Friday, 17 June 2011

Scott Peterson goodness – part the second

Greek Odyssey- sans riots

OK, so I’ve already confessed to getting a couple of lovely goodies from Scott in the past, and when I told him how much I liked that lot, he mentioned he wanted to try something new and asked if I might be interested in some of the Cluster Buster family – after spending a little while confirming that the Pope was in fact Catholic, I ordered a couple as well as a ...

Fusion Confusion
...which I stupidly hadn’t asked for the first time around, and having heard Chris enthuse about it, decided I should rectify that this time. Scott made this Fusion Confusion in a combination of the woods I had in my Rosebud and Super Nova – so they look great as a set. 

Fusion Confusion is Stewart Coffin’s design #15A and for a puzzle that consists of a paltry four pieces, two of which are identical, it’s incredibly ‘interesting’.
Starting from the assembled puzzle, your first step is to slide the two halves apart to get two sub-assemblies, but the combination of Mr Coffin’s crafty design and Mr Peterson’s delicate craftsmanship make that an exercise in experimentation – every time. There are simply no clues as to which axis to explore (and this isn’t a big clue, but it slides apart at an unexpected – for me anyway! – angle).  So I still find myself hunting and prodding different bits until I find the right one. 

It’s a tremendous design that can be assembled a number of different ways – each with a totally different external shape, no internal voids, and again, no clues to which axis to start the disassembly from – I know I’m new to Stewart Coffin’s designs and I’m playing catch-up with the rest of the puzzling world, but I’m really enjoying discovering Coffin’s designs through Scott’s handiwork.

Cluster Busters
The main reason for the order was to get a pair of Cluster Busters: an Original CB and a Cluster Plus – I suspect that any collection needs at least one ... from what I’ve read, the name Cluster Buster relates to the grip required to open the puzzle (it’s unusual to say the least and requires a bit of dexterity and a lot of either experimentation or wildly sideways thinking!) and the Cluster Plus, while looking ostensibly the same as the Cluster Buster when assembled, uses differently shaped pieces deliberately to catch out someone who’s mastered the Cluster Buster – can you tell why I ordered this particular pair of puzzles? (Yeah, I’m a sod!).

OK, so both of these puzzles looks like two layers of three rhombic dodecahedrons, one layer resting on top of the another. I got one with the two layers in different woods and the other in a single wood (Tambotie, if you’re interested and don’t recognise it – a happy coincidental link back to my South African roots courtesy of Scott’s collection of hard woods). 

As usual Scott’s workmanship is absolutely mind-blowing – the joins between pieces are pretty hard to spot, and when combined with Master Coffin’s designs that generally have you pulling the puzzle together tighter and tighter, these are excellent puzzles to confuse folks with. 

The two puzzles may look similar when they’re assembled, but they really are totally different for me – the Original Cluster Buster is a real sod to get the first separation going, but from there on out it’s pretty straight-forward, with each sub-assembly falling into three pieces once you’ve pulled them apart ... and when reversing the process, exactly the same thing is true again – getting the two sub-assemblies together is almost trivial, but joining them is incredibly tricky – every piece as to be absolutely smack-on or they won’t go together ... in fact Scott’s tolerances here are so fine that I found the only way to really get all pieces properly aligned in the two sub-assemblies was to cheat and tape them together using masking tape – having done that they slide together beautifully – and everything is then solidly held in place while you remove the masking tape – don’t think of trying to close it all up with the tape still in there, the tolerances won’t allow it. 

[About now might be a good time to relate a little anecdote about Scott’s expectations – this was the first time he’d had a go at making Cluster Busters so when I told him I thought they were great, he admitted to not being too happy about the fit between the pieces, pointing out that on these designs any misalignment is magnified toward the tips of the pieces which is exactly where their fit is most critical as they need to combine along edges to build up the rhombic dodecahedrons. Basically the design will highlight any flaws in craftsmanship. I’ll readily admit to being no expert on these matters, but I think the fit is tremendous and told him I thought he should be proud of them, and not just because this was his first attempt!]
As I’ve already said once or twice, the Cluster Plus may well look the same as the Cluster Buster on the outside, but it’s a different beast altogether ...  something that Master Coffin seems to be fond of doing ... I think I’m going to get to like this man. Again, it is however a tale of two halves – find the right places to apply pressure and pull the two halves apart – and that’s actually a bit simpler on the Cluster Plus than on the original – however at this point, the two sub-assemblies don’t automatically disassemble – and getting them apart takes a bit of a knack, and may I suggest, a little co-ordinated movement. 

Reassembly again has you scratching your head trying to work out how the heck to get the three pieces together into a single unit that you know have to go together ... you’ll notice that some of the internal apexes have been flattened a bit, and that’s one of the keys to getting things back together again ... the other is probably patience.

All in all, great puzzles, superbly made ... thanks Scott.


  1. Great blog Allard!
    BTW - Fusion-Confusion is in fact Stewart Coffin's design #15A (which is a variant of his 'Triumph' design #15, made by 'fusing' pieces together...)

  2. Once again - thanks very much for the words of flattery! Glad to hear you enjoyed the puzzles, exploring the world of Stewart Coffin's puzzles has become a great passion of mine also - for a number of years now!

  3. Thanks for the correction John - edited and corrected now ... allard

  4. Beautiful pieces and interesting puzzles... it doesn't get much better!