Neil's Puzzle Building Blog
22Aug/120

IPP 32 – Day One

The first official day of the IPP 32 started on Thursday and many more puzzles were arriving. There was an organised tour of DC however Jen and I weren't on the list. Originally our youngest son was coming with us, and at 14, being stuck on a bus and having to do something organised probably wasn't going to be the best idea, so we'd not booked any of the trips. As it turns out he decided he didn't want to go after all, so it was just Jen and I but we were too late to get on the tour. Instead we ended up doing some more sight seeing ourselves, and took in the Air and Space Museum, Native American Museum and the Art gallery.

Heading back to the hotel in the early afternoon, I spent some time in the design competition room playing with a few more of the entries I'd not played with the night before. I plan to write about each of the entries I played with so I'll not talk about them here, just stay tuned for more posts coming soon. I did manage to solve over 50 of the 80 entries without the solutions, but there were a few I didn't even play with. Given that I love puzzle boxes I started with those, and from there played with the puzzles that looked interesting to me. With so many puzzles to play with you really have to make some choices and perhaps even ignore some. For me I mostly passed by the twisty puzzles, as it's not something I really enjoy (or am very good at) but that still left a lot of excellent puzzles to spend my time on.

Also in the Puzzle Design room was the Holbrook Puzzle Collection Exhibit. This included a number of superb puzzles from the Holbrook Collection. Rather than try to describe them all, just have a look at the photos below. There's some superb puzzles in there, and also some great IPP history.

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

When the puzzle room shut for the day, I took the time to have a quick shower and freshen up before the Founder's reception. I'll be honest, it really wasn't what I was expecting. Given the cost of the 'dinner' I expected a sit down meal with some sort of formal event organised. Instead, it was a buffet style finger food with sliders and salads. Not only that but the drinks were not on the house, and had to be bought separately. Now at this point you're probably thinking that I'm some sort of tight Scotsman. That is far from the truth as anyone who knows me will tell you, but when you're being asked for $4 for a glass of coke, and you don't even get a full can for that, you can tell that things were a bit steep. Even the main bar downstairs wasn't nearly as pricey. That said, it was more of a meet and greet with only a few words from Jerry Slocum and Chris Morgan who was this years Host.

There were even more great people to spend time with and talk to at the evenings Founder's reception. This was the end to the first official day of IPP, and I found myself introduced to many more giants in the puzzle world including the founder of IPP, Jerry Slocum himself, Marcel Gillen, John Rausch, Robert Yarger, Eric Fuller, Tom Lensch, Gregory Benedetti, Laurie Brokenshire, Stephen Chin, James Dalgety, Scott Elliot, Rocky Chiaro, Robert Sandfield as well as meeting up with my good friend Derek Bosch and his wife Michelle who had made it in late the previous night. I realise now that despite having my camera with me all the time, I really didn't take that many photos of all the great people I was meeting. Fortunately Rox did, so you can see all the people photos that she took instead! Of course there were many people who I know from the local puzzle meets like Stan Isaacs, Abel Garcia, Marc Pawlinger, Bram Cohen to name just a few.

It was fascinating talking to Marcel about his puzzles, and relating my experiences with his rolling pins to him. To hear him talking about the problems working in metal and that he now creates puzzles using a CNC machine and MDF! Having seen his exchange puzzle from this year's IPP, you can be assured that even though he's no longer making puzzles in metal, he's still making great puzzles! The thing that really amazes you when you talk to some of the people who have been in the business of collecting or designing for a long time is that everyone is very open and approachable, and really wants to help you. The number of people who gave me advice or help is incredible, and everyone interested in what I was doing and making.

