Sunday 13 March 2016

Standing on his own

How many favourite South African boys does a puzzler need? Up until now, I really thought that I only needed one! That of course had to be the MAIN man, Allard! Just go and read his review of yet another Stickman box to see how brilliant he is. Of course I also have a favourite South African girl but don't tell Allard that I think his wife is amazing - she puts up with even more of this puzzling madness than the present Mrs S (his collection is considerably more awesome than mine) and Gil even seems to do it without the use of the Whack! Ouch! I actually thought that would be quite enough favourite South Africans but I was very wrong. Johan Heyns has definitely become another favourite of mine!

Some time ago I discussed the Really Bent Board Burr designed by my mate Derek and how I managed to entice Johan back into puzzle making after a very long gap. The RBBB was fantastic and it would appear that he certainly hadn't lost his touch. He has gone on to produce quite a number of beauties for me this last year:

Wish Cube
Last year Johan unfortunately lost his job and considered turning to puzzle making to earn a living and of course I wanted to assist him in any way possible - we cannot have too many puzzle craftsmen around. He touts his wares on his Facebook page and in the Puzzle Photography group so you should definitely keep an eye out for him there and see what is coming in the future.

A little while ago he notified us that he was making a couple of new burrs and asked whether anyone would be interested. Well duh! That's a no brainer! I said yes, waited a month or so, sent of some PayPals and then waited for postie to ring the bell. Earlier this week postie rang several times (blush!) much to the disgust of "she who must be flinched from" and I received a very nice box from Johan. Derek hates it when I post photos of the cardboard boxes on the puzzle photography group but of course it had to be done! I then followed up with photos of the contents.

Cocoon with a stand as beautiful as the puzzle!
The odd title to my post is an homage to Johan's incredible skill - he has lost his livelihood but is still managing to make a living from puzzles (standing on his own two feet) and also a nod of the head towards the fact that pretty much every single one of Johan's puzzles come with their own uniquely designed stands. You can see in the trio above that 2 of them have stands and so does the cocoon!

When I took this out of the box and showed it to Mrs S she first of all said in a rather dull voice:
"Yes! It's another cube!"
 She seems to think that pretty much all my toys are just cubes and refuses to understand the geometric truth that some are cuboid, some are burr shaped and others have shapes that I cannot begin to name. To her they are all cubes! Aaaargh! However in her defence she did immediately pronounce that this one is gorgeous and could remain on show in the living room. Wow Johan! What an accolade! I think after Shane, you have the most puzzles on display outside of my "Puzzletorium".

Cocoon is glorious - made from 15mm wood stock and using African Rosewood, Pau Marfim, Zebrano and Mansonia it is a monster at 92 x 92 x 125mm. It feels fantastic in the hands, smells great and is finished beautifully. The level is which is just the right difficulty for me. The designer is the amazing Alfons Eyckmans who keeps showing off new designs on Facebook and taunting me. He knows that I have a list of about 18-20 of his burrs on my phone waiting to be bought! I just need to find an additional source of money for them. Having already sold a kidney, most of my liver, a lung and my right cerebral hemisphere, I have run out of organs to sell! Maybe Mrs S will let me take one of her.......Whack! Ouch! Maybe not!

During the solve of this puzzle there are some short blind ends and several choices to be made of direction to try. A few of the moves are incredibly well hidden and I really struggled for several evenings in front of the TV with Mrs S to find the way forward (luckily there was no jinggling). I am not the only one to have struggled - I know that Jamie also has been stuck for a little while too. Eventually I managed to work out how to get the first ring off and then the second shortly after that. The third ring removal is a step up requiring another 9 moves and took quite some time. I was left with the 4 burr sticks trapped in a single ring and it was remarkably stable and took quite some time to find the way to disassemble it to the component parts:

Just getting here was tough but the final steps took ages too!
After a total of 4 days of play - I finally got to this stage:

Just look at the beauty of those pieces!
Having taken it apart and taken my photos, I had more or less lost track of the orientation of all the pieces and the reassembly took several hours! I am proud to say that burrtools was not required for once. This puzzle is absolutely fantastic - it is a triumph of design Alfons and is one of the most beautiful puzzles Johan has ever made. Plus, of course, it has the added bonus of a beautiful stand.

Another puzzle in that package was something I couldn't resist! The No Nukes! puzzle designed by Ronald Kint-Bruynseels.

No Nukes!
Johan made this using Maple and Mansonia but this time used 10mm wood stock to avoid complaints that the puzzle was too massive - with vector dimensions of 14 x 14 x 14 this would have been gigantic in his usual 15mm stock. The 10mm stock doesn't make the puzzle dinky but I was a little scared of snapping a joint. Johan reassured me that it was pretty robust as he had dowel reinforced all the joints. Not only did this make the puzzle more attractive but I didn't have any problems at all during the solve with breakages.

Yet again the puzzle had it's very own specially designed stand and it really does show off the puzzle well. My initial experiments with it revealed that there are only a few beginning moves before you make a very unexpected discovery - the internal pieces are not 20mm across - they split down the middle and this then makes the solution much more complex. It is quite possible to see everything that is going on inside because of the open design of the puzzle. I spent about 3 hours on it yesterday and made steady progress until a piece came out - almost by surprise! I struggled to remove the second piece for quite some time - it is almost a process of undoing a knot! Even after removing 2 pieces, the puzzle remains fairly stable - there is a tendency for some pieces to rotate but it is easily controlled:

2 down 4 to go! Still stable
I got stuck on the disassembly of the last 3 pieces because everything began to collapse a bit - even after collapsing they were not trivial to unlink from each other - and it was with quite a sigh of relief that I managed to get to this point:

Look at the precision of these pieces
The picture above doesn't really give an idea of the complexity of the task - so I took another photo to show off the pieces a bit better:

You can see how hard it is going to be to link them all back together again. There is absolutely no way I will be able to reassemble this from scratch - Burrtools is definitely required. Luckily making a BT file is very much part of the fun for me. I guess I had better get on with that now - Mrs S certainly doesn't want yet another pile of pieces lying around! I still haven't managed to reassemble the Visible burr and it is still in pieces on the coffee table 8 months later!

Such a pretty  pile of pieces!
So if ever you are keen to get to know another South African and certainly if you want a beautiful puzzle complete with specially designed stand then you should go to Johan and send him some money. It will help him stand on his own two feet and you will have something fun to play with and stunning to put on show.

"Baie dankie!" Johan


  1. Thanks very much for the kind words Kevin. Much appreciated. Johan

    1. My pleasure Johan! I look forward to more beauties in the future - hopefully with "just the right" level of difficulty again!

  2. I have no Facebook account (at this day and age - I know!) and do not want to create one.

    Is there any other way to find out what Johan is making and what he has available to sell?