The man behind the puzzles
My name is Shane Hales,
I was a carpenter & joiner by trade, gaining all my qualifications with distinction, and also achieving honours within my trade in later life.
I was awarded The Master Carpenter Award by the Institute Of Carpenters (I am a fellow of the Institute), The Master of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters, The Master of the Worshipful Company of Joiners & Ceilers, and The City & Guilds of London Institute in lovely ceremony London in 2007.
I am allowed the letters after my name FIOC (fellow of institute of carpenters) LCGI (licentiateship city & guilds institute)
In December 2017 I passed the British Locksmith Institute exams. I can now officially call myself a Master Locksmith, allowing me the letters after my name BLI.
I now offer all types of lock-smithing services. (www.HalesLocks.com) Including entry, changing, and installation of all and any type of locks. I have passed various locksmithing courses over the years and have very good knowledge on how they work, with bypassing and picking techniques (using non- and destructive means) as well as repairs.
So how does that bring me here?
From a very young age, mechanical things and how things work have always fascinated me. I have always taken things apart to find out how they work and also enjoyed rebuilding them again to a full state or even a repair. I have done this with EVERYTHING. Including TV's, videos, computers, clocks, watches, tools, cars, ANYTHING that was mechanical or had moving parts. I remember once when I was about 8 or 9 years old, I was visiting my grandparents, and someone had snapped a key in the front door. My grandfather had taken the cylinder out and was looking at the lock. I took it from him picked up a pin and removed the broken key from the keyway within seconds. I found a huge sense of achievement even at that age that I had repaired something!!
So I guess it was inevitable that I would end up working with my hands. I love doing what I'm doing, and I believe that if you have a natural ability to do something, then you should just go for it! I also really loved working with wood. As a youngster, I would always do chores around the house for my mother fixing and repairing stuff - shelf building, flat pack assembly, etc. Things that lots of people hate, I absolutely loved. Plus I would do it for free!!
Needless to say, when I left school I chose Carpentry & Joinery as a career; I did have a few possible choice's ( I couldn't get an apprenticeship as a Locksmith) but I believe that I picked the perfect career for me. I have worked hard, continued in my studies and education and moved on over the years, I enjoy what I do (most days!) and do find a real sense of achievement.
So how did puzzling become so important? It just takes me back to my love of all things mechanical and the enjoyment of taking things apart.
They're just great aren't they? From the moment I see one I just have to know, how does it come apart? What's holding it together? How do you put this back together?? What's going on inside???
Over the years I picked up various cheaper bits and pieces, but nothing of real interest or value. And then I remember one day sitting down watching Dragons Den. The Isis puzzle was being shown and it just really hooked me. The fact that the inventor claimed that only about 5% of people would ever be able to open it!! I think this was sometime around 2009 - it was shiny, it was a beautiful looking object (at the time I had no idea how lovely some puzzles could be!!). Above all, it was extremely challenging. I HAD to have one! I hunted around, found one and ordered it! After many, many hours of playing around with it, I eventually opened it and then I put it away and it just sat in a cupboard.
In 2010 I came across the Revomaze blue on Channel Four's Gadget show, and again I was sucked right in, I had to have one! I quickly got an order in, and the puzzle duly arrived! But this time it was a whole different ball game for me! It didn't take long to work out what was required, I got the hang of the idea very quickly, but no matter how much time I put into this thing, I just couldn't open it! Hours and hours and hours went by! This beautiful thing then went on my desk and became a paperweight!!
Then I came across another Isis puzzle, the Ramisis, and yet again it was shiny and I HAD to have it! But although I had had success with the first Isis, it turned out just like the revomaze… I just could not open it. I got the basic premise. But nope. Not happening. It ruined my confidence for what I thought were the "real deal" puzzles. Little did I know what would occur later! I gave up for a while.
Moving on to 2012, I couldn't let the puzzle feeling go, it lured me in, as it does, and I needed to collect something else! (I do collect various collectable's such as locks and memorabilia) nosing around I came across Wil Strijbos, soon I would discover this was a huge plus for my future puzzling hobby, Wil is one of the worlds finest puzzle, designers, manufacturer, collectors, and general go to person regards anything puzzle. And would turn my disappointment into an entertaining love for puzzles.
Wil's convex dovetail puzzle
I found this puzzle whilst nosing around on-line puzzle shops. The joiner in me looked at this puzzle and thought it was impossible! I bought it and found it to be very simple, beautifully made, all for a very reasonable cost! I played around with it, quickly understood the sneaky solution but found it hard to execute. This led me to…
Kevin Sadler (www.puzzlemad.co.uk)
To try and find puzzles I would like, I decided to look around the net for puzzle reviews; I had started to learn there was a lot more to this puzzle lark than you first think! Somehow I stumbled across (my now good friend) Kevin! I started to read his blogs and reviews and found myself getting even more sucked into the puzzle world. I just had no idea what was out there. After a few weeks of reading his blog I plucked up the courage to email him. This is something I had never done before. I don't do social media, I don't visit forums, and I had never contacted someone over the World Wide Web. It's just not me.
