The puzzles themselves are made by a private woodworker in Hungary called András Zagyvai, and as I was going to be visiting Hungary in a couple of months I thought it would be a good idea to get in touch with András to see if he would be willing to allow me to come and see his puzzles and how he makes them. Luckily for me András and his partner Nóra are lovely people and kindly agreed to me paying them a quick visit.
|The family home on the farm|
When I arrived at the station I was really touched to see that the whole family had come to the station to greet me, and from there it was about a 1km drive to their home.
I absolutely loved their home! I honestly wish I could live on a little farm like this one. Definitely makes a nice change from living in the crowded city.
|The SmartEgg collection|
The designs vary from the very basic puzzle aimed at teaching small children hand-eye coordination and thinking skills all the way up to incredibly complex puzzles with three inner rotating labyrinths that have to be manipulated without being able to directly see them.
The solving motion on the complex multi-layered puzzles is very hard to describe, but you can see a great video on the SmartEgg site that will probably explain it better than I can anyway.
As you can see from some of these other photos some of the eggs are beautifully finished with oil to give them a really nice quality shine. Plus I believe it also makes the wood stronger as a result. Also in some of these pictures you can see some more of the internal workings, and they can get pretty complex. In most of the puzzles you can manipulate the internal labyrinth layers by rotating the two ends, but in some designs the innermost layer is not attached to either of the ends or the main body, so the only way to move it is with the stick, and as you cannot see what you are doing you will have to feel the way.
After showing me his collection of designs András offered to show me his small workshop where he creates the SmartEggs, and this was something that I was very interested to see!
I was amazed by the fact that András only uses two machines to create the eggs! One was a lathe and the other was a sort of drilling and milling rig which has a pivoting tray for moving the wood at different angles whilst drilling the holes and milling the channels.
First the wooden logs are turned into cylinders, then the holes and channels are put in. For some reason I expected that the holes and channels were done after the wood was turned into the egg shape, but in fact that is done beforehand. The channels of the labyrinth cannot be milled the full depth of the wood in one go, which is partly why it takes so long to manufacture each egg.
Each SmartEgg takes a total of around six weeks to make. Three of those weeks are spent purely on the design process, and then another three weeks are needed to actually create the egg itself.
Currently András only makes SmartEggs by custom order (which is not entirely surprising considering how long they take to make) so if you have any interest in owning one or learning more about them then get in touch via the SmartEgg site. Although be warned that due to the length of the design and manufacturing process the price per puzzle is very high. András is currently looking for a manufacturer to take over the design and start making the puzzles for mass market, but this is an ongoing process. I really hope that he finds a manufacturer soon as it would be a massive shame if these awesomely unique puzzles never reached it into most of our collections.
A huge thank you to both Nóra and András for letting me visit and for making me feel very welcome! I really appreciated the opportunity to see these brilliant puzzles.
For a few more SmartEgg photos (including a few more of the farm) check out my Flickr page.
EDIT: Now you can also check out Allard's SmartEgg Review!