Tuesday 25 October 2011

Aluminium 10 Move Burr

I acquired this handsome 6 piece burr from William Strijbos. While the puzzle was made by Wil, the design of the burr actually came from Peter Marineau and the original name of the burr was "Piston Puzzle". As the name implies, you need to make 10 moves to remove the 1st piece, although the Piston Puzzle is a 9.3 burr (ie 9 moves to remove the 1st piece).

The quality of this burr is excellent. Made of solid aluminium, every one of the 6 pieces of the burr is very well CNC milled and finished to very tight tolerances. All the pieces fit nicely together and are able to slide smoothly against one another. This is not something you should allow a young child to handle; while the edges are sharp, they won't cut. However, the corners are really extremely sharp and if you ever dropped this thing on your bare thigh or foot while puzzling, and one of the corners happens to land on your flesh, a nasty bleeding cut is almost guaranteed! The puzzle itself is about the right size for the hands, measuring about 67mm x 67mm x 67mm.

The 10-move has only one solution - meaning you have to engage the right pieces with moves in the correct sequence in order to solve the burr. I found the disassembly not too difficult; about 15 to 20 minutes of pulling and pushing various movable pieces here and there was all it took for me to take apart the 6 pieces. But when it came to fixing everything back together again, this was where I was stumped! And super-stumped for a long time. On hindsight I should have "recorded" or noted down my disassembly moves but was too lazy and impatient to do so, hence I paid the price. Something I will definitely do next time with the next burr.

For over several days, I tried fitting all manner of configurations and moves with this burr but got no where. I just couldn't put Humpty Dumpty Burr back together again. I don't have much experience with burrs, having only gone through several relatively easy ones, so I found this one extremely tough! Eventually I decided not to frustrate myself any further. As Wil does not accompany his puzzles with solutions, I tried checking on the internet. I had heard about the BurrTools programme from some of the other puzzle bloggers, but after a quick inspection on the BurrTools site, decided it was too complicated for me and so gave it a pass.

The solution I finally found came from the IBM Research Burr Puzzles site where there is a Java applet showing the sequence of steps necessary to disassemble the Piston Puzzle. For those interested, other well known and popular burrs by designers such as Stewart Coffin and Bill Cutler are also featured. All I did was to go in "reverse" and the programme showed me how to reassemble the puzzle step by step.

Following the applet, I was able to put the burr back together again, much to my relief, as I really did not want to put away 6 loose pieces back onto the shelf unsolved. I found this burr too much of a tough cookie for me (maybe I should have gotten Wil's 7-move burr to start off instead) but nonetheless glad that I got it for my collection.

For other comments on the 10-move (and 7-move) burrs, do look at Oli's, Neil's and Allard's puzzle blogs.


  1. I know it will sound so mean of me, but I"m glad you also had problems reassembling this little beast. Mine is still 'broken' and sitting on my shelf. 6 pieces of unsolved aluminum. :( Thanks for the link, I'm going to try it when I get home tonight...

  2. No worries. Look for the sub-link "general higher level burrs". There you will find the solution to the Piston Puzzle. Start with the disassembling then go backwards one step at a time. It helps to mark your 6 pieces no. 1 to 6 for easy identification.

  3. BurrTools is pretty easy to use, but it takes some time and lots of practise first. I never read the instructions myself, I just messed around with it till it worked. Download it and give it a go, and I'll be more than happy to give assistance with my minimal knowledge should you want it.

  4. Hi Oli,

    Ok, will give it a go! Thanks for your offer of assistance.

  5. Jerry,
    I just found your blog and realized I have the brass burr above. I've had it for about 20 years but don't know where I got it. Maybe in Minneapolis. Great fun.

    1. Hi Bruce

      Cool! I didn't know there were any made of brass. Loads of them made of wood and recently in aluminium. Perhaps you care to email me a photo of your burr:-