Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Barcode Burr Master Set (collector's edition)

Lee Krasnow has been known as a creator of some very ingenious and indecently finely-toleranced puzzles for many years. Cheap or plentiful, they were not. Amazingly well-crafted they certainly were. It goes without saying that they were massively sought-after by puzzle collectors around the world… IMHO his Barcode Burr was his most special creation.
Recently, Lee began experimenting with a 3D printer, and found that the outputs were pretty good, so he got a few more and began selling various 3D printed puzzles on his etsy shop – while making the STL files available for free for anyone who wanted to print their own at home…lord knows how many printers he currently has rattling away in his shed (they’d have to be, wouldn’t they?!) but he is producing a prodigious number of puzzles for what must be barely more than it’s costing him to produce them.
By the time I got around to ordering a Barcode Burr (let’s call it a BCB from now on and save me lots of keystrokes!), Lee was offering a set that came with a standard BCB, and a set of replacements arms and mazes that would transform it into a number of variants – based on some work that he and Derek Bosch had done… many puzzles is always better so I ordered the set.
The standard 3D printed BCB has one very important thing going for it which almost makes it better than the original: it’s AVAILABLE! Don’t get me wrong, I love my wooden copy and you’d need to pry it from my dying claws… but you can’t get them for love nor money! The 3D printed versions are getting churned out by the dozen… and they work beautifully – seriously, Lee has done an excellent job of engineering them to go together perfectly, and then play rather nicely.
I can vouch for that because the standard copy got played with before I set about assembling the first of the alternate versions – assembling the six main parts form the base pieces, maze plates and arms was a piece of cake with everything going exactly where it needed to and things lining up perfectly. Assembling the six bits in the cube confirmed that everything interacts perfectly.
Having assembled the first alternate version, I struck a bit of a problem: if I wanted to assemble the next one, I’d need to sacrifice one of the BCBs already assembled to get the base pieces I needed… hmm.
I ruminated for a while and then dropped Lee a note asking him if he’d mind selling me some extra base pieces so that I could have them all assembled at the same time… his response suggested that I hadn’t been the only one asking that question and shortly there were some options up on the etsy shop to allow any combination of pieces to be collected…. And I now have a complete set of the variants sitting on my shelf – pieces assembled and duly put together by my fair hands, albeit referring to Lee’s solution card for some of them – the n-ary versions are simple enough to work out yourself, but some of the complex variants are aptly named  [ExtremeTortureCode Burr, I'm looking at you!] and I feel no shame at having followed the assembly sequence slavishly.
If you like n-ary puzzles, you’ll get a kick out of this set – and by all means, if you’re proficient 3D-print-meister, have a go yourself… but I suspect you’ll struggle to produce them as nicely as Lee does and they’re a steal at his prices anyway.
Yes I’m a fan… and yes, I’m eyeing up the set of co-ordinate motion BCBs that have recently appeared in the etsy shop… it’s probably just a matter of time!


  1. Wow. Great review! I am not usually a fan of burr puzzles, but somehow this one appealed to me and I ordered the masters set (although I didn't go quite as over-the-top as you and get 6 separate bodies :-)). My understanding is that this is an n-ary puzzle. Does this mean that once I understand the solving pattern, I'm essentially implementing an algorithm? Is that fun/challenging or tedious? Does it lend itself to re-solving?

    1. Cheers for that... the pure n-ary ones do follow a strict pattern - similar for 2, 3 and 4-ary... the others however, are totally different! I'd refer to the opening and closing of the pure n-ary versions as sort of therapeutic (think fidget spinners for the brain) whereas the ExtremeTortureCode would be a real puzzle... and re-solving that one will be "interesting"...

    2. Wow. The standard BCB is really fun and ingenious. Playing with the coordicode now which is really interesting, and I have not yet gotten too far. I will probably take a cue from you and just follow the card when I get to the hardest ones.

      Any idea how sturdy these puzzles are? I am already seeing some plastic shavings coming off which is probably normal for 3d printed stuff, but I'm hoping it's just the exterior and the puzzles will last for a long time

    3. Glad you're enjoying them! I didn't see any shavings or artefacts - are the screws properly seated - only thing I can think of is that one may be a little proud and scraping against the next piece. I'd keep an eye on it - 3D printed parts shouldn't shed bits....