As people started to drift off myself, Peter Wiltshire, Allard and Derek Bosch with our respective other halves grabbed a few chairs and had a seat. It turns out Peter is a pretty good magician and had a few tricks up his sleeves to keep us entertained. His presentation and patter is superb, and it really took me back to they days when I used to do magic too. He had a particularly fun trick with the key from his minibar in the hotel room (or so he was telling us). A solid wooden bar which had a hone in one end and a chain passing through the hole with the key looped through the chain. Passing it behind his back the hole moved from one end of the bar to the other then back .... ok so not the real magic. The real magic was when the hole moved from the end of the bar to the centre of the bar. At all times, the chain could be pulled through the hole showing nothing tricky was going on. Peter had shown me the trick the night before and I'd been puzzling over how it was done all night. I had a pretty good idea, and from the position I was sitting in at the reception I was able to see the full mechanics of the puzzle. When Peter had finished the puzzle, he turned to me and asked if I'd had a good view of it that time, so he knew that from the position I was in I could see what was going on. That shows a lot of trust as normally a magician will not give anyone the advantage of seeing how a trick is done. It turns out I was right as to how it was done but Peter's presentation keeps the secret perfectly.

As we were sitting one of my friends from back in California Marc Pawlinger wandered over with his son. The funny thing is that Marc lives just a few miles from me, however seems we only manage to meet up at puzzling events! Peter had another great trick with a little mouse which he showed to Marc's son and got a great reaction. So much so that he had to show it to the adults as well who also really appreciated it. Peter also had a really nice card trick that he showed us. Both Derek and myself thought we knew how it was done, but it turns out we were both wrong. I thought I saw something as Peter was showing us, but despite being close to understanding the method, I was a little off.... That had to puzzle me until the Sunday night where Peter showed me how it was done. Thanks Peter!

With the reception over, a few of us drifted back downstairs to the bar area to continue conversations, and eventually end up in the puzzle design room again playing with more of the competition entries. There certainly are a few die hard puzzlers out there who you could find in the design room pretty much any time it was open. I'll not mention names as you know who you are...

Next up is the day of the Puzzle Exchange.

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21Aug/120

IPP 32 – Day Zero

Over the weekend of the 9th to 12th August IPP 32 was held in Washington DC. I was lucky enough to be invited and as my first year attending IPP I've found it very difficult to write about it all. I have sat down several times over the last week to try to write about my experiences and have thrown away everything I wrote as rubbish. Hopefully this will be good enough, although I seriously doubt it!

IPP 32 logo

IPP 32 logo

To sum up the experience is really challenging. There were so many great people there, and so much happening, that I'm not sure I remember everything, nor could I describe half of it even if I could. It's a completely overwhelming experience, and something I will not forget. It's going to take a good few posts to cover all the events, so keep reading over the next few days and I'll try my best to share my experiences. ( I'll also note up front that I've avoided reading the posts from my fellow bloggers over the last week, just in case I repeat anything they've said!)

For anyone who doesn't know, IPP is the International Puzzle Party. An annual invitation only event which has been taking place for 32 years now, and was originally started by Jerry Slocum, where a small number of Puzzle enthusiasts were invited to his home to share their puzzles, trade and generally talk about puzzles and the like. Today, over 400 puzzle collectors attend the party and it alternates between locations in the USA, Asia and Europe. The party includes a puzzle design competition, a puzzle exchange and a sale of puzzles. I was fortunate to be able to take part in all of the above, so I'll talk about each and share some thoughts with you.

I arrived in DC with Jen on Tuesday fairly late on, around 10pm by the time we finally made it to the hotel. There were a few puzzle people hanging around the lobby playing with string but I didn't talk to anyone as we had luggage to get to the room, and we were both pretty hungry, so we headed out for some food. By the time we got back the place was deserted. Given that we were still on California time, and thinking it was still 7.30pm and not 11.30pm I was a little surprised that everyone had gone to bed so early!

