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 friends.
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 of Puzzles. 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 by others.
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.