From Kevin Sadler’s PuzzleMad
Some time ago, I was spontaneously contacted via Google plus (which is odd for me because I did not know what G+ was and didn’t know that I had signed up for it!) Marcus Allred has been designing the most beautiful wooden mazes for over a year now. I first drooled over his work when he posted them on the Renegades forum and received advice about craftsmanship which I didn’t understand from some of the greats who lurk there. I did pay attention when he started a Kickstarter campaign to get some finance to make more. I couldn’t buy at that time because I had already spent much more than my monthly allowance! After a short conversation a couple of his beautiful designs winged their way across the Atlantic and yet again the Customs and excise department held them hostage for a week! Having paid the ransom we have another puzzle that can live out-with my study! These are mazes of extreme beauty.
On the left is a Bird’s eye maple box with Cocobolo highlights and on the right is a visible maze in an acrylic box (the photo doesn’t show off the beauty of the grain very well). These are absolutely stunning works of art. My puzzle career began with the hidden mazes and I was fascinated to try these. Marcus was hoping for me to give him some advice on how to improve them. There are a number of possible challenges. Firstly take a metal ball bearing and move it through the maze from one end to the other (there’s another hole on another face) – this needs to be done entirely by feel and sound! You are provided with 2 balls, so the next challenge is to move both through the puzzle at the same time to the other end. Of course, having done it one way then try reversing direction. Finally, how about doing both at the same time but in opposite directions? The visible one has a start and end marked on it and 2 bearings within it. The aim is to move 1 or both balls from beginning to end and maybe attempt both in opposite directions. This is a real dexterity nightmare – the wood is so smoothly finished that controlling the balls is very hard as they go over to the next face.
I am sure I am a terrible disappointment to Marcus! Far from being able to provide any advice on developing the puzzles, I actually can’t solve them repeatably! I have done the single ball each way once or twice but I certainly cannot do it repeatably which means that my mental map is wrong somewhere (I haven’t worked out how to map it on paper). I certainly cannot do it with the 2 balls together and haven’t even attempted doing the 2 in reverse. I keep coming back to them and trying for an hour here and there because they are so nice to pick up and fondle but these are really tough. When I posted these pics on Facebook some bright spark suggested having sink holes that require 2 balls to be able to cross a trap and other even more mean ideas. I hope to God that he doesn’t incorporate them into his future designs. If you would like to buy one of these masterpieces then Contact me and I will put you in touch with him.”