Jim Follette's Burr Puzzle

Five not-so-easy pieces from a specialist.

SHOP OWNER: Jim Follette
LOCATION: Glenmont, NY

    I have been interested in woodworking since my dad introduced me to his old, no-name scroll saw in the garage, when I was about 10. Probably not unlike most woodworkers, my earlier projects were furniture pieces made with hand tools.
    While I was a resident after medical school, my grandmother bought me a table saw; and, with that tool, my interest and productivity increased significantly.
    About 10 years ago my wife, Carol, bought me a book by Jerry Slocum and Boterman called
Puzzles Old and New which was the impetus I needed to put most of my woodworking energies into wooden puzzle making.
     This heightened interest in woodworking brought me into contact with NWA (Northeast Woodworkers Association) a great bunch of folks, now numbering some 700+ members. In 1997, I entered one of my puzzles, the "Burr" shown at top left, in the competition at NWA's annual exposition. Our esteemed webmaster was one of the judges and (thanks again, Ellis) my puzzle won first place in its division.
(Esteemed webmaster's note: Don't thank me, Jim. You earned it.) Further contact with Ellis, then editor of AW, led to an article about another of my puzzles (AW, August '98). That article led to a book contract. The other four puzzles shown here are among those to be featured in the book, which is due out (hopefully) in late '00 or early '01.
     So today while not practicing anesthesiology and helping cure the sick, I can be found in my basement shop creating puzzles to drive people crazy.

    The "Burr" (top left) is so named because of its shape, which resembles the propagative form of certain plants (not because it can get under your saddle). This one has 24 interlocking pieces, made of four species of wood: purpleheart, wenge, mahogany and ash. A description of its construction can be found in Slocum and Boterman's book.Bolt (to Drive You Nuts

     The "Bolt (to drive you nuts)" and the next three puzzles are from my book; and their complete description and construction details can be found there. One of the two bolts shown in the photo at right is made of mahogany, the other of cherry and padauk. The object of the puzzle is to remove the bolt head. The locking mechanism consists of horizontal pins, a vertical pin held by a spring-loaded dowel, and a screw in a keyhole slot. I created a fixture for cutting the (faux) threads, and am in developmental stages of a fixture to cut a continuous thread.
     The "Lighthouse" is a maze puzzle based on an ancient puzzle called "The Pagoda." This puzzle is made fromm black walnut, wenge, zebrawood, padauk and cherry. Each segment rotates and the object is to pass a ball from the "light" to the "base" through different holes, some of which are dead ends.
Heart and ?
     The "Heart and ?" puzzles are two-piece opening puzzles; the object is to remove the upper part of the heart. The top is held on by four pins and a magnet. The two shown here are made from maple and bloodwood and mahogany and rosewood.

     The "Holy Cross or Grasshoppa' Padlock" (because I didn't go to Yale and I have not yet endured enough to be a Master) is small enough to carry in your pocket to challenge (antagonize) friends and (soon to be) former friends. The object is to open the hasp. The locking mechanism consists of 4 pins and a magnet. One of the puzzles shown here is made of rosewood and mahogany, the other is made of bloodwood and mahogany (with a cherry keyway).

. . . "Doc Jim" Follette




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