I was born (1940) in Bradford, an industrial
city in the county of West Yorkshire, England. I now reside in the
historical Roman spa town of Ilkley on the edge of the beautiful Yorkshire
Dales, approx. 200 miles north of London.
My small workshop is in the basement of our large Victorian
home which my wife Tricia and I share with her parents.
I was educated at the local Technical School where I performed well in
all the practical subjects such as Woodwork, Metal craft, Plumbing, Building,
Drawing and Art; but failed miserably in all the academic subjects such
as Mathematics and Language. I left school at the age of 16 to take
up an apprenticeship in draughtsmanship at a firm manufacturing shot blast
machinery; but although I enjoyed the drawing and design aspect of the
job I could not get to grips with the necessary mathematical input that
was required. I left after two years and joined the Royal Air Force as
a Radio Technician. Before which I had tried my hand at deep sea fishing
on an East Coast trawler. Five days lying on a wooden bunk with a bucket
by my side convinced me that, "A fisherman I would never be!"
I left the Royal Air Force in 1960 and had a succession of different and
varied jobs before realising that, although I was a Jack of all trades
I was master of none. I thus decided to embark upon a totally
different career path, that of nursing. I qualified as a State Registered
General Nurse in 1967. When I resigned (retired) from nursing in 1990,
to concentrate on making puzzles, I was the Clinical Nurse Supervisor
on night duty (15 years!) at our local hospital. They closed the hospital
shortly after I left!
I became involved with the world of puzzles in 1984 (purely by chance).
It was at this time that whilst I was recuperating at home from illness
I passed the time making toy cars. The toys were hardly children's play
things, more Executive Toys for the Executive Child! Having
produced a number of these so-called toys I was at a loss as to what to
do with them. In the event I hired a stall at a local Craft Fair and believing
(rightly) that they would be hard to sell at a justifiable price I made
a selection of simple dissection puzzle that I put into zip topped plastic
bags for sale at £1.99. The Toys attracted the kids to my table;
but they couldn't afford them (Daddy wouldn't buy!) so they bought the
puzzles instead, in fact they sold very well and more than
covered the cost of hiring the stall. (I still have the Toys!)
On returning home from the Fair I thought (very naively) "why
not design a new puzzle and become the second Mr. Rubik", despite
the fact that I had never owned or played with a puzzle in my life.
I did design my first puzzle;
but what to do with it or where to sell it, I had no idea. So, off to
the local Library I went, where in the Commercial Reference section I
jotted down the names and addresses of those 8 firms I thought may be
interested. Only one responded in any way positively. A Mr. James
Dalgety from the firm of Pentangle telephoned me. Though they were
not interested in making the puzzle under license (the selection of pieces
was too randomly chosen and it had no mathematical base) he did wish to
purchase a few TEASER BOXES for himself and some of his collector
Then it all started!
Edward Hordern (the renowned collector
and solver of puzzles from Reading, England) was the first to respond
to James' distribution of TEASER BOX. He disputed my claim that
the puzzle had a unique solution. He was right of course. Thus through
the exchange of many letters the original puzzle was modified and a solution
was found that Edward could not "cook". An invitation to visit
Edward to see his puzzle collection was eagerly taken up. It was during
that first visit that the Puzzle Bug really bit. I will always
blame Edward for being so sorely bitten. Though of course in reality James
should more than share the blame!
Edward enlightened, encouraged and taught me a great deal about the World
What makes a good (nice) puzzle.
What one must do to produce a puzzle that is
both tantalizing and desirable.
The existence of a world fraternity of puzzle
collectors, designers, solvers and makers (puzzle fanatics!). Now I was
to become one of them.
Next on the scene was Jerry
Slocum (noted American puzzle authority and collector) who was instrumental
in letting the world know that TW Puzzles existed and who invited me to
my first International Puzzle Party, December 1986, held in conjunction
with the Puzzles of the World exhibition at the Folk & Art Museum
in Los Angeles. It was here that I first met many of my puzzle friends.
One being Nob Yoshigahara the number one puzzle
collector, writer and designer in Japan, many of whose designs I have
made. Another was Allan Boardman a master craftsman
in wood, who has been the main inspiration behind my striving to reach
the highest standard of quality in my workmanship; but like the true perfectionist
I accept that I will never achieve my ultimate goal - To produce a puzzle
that I am truly satisfied with in terms of design and craftsmanship.
Since my lessons in woodwork at school I have never attended any classes
in the subject and have learned through trial and error. My workshop is
full of testimonies to this. Although most of my disasters are back in
the earth producing coal of the future or polluting the ozone layer, I
am loath to part with others since they are a salutary reminder of my
abysmal efforts of the past. I am also acutely embarrassed when I see
some of my earlier puzzles in somebody's collection.
I am neither scientist, mathematician nor great puzzle inventor, merely
an aspiring wood craftsman with an interest (obsession) in puzzles.
What my hands ("his best physical feature", says my wife Tricia!)
produce are, I hope, not just puzzles but works of art.
I have tended to concentrate on polyform (polycube) packing and assembly
puzzles since these are the types of puzzles I like to solve and can
solve. Although I do design puzzles it is a real pleasure and privilege
to be given the opportunity to interpret and handcraft puzzles conceived
I am endeavouring to widen my range of puzzle designs with less emphasis
on the polycube. I am now concentrating on designing and making secret
opening puzzles. (boxes etc.)
My output is very small and I am very grateful for the patience shown
by those who place an order with me. All my puzzles are individually hand
crafted to order from a wide range of exotic and fine species of wood
that I obtains from a local timber merchant who ensures that the bulk
of his stock comes from sustainable sources. I do not keep any puzzles
in stock. Visit our home and my workshop and you will be very lucky to
find a finished TW puzzle in evidence.
I don't collect puzzles, although I do have a number of Allan Boardmans
miniature puzzles. What I do collect are "puzzle friends" and
my collection is ever growing and is priceless!
I have attended nine other International Puzzle Parties since my first
one in 1986; London August 1989 (where I met, for the first time, my very
first contact with the puzzle world, James Dalgety!); Los Angeles, March
1991; Japan, August 1992; The Netherlands, August 1993;
Seattle, August 1994; Luxembourg, August 1996; San Francisco,
August 1997; Japan, August 1998 and London, August 1999.
A selection of my puzzles was exhibited
at the International Museum of Art & Design in Atlanta, U.S.A. organised
by Tom Rodgers. I attended the opening ceremony January 14
1993 and the exhibition ran until April 9.
Over 50 of my puzzles (from the collection of my late friend Yoshikatsu
Hara) were exhibited in a World Puzzle Exhibition at the Kobe Science
Museum, Japan during July/August 1993 and August/September 1998.
My puzzles were on display at an exhibition in the Beim Engel gallery,
Luxembourg "Puzzles from 1850 till today" organised by Marcel
Gillen & Carlo Gitt. The exhibition later moved to the Toy Museum
in Mechelen, Belgium.
On 6 June 1995 one of my puzzles (HOLEY SQUARES
CUBE) was presented to HRH Prince Charles by James Dalgety when
he visited the site of a proposed puzzle museum in Frome, England.