Why I Started Making Puzzles

I started making puzzles for my own collection in 2003.  I'd purchased a 27 move Japanese puzzle box on a whim from eBay, and when it arrived I was captivated.  I dove headfirst into puzzle collecting and quickly ran into the wall that most new collectors hit: there weren't that many interesting puzzles to be found!  After I'd exhausted the usual imports and found a few commonly available boxes, I hit a dead end.  It seemed that the really interesting designs were all made by guys like Perry and Lee and Lensch and Daniels.  I slowly added to my collection what I could afford, but I wanted more.

A few months later I stumbled upon a website that described how to make burr sticks using a hand saw.  A trip to home depot later and I was ready for battle!  My kitchen table was covered with sticks and sawdust from that point on.  Those first efforts were rough, but I became more hooked on puzzle making than I did solving.  In short order, I moved to a rental with a one car garage and set about building my first workshop.  

Cubicdissection first puzzle workshop

My first workshop circa 2003

Soon I was making puzzles for trade with other collectors, then selling them online in small batches.  Fast forward 15 years or so and I still remember what made me try my hand in the first place - low availability.  That's what started me down this path, and that's what's driven my philosophy since.  Because I started as a collector I have never tried to make the best puzzles in the world.  Instead, I focused on making the best puzzles in the world for the money.

Precision and attention to detail give diminishing returns.  If it takes 10 hours to make a puzzle that's 98% perfect it will take another 10 hours to make a puzzle that's 100% perfect.  Some are willing to spend that time pursuing artistic perfection. This is a good thing.  As individuals and a society, it's worthwhile to strive for perfection; everyone cheers when it's achieved. But that last 2% is costly...the other side of that coin is the price such an artist must sell their work for in able to pay the bills.

My focus has always been on recognizing the curve of diminishing returns when it comes to precision and quality and identifying the point at which my customers receive the best value.  My obsession is to make as many high-quality puzzles as I can and sell them for as little as I can to as many collectors as I can.  Thank you for your support for the last 15 years, and I’m excited to see where the future brings us.

First cubicdissection puzzle

The first puzzle I ever made...still have it!

 


2 comments

  • Thank you for your comment, Jeff! When deciding what to make I first filter by “would I like a copy of this in my collection?” I’m a collector at heart and I figure if I’m into it, someone else will be. After that, I look at the design and decide if it’s feasible to make, then if it’s feasible to make at a profit. Surprisingly few puzzles meet those criteria. Sometimes I can redesign them a bit to make it more production friendly. Sometimes I make things at a bit of a loss just because they’re interesting and I think they should be out there.
    As far as where I get them, very few from Ishino’s site. Most are sent to me directly by designers…in exchange for hosting Ishino’s site he very kindly provides me with solutions, so after they’re made they are usually published on his site since he’s already done the work on my behalf.

    Eric Fuller
  • I really appreciate your dedication to the puzzling community.

    Although you may not have set out to make “the best ever” you’ve still managed to become one of the most respected and sought-after puzzle makers.

    I’d love to hear more about the process of deciding on a design to make – you must get lots of suggestions from people, but do you also scour puzzlewillbeplayed or other sources? And then I assume there are a host of considerations regarding manufacture and some designs must seem not to be worth the effort.

    Looking forward to more blog posts – thanks!

    Jeff Miner

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