Getting up reasonably early the next morning so Jen and I could do some sight seeing before the IPP really got under way, we headed down for breakfast, and on coming out of the elevator, I was greeted by Jim Strayer who I didn't recognise, but he recognised me from my blog and videos. He promptly introduced himself and his wife, and welcomed me to the IPP. I think that really set the tone for my weekend, where people were going to know me, and I was going to recognise the names, but not the faces! In fact it got better. I'm the only Scottish IPP'er. I'd be standing talking to someone and without anyone seeing my face, they'd know who I was. Sadly, Scotland didn't get a pin on the IPP map as I'm based in California now, so I'm considered a US attendee!

The Whitehouse, complete with snipers on the roof!

The Whitehouse, complete with snipers on the roof!

With the IPP registration not opening until later in the afternoon, Jen and I went off to do some sightseeing around DC. Walking through the lobby of the hotel to head to the tube, I spot a figure walking towards me, and am promptly given a great big hug (and a few strange looks from Jen!). Rox was in the lobby with her daughter and on spotting me had to say hello.

I've never really been to the east coast US, as all my business trips have been over in California, so I was looking forward to seeing some of DC. I'll not bore you with all the tourist pics, but I think the one above should be ok. I have no idea how far I walked that day, but I'll say this much... my feet were sore, and I was ready for a shower and a seat when I get back to the hotel. The weather in DC is hot and humid. The heat I'm used to from California, but the humidity is a killer! That said I had a great day with Jen and was ready to meet some puzzling people when I got back.

Once we were freshened up, we took the trip down to the registration room and after being stopped by one or two new faces who recognised me, where we were given badges, and had our photos taken. Each year there is a souvenir book produced which includes a photo of every attendee. With that sorted out, I wandered into the lobby where Jim Strayer once again said hello and introduced me to a few other puzzle names I knew, including a few I've worked with quite closely over the last few months including Rob Stegman (I'll get back to that though!).

A gift from Peter Wiltshire and the start of a new tradition?

A gift from Peter Wiltshire and the start of a new tradition?

I met Peter Wiltshire, Brett Kuehner, and I'm sure one or two others who happened to be standing around chatting, and making dinner plans. Peter who knew this was my first IPP, without even looking at my badge given discussions on the Renegades forums said he had something for me, that had a little story to go with it. It turns out that when Peter attended his first IPP, Ginda Fisher had given him a copy of a little puzzle he'd made as a gift for people at IPP. I'll not give away more that that other than to say that Peter told me that the info about the puzzle, the designer, and the name of the puzzle were all inside, and would probably help me open it.

Something of a welcome to IPP and a way to make the new guy feel welcome. So Peter tells me that he wants to give me a copy of his puzzle gift since it's my first IPP, and hopes that at some point in the future I'll be able to do the same. I'm quite flattered by the offer and think it's a great idea. Peter's puzzle is superb, as I find out later when he hands me the copy, and I hope that I'll be able to give someone else a puzzle of my own in the future!

With enough of a crowd gathered, we depart to the local mall for some food, and end up taking two tables to fit all of us in. I end up sitting at a table with Dor Tietz, Yael Meron and two other veteran IPPer's that I can't even remember now (it was nearly 2 weeks ago). We had a great chat over dinner about many things, not just puzzle related, and both Jen and I are made to feel very welcome. With appetites quenched, we returned to the hotel lobby and ended up standing around chatting with a few new faces who'd shown up.

As I stood there chatting a familiar name came up and introduced himself, having recognised my voice (I did say it was going to be a bit of a theme for me). Allard Walker tapped me on the shoulder and said hi. Little introduction was needed as I recognised him instantly, and we both introduced our respective other halves, who hit it off instantly. It seems that Gillian, Jen and Leslie (Peter's wife) all share similar interests, and started making their own plans, which meant I didn't feel as guilty spending so much time puzzling or talking about puzzles.

Amazing Card folding gift

Amazing Card folding gift

Allard hands me a small gift. One of Louis Coolen's impossible cards which you can read all about over here and I seriously suggest that you do. The card is superb. I'd seen some of Louis' early attempts at card folding, and I knew he was getting pretty good at this, but really nothing does the card justice. It's a work of art, and a truly beautiful item. I'm very happy to have added this to my collection, so thanks Allard and Louis!

