General Puzzle FAQ

A regular edge is straight across. Puzzle with a regular edge will be square or rectangular. Irregular edged puzzles come in many varieties. A puzzle will be marked as irregular if it has any edge that is not straight.
  • Circular, oval or random in shape
  • A repeating wave or zig-zag
  • Color line cut cutting around one or more edges of the image
  • Special pieces that either extend out of the border or that create a border that is not a straight edge
  • Corners that are not 90° straight angles
A puzzle will be noted as “artistic” if it includes any of the following cutting elements.
  • Drop outs are holes intentionally cut out of the interior portion of the puzzle image that enhance or highlight areas of the image and make the puzzle more difficult to assemble
  • Sculpting, also called “sliver dropouts,” use negative space to create shapes or figures
  • Interactive special pieces create a complex scene or story within the puzzle or along its edge
  • Unusually artistic cutting styles and tricks that our artisans may employ

Puzzle pieces connect (or not) in various ways.  Terms that are used to describe how pieces “fit” within a puzzle include:

  • Interlocking pieces hold together because one piece “locks” into the other.  If an entire puzzle is interlocking, you can often lift it by one edge to turn it upside down to look at the back of the puzzle.  Many people consider the flipping of a puzzle without losing pieces to be a test of true puzzle cutting talent.
  • Semi-interlocking puzzles have some pieces that “lock” and others that may loosely fit together.  It can be tricky to turn one of these puzzles upside down, though it can be done using flat objects with the puzzle “sandwiched” between. People use items such as cardboard, cooking sheets and puzzle/cork boards to flip these puzzles over to examine the backs.
  • Push fit puzzles are often considered the most difficult to assemble, as piece shapes are not as defined as interlocking pieces.  They are also the most difficult to flip upside down, as they have very few or no “locks” with puzzle piece edges just sitting against adjacent pieces’ edges. When flipping these puzzles, pieces may often slip out of place.  Speaking of slipping, a push fit puzzle can be a challenge to assemble if you are doing so on a slippery surface.  A slight bump can jostle the pieces all around.

The part of a piece that sticks out and interlocks into an adjoining piece: Knobs/ nubbies/ keys/ tabs/ outies/ loops/ male/ bumps.

The part of a piece that is indented and that receives and adjoining piece: Holes/ locks/ innies/ blanks/ sockets/ slots/ female/ pockets/ notches.

Special pieces come in all shapes and sizes.  They can include:

  • Silhouette, shape, object and figure pieces, also called “whimsy” pieces.  These may have additional detailed cuts that go part way through the piece to provide it with more definition.  These extra cuts are called dead end cuts and pieces are described as “enhanced.”
  • Signature pieces are a special shape or figure that the cutter has adopted as their “signature” in cutting the puzzle.  Companies also have signature pieces.  Waterford’s signature piece is its tree logo, and each cutter has chosen their own signature piece.
  • Names, text, number and date pieces are often personalized.

Puzzles can include various types of tricks.  Tricks add to the challenge of assembling a puzzle.

  • False corner pieces that are on the interior of the puzzle.
  • Split corner pieces that do not appear to be corners until assembled.
  • False edge pieces can be found on the interior of the puzzle and along some special pieces.
  • Trick edge pieces are edge pieces that look like interior pieces.
  • Color line cutting, also known as contour cutting, is when pieces are separated by cutting at the edge of where two colors meet. Pieces that are color line cut often have one or more sides that are non-interlocking, making them even more difficult to locate their placement in the puzzle.
  • Stack cutting, also known as double cutting or pad cutting, results in pieces that will fit in multiple places in a puzzle. To stack cut, the cutter literally stacks two parts of the puzzle together and then cuts… voila, identically shaped pieces.
  • Split knobs and split holes add challenge when searching for interlocking pieces.

There are various factors that make a puzzle more easy or difficult to assemble.

  • Piece count. The number of pieces in a puzzle impacts its difficulty.  The more pieces in the puzzle, the more difficult the puzzle will be.
  • The image. Some images naturally lend themselves to being more difficult puzzles than others.  Images with many bright and varying colors are easier to assemble than those with large areas of the same color or an image with muted colors.
  • Edges. Regular edges lend themselves to an easier puzzle, as many people start by isolating and assembling the edge, or frame, of the puzzle and work inwards from there. Irregular edges, false edge and corner pieces, split corners and trick edge pieces all make a puzzle more challenging to assemble.
  • Special pieces and artistic cutting. Generally, the more special pieces that are included in the puzzle, the easier it is to assemble.  Including more special pieces, and some types of artistic cutting which result in pieces with unique edges, make it easier to match to surrounding pieces.  This provides a puzzler with “islands” of pieces that can then be fit together.  Having fewer special pieces will make a puzzle more difficult.
  • Cutting tricks.  We can include as many or as few tricks as you’d like.  The more tricks, the more difficult the puzzle will be to assemble.
  • Assembly approach.  In keeping with the tradition of puzzle artisans from 100 years ago, we do not provide a picture with the puzzles we craft.  Assembling the puzzle “blind” is more difficult than while using a picture for reference.  Blind assembly is purely a personal preference, and some puzzlers ask to have a picture included with the puzzles they order. 

Our quality heirloom puzzles are made out of ¼” thick, 5-ply African Okoume wood.

A highly skilled cutter studies the customer’s puzzle request and then designs detailed “special pieces” to suit each individual puzzle and customer.

Using a scroll saw with a very fine blade, each puzzle is cut by hand, piece by piece using all the clever techniques each cutter has mastered over decades of experience to create an interesting puzzle. Not only is every puzzle completely unique, every single piece of every puzzle is completely unique.

All puzzles are then sanded, waxed, counted, and boxed.

We pride ourselves in treating each puzzle with great care. Be sure to look for each cutter’s signature piece in your puzzle!

Yes, with great care and skill. To do so, we require the surrounding pieces of the missing or damaged piece to be provided to us. This creates a ‘frame’ around the area that allows us to recreate a piece.

We ask that you place no tape, glue or other adhesive to the surrounding puzzle pieces. A safe way to send the surrounding pieces to us is to sandwich them between pieces of cardboard that are secured by a rubber band.

As creating replacement pieces is quite labor intensive, we charge $79 per piece to do so. You can place an order for a replacement piece here. 

In keeping with the original jigsaw puzzle tradition, we don’t include the puzzle image with the puzzle.

If you would like a picture mailed to you, click here.