Jack-in-the-Box Puzzles

Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle Enhancement Techniques

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There are several techniques for enhancing a puzzle design. Some of them, figurals for example, are there to make individual pieces or the final puzzle more artistic. Some of them, like indirectly-interlocking edges, serve to make the puzzle more challenging. Many of them make the puzzle more artistic AND more challenging, and they all add a level of fun that can't be found in ordinary jigsaw puzzles.


Figurals, or whimsies, are pieces that are specially designed and cut. Sometimes they take the form of actual things, like silhouettes of birds or people. Sometimes they are abstract shapes that are carefully designed beforehand and cut to geometric precision.

Signature Piece

Crafters of jigsaw puzzles since time immemorial have carved into them a signature piece, in my case a jack-in-the-box. This piece is a specially cut figural, the same in each puzzle they create, that is the equivalent of an artist signing a canvas.

Names and Words

Names and words can also be cut into your puzzle. They can make a puzzle more personalized, and is perfect in puzzles intended as gifts.

Color-line cutting

Color-line cutting involves cutting along lines of objects in the picture, to add difficulty to the puzzle. This is a partial color-line cut. The star and the brown area are generally cut along the color lines, but hooks extend from some pieces to improve the interlock. Generally speaking, there is a constant tradeoff between color-line cutting and solid interlock.

Irregular edges

Irregular edges are great additions to any puzzle. It reduces or eliminates obvious edge pieces, making the puzzle much more challenging, as well as more eye-catching. If the puzzle picture doesn't naturally lend itself to irregular cutting like this flower, wavy borders can be cut for a similar effect.


Indirectly-interlocking edges

This is an advanced technique for difficult puzzles. Some (or all) of the edge pieces only interlock with interior pieces, which makes it very difficult (read: impossible) to construct the border first!


Dropouts really enhance a puzzle, both in difficulty and aesthetic appeal. To create the effect, slivers of the puzzle are cut away and discarded. After the puzzle is complete, they form a very visible silhouette. However, during assembly, they can drive the puzzler crazy since adjacent pieces don't quite seem to fit. Here, wedding bells are dropped out and beautifully embellish this wedding invitation puzzle.

Sunken Figurals

Sunken figurals stand out much more than regular figurals. The bottom ply (or two) of the figural or puzzle piece is removed, so that the pieces are thinner than the rest. It is an excellent technique for making names and other important pieces more visible after the puzzle is completed.

Split Knobs

Split knobs make puzzles much more challenging. You'll agree next time you hunt and hunt for that one piece with the seemingly odd-shaped protrusion, just to find out (much) later that that 'odd-shaped protrusion' is in fact created from two separate pieces!

Dancing Edges

Dancing edges are a fantastic way to add both difficulty to assembly and aesthetic value to the finished puzzle. The "dancing" silhouettes are usually made up of several interlocking pieces that are very difficult to put together. And they look great!


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Jack-in-the-Box Custom Wooden Puzzles signature pieceCopyright © 2006 Scott Stafford scott@jitbpuzzles.com. All rights reserved.