Shortly thereafter Wil Strijbos appears and Allard who knows Wil quite well asks me "You know who this is don't you?" I have to reply that I don't (since Wil isn't wearing a name badge, and doesn't throughout the whole weekend). We're quickly introduced, and Wil hands Allard some metal rods asking for help. Apparently, customs took apart his peppermint twist puzzle, and Wil's not had time to put it back together. However knowing that Allard has a copy and has solved it, he just asks Allard to put it back together. Allard takes the pieces and sits down next to where we're standing and starts trying to put the pieces together. As I watch I ask if there's a trick to which I'm told yes and Allard shows us how to best go about putting it together. After a couple of minutes, Allard looks up and asks Wil if he's having him on. It seems that Wil is a bit of a joker, and Allard knows this! (As it happens, Wil is joking as he's already shown Peter and myself that fifth piece which is needed to put the puzzle together. Allard suspects something is up, but all Wil has in his hands is a small black kitten with glowing blue eyes which makes noise. Wil finally gives in after Allard concedes that the four pieces he has don't go together, and gives him the fifth piece. With the puzzle back together, Wil tries to give Allard the puzzle as a gift, but Allard isn't going to take it. I should probably have offered Wil some money for it, but really I wasn't thinking!

Finding a table in the hotel lobby Peter, Allard myself and our other halves sat and had a drink while the boys talked puzzles, and the girls talked about something else entirely less boring to them! Allard pulls out a copy of Louis' Amazing Box #3, which was great fun to play with, and I really look forward to seeing what else he produces, as he'll be making some great puzzles before long I assure you! I take a trip up to my room to get Allard his copy of the Hex Stair puzzle he'd ordered which is passed around the table (Rob Stegman and Jim Strayer have joined us by this point) and all have a shot of the Amazing box, and the Hex Stair which they seemed to enjoy. He also puzzled out a copy of Wil's Washer Cylinder which he handed to Peter and we taunted him as he explored that for a while.

As we're sitting Nick Baxter spots me and tells me that the competition room has been opened if I'm interested in looking at the design entries. Rather excitedly, I go back to the table and let the guys know, and we promptly decant to the puzzle room, since it's not officially opened till the Thursday, so we take the opportunity to get a first look at the puzzles. Jen and the ladies leave us to it, as we excitedly hurry to see new puzzles.

Playing with a cats cradle

Playing with a cats cradle

While in the puzzle room Brett Kuehner's father was wandering around and Brian, his wife Kellian and I ended up talking to him about the Cats Cradle. You'll remember that I mentioned the puzzlers playing with string when I arrived on the Tuesday night. Well it turns out this is why. Brett's dad was explaining that he'd sit in a shopping mall somewhere and play with a cradle in the hope that people would come up and ask him about it. Turns out that lots of people do, but mostly people his age who remember playing with one as children. He'd show them a few possible patterns, and learn one in return. His parting gift was to give them the string and ask them to then teach a child a few patterns. I didn't end up getting a string but I do remember playing with one as a child (although I was never very good) so perhaps I should pick one up again and learn once more. Here you can see Kellian getting to see how to check a heartbeat, with the string wrapped round your ears!

Brian Pletcher playing with "Ze House of Mouse Ze Duong"

Brian Pletcher playing with "Ze House of Mouse Ze Duong"

It's in the puzzle room as I'm looking for the next puzzle I want to play with that I spot Brian Pletcher sitting and introduce myself. I've followed Brian's blog for a long time, and recently worked with him on the Black Letter labs puzzles, so it was great to meet another of the puzzlers I knew but had never met in person.

I ended up sitting playing with puzzles until it was just Brian and I left in the room and we were sitting talking about a couple of the puzzles we'd played with. At 1.30 am we called it a night and Brian locked up the puzzle room. All in all a fantastic first day to my IPP, and only the start of a truly memorable weekend.

Next up, the Design Competition is officially started and IPP Day 1. I'll post more pics there I promise!

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3Aug/123

Twas the week before IPP

It's getting close ... something to make you all smile.

Twas the week before IPP

Twas the week before IPP, when all through the house,
Not a puzzle was stirring, not even a burr.
The puzzles were packed in the case with care,
In hopes an exchange would soon be here.

The puzzlers were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of puzzles danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just engaged out brains after a long summer's nap.

When out on the table there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
To the puzzle room I flew like a flash,
Tore open the door and saw Jenga toppled fast.

The moon on the top of the new-fallen blocks
Gave the lustre of mid-day to puzzles below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature coffin, and 30 design entries to play.

With a little packing problem, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be time.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Stickman! now, Keagen! now, Fuller and Rox!
On, Devost! On, Deventer! on, on Rolly and Chinny!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now design away! Design away! Design away all!"

As puzzle solvers that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, think 'my oh my".
So off to the puzzle room the coursers they flew,
With the room full of Toys, and Brian Pletcher too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the floor
The prancing and pawing of each little piece.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Along came the solution from my mind did abound.

He was dressed all in black, from his head to his foot,
And his papers were all tarnished with puzzles and loot.
A bundle of Toys he had reviewed with his team,
And he looked like a judge, all bristling with gleam.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up but no folly,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the holly.

The stalk of a trophy he held tight in his arms,
And the room it grew silent awaiting his charms.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave us to know the results were soon read.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And set all the trophies, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, to all he then spoke!

The winner this year, from all the puzzles so great,
Can go to one only, the greatest he said.
But then I awoke, and I know not the end,
"Another Puzzle Party, what else my friend!"

Filed under: Random Musings 3 Comments


23Jun/124

California Puzzle Party – hosted by Nick Baxter (Part 2)

So at the end of the last post, I had been playing with Marcel Gillen's Rolling Pin puzzles, and ended up with very silver hands thanks to the aluminium dust. That really was the end of the day though and I have missed out a big chunk in the middle, so time to back track a little and fill in the blanks.

Alan Boardman with a cigar box containing one of every puzzle he makes

Alan Boardman with a cigar box containing one of every puzzle he makes

Alan's Business Card

Alan's Business Card

I had the pleasure to meet Alan Boardman for the first time, and was able to see some of his work up close. Often with photographs of puzzles, it's hard to tell the size of them, but with Alan, Scale is everything. He considers himself a microxylometagrobologist. Yes, he makes tiny puzzles. The remarkable thing is that these puzzles, most less than an inch in size, and many less than a quarter inch in size are made with regular woodworking tools, with a level of precision which needs to be seen to be believed. Even his business card needs to be seen to be believed. A beautiful slice of 2ply Birdseye Maple!

As I mentioned in the first part of the puzzle party writeup, Nick Baxter went through a guided solve of the IPP 17 Host gift made by Gary Foshee. I took photos throughout the solve, and will do a writeup here. Warning, there may be a number of images here showing parts of the sequential discovery where clues as to how to solve the puzzle may be seen. I feel that given how limited this puzzle is, that few people will be able to see or solve this puzzle, and as such I fell less concerned about showing steps of the solution. However if you don't want to see anything, then don't click the link below.

Read on



14Jun/122

California Puzzle Party – hosted by Nick Baxter

It's been a while since I've updated the blog, as I've been pretty busy with work, and with progress on a certain puzzle I'm making, but I thought this one was worth the wait. Before I say much more, I'll give you two pictures. As ever, click them to see a larger version...

