burr type puzzles (and also SD puzzles) which he 3D prints and sells from his web store. I have not bought any as yet but should probably remedy that soon. As always, I think that most puzzles look much nicer in wood and the gorgeous detonator made by Jakub and Jaroslav here is made from a vibrant Padauk, Wenge and Garapa. It looks just like one of the detonator boxes you would see in the old cartoons. It is not for the faint hearted as it has a solution level of The version here has quite a lot of moves which lead to several possible pathways. So far I have not managed to get very far due to my need to keep moving back and forth so as not to get lost. The movements are beautifully smooth and the bevelled pieces don't catch on each other preventing discovery. This is going to be a difficult puzzle to solve but should be a lot of fun. It will look glorious on display as well.

So what should you buy? Well, I would suggest all of them! But if you cannot manage that extravagance then pick those that meet your own puzzle preferences. BUT Everyone should get Eros! Everyone should get the Rosebud (don't forget the jig) and my next favourite amongst them has to be the Dracula.


  1. Wow! Those look great! One tweak to Rosebud which I like is too drill a small hole in one piece (see Coffin's Compendium for the exact location). If you place a peg there, the puzzle can expand, but not come apart. That way you can hand the puzzle to people to enjoy the coordinate motion, but it will not come apart.

    1. That sounds like a great idea George but there’s no way I’m using a drill on my beautiful puzzle! I’ll be quite happy not handing it to anyone.

    2. Yes, of course. I was hoping Pelikan might read this.

    3. I think they are all made and assembled already. I can’t imagine them going back and altering them all now.

  2. I made a short video of Rosebud coming apart:

    1. George, that is an amazing animation! It doesn’t help with the assembly but is wonderful to watch!