Pyro Puzzles was conceived by Stephen Miller to produce quality puzzle products. The guiding principle behind Pyro Puzzles is to ‘Do it right’. This came about from having seen how other puzzle companies operated and how their actions resulted in a less than ideal relationship with their customers.
To this end, Steve decided that such things could be handled in a much better manner and settled on four corner stones for Pyro Puzzles:
Communication: Keep the customers informed about progress with puzzles – be honest and admit to problems when they exist.
No Pre-Orders: Only ever sell products that are in stock, assembled and packaged ready for dispatch, so customers don’t have to wait for weeks/months for their puzzles.
Quality Products: Ensure each and every puzzle is assembled and tested by hand.
Good Service: Dispatch all orders as soon as possible after they have been received, provide tracking numbers and deal with any complains and issues immediately.
Why the name ‘Pyro Puzzles’? – Steve’s full time work is as a Chartered Explosives Engineer; having started working with explosives at the age of 13, becoming one of the youngest bomb disposal engineers in the British Army at the age of 18, then an explosives research scientist and has done pyrotechnic special effects for stage, TV and film productions. You could say explosives and pyrotechnics were in his blood. Given his background, Steve decided that ‘Pyro Puzzles’ sounded good, had meaning and tripped off the tongue nicely. Puzzle History Steve had always had a passing interest in puzzles and treasure hunts, having been shown a copy of ‘Masquerade’ by Kit Williams, when he was just nine years old. He’d had a few basic wooden puzzles kicking around the house, but one day an old girlfriend showed him a video of a puzzle she’d found on the internet (she couldn’t get the puzzle, so the video was the next best thing).The puzzle in question was the ‘Barcode Burr’ by Lee Krasnow of Pacific Puzzle Works.
Steve was so impressed by the puzzle that he downloaded all the photographs he could find on Lee’s website and set about trying to recreate it on a 3D CAD package, during his lunch breaks at work (which improved and honed his 3D CAD skills no end).It took him three years (not every lunch time – it was spread out a bit) to compete the design and eventually he got it 3D Printed, so he could have his own ‘Barcode Burr’ (Lee made very few originals and those all when to puzzle collectors).Despite having studied the puzzle for three years, Steve still needed some guidance on how to put it together, so he contacted Lee who was surprised and said that Steve was the only person (other than Lee) to have made a ‘Barcode Burr’.
Now that Steve had his own version of such a prestigious puzzle, he decided to see what else was ‘out there’ and while on e-bay one day he typed in Puzzle Box and came across an ‘Isis’ puzzle made by Sonic Games. This he bought for half the retail price and after a while he managed to solve it. He decided to buy the next puzzle in the series and while talking to Sonic, he mentioned that he’d 3D printed a puzzle having drawn it in 3D CAD and Sonic asked if he’d be interested in helping design the fourth puzzle in the Isis series.
He decided to give it a go, as it sounded interesting and he ended up designing both the ‘Tessarisis’ and ‘Tarka’ puzzles. Steve stopped working with Sonic Games when they reneged on various promises they had made to him, at which point he was ready to throw in the towel, puzzle wise.
However, a puzzle enthusiast called Richard Kelly had bought both the ‘Tessarisis’ and ‘Tarka’ puzzles and having been impressed by them, he decided to track down the designer. Richard asked if Steve had any other puzzle ideas or plans to design/produce more puzzles. Steve replied that he had lots of ideas, but they’d never be produced as he was no longer working with Sonic.
Richard offered to fund everything for a puzzle venture, but Steve didn’t want to agree to a deal that would potentially leave Richard’s investment vulnerable – If it was someone else’s money at risk, it would be too easy to walk away if the venture became difficult and potentially leaving someone else high and dry just wasn’t right.
So, Steve suggested a 50:50 deal, where he would match Richard’s investment and in that way, if things became difficult, Steve would fight to overcome the problems, as he too would be equally invested in the project. Richard was more than happy with this arrangement – So Pyro Puzzles was born, with Steve doing the majority of the work and Richard providing a guiding hand on the business side.
Having decided to get into puzzles in a more serious manner, Steve joined the Midlands Puzzle Party (MPP) on Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/groups/306368582822017/ ) and started attending their gatherings, from there he found out about the monthly Camden Puzzle meet (2nd Tuesday of each months 6:30pm, mezzanine floor, Holiday Inn, Camden, London) and the Dutch Cube Day (DCD), all of which he is now a regular attendee at.
Steve took his 3D printed ‘Barcode Burr’ along to his first MPP, several people there had their own 3D printers and asked for the files, so they could print their own. As it wasn’t his own original concept, Steve said that he’d check to see if Lee Krasnow was happy for him to share the designs. Lee asked him not to share the designs, so Steve agreed not to pass them onto anyone. As a thank you for keeping the designs to himself, Lee gave Steve permission to make and distribute a limited number of ‘Barcode Burrs’.
Steve prints his version of the ‘Barcode Burr’ using a ‘Threedy’ printer from the chaps at ‘Puzzle Shed’ (http://threedyprinters.com/ ), several puzzle collections around the world now sport one of Steve’s 3D printed ABS ‘Barcode Burrs’. Steve’s ‘Threedy’ printer is mainly used for prototyping puzzle designs for Pyro Puzzles, so he can check for fit, form and function before going through the expense of having metal prototypes made.
As a result of joining MPP, Steve’s meagre collection has grown, quite a bit and now includes one of Lee Kraznow’s original ‘Barcode Burr’ puzzles. He’s now had to commission a friend (Viv Mitchel) to make him a special puzzle cabinet to house the collection. Viv did a great job in designing the cabinet to look like a packing puzzle (you can see the design on her website – http://every-inch.co.uk/).
The cabinet made by Viv Mitchel is soon filled with puzzles, now there are puzzles stacked on puzzles.