Thursday 11 July 2013

Is it a "H"eavenly burr?

Improved H burr aka H Box burr from MrPuzzle
About a month ago I reviewed one of Brian Young's 2012 limited editions the L burr! I started with that one because a friend had suggested that the way it interlocks and the rotations in it are very counterintuitive and difficult to find. I am also a sucker for contrasting woods so the L burr was the start of my journey and what a way to start!

Now I'm going to write a little about the continuation of my journey - I have been pacing myself with this set because they were so much money that I really don't want to rush through the whole lot in one go! The next beauty for me to try was the Improved H burr which could also be called the H box.

Now before all of you who know me whinge to me that:
"You don't collect boxes so you shouldn't have bought this one and therefore you must give it to me!"
I must tell you all that this is a burr and NOT a box and I feel I need to own just a few boxes so I can understand other puzzlers. I am happy to get the majority of my fix on boxes at the Midlands puzzle parties but there are one or two boxes that I just have to own! Just for "completeness"!

Junichi Yananose (who is now working full time with Brian) devised the original design in 1991 and called it the H burr - the puzzle and it's solution can be found on puzzlewillbeplayed. If you look at the picture there you will see that it is slightly different to my photo and you will also notice that it has 4 solutions. Now on the blurb that came with the puzzle it states that Brian had always wanted to make the H burr as a Limited Edition puzzle but when making a prototype he realised that the original had too many solutions and certainly some were fairly easy. Now of course we all know that Brian would never be happy with that!

But now he has Junichi held captive at his workshop and over the year before the LE puzzles were released, Brian forced him to rework the design to limit it to just one solution. This marvellous feat was managed by the addition of extra pieces. Brian made these extra fill-in pieces out of a deeply contrasting wood to make it all the more attractive! The other effect of this was that it effectively converted a burr with a central cavity into a box - it's effectively a puzzle box that can be completely disassembled.

This is a huge puzzle - 140mm on each side, made from Queensland Silver Ash with Western Australian Jarrah inserts and weighing in at about 1.5Kg!!!

Picking this up you quickly notice (apart from the sheer size and weight of it) that a group of several bits all lift away as one piece and then this group of pieces can be taken apart. The remaining structure seems quite stable and the pieces of that can be taken off either individually or in small groups. In fact the disassembly is quite a simple thing - the disassembly is a level 3-1-1-1-2-2 - easy peasy!!! A little worried that I had wasted my money I rapidly spread the pieces around my kitchen work surface for the customary black granite-backed photo:

Lots of H's - plus a few bits sticking out
You can see that there are 12 H shaped pieces all of which look remarkably similar but on closer examination it can be seen that the notches and cross-bars on them are all different. So having found the disassembly very easy it was time to put it back together - this part Brian claimed was much more interesting and he wasn't kidding!!

I had arranged the pieces so that I could remember roughly which groups were where so theoretically it should be just a case of slotting them together like a jigsaw. Yeah right!! Even though I had a rough idea of what went where, this was not an easy challenge. I started to sweat when I got it almost assembled and realised that the notches lined up correctly but the Jarrah inserts were arranged such that they would not fit! Oh boy! The first assembly took me about 2-3 hours of toil and that was despite knowing the rough positions! Thanks Brian and Junichi! you're a couple of evil geniuses!

The next time I dismantled it (I assume I'm not the only one who does these things again and again?) I just scraped up all the pieces and set to making a burrtools file (If anyone wants a copy then just contact me here and I can send you a copy of it). As always, I personally love making Burrtools files and consider that no burr puzzle is ever completely solved until I have sat down with Andreas' wonderful program and made a complete model. Having made my file, it was time to put it back together - and of course I had completely mixed up all the pieces! After about 8 hours, I gave up and referred to my file! That is one amazingly tough puzzle! Over the next week I disassembled and reassembled it several times and gradually got a feel for what goes where. But even now, I very much doubt I could solve it if someone seriously scrambled all the pieces up. As long as I can keep track of a crucial 2 or 3 of the pieces then I can eventually put it together.

You may be wondering what on earth I have done with this series of gigantic puzzles? I had them sort of strewn all over the place in my study - sort of waiting to be either solved or tidied away or both:

It's a shithole!
Unfortunately, the present Mrs S decided that the shithole was out of control and I had better tidy it up. I was about to challenge her with the "or else you'll what?" that us boys can do when we are feeling particularly brave (or stupid) when I felt a flutter of fear and just meekly said "yes dear" and decided it was a chance for a reorganisation, to put my special LARGE puzzles in a place of honour and maybe also make a little space for some more acquisitions:

Limited editions are "top shelf" puzzles!
As you can see above the computer on the top shelf are my 5 limited editions - beautiful! If they drop on the computer then it will be a dead Mac but it's nearly 6 years old and on its last legs so I'll have an excuse for something shiny to replace it.


  1. Seems tough to model in BurrTools with the diagonal cuts. Are these not important to the solution?

    1. Indeed they are vital but the diagonal cuts can be modeled as a step.
      It works beautifully but obviously is not quite as pretty as they real thing but works well.

  2. Kevin,
    There's something wrong with your picture of the hole. There are hardly any twisty puzzles there. What's going on??? I assume you photoshopped them out and added in some old bits of wood lying around?

    Twisty Puzzling

    1. Well spotted Rline!
      I only have my bespoke and Shapeways twisties on show due to lack of display space and an aversion to having too much plastic on show. My other 97 twisties are in the cupboard to the right of the camera. I still love them but unfortunately need to prioritise precious display space!

  3. Kevin it really is a burr. But I'm not above calling it a box just to entice those clients who say they only collect boxes, and not burrs:) A bloke's got to make a living after all. Or is that just marketing? Thanks for the brilliant review. The burr/box question aside it really is one tough puzzle to assemble. Brian.

    1. Thank YOU, Brian for making and Junichi for designing such a wonderful puzzle.

      Even now it frightens me! Partly because it is so tough to solve but also because if it were to fall off that top shelf on to me then I doubt I'd survive!

  4. This is what we call Japanese wooden puzzle box , which so hard to solve, They are great and its fun to solve them...