I emailed Kevin about my convex dovetail puzzle. One thing you will learn very quickly about puzzle people - they are some of the most interesting and welcoming people you could possibly meet! But........
They do not (for good reason) give you solutions, and rightly so, it's all part of the sport and fun of the game, that said, they will help out and give a struggling puzzler nudges. I explained to Kevin all the details about my dovetail puzzle and I was told that I had indeed worked out how it worked, but, (I cannot gives out a clue here even for an older puzzle) the strength of something inside made the execution of opening it quite tough. He advised a tiny adjustment to my technique which would allow me to get it apart. He also gave a little advice on where to place something to make future openings slightly easier.
As it turned out this would be the start of a new and very good friendship. I always thought I had all the friends in my life and had no room for any more. How wrong I was (again)! I can honestly say that I am very grateful to have made a new friend in Kevin. He's a top bloke!
From here on, the story is pretty much continues along similar lines, I have kept in contact with Kevin, reading his blog (and now several others!) choosing puzzles, being recommend puzzles, and I really started to get the bug and began building quite a collection. All the while learning more and more about what's out there.
So we move on............
"What now?" you ask!
With many emails going back and fourth, my mind started wondering (as it does at times), could I possibly build my own puzzle? Hmmmmm!!!
I went to the drawing board and started to sketch. It didn't take me long to produce some ideas that I could build in my own little workshop. There was one tricky bit - but I know a little local engineering company with a CNC machine that could be hired. So on paper was born............
I sent the concept over to Kevin for advice, (no clues mind you) as I didn't want to get too far out of my league - I'm well aware that there are some seriously great craftsman out there!!!
It didn't take long to ignite the fuse wire, Kevin was totally encouraging!!! It seemed that if I had the ability to do it then he pushed me to go for it!!
So I set to work full of beans creating this puzzle. From the very beginning, mostly due to work commitments, I was never going to produce this puzzle for sale. For me, it's a hobby; it's something for me to do in my spare time, because if I have any, I just cannot sit still. I love this kind of stuff!
So I decided that 4 copies would be made. One for me, one for Kevin, and 2 to be gifted out to other new friends of mine within the puzzling world, some that had been able to help me out or are a huge inspiration to the puzzling community. This has been my motivation right up to now with all my puzzle designs. Exclusive to a select few, with the only condition being that once you have been gifted a puzzle you should never sell it, exchange it, or even give it away - it should remain in their collection in perpetuity. Knowing puzzlers as I do now, this certainly will never be a problem as everyone is very tied to there collection. Very proud of it. Puzzlers rarely let anything go that is hard to replace.
I had asked Kevin to help me (then and in the future) to find suitable recipients for these puzzles I produce. I had already planned to give one to someone that had helped me with that damned Ramisis - it would be my return thank you. Kevin agreed, and gave me a huge amount of coverage on his blog (probably more than I deserved). He continues to do so to this day. A big thank you mate.
The next step on the pathway to madness............
MPP - the Midlands Puzzle Parties.
I was invited to an MPP and this time it fitted into my schedule and I really wanted to meet Kevin in person. I really am a "face-to-face" person! I brought along a friend, and we arrived not sure what to expect. I'm still not sure if it was a good thing or not............
As soon as I got there my eyes where the widest they had ever been!!! OMG! So much lovely shiny stuff!! I wanted it ALL. Everyone was so welcoming and it wasn't long before I felt part of the group and definitely not an outsider. What with the talking point of The Block with Kevin, dropping off my Ramisis to Chris who, without even meeting him, was happy to look at the puzzle for me and was willing to fix it for me in his spare time and not even hear of taking a penny for his trouble!
And............ the biggest draw for me of all. Locks. Puzzle locks. Loads and loads of fantastic shiny locks!!! OMG, I'm in serious trouble now!
Since my first visit to an MPP (I think it was number 8 or 9), I have met some extremely lovely people. Very generous with their time, and in some cases with their very very expensive puzzles, sharing with everyone and welcoming anybody to join in.
Another extremely generous person is Allard Walker (www.allardspuzzlingtimes.blogspot.co.uk) and his wife, Gill. From time to time they invite puzzlers to their home, feeding, entertaining, and puzzling everybody!! This generously shows what an outstanding friendship you can build up with people with a common interest. They do it for the love of it. And do it so well. Another huge thank you.
More thank you's to, William Strijbos who invited me to he's home for the Kings Day meet. Hidden treasures in every corner!
James Dalgety for the invite to the puzzle museum, it needs to be seen to be believed !!
Peter Hajek for the invitation to hes EPP partys. Fantastic experience.
There are also plenty of others i need to thank, sorry for many many missed names here.
So I continue with my pursuit to try to build a truly great puzzle. I'm not quite there yet, but I might just manage it one day? Who knows? see what you think on the next pages...........
If you got this far through my ramblings then well done to you!!
Thanks for your time,