Some of my previous posts have already mentioned that I haven’t been a Coffin-collector (Big C, not small c- I don’t have the space!) for very long, and I should probably be ashamed to admit that until a couple of months ago I hadn’t ever seen a Rosebud, aka #39, let alone stared at one with a silly look on my face as it opened and closed, repeatedly.
I was first alerted to their existence when Oli started asking on the puzzle forums if anyone knew where he could find one – now I know that Oli has a good eye for great puzzles, so I thought it might be worth tagging along for the ride. I did a bit of Googling and found that Brian Pletcher had some incredibly good things to say about this puzzle and had particularly enjoyed playing with one while visiting Saul Bobroff in this blog post. The description in Stewart Coffin’s book makes the Rosebud sound like quite an enigma – it consists of ‘just’ 6 pieces (three pairs of identical, handed pieces) that assemble in a co-ordinated motion into one of two possible assemblies. Once it’s assembled in the main configuration, it can be expanded and contracted in "a most fascinating manner, rather like the petals of a blooming flower"– to quote the designer himself. Said designer also gives a pretty plain warning that this puzzle is not for the faint-hearted: “A few of these puzzles were produced some years ago and sold unassembled. After sufficient time had elapsed and almost none had been solved, the customers were given the opportunity to purchase (for an outrageous price!) an assembly jig and directions. With these, it is easy. Without the jig, it can be done with patience, using tape and rubber bands. Without such aids, it has been done but borders on the impossible.”
So getting back to our story, Oli’s pleas for help were duly answered by several voices out in the ether-web suggesting that he ask Scott Peterson to make him one, and a short while later, said gent duly appeared on the forum and confirmed that he’d gladly oblige – at which point I did the predictable “Me too, please sir” routine and next thing, Scott was lining up the orders. What happened next took me a bit by surprise – I got an email from Scott saying that he was about to start making my Rosebud, which woods would I like? Now I’m used to buying puzzles from e-shops or on auctions, where they’re already made – sometimes you might get a choice between a couple of models, but someone asking me what woods to use in a puzzle being made especially for me, was a new experience. A couple of email exchanges later I’d not only settled on a combination of Wenge and Flamewood for the Rosebud, but also established that Scott had a couple of spare Super Novas and ordered one of those as well.
A few days later Scott let me know that the puzzles were finished and sent me a couple of photos of the finished product – smitten, I sent him some cash and started stalking my postman. The puzzles arrived about a week later, along with the Assembly Jig (I’m not superhuman like that Pletcher chap!) – and they looked even better in the flesh!
Scott makes puzzles in his spare time and says he enjoys the idea of making puzzles for people who enjoy them – from what he charged me for the Rosebud and Super Nova, I can only assume that he gets a lot of pleasure out of making these puzzles, because he certainly isn’t making much money out of them! And they are phenomenally well made! The hardwood edges are really sharp and the pointy ends are very pointy! (I’ve subsequently knocked at least one of them off in my ham-fisted playing with it…) The fit between the six pieces is incredibly good – even spotting a seam is difficult.
Opening and closing the Rosebud is really mesmerising – all six pieces slide in and out in perfect symmetry – so much so that all six pieces have to be perfectly aligned to start the assembly process, and all pieces will remain solidly locked together with less than a millimetre of overlap at the very tips of the pieces. Of course, moving them apart that millimetre results in six pieces falling apart at the same time.
Assembling the Rosebud with a jig is reasonably fiddly – I don’t want to imagine what it’s like without one – I’m going to leave that to the Pletchers of this world.
The Rosebud has an alternative assembly that is WAY simpler – even this old ham-fisted hoarder managed to work it out – it results in a nice, interesting looking lump, but it doesn’t have any of the magic of the main Rosebud configuration.
I also took the opportunity to get a Super Nova from Scott – this is another Coffin design also known endearingly as #14. It consists of six different pieces that combine to form a symmetric assembly - that interestingly can be taken apart in several different axes – clever!
It’s a handsome looking puzzle that’s also fairly accessible – by which I mean that even Muggins was able to solve this one unassisted! Even though the six pieces are dissimilar in the mathematical sense, they’re similar in the usual sense – which means you can separate them into two piles and build a pair of symmetrical halves to slide together without too much bother. Scott’s craftsmanship is evident in this puzzle as well as it’s totally unforgiving of any misalignment during assembly – you need to get the pair of sub-assemblies properly aligned and absolutely together, or you’ll find something somewhere will stop any progress.
Thanks Scott – beautiful work, mate!