Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Supporting Social Distancing - Burr Lock “E”
As many of us find ourselves shut in and social distancing becomes de rigueur, I thought it would be appropriate to review a lock puzzle. Of course, since I’m a burr guy, I chose a burr lock, Burr Lock “E” to be specific.
Burr Lock “E” was designed by Christoph Lohe and released by Cubicdissection in April, 2017. It was made from Honduran Mahogany, Ash, and Bocote. Where does the “E” come into play? Well, apparently there were several versions that didn’t make the cut before “E”. I’m guessing, somewhere around 4.
A lot of puzzles have a key piece that you need to discover. This puzzle has a rather explicit, in your face, key piece. The nice thing about this puzzle is that it really is the key that keeps this puzzle locked. In addition to the key, there is a frame, a hasp, and 4 other burr pieces that get packed in the frame.
I know it looks like a lock but please don’t try to turn the key. That would be bad. If you do and you hear a click, that would be really, really bad and you’ll need some glue. No rotations are required and you may want to provide that useful hint to puzzlers that you hand this to. Not to help them out of course, but to ensure that you get back the same number of pieces that you started with.
Normally, when you take apart a puzzle, I recommend that you wait weeks, months, or even years before reassembling it to ensure that you don’t remember any of the critical moves required to solve it. When you finally stare at the pieces and wonder what shape they make, you know you are ready to begin the reassembly journey. Burr Lock “E” attempts to solve this dilemma by having 2 solutions: one with the key in a vertical orientation and the other with the key in a horizontal orientation. This way you can take it apart every couple of years and put the key in the alternate orientation. According to Burr Tools, the vertical orientation has a level 188.8.131.52.2 solution and the horizontal orientation has a level 184.108.40.206.2 solution. However, the solution to the horizontal orientation has an obvious rotation (I mentioned earlier that rotations aren't required, but I never said they didn't exist) to remove the first piece halfway through the 26 moves. In fact, if you aren't consciously keeping it in place, it may just fall out.
Burr Lock “E” is well made and well designed. It is a lot of fun to solve and the required movements are fun to discover, especially the interactions with the key. If you are tackling this as a fresh assembly, the locations of the pieces can be deduced fairly quickly and I recommend going through that process.
With respect to the 2 solutions, I was a bit disappointed that they weren’t more different. Once you take it apart, you may still want to wait a year or so before assembling it to re-experience the joy of discovery. However, the difference that was there, I didn’t see coming. It wasn’t difficult to discover, but I wasn’t expecting it.
This puzzle has been sitting out on the china cabinet for several years waiting for me to solve the alternate configuration. You know how it goes. You buy a puzzle with multiple solutions, you solve one of them, you mentally check off that you solved it, and then you never quite get back to completing the others. Even though Burr Lock “E” only has 2 configurations, it's taken me almost 3 years to revisit it and solve the other configuration.
I noticed when I took it apart again that the exposed parts of the pieces were a different shade than the parts that were inside the puzzle. This was most notable on the key. Did it fade from the exposure to light? No, it got darker. However, it’s really not a problem when the puzzle is on display since it’s usually assembled and you can’t see the tan lines. If this is a problem for you, you should keep your puzzles in the dark, in which case you might as well keep them in a plastic bag to cut down on the humidity fluctuations as well. For those of you with humidity-controlled puzzle cabinets with electronically tinted glass doors, continue as usual.