Sunday 22 March 2020

Brass is Good For Puzzles As Well As Viruses

Hyperboloid Burr from Big Steve and Ali
I really have had no time at all to solve anything this week - as you can imagine, work is rather crazy these days. I have spent my working week and my evenings trying to ensure that as people either go off sick or self-isolate that we have a fully manned on-call service and due to my rôle with the supplies and equipment groups, I have been trying to work out what we are going to need and ensure that we have it in the right place. It's at times like these that I am grateful for having a really good team of people behind me. Everyone thinks about the doctors and nurses in a hospital but don't forget that running any hospital is an army of people in the background making sure that everything runs and is where it should be. I could not do my job without them! Unfortunately, one thing that I could not just magic up was another 70 or 80 ICU ventilators and I guess that before long we will be using anaesthetic machines for it which is really not ideal. If you or your family don't want to be on one of those ventilators then you need to do what your governments are telling you...


Do not socialise, do not make unnecessary trips, keep apart from each other! Only go out if you are a key worker in health, key infrastructure or work in the food supply industry.

If you are young then you will probably (although not definitely) have a mild illness but how would you feel if you killed your parents or your grandparents. The elderly or chronically ill will not do well with this virus. People are dying out there!

In this day and age of self-isolation and trying to keep oneself and one's property scrupulously clean I heard (from Big Steve so it MUST be true) that apparently the Coronavirus does not survive on brass (or copper) for more than about 15 minutes! Therefore you should all put down your porous wooden puzzles which can harbour nasties for hours or days and lay your hands on some lovely solid metal!

Now, my last blog post which mentioned the TwoBrassMonkeys mentioned Scott's Shaft and Nuts and whilst it's more of a puzzling object than a puzzle itself, it is certainly a gorgeous piece of brass which may help irradicate the virus from your hands. Now I am certainly NOT advocating that you insert Scott's shaft and nuts in any orifices as that might end up with a visit to the emergency room and you really want to avoid that just now! Plus, of course, it is very angular and has sharp edges which would be very uncomfortable. Instead, you may prefer to play with another puzzle produced by the boys, the Hyperboloid Burr. It's not terribly difficult but it is beautifully made and has two lovely challenges to it.

I had first played with a very nice wooden version of this puzzle from Allard's collection many years ago at an MPP. This was Naoki Takashima’s Exchange puzzle at an IPP. Allard teel the story that it was presented as an interesting burr assembly with six identical pieces, each shaped with hyperboloid curves. Once the initial assembly had been thought about (we all know about 6 interlocking sticks) then Naoki added an additional identical piece to the pile of pieces so that a new 7 piece construction could be made. This was exactly how it was shown to me at the MPP and I loved the idea. You all know that the 6 piece assembly looks like this:

A 6 piece burr shape
The 6 piece assembly in brass fits together only by a perfect alignment of the pieces and then with a rather satisfying click. You then have something rather fetching to hold in your hands and "remove your viruses" (I'm kidding!)

The 7 piece assembly in wood took me a little while all those years ago but was a very satisfying puzzle to solve leaving a nice grin on your face.

I never found a copy of the wooden for my own collection and was delighted to see an early version of the boy's brass creation at an MPP last year and then got a copy myself in February. Of course, it's not a new challenge for me but it is still very satisfying to assemble - the precision is unbelievable - the tolerances are to the nearest 0.03mm - any tighter and it cannot be assembled and any looser and it falls apart. Again a lovely click as it snicks together.

Don't click on the button until after you have solved it yourself.

You owe it to yourself to buy something genuinely virus free and to support the 2 crazy men making us brass toys! Now I need to find some time to solve something else in time for next weekend.

Have a lovely day and stay safe! Oh yes... even if the Hyperboloid burr has no sharp edges, I DO NOT advocate internal use of the puzzle! Not even a nostril!


  1. Thank you, Kevin, for your hard work and dedication to your profession throughout this difficult time. My prayers are with you, your family, your coworkers, your patients, and all mankind.

    1. Thank you, Murray. Greatly appreciated!