What does it take to design a classic, enduring puzzle? How can you turn the ideas in your head into physical reality? For all the great minds out there who have wondered how these works of art came to be, Felix Ure has an inspirational story; the tale of a man who followed his dreams and spun straw into gold (or, more accurately, brass). The courage required to shift careers should never be underestimated, and neither should these puzzles.
Ure's collection encompasses many different genres of puzzles that would be familiar to frequent puzzlers, but with his own unique twist. Made mostly from brass and aluminum alloys, his contraptions range from packing problems, sequential discovery puzzles, inner locking mechanisms, and many more of his own original designs. The common themes that unite the collection are creativity, originality, and of course, bamboozling solutions.
Here's a look below at some of his hot new puzzles hitting the market - see what you think!
If there is anything to be learned from frequent puzzling, it’s that challenging puzzles often come with deceptively simple designs. The Titan is no exception, masquerading as a plain looking brass ball while the inner mechanism remains a mystery. The goal is to separate the sphere into two halves, and this quickly proves to be utterly baffling without viewing the inner mechanism! Even puzzle experts who solve these devices for a living have had to use 3D printers just to explain how they solved the Titan.
As you may have guessed by the clear-cut name, this puzzle is shaped like a golden flask! The aim is merely to remove the lid from the flask. This sounds easy, but, just like most puzzles, the task is easier said than done. The Hip Flask puzzle is a fiendishly challenging, multi-stage, sequential discovery puzzle. Machined from solid brass, the Hip Flask measures 72mm in height, and weighs 750g. The brass is left unfinished, leaving it to slowly patinate and darken with use. Everyone has their own opinions, but we believe the slow color change gives the puzzle character, and shows a well-loved, frequently used history behind what might become a family heirloom. You never know!
Note: this puzzle will not store liquor - save that for your other flasks!
The scientist Johannes Kepler is known for his laws regarding planetary motion, and Felix Ure has channeled the spirit of astronomy with these fascinating spherical designs. The puzzle comes with a small, aluminum/brass box as well as 11 metal balls that must be stored inside to reach the solution. Most of them fit inside just fine, until it comes time to place the last few balls. It seems like there just isn’t enough room! True puzzlers know better, and of course there must be a solution. The Kepler Puzzle is a classic packing problem with a modern, hefty design - small enough to keep in your pocket! Without giving too much away, this puzzle will play with your perception of size, space, and geometry - even Kepler himself would do a double take at the expert craftsmanship.
We’ve had a sphere, a flask, a box of balls, and just when you thought the diversity was over - Felix throws a Piston into the mix! We love when a puzzle has a unique shape, and we especially love when that unique shape ties into the puzzle’s solution. Prepare yourself, because the Piston Puzzle delivers on all counts, while managing to be a devilishly tricky little gadget. The goal is to find the brass ball that is trapped somewhere inside. The process of solving classifies the Piston as a seven-stage, sequential discovery puzzle.
Now, after all this, who is the mysterious man behind the curtain? We’ve had the privilege of interviewing Felix Ure, the creator of these marvelous masterpieces. Kubiya has probed the brain of this up and coming puzzler to find out what makes him tick, and what may be in store for future creations! Here’s a transcript of the email interview, laid out below:
Can you briefly tell me about yourself? I'm a 30-year-old product designer living in South London. I have a background in product design, specifically CNC-machined parts. I like anything mechanical - bikes, cars, DIY, etc, and anything made of metal.
How and when did you start making mechanical puzzles? Around 3 years ago I'd been working as a luxury door hardware designer in a company for 5 years, having designed and engineered a few thousand door handles. I came across Chris Ramsay and Mr. Puzzle on Youtube, who were solving metal puzzles, and I thought that designing that sort of thing would be infinitely more fun than designing door handle number 3001. So I designed Titan, it sold well, I quit my job 5 months later, and here we are 3 years later.
Can you describe your process of creating and developing a new puzzle? From an idea to creation. Are you using a computer or a program? Drawing on paper or making most of the design in your head? I currently have 5 or 6 puzzle designs in various states of completion. They start in my head and stay there usually for a few months. When I feel they're as complete as they can be in my head, I move to paper (squared paper - the best kind of paper). Then I move to CAD, get prototypes made, test them with 4-5 people, make more prototypes if necessary, get feedback. If all of that goes well I get a larger production run made and release it to the world.
How many prototypes or models do you create a year? The first 2 puzzle releases (Titan and Hip Flask) only took one prototype each. Kepler took 3 prototypes to get right. Piston took 5. On top of that, I've made maybe 5 other prototypes that didn't work or didn't get released. So on average maybe 3-4 prototypes a year, half of which are related to a puzzle that's likely to get released.
What is your favorite mechanical puzzle type and why? Anything that is well-made from metal. I'm not a huge puzzle solver - the designing of a puzzle is the puzzle for me. So the type of puzzle doesn't appeal to me as much as the tactility, the appearance, and the fidget value.
Are you also good at solving puzzles? The ones I've done - yes. But as mentioned above I've not done loads. Hopefully, that will change this year, as I have a big one on order, and have spied a couple more I'd like to try out.
What should we expect from you in the future in terms of making puzzles? Can you share your dream puzzle with us? I hope to keep making puzzles and other metal products until I die. It seems I can release around one new puzzle per year. I'd love to make another monolith-level puzzle, but that took over a year to design so I don't expect to start another one for at least another year or so. I also hope to one day have a shop on a high street selling puzzles, but the entrance door will be a puzzle - people will travel from far and wide to try to get into the shop!
Before we say goodbye, is there anything you would like to say to your customers? Just a big thank you to all of you. I get a lot of messages from people about how much enjoyment they get from my puzzles, and those messages make my day every time I see one. I always reply to every email or DM I get, and I'm happy to give any advice to anyone looking to get into the puzzle design world. So feel free to reach out, I'm only a few clicks away.
Felix represents an important lesson for many puzzle artists that often go unrecognized for their hard work. With enough hard work, creativity, and a love of puzzles, Felix has managed to completely change his career and life path. Showcasing stories like these give people hope of upward mobility and private dreams turning into reality. Someday, maybe YOU could invent your own puzzle collection? In the meantime, take some time to check out Felix’s online selection of puzzles and be on the lookout for new additions.
Cheers, thank you, and happy puzzling to all of our loyal followers!