The Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle Experiment

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!

It seems like an extravagance to pay $50 for a puzzle with only 300 pieces, doesn’t it? I guess the answer is different for everyone. For me it does seem like a lot, sometimes. I’ve never really been a shopper. I actually dislike shopping, I’ve always joked that my husband is the luckiest man in the world – his wife hates shopping. 😉 I don’t spend money on jewelry, 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.

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*There are two puzzles from Artifact because I received one as a birthday gift. Click on any of these brands to see my review of their puzzle.

Liberty Puzzles have an excellent, extremely detailed cut, more whimsy pieces than any other company, an amazing catalog including many exclusive images, and are very reasonably priced. The smallest puzzles start at $39 for their extra small size that has approximately 100 pieces. They’re my favorite of the 5 companies – the intricacy of the cut is so special, I would pretty much do any puzzle -any image – from Liberty!

Artifact Puzzles have a wide variety of cut types: some regular, some “regular” but with differently shaped connectors, and some amazingly designed unique cuts you won’t find anywhere else (check out the split tendril cut!) I love that you can preview the piece shapes for each puzzle before you purchase! Their whimsy pieces are intricate and fun, and it’s almost artwork itself the whimsy designs for each image. Their catalog is varied and interesting, and they have the most reasonable prices I found, starting at $18.

Peaceful Wooden Puzzles are amazingly well crafted – the puzzle I purchased almost looks as if the image was painted on the wood! They have beautiful whimsies, and you can choose between religious, universal, or no whimsy pieces. All of their puzzles are Victorian cut – no boring regular cuts here! Their catalog is quite varied (you have GOT to look at the amazing images from Edward Kinnally – I want them all!) Their puzzles start at $35 for their Flower Fairy puzzles that are 116 pieces in a collectible tin; their other puzzles start at $50 for 260 pieces.

Wentworth Wooden Puzzles are beautiful and well made, but their cuts look to be mostly regular pieces; I chose an “extra difficult” puzzle to get a more interesting piece cut. They do have whimsies in their puzzles, but most other pieces look the same as you’d find on a random cut cardboard puzzle. Their catalog is quite varied, with some interesting and very unique bespoke images, and extra difficult puzzles with repetitive or tessellating pieces to give you a challenge. Their smallest puzzles (micro-puzzles) are about 30-40 pieces and only $12! Although you do have to consider shipping costs, as this is the only company of the five I tested that isn’t in the United States.

Sibbett Studios have regular grid cut wooden puzzles, and all their images are photographic. This is the only company I tried that I wouldn’t purchase another puzzle from. The puzzle itself is well made, and even comes in a handmade box; but for me most of the joy of working these wooden puzzles is the uniqueness of the piece shapes and the fun of the whimsy pieces. Without the interesting pieces, these puzzles just don’t give me the same sense of fun and entertainment. Still, they are beautifully made puzzles and they may be just the thing for someone who doesn’t care for random shapes. Their prices start at $15 for an 88 piece puzzle (on Amazon).

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! 🙂

27 thoughts on “The Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle Experiment

  1. great post! i am happy to see all this range of wooden jigsaws in one place)))
    and i am a little bit surprised with your choice of liberty puzzle picture) i mean, every person, i know, try to take classical pictures by liberty) and you have chosen such a humorous one)

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  5. Laura

    Thank you for the comparison of companies. I am in love with wooden puzzles, and like you find I prefer to do them without looking at the image. I have primarily made Artifact and Liberty puzzles, but have been curious to try Wentworth and Peaceful. I recently bought a few mini puzzles from Nautilis; a great size for gifts to introduce friends to wooden puzzles. They sell on Amazon and are only a year old. I’ve had a few issues with good adherence of the image on sharp points and the customer service has been excellent! I often purchase puzzles on Ebay. Liberty holds its value extremely well, selling for almost the cost of new. Artifact seems to depreciate more and you can get some good discounts. Try an Enigma Golden Box if you can find one. They have no image, and a lot of false edge straight pieces within the puzzle along with a few whimsies! Thanks again for the great write up and happy puzzling!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sandra Adams

    Another benefit of Liberty puzzles is the designs that are built from assembling large groups of pieces and not apparent until you turn it over. I just finished the 12 Days of Christmas and in the pieces, each of the days gift is found on the back. The lady dancing the lord leaping and the five rings cover the whole puzzle!

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  8. Theodora

    The discussion of wooden puzzle makers has been really helpful. I have done two so far: “The Fall of the Rebel Angels” by Bruegel the Elder from Peaceful and “The Triumph of Death also by Bruegel from Wentworth. Both were large and close to 1,000 pieces but I did not go back to check. Both were over $150.
    The Peaceful puzzle was nearly entirely whimsy shapes. Exciting to put together. The Wentworth also challenging. Image detail in both was very good.
    I give Wentworth the edge and will return to them rather than Peaceful for the following reasons. Three of the delicate Peaceful whimsy pieces were broken out of the box. They might consider packing those separately. Additionally the image is already clacking off of some pieces in tiny specs. This is not a heirloom puzzle. No problems of any kind with Wentworth. The completed Puzzle is stunning and we can’t bear to take it apart.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the information Theodora, I didn’t have any problems with my Peaceful Wooden Puzzle, but then again mine had much less pieces and it was about 2 1/2 years ago as well. I’ve never had a problem with any of the Wentworth Puzzles that I’ve done, they’re exceptionally well made.

