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A Few Quick Tips for Solving Wood Puzzles

Over the years we have done far too many puzzles to count. Along the way we have learned some tips and tricks that have helped when we get stuck. Here are a few items that may help you if you are suffering “puzzle block”.

1)”Break Down the Problem”
Sometimes you may come across a puzzle that has a lot of similar patterns or colors. At first glance it may seem overwhelming. Like any complicated problem, it is a lot easier once you start breaking the problem down. The first place to start is to try and sort the pieces out. Look closely, are there some pieces that are slightly different shades? Are the patterns in the image all identical or are there variations that could be grouped? Are there are ways you notice that may make sense to group the pieces?

2) Look at the Puzzle’s Shapes
We have found one of the more frustrating parts of puzzle solving is when there are large blocks of the same color in a puzzle. At that point there are few clues to figure out where the pieces go. One thing to do is to try and focus on the shapes of the pieces rather than the color. For example, if you have a large body of water or snow, many images have slight subtle difference in the shading that can provide hints once you really study the pieces. It takes a little practice but you may find that it helps a bit. Another trick (although some may consider it a little cheating!) is to flip the pieces over and try to solve it by the grain of the wood.

3) Keep Perspective
It’s easy to start becoming really focused on a small section of a puzzle and get frustrated due to slow progress. Like anything, you may just need a change of scenery if you are getting bogged down in the minutiae of a particular part. Take a break from that section and work on a new part, maybe there is an easier part that will give you a feeling of being closer to achieving the goal of completion. Whatever you motivation, don’t lose perspective.

4) Whimsy Fun
If you are doing a wood puzzle with a lot of whimsical (or silhouette) pieces, then there is an easy way to clear out a lot of pieces. First pull all the whimsical pieces out and put them to the side. Next scan all the other pieces for any that look like a strange shape. If you have pieces shaped like animals or people, there are are always easy to find pieces that go between the arms or around the head that you can find. Start with those big chunky pieces and then work your way down to the smaller pieces that are odd shaped. Depending on the number of silhouette pieces, you may be able to solve 10-20% of the pieces this way. Here’s a bonus tip…keep building on the little bits around the silhouettes that you have filled in. Eventually you will have some nice sized parts to complete the puzzle with!

Hopefully these tips will help a bit as you work on your puzzles. At the end of the day, remember that it is only a puzzle and nothing to get stressed over!

Bonus Tip!
5) Edges
It’s very common for people to start with the edges. However, a lot of wood puzzle cutters like to make things even harder and do something called a line cut. A line cut is when the cutter follows along a straight edge, such as the outline of a building, which creates the illusion of the edge, but in fact it’s not! Here is one way to help figure out if it’s a true edge (although this doesn’t work 100% of the time). For puzzles cut by hand it is very hard to cut a completely straight line. If you are unsure if it’s an edge or not, stand the piece on its edge and take a look at eye level between the piece and your puzzle board. Usually you can see that it’s not 100% flush to the table, sometimes it will have a tiny gap or it will rock a little or some other tell that it’s not 100% straight. Generally that indicates it’s a line cut piece and not an edge!

The window and door in this puzzle are an example of very easy to see line cuts as they are not too straight due to the way they were originally painted. However, sometimes they are 20-30 pieces long and can be very straight and it can get tricky to tell: