GAMES Magazine: The Puzzle Dissector

Source: GAMES Magazine - June 2017
Full article: Download PDF
Author: Nancy Ray Taylor & Tom Cutrofello

Eric Fuller, a master creator of precision puzzles, is held in high regard by serious puzzle collectors from all over the world. Fuller, who is based in Raleigh, North Carolina, is one of the very few puzzlemakers who are tapping into the vast warehouse/database of puzzle design, to which designers are constantly submitting ever more complicated brainteasers. "Eric is one of those guys who has a terrific knack for spotting interesting, fun puzzles from other designers and then bringing them to life, beautifully," says Allard Walker, a collector and avid fan from England. "His standards are sublime and brilliant. When he describes the fit as good, it's jolly perfect, and stays that way." 

Fuller's foray into the puzzle world was by happenstance. "I'm a night owl," he says, when asked how he got started. "In 2002, I was up late browsing on eBay. I saw a 27-move Yosegi puzzle box and it looked interesting. I ordered it, and once it arrived it was all over! I was captivated by the mechanism and craftsmanship." 

Yosegi puzzles, which originated in Japan, are typically secret opening boxes, with ingenious opening mechanisms. But the intricate wood patterns on the exterior of these handcrafted objects are mesmerizing in their own right. Fuller's first impression was to ask how this was possible. Instantly intrigued, he started collecting every puzzle he could get his hands on. Back then, collectors were limited either to a small selection of poor-quality imports or to an even smaller selection of high-end work by by people like Tom Lensch, Wayne Daniel, and Lee Krasnow. These gentlemen are considered among the most elite ranks of American puzzlemakers for their outstanding craftsmanship_ Simply trying to acquire one of their puzzles is not easy. The first step is to get an invitation to the super secret International Puzzle Party. Then it'd help to win the lottery so that you can afford these puzzle gems. 

Back then, Fuller was far removed from the world of puzzles. "At the time, I was in the computer field running infrastructure for a medium-size company in San Diego," he recalls. "I spent about 7 or 8 months as a pure collector, then one day ran across a blog that described how you could make burr puzzles with a handsaw. It seemed doable. 

I went to Home Depot, set up my new tools on my kitchen table. Shortly I had made my first puzzle. It was rough, inaccurate, and ugly...but it worked!" 

It was a transformative moment, one that Fuller remembers vividly: "I was hooked, but now in a new direction. Making puzzles gave me ten times the thrill that solving them gave. Almost immediately, I moved out of my apartment and into a place with a garage where I could build a workshop and started woodworking in earnest with every spare moment. Soon I started turning out some decent work." 

After Fuller's relocation to North Carolina, he started making puzzles full-time. Rob Jones, a puzzle collector who owns many of Fuller's creations, appreciates his work on many levels. "Eric's vast body of work demonstrates his insatiable enthusiasm for puzzle design and his boundless passion for sharing his favorites with the world," he says. At the same time, he adds, "Eric is one of the very few puzzle artists with a distinctive voice. He cherishes wood and brings a masterful sensibility to making choices, offering beauty to the eye and warmth to the touch." 


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