Tuesday, 19 August 2014

IPP34 - Edward Hordern Puzzle Exchange

This year's IPP (International Puzzle Party) was held in London, United Kingdom from 7-10 August. Like last year's IPP33 in Japan, to make it more convenient for attendees and minimise travel, the event was again held at an Airport hotel, in this case the Park Inn at Heathrow. 

For IPP34 itself and other related, pre and non-official IPP34 "fringe" activities such as the excellent MPP that took place the prior weekend, check out Kevin'sAllard's and Roxanne's posts on their respective blogs.

The Edward Hordern Puzzle Exchange is one of the two "main" events (the other being the Puzzle Party) of any IPP. Basically its a gathering of IPP attendees who will get to exchange their own puzzle with another participant. Although the purpose of this event is pretty straight forward, ie to exchange puzzles, there are however some rules governing the exchange. Most notably:-

1. An exchanger must typically produce a minimum of around a 100 puzzles; 99 for the exchange and one for public display during IPP which is then donated to the Slocum Puzzle Collection at the University of Indiana Lilly Library. Many exchange participants tend to produce more than the 100 for post-exchange sale at the Puzzle Party or gifting. Not an inexpensive affair in terms of cost of production, shipping etc.

2. The participant's exchange puzzle must be an original design. However it need not be the exchanger's own design. He/she can commission or use someone else's design (with permission of course). Out of the 99 puzzles that were exchanged at IPP34, almost 40 exchangers adopted somebody else's design. Around 8 of the exchange puzzles were also entries in the Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition.

3. The exchanged puzzle must not have been previously in someone's collection nor commercially available prior to the exchange.

For this IPP, I was able to participate in the exchange, having been an exchange assistant to puzzle collector Diniar Namdarian during IPP33. My exchange puzzle, called "Triple Play" was designed by Goh Pit Khiam and produced in laser cut acrylic. Dimensionally 80mm x 80mm x 10mm. 

For close up photos and details of all the 99 exchange puzzles, please see Goetz Schwandtner's IPP34 Exchange Puzzles page.

Every exchange participant is allocated a table (yes, the table is really needed when all the different puzzles start to pile up). Once things get under way, participants would walk around the event room looking for someone to exchange with. Those who prefer a more relaxed approach would sit at their table and wait for others to show up (but this I think is boring). Everyone is given a list of all the exchange participants to check off against, to avoid possible double exchanges or mistakes. Trust me, after a while, it can become a bit confusing and chaotic.

My 99 Exchange Puzzles ready to rock and roll!
Most exchangers would have assistants to click photos, carry puzzles and help with translations where necessary. I went ahead without one, to my regret...I found myself scrambling a bit trying to explain my puzzle to the other party, get photos taken, running back to my table to replenish my inventory etc. After the exchange, one IPP attendee had come up to me to express his interest in being my assistant for next year and I took his offer without hesitation.

The whole session goes on for a good half a day from 9am till around 2pm. Really, some stamina is required for this I might add!

I managed to get some photos with a number of well known collectors, designers and puzzle craftsmen.
Ad van der Schagt

Vladimir Krasnoukhov

Lee Yee Dian

MINE Uyematsu

Allard Walker

John Moores

Simon Nightingale

Wil Strijbos

Robert Sandfield

Marcel Gillen

Neil Hutchinson

Serhiy Grabarchuk

Bill Cutler
Well, after nearly 5 hours, here is my exchange haul from IPP34, which thankfully was all able to fit into my jumbo suitcase which I had specially brought with me!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Off To IPP34

To my dear readers, friends and fellow puzzlers, I will not be posting any reviews for the next couple of weeks as I am off to the United Kingdom tomorrow for IPP34 (International Puzzle Party) and thereafter, a family vacation.

This one still a work in progress...but not anytime soon!
To those who will also be attending IPP34, I look forward to seeing you folks and catching up with old friends again.

For those who are unfamiliar with IPP, you can check out my earlier posts on IPP33 held last year during this time in Tokyo, Japan. 

On the IPP33 Puzzle Exchange, click here. On the Puzzle Party, Puzzle Design Competition and other IPP33 related stuff, click here.

See you again soon!

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Vinco Packing Puzzles

During my last purchase of some Vinco puzzles (including the Cross Box and 18 Dutch Mills) a while back, I also added three in-expensive packing puzzles to the haul for good measure.

Rectangle AC1

Consisting of 7 pieces and made of various woods which may include Oak, Elm, Larch, Walnut, Ash, Pear, Cherry and Vinco's favourite, Plum. This is not your regular packing puzzle consisting of square blocks or units. Instead as I discovered, the pieces comprise triangular cuts and shapes, making the packing a lot harder than what it looks at first sight. Nope, Burr Tools wouldn't help here.

Octagon AC

Similar to the Rectangle AC1 where the shapes and pieces are concerned, this one ups the difficulty quotient with 9 pieces. Harder still because they have to fit inside an Octagon frame....most of us (well I am) are used to the more normal square or rectangle ones.


The most difficult of the three here with a whopping 16 pieces of mixed shapes. And also the largest!

