was my IPP31 exchange puzzle.
This is the first puzzle I have built that was not a sequential movement design.
For years now I have wanted to participate in the IPP puzzle exchange but all of my designs take so long to build I could never make the required 100 in any reasonable time.
On my way to lunch one day I bumped into Bram (one of the advantages of working in San Francisco) and mentioned this predicament. Lucky for me Bram always has tons of ideas to pursue and so he suggested a two, one of which I chose as a good one to pursue.
The concept was strictly rectangular: Fit eight rectangles of size AxB and eight rectangles of size CxD into a square of size ExE (I've kept the dimensions unstated as that helped me to the solution!).
This seemed like something I could laser cut in acrylic, but packaging was a challenge: I had to ship 120 of these to Germany.
My first thought was to break the frame into eight pieces that interlocked. Then I could stack the frame and each loaf in piles 1" high (assuming 1/8" acrylic). With a frame about an inch wide and six inches tall I could then fit them all together in a space about 1"x2"x3", or about the size of a box of playing cards.
Stacking the rectangles immediately made me think of a loaf of bread. This made me then consider using wood instead of acrylic. Wood would have a nice burnt edge, which would look like the crust. Here is a prototype:
Finding the right box proved elusive, and I was also worried about the assembled frame being too squishy for a packing puzzle.
So the search continued for a different design. I had kept an old tin CD case sent to me by AOL with one of their many free disks from a decade ago, and that seemed perfect: About the right size, strong, and very packable. The only problem was that it was a bit too deep, but spacers would solve that.
I redesigned the frame to be bread shaped as well and had a nice look. Being in a hard box also allowed me to have the frame as a single layer, which saved on cost, weight and building time.
Next I took advantage of the theme to add curves that took the shapes outside the bounds of the original rectangular design. This made them interact a bit different, and meant orientation mattered. I also added the small bread crumb since there was a bit of extra space
I chose three woods and mixed and matched all the combinations of frame, large piece and small piece for six total looks (my favorite is walnut frame, cherry large slice and maple small slice).
Time to cut on the laser was only about 10 minutes total, but the real time invested was after the pieces were cut: I had to mask the wood to keep the surface clean and, unlike acrylic, the edge of laser cut wood has a lot of sticky soot left over from the cutting. So for each piece I had to peel two masking layers and wipe down four edges with a damp sponge. For 120 puzzles this was about 8000 edges!
This was my first time laser cutting wood and so I had a lot of things to learn, but the clean up was the biggest.