Tuesday 23 October 2012

It's a Zoo in Here!

I seem to have gotten a reputation in the puzzle sphere for being a bit of a savant with wire disentanglement puzzles - so much so that at the Midlands puzzle parties the guys seem to automatically show them to me for a challenge! I personally think the reputation is unearned but ever since I solved and reviewed all the Livewire puzzles they seem to think that I must be quite good at them!

My very good friend Rox also knows how much I love wire disentanglement puzzles (in fact she knows how much I love all puzzles!) So she was kind enough to let me know when the "Master of wire disentanglement puzzles", Dick Hess, had a few little toys up for sale on eBay. I left her to bid on what she was interested in and I went for a few myself. A few emails after I won them, I ended up with a rather bigger haul than I was at first expecting and then another few emails later another huge haul arrived!! I have no willpower at all and hence I am sitting here looking at another 29 puzzles (Please don't tell Mrs S!!)

Thursday 11 October 2012

Stars - Variations on a Theme

Over the last 2 years I have tried as much as possible not to repeat myself (at least too much) and have tried not to buy the same puzzle twice. However, sometimes the woods used are too beautiful or craftsmanship of one is just too good to avoid getting a duplicate and sometimes I didn't realise what the underlying mechanism was until I opened it. I repeat (yet again!) that I'm really not very bright and I cannot help it if I'm drawn towards the shiny shiny!

Saturday 6 October 2012

Broken heart?

By George! Burr
Elvis sang:

Please don't break my heart in two
That's not hard to do
Cause I don't have a wooden heart

I can hear you all now!! "he's lost his marbles again!"

Bear with me - there is a point to this!! You all know that I just love wooden puzzles (in fact I have just realised how much I love them when I looked at my puzzle database and saw how much I have spent on them over the last 2.5 years!!). So I was heartbroken to see that wooden puzzles can be broken very easily! Now when my package arrived from Bernhard Schweitzer (Puzzlewood) it looked like the Royal Mail had been playing football with it and unfortunately 3 of pieces had broken a glue joint. This meant that when I picked it up, it just fell apart in my hands and there were a lot more than the 6 pieces there should have been! I asked Bernhard for information on the pieces and he sent me a copy of Ishino's listing of the puzzle. My DIY skills are pretty reasonable for doing things around the house but I am by no means milimeter accurate! The problem, then, is 3 fold:
  1. Can I work out which piece goes where?
  2. Can I glue it and clamp it with enough accuracy to leave me with a functioning puzzle (tolerances are really tight on these)?
  3. Can I avoid being murdered by Mrs S for getting glue where I shouldn't?
I managed to work out what went where, got my trusty clamps and wood glue out (Thanks Ali for stopping me using Superglue - I did get quite a lot everywhere and had it been Superglue then a trip to the Accident and Emergency dept would have been required - she packs a mean kick/punch/stab/laser stare and whiplash tongue). After 24 hours, I put the now perfectly formed pieces together according to Bernhard's instructions and it's a perfect fit! Nice and tight but still moveable!!!

So back to the puzzle!
George Syriaque is a prolific collector of puzzles and has recently started to design his own. This 6 piece burr is his first design and it's a cracker. This was another one of the puzzles I bought from Bernhard Schweitzer. It was available in either 3 different colour woods or as a single colour made from Robinia (pseudoacacia). I chose the latter because I think it is always such a beautiful looking wood with a lovely deep colour and great grain; also being only 1 colour will add to the difficulty. I left it for a couple of weeks to allow my feeble brain to forget the reassembly I had just done and then worked on disassembling it. It took a fair while to work out which piece moves first - whilst it is called By George Burr, and looks a normal 6 piece burr shape, it is not actually a burr puzzle! It is an interlocking solid. It is not immediately obvious which piece moves and which direction either - for an awful moment I thought I had actually stuck it together with the glue!!! Eventually I found the "sweet spot" and Thwack! it slides apart! After this it is a nice series of discoveries to take the next 2 pieces out. You are then left with a nice simple construction of three parts which can slide on each other but don't seem to come apart - Burrtools is no use to you with this one! Rotations are required. Being a bit thick, it took me about 20 minutes to get the final disassembly! It is disassembly level You end up with these pieces:

By George! Burr in pieces again (6 of them!)
It is a beautifully made puzzle and is unexpectedly difficult but not too awful. For a seasoned puzzler you might attempt to start from the disassembled state! Berhard may have a few left!

The next puzzle in that delivery is one that you cannot get at the moment. It is the Diagonal Loop 1 cube by Thai Pham:

Diagonal Loop 1
This puzzle was a very generous gift from Bernhard for helping him with a little translation work he needed. This is a prototype which may yet be produced in greater numbers. I think it has been made from Maple and Walnut. It doesn't show all the usual hallmarks of Bernhard's perfect work - there are no chamfered edges, the alignment is out by a tiny tiny amount and the fit is very very tight. But I have to say that I love this puzzle!!! It is level 1.2.4 and requires rotations.

The first piece comes out pretty quickly and is quickly followed by the next! At this point there is one move that easily occurs and bang! No further! The final 3 pieces come apart with a very carefully aligned series of coordinated rotation moves - it is beautiful when you finally get it apart. In fact I was so delighted that I immediately sat back and forgot what I had done! You end up with these pieces:

Diagonal Loop 1 Pieces - see the loop?
I realised how stupid I had been in not paying attention and left it for about an hour before trying to reassemble it! It took me an hour to put it back together!! Working out what goes where is very easy but it is really hard to work out the exact sequence and alignment to actually make it happen.

I brought all my Puzzlewood puzzles to the Midlands Puzzle Party a few days later and whilst having a play, Ali had it fall apart in his hands (he was absolutely mortified!). In a way it was good for me because he was able to give me proper advice on how to glue puzzles together! Previously I had risked life and skin using Superglue but now I am fully equipped. Thanks Ali!!!

If this puzzle ever comes available from any of the fine wood craftsmen out there then just say yes! It is is just brilliant. Having done it many times, it still taxes me when I try to do it again!!

So in Elvis' words:
Treat me nice
Treat me good
Treat me like you really should
Cause I'm not made of wood
even if you are made of wood then please do the same!!!
And you wondered where the hell I was going with it!! :-D

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Is Wood Puzzling?

Recent Puzzlewood Delivery
Is wood puzzling?? Of course it is!

Puzzlewood is a brilliant site run by the fantastic puzzle collector and puzzle craftsman, Bernhard Schweitzer. He manufactures some wonderful puzzles for various people to exchange at the yearly International Puzzle Party and afterwards puts them (and some others he finds or makes) up for sale. Recently he announced the availability of another batch and being my usual indecisive self I couldn't choose which to have so I bought them all! Luckily his prices are very reasonable - although the present Mrs S may not agree when she noticed quite how many puzzles I had bought over the last 3 months!!!

A few weeks ago I received this first batch from him - Yes!!! there are more coming!