      I do know what you mean about the Peaceful shapes, the Victorian cut is much more exciting and interesting to put together. Just my opinion of course. 🙂

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    2. Theodora

      Hello All, here is a correction to my review. The puzzle I completed from Wentworth was “Christ Carrying the Cross”, fantastic! The puzzle of “The Triumph of Death” was a cardboard puzzle from Lais, also challenging and beautiful.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. bonnie jones

    It took about five days to complete my first Liberty Puzzle and at $105. I wouldn’t call it cheap. Yes, the pieces are perfectly cut – very interesting shapes but, as a novice of wooden puzzles, I hated the borders. Seemed like so many were impossible to interlock so surrounding and then filling in was impossible. And the sizes big, small, shaped so different, they were impossible to stack according to color. Like I say, I’m new to this kind of puzzle and struggled. What really frosted my cookies was the message on the side of the box: for eight year olds and older. Are you kidding? The best part is if they truly do hold their value I can sell it. Then again, I may make jewelry out of the pieces because as individual pieces, they are pretty.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Mary K Gilles

    I enjoy this page- would have been better if I had found it a year or two ago. I have been traveling a similar route of comparing wooden puzzle maker companies and seeing what I like and don’t like. I do like the fit/feel of Ecru puzzles. I tried a couple of Mr Gogo and I have to say- that was the first puzzle I gave up on. (I contemplated many times giving up on Bokuyo Forest Diptych-but felt a sense of accomplishment when we stuck it out to the bitter end)

    Just an FYI- during COVID it became impossible to locate puzzles. A couple of people started a wooden puzzle subscription. https://www.artifactpuzzles.com/
    these contain a number of puzzles from different companies. I LOVE IT! Compared to buying all the puzzles much more economical. Because- yes I am a convert to wood puzzles and not sure I can go back. While there are few puzzles I actually want to own…. many I am content to experience once. BUT if you are a wooden puzzle fan-definitely worth checking out. I tried first with a 6 month subscription and then decided to commit to a renewable 1 year.

    Also-for photos (ok-sometimes I need to see better what I am looking for!) I find http://rebeccaspuzzles.blogspot.com/
    a life saver!

    BUT what I like about this site is one can comment and read other’s comments-which is useful! AND I have never done anything from two of the companies discussed above-so looking forward to new adventures!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Robyn

    I have also been doing a wood puzzle experiment, so it caught my interest when I saw this online. I will add, that you definitely should try DaVICI puzzles, they are made in Russia, and while expensive as others are, I feel that they have upped the wooden puzzle game above all others. Their cuts are a work of art, not just a whimsey here and there, but the whole thing is wonderful to look at, it makes a whole scene really. You have to flip these puzzles over to see the rest of the story. I have ranked them #1, although I’ve yet to obtain a Liberty that you rate so well, I’ve been in a queue for months, finally got to order 1 puzzle, so I shall see what all the Liberty hype is about, but I’ve seen pictures of their cuts and I already can tell they don’t come up to DaVICI’s ranking there. I would post the best site to buy them, but then I look like a troll, so email me if you want to know the best place to buy them, I can save you a lot of money there as places like eBay are outrageously expensive.

    I love Wentworth a lot, I think their puzzles are wonderful, even though they are more of a one cut whimsey most of the time, but I enjoy their diverse “regular” pieces as well. I look for the quality of the picture and the wood, and DaVICI and Wentworth do very well, with DaVICI being about 3 times as thick as Wentworth, Nautilus also make a quality puzzle, they are between Wentworth and DaVICI in wood thickness, I’m just not as fond of their cuts and their connectors fit too many places, so they just aren’t as fun to put together in my own opinion, otherwise their quality is high.

    I don’t see why you rated Peaceful Puzzles so well, I ordered two, waited a couple months to get them, and both were full of chips to the picture and both (new) came with a broken piece. In quality I rated them the lowest of all the puzzles I have tried. Their cuts got me excited because I thought they were rather close to the DaVICI type of thickness and cut, but the dozens of chips out of the picture made a very bad impression.

