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Stephen Chaplin's box of puzzles.

Stephen from North Yorkshire has sent in some photos to share with us. Steve ( can I call you that?) enjoys making Burr puzzles and has made a whole set from exotic woods and fits them all into a superb purpose made box.

For more on Burr puzzles take a look at John Bailey's article here or just Google away on the internet. These puzzles are easy to make and even the simplest can be very challenging to assemble. Well for me they are!

Stephen has just forwarded me some basic notes of his method so take a look and admire his work.

Steve1 Here is a shot of one of his assembled puzzles in differing hardwoods. Note that each piece is individually numbered.
I like the finish; perhaps Stephen will tell us what he used.
Here are all the puzzle parts plus instructions sitting in a purpose made box.

"It is a set of 42 Burr puzzle pieces (25 different pieces in 25 different woods plus duplicates, allowing 339 specific 6 piece burr puzzles to be made. All set in an American walnut box made on the LR.  I have the full details if interested".
Email Steve here.
"There are loads of burr puzzle designs - all the possibilities have been calculated on computer and they range from relatively simple - solid key piece through to fiendishly difficult.  There is a rating system based on the number of moves required to remove the first piece, 1 being easy i.e. straight out, and 10 being the most difficult.  If you are having problems I recommend trying a level  one!"
A side view of his box made from American Walnut with hidden dovetails and home made wooden hinges. All made with the use of his Little Rat. Steve4
Steve5 Here are the hinges. they look good don't they!

Something I have never made. Must make a mental note to go and try some.
"My 'hod' for mounting jigs, which sits in the mortise rail and is attached from below.  Threaded inserts allow attachment of jigs to top and front.  I have jigs for grooving, mitre slots, dovetails etc which all mount onto here - as does the one for cutting burr puzzle pieces." Steve6
"My version of a burr making jig which tracks the pieces through and allows multiple pieces to be cut at a time.  Pieces can be rotated etc. to achieve required notches.  You just need to be careful to arrange the cut order/pieces to avoid breakout etc".
Steve prints out and uses a cutting guide as seen here.
The router is a Trend T5 mounted on his Little Rat.
The mortise rail is WoodRat's MR3.


"My cutting technique goes something like this:-
1.  Cut the stock to size - obviously each part must be perfectly square.  For some reason I use 28mm stock.
2.  Cut the pieces to length.  Most burrs are 6 units (a unit being half the stock thickness) so 84mm in my case.
3.  Arrange 3 or (more pieces) in the carrier and clamp with waste on leading and rear edges to avoid breakout.   Using 1 unit bit (i.e. 14mm in my case) depth bit to 14mm using the top surface of the pieces as a reference. 
4.  Print out a guide using tables in word or similar where the lines are effectively at 14mm spacing but are offset by 7mm and therefore represent the centres of the notches and ends of the pieces.  Tape this to the north-south plate.   Zero the router to a reference position relative to the pieces and attach a cursor to the router plate against the relevant point on the template lines (see the picture above).
5.  Track through the cutter (several passes to remove full depth).  Starting with centre slots and working outwards.  The arrangement of pieces depends on the burr pattern that you are cutting.  Most pieces will have the central notches removed in at least 1 orientation.  Pieces can be rotated in position to cut notches at different orientations or removed altogether if they don't require notches in that position."

Well Stephen excellent work there. Well done. Can you image how much that box of puzzles would cost if it were for sale in Harrod's? Learning how to assemble and take apart all those must take months!

An ideal way of using up all those scrap ends.

I guess for this method to work properly then an accurate diameter router bit is essential. One of the times when a digital scale could be a big advantage.

The burr puzzles website


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