Tuesday 23 September 2014

A great collaboration!

Doors and Drawers
Trigo cube (Chain loop edition)
Mike Toulouzas is an amazing craftsman who I was very pleased to meet and attempt to solve a puzzle with at the last IPP. He is a brilliant craftsman, designer and a perfect gentleman who for very good reason won the Puzzler's award at the IPP design competition this year. Allard had extolled his virtues as a craftsman several times over the years. The only puzzle of his that I owned up until the IPP was the Trigo cube (Chain loop edition - made from Bubinga, Rosewood, Palisander, and Sugargold Maple) of which there have only been 17 made and because of the difficulty in manufacturing them there will never be any more made. For some reason I have never reviewed this puzzle and I'm afraid I cannot recall enough about my attempt at solving it to do so now! After one of Allard's and Neil's reviews I couldn't resist trying to get another one and am on the waiting list for an Illusion puzzle and hopefully it will arrive this year! I very nearly bought one of his entries (Cross Links) in the design competition but unfortunately had already spent more than my budget had allowed - sigh!

So how does this make for a "collaboration" as stated in the title of the post? Many people admire Mike's work and puzzles but he is never able to make enough to keep up with demand! At the beginning of his puzzle designing career he designed a 3 piece burr with blocking pieces - hence it is a sort of combination of a burr and packing puzzle. Mike is a good friend of Bernhard Schweitzer and during their discussions about his puzzles they made an agreement that Bernhard would employ the New Pelikan workshop under Jakub and Jaroslav to partially manufacture his design and Mike would make the more fiddly pieces. This would allow a decent number of this puzzle to be manufactured and make it affordable to the general puzzling world. Bernhard told me about the design months before IPP and I knew that I would be buying one when we met! It is now available from Bernhard for a very reasonable price.

I handed over my cash to Bernhard (didn't get a discount despite giving medical advice!) and received a characteristic Pelikan box. Inside, the puzzle was cellophane wrapped to keep everything in its place. It really is stunning - a beautiful collaboration - the handles and feet to the 'wardrobe' were made by Mike from Katalox and Bubinga. Jakub had made the rest of the construction - the drawers and blocking pieces were light and dark Oak and the frame is Walnut. A fairly substantial puzzle measuring 10.5 x 9.5 x 9cm, it sits on the shelf looking lovely and quite different from anything else made by either craftsman.

The goal of the puzzle is to remove all the pieces from the box. I didn't know that it was a burr with blocking pieces - I just knew the aim. Even seeing there was a disassembly level on Bernhard's page didn't give it away. This was one of the first puzzles I solved after returning home from IPP - I just couldn't resist it! Sitting in the chair with Mrs S whilst pretending to pay attention to her I immediately found one move! Yes I pulled on one of the handles and the door moved! And.....that's where I stopped! Nothing else could move at all! I tried small moves, I tried coordinate motion moves, I tried all sorts of things which looked positively ridiculous. I did not blow in it or submerge it in water - advice the MPP guys often taunt newbies (and oldies) with. I could not seem to do anything so I just idly played with it whilst watching TV and chatting to the missus when suddenly something dropped onto the cat who was sleeping on my lap! I had no idea where it came from but at this point the penny dropped and I now understood why someone had mentioned packing puzzle to me. A little exploration showed me where it had come from and I was amazed at how well it had fitted inside - I had needed to hold it in just the correct orientation for long enough for it to slide into a new position under the influence of gravity and then drop out! I still couldn't do anything else to the drawers but there were other more useful things available to me.

Quite quickly I found the "blocking" objects and was left with a frame and a rather unusual 3 piece burr. "Now it should be fairly easy" I thought to myself, but I was quite wrong! I should, by now, be quite good at burr puzzles but as I mentioned at the weekend, I'm not much good at board burrs and this 3 piece version was effectively an odd-looking board burr with the added difficulty that it was in a frame. I haven't asked any of the other boys how difficult they found it but it took me another day to work out the solution. I really am not terribly bright but at least I am having fun!

Drawers, Doors and Blockers!
All in all, this was a great challenge and really quite different from everything else I have tried - a nice combination of challenges. It is beautifully made and reasonably priced and may be the only chance that many have to get something made by Mike. Drop Bernhard an email, I'm sure he has a few left to buy. Now I really must get that Trigo cube down again and also remind Mike about my Illusion puzzle....


  1. Nice write up Kevin, my Doors & Drawers is on its way to me from Bernhard. Very reasonably priced as you have mentioned. Looks great in the photos!

    1. You will love it Jerry! It looks gorgeous and is tough without being horrific! It's also different to everything else.

    2. Hi Kevin
      thanks for the very nice Review and all the Points you mentioned are absolte right, it is a nice Serial Interlocking Burr packing puzzle and we ( Mike and me) got a lot of nice Reviews in the meantime and so we were very happy to start this cooperation to get a few more puzzles designed by Mike for a as you said very reasonable Price,thanks

    3. Thanks Bernhard for organising it - I absolutely love it!

  2. thank you very much for the nice review Kevin.Its humorous mysterious written and it makes the reader full of curioucity to try it out! what more could i ask!

    1. Hi Mike,
      I'm glad you liked the review - I LOVED the puzzle! Hopefully I'll be getting the Illusion puzzle from you soon?