Nick Baxter's entire collection of Stewart Coffin Originals

Nick Baxter's entire collection of Stewart Coffin Originals

Nick Baxter's entire collection of Stewart Coffin Originals

Nick Baxter's entire collection of Stewart Coffin Originals

Yes, that table, measuring probably 16' long is a lifetime of work from puzzle designer, builder and inspiration to many; Stewart Coffin. In a rare occurrence, Nick who graciously invited us to a puzzle party at his house, had the entire collection out and on display for cataloging. Not only that, but he was happy to let us play with the puzzles, and for others demonstrate some really unique movements to some plain looking puzzles. To see the collection through the pictures I took really doesn't do it justice.

The video shows a scan of both sides of the table, and hopefully gives a better idea of what's there. Obviously, the larger images below show the collection in more detail, but sometimes a video is more useful. Something incredibly interesting that a few of the people who were there commented on, including Scott Peterson, who is well known for some stunning Coffin reproductions was that the size of the puzzles gets smaller as the numbers get higher. Now this may fit with how many people thing about your skills as a wood worker progress over the years. Start big, get smaller as you go, but we came to a different conclusion. When Stewart started making puzzles, he was able to get his hands on lumber in much greater thicknesses than is readily available today. So as the years go on, and the lumber gets thinner, the size of the puzzle pieces you can make gets smaller. Maybe other people out there have thoughts, but that was ours!

The series of photos which follow, show the collection. Enjoy.

The collection

The collection

The collection

The collection

The collection

The collection

The collection

The collection

The collection

The collection

The collection

The collection

The collection

The collection

The collection

The collection

The collection

The collection

The collection

The collection

The collection

The collection

The collection

The collection

The collection

The collection

The collection

The collection

All I can really say personally is WOW. Thank you to Stewart Coffin for creating so many unique and beautiful puzzles for us to play with, and thanks to Nick for letting us see them!

Now that you've stopped drooling, the collection of Coffin's was only one small part of the day.

There were many familiar faces present, including Bram Cohen, Alan Boardman, Abel Garcia, Scott Peterson, Derek Bosch, Marc Pawlinger, Stan Isaacs and a few faces I didn't recognise. Nick's wife was also there, and had laid on quite a spread of food including some excellent chilli to keep the puzzlers well fed throughout the afternoon.

As this was the first time I'd been to Nick's house I had a good wander around to see what puzzling delights were on show. In the puzzle room there's quite a few familiar puzzles on display. I recognised a couple of Kagen Schaefer's boxes, as well as Berrocal's and many of Eric Fuller's puzzles, plus a pretty nice collection of Marcel Gillen's work. I didn't have time to play with many of the puzzles on the shelves, but I'll come back to the Marcel Gillen puzzles...

Nick's puzzle room

Nick's puzzle room

Nick's puzzle room - Berrocal

Nick's puzzle room - Berrocal

Nick's puzzle room

Nick's puzzle room

Nick's puzzle room

Nick's puzzle room


While I was browsing the room, Nick announced that he was going to be doing a guided solve of the Host gift from IPP 17, made by Gary Foshee. Well I didn't want to miss that, having seen the Trolly Car sitting on Nick's dining room table when I walked in. It is a sequential discovery puzzle where each part of the puzzle opened reveals new tools, or parts of tools which must be combined in some clever ways to be able to get to the next part of the puzzle. The object is to remove the four passengers, whose names are inscribed in plaques at their feet. I'll do a full review of that puzzle in part two of the writeup for the Puzzle party as I took pictures throughout the disassembly, but here's a couple of quick pictures to let you see just how much is hidden in the puzzle.

The IPP17 Host Gift

The IPP17 Host Gift

The IPP17 Host Gift

The IPP17 Host Gift

IPP 17 Host Gift

IPP 17 Host Gift

After Nick had spent 20 minutes or so taking the puzzle apart, with suggestions from the collected audience, a few of us remained around the table for the assembly process to restore the puzzle to its start point, including myself, Abel and obviously Nick. As we talked the topic of the Revomaze puzzles came up and I mentioned that I'd solved all so far except the Gold, and we discussed my thoughts on the series and also Gold Specifically. Abel asked when I'd received mine as he didn't have his and we talked a bit more as Nick struggled to remember exactly where each piece came from! After he was finished, he asked me to join him in the puzzle room, which of course I did.

The Gillen Collection

The Gillen Collection

There he picks up the small Marcel Gillen rolling pin puzzle and hands it to me asking "See what you make of that". So I start playing and quickly find that there's a maze in there, and the handle of the rolling pin is what is navigating the maze. Sound familiar? Anyway, after a couple of minutes, I find that there's a sprung pin in there which rides on top of a maze, and gives a distinctive click when you fall off, forcing you to back track to the start and retry. The weight of this puzzle is significant, certainly more than that of a Revomaze Extreme. I quickly find that I can navigate the maze, and moving slowly I can feel the edges of the maze much like you can with practice on the Revomaze. Nick mentions that the larger, entirely aluminium rolling pin is even heavier when I point this out. So I must have a go of that too! The larger one took it's toll on me. I ended up with my hands silver from all the aluminium dust having spent around half an hour working on it! I believe I made it around half way though the maze as I has able to get from the start to the other end of the pin consistently before falling off. Nick who's opened the smaller puzzle from IPP13 but only made it half way in the larger says he thinks that's around half way! For those who have solved a Revomaze, these puzzles significantly predate the revomaze, but lack the 'quick reset to start' found in the earlier Revo puzzles.

I did have a play with the much smaller, and lighter Eis Puzzle which I did solve. But I'll be going back to complete these rolling pins as I'm pretty sure with a little more time I can crack both of them!

Also on that Gillen table was a fair collection of the Chess pieces, so I took the much better picture above since I had remembered my camera that day, unlike the last time at Stan's

I also spent a while talking to Nick about the current Black Letter labs puzzle series as Nick and I are working together with a team of Renegades solving those. At this time, our team is #2 in the overall rankings with a combined solve time for the first 4 puzzles of 3 days, and it's been a lot of fun (When we finished both artifacts 3 and 4 we were briefly in first place overall). I'll write more about that in another post though.

I had a great day and it was good to see a lot of familiar faces. Come back in a few days when I'll hopefully be able to post the rest of the writeup, including some items from Alan Boardman and his miniature puzzles, and the Trolly Car guided solution.



3May/128

The end of a long story that all started with a second of poor judgement.

Well most of my readers will know that way back in October 2011, while working on making a run of puzzles, I had a small accident, and nearly took the end of my thumb off. (Ok, so it wasn't that small, and I was damn lucky).

Well today saw the last of the pins that have been holding the bones together so that they can heal taken out, and I'm now down to just needing to get the strength back, and do lots of physio to get the muscles working again.

I think I've done pretty well, as even after the accident, I didn't stop using the saw. I completed a run of STC's Unhappy Childhoods and also a small table that Jen wanted me to make for her. So it's been a busy few months and I've not been prevented from doing anything I wanted to.

I wanted to share this with all of you, as I know there are a few people out there who are starting to look at making puzzles having read my experiences so let me share a few words of wisdom with you. No matter how quick you think you are, if something goes wrong, it will happen far too quickly for you to react. Remember when that blade is spinning, if it can cut wood, it will cut you ten times more easily. Don't do the same thing as I did and try to clear the offcut from the side of the blade while the blade is spinning, and certainly don't try to do it with your hand. Preferably, leave it alone, it's not doing any harm there, but if you must clear it, turn the saw off, and then move it. It might seem like it would take longer, but trust me, it will be much faster than the trip to the ER, and several months of healing! And one last thing, always use a push stick, to keep your hands away from that blade.

That said, my thumb is pretty much healed, and I'll be back to making puzzles again soon, as well as getting back on my motorbike, which I've sadly missed all this time.

So is this the end of the broken thumb. Well as it happens, no. After my injury, I had a lot of time to think and design, so I have a very special puzzle that I'll be making that is somewhat tied to the accident. I'll be sure to keep you all up to date as work progresses on that!

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