This is a special addition to Puzzle of the Month. This wonderful, beautiful creation was my birthday present this year from Alice. It is a 24-piece burr, or, rather more correctly, it is eight different notchable 6-piece burrs (notchable means that the voids in each piece can be removed with just a saw, ) joined together to make a small table. It is called the Lost Day and is made from Queensland Blackbean by collector, designer, craftsman and all-round good guy Brian “Mr. Puzzle” Young in Australia. This picture shows me with the completed puzzle, on my second T-shirt and with three days of designer stubble, desperate for a good meal and a night’s sleep!!!
Shortly I shall get to the pictures of me (and Alice, reluctantly involved…) assembling the puzzle, and the story of my experiences with it, but firstly here’s a bit of history about the puzzle, and details of its creation. (Also it gives you something to do while the pictures load.)
The late David Bruce designed this puzzle in 1985 and although he designed it by hand he did later have a computer check its assembly to ensure it was unique.
He called the puzzle “Lost Day” because he thought if it takes an hour to put each piece in it’s correct place it would take 24 hours to assemble all the pieces.... My experience over a long holiday weekend suggests that perhaps it should be called… The Lost Holiday Weekend!!!
The goal of David’s design was to make sure each of the eight corners was a different burr and that all were notchable burrs with no key piece.
Mr Puzzle began creating Limited Edition puzzles in 1993 as a way of adding puzzles not generally or commercially available to his own puzzle collection. Puzzles are chosen for either historical significance and/or aesthetic value, not necessarily degree of difficulty. This puzzle qualifies on all three counts.
Even though they are works of art in their own right they are definitely working puzzles. An additional puzzle element is often added which makes the puzzle unique and usually increases the level of difficulty. They are made to a larger scale than usual so you can display your pieces of puzzle art. This puzzle is about 12x12x20 inches, with the shorter pieces weighing about 8 ounces each.
Mr Puzzle began making only six of each puzzle but in 2001 due to the demand he started making twenty-four of each - only 24 will EVER be made and Mr Puzzle always keeps one of them for himself and sells only the other 23.
Right, on with the assembly and the story.
Throughout, I had the camera set on time-lapse mode so that it was taking photographs every thirty seconds. The assembly was actually done in five separate sessions over a fortnight.
Session one was devoted to very carefully studying the pieces and the instructions, identifying each of the 24 pieces, 8 long and 16 short , and splitting them in to Module A, Module B and Outside Pieces. This was not an easy task, comparing each end of each piece to the schematic diagram of each.
Sessions two and three involved assembling the two main modules, each consisting of four long and four short sections. Of course, as with any burr, partially assemblies are notoriously unstable. The Brian Young’s craftsmanship is such that any piece can stand upright, unsupported. For each assembly it is necessary to place two short sections parallel on the table, then add two more cross sections, at right angles to the first. Four vertical long sections must then be interlocked at each corner of the square.
Session four is the really tricky bit, as it requires, balance, great dexterity, nerves of steel and a beautiful assistant. This latter requirement isn’t detailed in the instructions, nor is one supplied in the kit. I discovered she was a necessity as the instruction is to take Module A and invert it and slot it into Module B. Several solo attempts proved fruitless. When large burrs are partially assembled and then fall apart in mid air, the chaos and resultant destruction of personal property must be akin to a mining disaster. They crash down with great noise. Go back and repeat session one as they don’t fall neatly, and one piece looks a lot like the next… and the next… and, well I’m sure you see.. The pictures show that Alice, while a little camera shy was a great asset, holding Module B together and steady. Eventually the two modules were correctly located and I was able to lower my half into place.
Session five took place several days later after extensive recuperative therapy. This session entailed sorting the remaining eight pieces, and inserting them sequentially into the first 16 pieces. Unfortunately at the end of session four I had fully joined the two halves, and this meant that the top half had to be raised about 2 inches.
After much turning of the assembly, it is easy to become very confused and bewildered, and to forget which way is up, etc. Even this close to completion, it was so easy to insert a piece, and have another fall out the back. Then you have to identify which piece it was, where it came from and which way round it goes. This happened right up until the last piece was inserted.
If I’d wanted a small coffee table, I’d have asked for one for my birthday. As I wanted a puzzle it means that there will be a point in the future when I will dismantle it and go through it all again…
As a final thought before the pictures, as I write I am listening to a radio report on how a leading Swedish ‘flat-pack’ furniture company is to implant microchips in the pieces of their range, which will bleep when you have two adjacent items correctly assembled! Brian, this might have eased my burr-den(!), but it would certainly have spoiled the fun!
Assembly of "The Lost Day" Super Burr