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The Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle - David Liam

I recently decided I wanted to get myself some wooden puzzles; I wanted to assemble and review them, and treat myself to something special. I purchased 5 wooden puzzles from 5 different companies to get an array of different styles. I started comparing cardboard vs. wooden puzzles and comparing the different wooden puzzle companies as well. I’ve come up with some insights about them and, surprisingly, about myself too! I don’t spend money on clothes, shoes, or much of anything really – but I rarely hesitate now when there’s a jigsaw puzzle I want to buy. I’m on the other side of middle age now, there are more years behind me than there are in front of me – why shouldn’t I splurge a little bit and make myself happy? I’ve earned it! I’m not taking food out of my family’s mouths, and we can still pay all our bills; so what’s wrong with paying a bit more for a wooden puzzle if it makes me happy? Not a damn thing! 

Armed with my newfound attitude that I’m worth spending money on, I jumped in with both feet and wanted to treat myself to some gorgeous wooden puzzles. I looked all over online to find wooden puzzle companies that have reasonable prices (according to me) and I ordered one puzzle from each.

After trying out everything - here is my verdict.

Here’s what I’ve learned about myself, wooden puzzles, cardboard puzzles and puzzling in general. First, all types of puzzles are good for you. They help lower blood pressure, promote conversation, stave off memory loss, reduce stress and anxiety, and are in general entertaining and fun! And each little success you achieve – whether it’s completing a section, or just finding that piece you’ve been searching for – encourages the production of dopamine in your brain. Dopamine regulates your mood and affects motivation, concentration, and memory. So whether you are only interested in cardboard puzzles, or if you prefer wooden ones – the health benefits are universal. I’ve noticed that when my stress level begins to rise that I need to spend some time puzzling, it helps me stay calm and helps reduce my stress. Thank goodness I have plenty of puzzles – both cardboard and now wooden – to help out when things are crazy around here! According to one study, completing a jigsaw puzzle can even put our brains into the same meditative state as dreaming. Sometimes when I’m really engrossed in a puzzle, it seems as if my brain just calmly moves along on autopilot, almost without me.  Apparently puzzle assembly is dreamy! 

For me, puzzling is a tactile experience as well as visual and auditory. I love the feel of a good puzzle piece in my hand, how it feels and sounds as you fit it into the correct place, or just running my hands over the completed puzzle. Again, for me, this is true for both the wooden and the cardboard puzzle. But in my opinion the experience is much richer with a wooden puzzle. There is nothing like the satisfying “plunk” when a piece drops into place, and the feel of the thick wooden pieces is absolutely wonderful! I usually refer to the image when assembling cardboard puzzles; but I’ve noticed that I prefer to assemble the wooden puzzles without looking at the image on the box. It didn’t occur to me until I was assembling the 4th puzzle that the reason I do this is to make the experience last longer! How odd that it took me so long to figure that out. If I don’t have the picture for reference it’s more of a challenge and it takes more time – more time to enjoy the full sensory experience of the wooden puzzle (including the wonderful charred wood smell that reminds me of my youth).

Advances in the manufacturing process for wooden puzzles have brought the prices down; you can find excellent wooden puzzles at reasonable prices. Reasonable is relative, I know. Artifact Puzzles have beautifully crafted smaller puzzles starting at $18. They are small puzzles (some around postcard size), but beautiful and engaging and they can be assembled over and over. In my mind they’re worth the cost, but everyone is different. I know the wooden puzzles I’ve purchased have been done several times already, they seem to beg to be assembled more than once!

While most cardboard puzzles are grid cut or random cut, the sturdier pieces of wooden puzzles make it easier to craft intricate shapes and whimsy pieces. Many of the beautiful, detailed whimsies in wooden puzzles wouldn’t last if they were made of cardboard. Several of the wooden puzzle manufacturers design their whimsy pieces to compliment the image. A garden scene might have pieces shaped as flowers, birds, a watering can, etc. Liberty Puzzles make exceptional whimsies that make up about 15-20% of the pieces. My Dr. Suess puzzle from Liberty even has Suess-ical whimsies!

I still love working cardboard puzzles; a good puzzle image with good quality cardboard pieces is still relaxing, fun, and makes me happy. I’ve read testimonials about how once someone tries a good wooden puzzle they won’t go back to cardboard. Not so for me. I love jigsaw puzzles in general, and although I appreciate the quality and craftsmanship that goes into a wooden puzzle I remain a fan of cardboard puzzles too. Cardboard puzzles are less expensive and easier on the budget. The lower cost also means they are more readily available; you can find jigsaws at your local Walmart, Barnes & Noble, or even at the drugstore. They provide hours of entertainment the whole family can participate in, and isn’t that better than everyone sitting around staring at their phones? There are plenty of manufacturers that make great quality cardboard puzzles, and I still get caught up in them and have a great time assembling them.

There are pros and cons for each type of puzzle, and it all depends on what you’re looking for. I love them both and will continue to buy both types. Ravensburger, Jumbo, Pomegranate, and Heye are my favorite premium cardboard puzzle manufacturers and there are many others that make very good quality cardboard puzzles that I enjoy assembling. I now have some new favorite manufacturers – of wooden puzzles! All the manufacturers of wooden puzzles that I’ve tried make excellent products that bring me relaxation, entertainment and fun. Liberty and Artifact are my favorites, but I loved Peaceful and Wentworth too!

Whether I’m working on a wooden or cardboard puzzle, I find that I’m more mindful of the experience and in the moment. It’s easy to get engrossed in finding that next piece or finishing that one color. Puzzles keep my mind active and engaged, and I highly recommend splurging on yourself and getting a beautiful puzzle – cardboard or wooden – they’re both worth it– and so are you! 

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