The AC1 cost 7 euros, Octagon AC is 8 euros and HCP1, 9 euros. These are prices as quoted on Vinco's site. Superb value for money! Both Puzzlemaster of Canada and Mr Puzzle of Australia also carry a range of Vinco puzzles including the ones mentioned here. You may also contact Bernhard Schweitzer of Puzzlewood for some of Vinco's older packing puzzle designs. 

While all three puzzles are well constructed with good fit, they are not your premium quality puzzles (which Vinco also has) as reflected by the prices; so don't expect them to be like the Eric Fuller or Pelikan wood puzzles. Excellent for the budget concious puzzle collector tho'.... if there is even such a thing....

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Havana's Box #4

The Havana's #4 is the 4th and last instalment of Eric Fuller's Havana's Cigar Box series. Sold for US$159 each in a limited edition series of 79 copies, currently unavailable.

For reviews of the 1st three cigar boxes, click here, here and here

The #4 is named "Bruce". Bruce is one of Eric's buddies, who happens to tend bar at one of Eric's favourite watering holes.

The #4 is made from Sapele with Wenge veneer at the top and bottom lids. Construction fit and finish is excellent with everything built to very tight tolerances. Although very fine detailed cuts abound, it is a very solid box. 

Goal of course is to get the (real) cigar out from inside the box. According to Eric, the #4 is the hardest of the lot, the #1 being the easiest. I am not sure if this is really the case since I found #2 (and also #3) to be pretty darn difficult as well. In fact I spent most time on #2. 

The Havana's Cigar Box Family. From left to right #1 to #4.
I would have preferred if they were all of the same size but each made
with different woods to differentiate them 
Nonetheless, it took me a good part of an evening of trying various sorts of things before I discovered the locking mechanism which keeps the lid in place. According to Eric, it should take 5 steps before the lid slides open. However for some reason, I can get it done in 3 steps. Not sure if I had stumbled upon an unintended solution tho'. Anyone else with the same experience? Guess I will have to check with our dear Mr Fuller on this and see what he says!

Sunday, 20 July 2014


Designed in 2012 by really prolific puzzle designer Stephane Chomine (who has a whopping 497 designs to-date), the Coaxial was another non-starter for me. 

Made by Pelikan to the usual high standards out of Maple and Wenge, this interlocking solid does not sport the more usual box frame style. Instead it consists of 6 pieces, three of which are regular burr units while the "frame" is made up of another three odd-shaped pieces; pairs of square rings each joined by a spar and with protrusions.   

While it has a solution (ie 17 steps to remove the first piece), not a lot compared to some other interlocking burrs, some with well over a 100 moves, the Coaxial is, in my view very difficult. I got stuck around step 10 and could proceed no further. No amount of trying, random or otherwise yielded any luck. Fortunately for me the good folks at Pelikan provided a printed solution to help and Burr Tools took care of the re-assembly.

Coaxial is currently available via PuzzleMaster of Canada for CA$49.99.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Ice Pillar

I bought the Ice Pillar from Pelikan well over a year ago and promptly forgot about it until I recently found it in the deep recesses of my puzzle cupboard. 

I had even forgotten what the name of this puzzle was and who designed it, and had to trace my emails with Pelikan way back to early 2013.

Ice Pillar is constructed from Bubinga for the frame and Zebrano for the 4 burr pieces. Quality of build is top-notch. Surprisingly, the pieces have a very loose fit in the frame, even after a few days out of my de-humidified cupboard. This is the first time I have a wooden puzzle that didn't lock up due to the humidity. Shape-wise, Ice Pillar is like a short Tall Joe. Similar with a  "+" cross-section sort of shape, very different from the typical cuboid burrs.

Ice Pillar is from Osanori Yamamoto and I am not sure if its just me lousy, or this one is really tough....well, its both! The Ice Pillar requires nearly 40 moves to completely disassemble. With some of Yamamoto designs, usually I can make some sort of progress but for this puzzle, I just couldn't find my way anywhere. 

Being of such loose fit, all the pieces could slide left right up down too easily...nothing was ever stuck, but nothing ever came out of the frame either. Tried as I did, I made no headway and had to resort to the solution provided by Pelikan. At least Allard managed to take it apart without any help. 

I didn't bother to try reassembly, knowing full well it would be futile; instead I generated a Burr Tools solution to see how the puzzle worked. Amazing, and just as fun, as always!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Tall Joe

This stylish, tallish, unusual-shaped and relatively large interlocking burr comes from designer Tamas Vanyo

Made by Pelikan from Mahogany for the box frame and a combo of Wenge and Maple for the pieces, construction is per the usual excellent Pelikan standard. Very nice fit and finishing throughout; the pieces look really nice and well cut with the dark and white tones.

Gaol is to remove the 8 identical pieces from the frame, which itself has a number of notches and protrusions inside that interact with the pieces.

Tall Joe has a level solution. On paper it doesn't seem to look that difficult; but very much harder than you might imagine especially for non-burrist like myself.

Tall Joe is currently available from PuzzleMaster.

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