    I’m not as fond of Unidragon, which seem to be a low priced wood puzzle option out there, although they seem pretty solid in quality, the picture was good, but the cuts weren’t so fun and the whimsey’s redundant. And I tried Shedevrika which I was told paint the picture directly on the wood, and they were full of chips to the picture too. Both of these seemed similar in their rather cheesy slotted wood box design and bit of rough-cut burlap inside. Although I will say the Shedevrika has a laser cut top that is gorgeous, but it’s just not very practical, you have to pour out the pieces over these laser cut edges. I won’t be buying any more of either of these brands, or the Peaceful Puzzles either. I have quite a collection of Wentworth and DaVICI built up, and I don’t regret spending the money on myself, being that I’ve been locked in my house for over a year and no one knows how much longer Covid will go on being a threat out there. When I work on a puzzle I can forget about the world and just enjoy the immersion into my puzzle, and I love it. ❤

    Thanks for the article… it's nice to hear someone else's wood puzzle experiences. If you want a more detailed description of the puzzle brands, boxes, etc, email me, I've got a write up about each brand I've tried. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d love to hear about all those puzzle companies you’ve mentioned. I’ve heard of DaVICI, but not the others you mentioned. Do you live in Europe?

      I did my “experiment” more than four years ago, and I can say with some certainty that Peaceful has either changed management, manufacturing, or ownership since then. I very much enjoyed the puzzle I assembled of theirs, and had none of the problems you mentioned. But, as always, every puzzle and puzzler is different. To each their own!

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      1. Robyn

        At this point I’ve tried 28 different wooden puzzle brands… the list keeps growing because I started on a path of discovery and it’s been fun trying new brands to see how I like them. I’m from the US by the way. I started getting other brands on eBay and Etsy, and have expanded to direct from companies as well. The write-ups would be a blog in itself! I’m still fond of DaVICI and Wentworth, they didn’t loose face in my eyes in competing with other brands, I’ve just added new ones I also think highly of, and those would be Liberty (they DO have wonderful multi-piece whimsies (for lack of a better word, some are basically just fantastic mini puzzles in themselves), but I’m particularly fond of the many Liberty puzzles that have secret alternate mini puzzles within, that’s something I’d only seen DaVICI do until I found out Liberty did it a lot more and better. I love Stumpcraft (Canadian) very high quality and fun cuts, and Puzzle Lab (Canadian) too for their interesting cuts and quality, and also Artifact/Ecru (USA), and oddly enough Zen (USA)… which aren’t all that creative, a few one cut whimsies and lots of small squared regular puzzle pieces, no trick edges or anything, small and really straight forward grid design, and expensive for that, but the feel of the pieces is just wonderful, and they have sales a couple times a year that you can get them more reasonably priced. My all time favorite was from Mr Gogo, hand cut from Bulgaria, I got the Flower Teaser 3D puzzle and it was sooo much fun. I absolutely loved it most of all. I have several hand cut puzzles from various artists and they are all of wonderful quality and worth venturing into that area rather than mass produced. The feel is definitely different than the laser cut mass produced ones, a softer feel to put together, push into place vs the snap down feel of laser cut. All in all I find that trying new brands has been a really fun part of the wooden puzzle adventure. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Liberty’s puzzles with an “extra” solution are so much fun! I did one called Birds that was a regular square shaped puzzle, but the alternate solution using all the pieces was an actual flying bird, it was FABULOUS!

        DaVICI, Mr. Gogo, and Puzzle Lab I haven’t tried, but I’ve done puzzles from all the other companies you mentioned, and loved them all. Stumpcraft is a particular favorite. Their designs and layout make for a wonderfully challenging assembly. I think they’re fantastic!

        My favorite wooden puzzle is a Parker Bros. Pastime puzzle that is approximately 100 years old. I wrote several blog posts about it, as it was a box of random pieces we got on eBay with no picture – we didn’t even know if it was one puzzle or many! I gifted it to my mother for Christmas that year and told her the gift was NOT the puzzle, but the time that we would spend together assembling it. Not only do I cherish those moments putting it together, it was the most unbelievably fantastic quality wooden puzzle I’ve ever done. You could put two pieces together and shake them as hard as you could and they would not come apart. The pieces were fantastically shaped and so well cut that it was a joy just to sort them! It’s a rare find, after speaking with two antique puzzle experts I was told that not only would they would be interested in buying it from me, but that it’s one of less than a handful of puzzles that size and quality from Pastime that they had ever seen!

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      3. Robyn

        I will add to your last post (it didn’t give me a reply option) that you said “Liberty’s puzzles with an “extra” solution are so much fun! I did one called Birds that was a regular square shaped puzzle, but the alternate solution using all the pieces was an actual flying bird, it was FABULOUS!”… I believe that puzzle you are talking about is not a Liberty, but rather a Mankeke puzzle called Bird, that has the secret big bird in it. I have that one too, very cool indeed, but not a Liberty.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Robyn

        Op, my bad. Sorry. I looked it up on Liberty and it didn’t show up that I saw, so I thought they didn’t have one called “Birds”, but I knew Mankeke had one named Birds that also had a large bird as an alternate solution. My apologies. I did read your blog posts about that Liberty puzzle now.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Margaret

    Hi, I enjoyed reading your blog post. I’ve never done a wooden puzzle. Would you say that the wooden puzzles with unusual shapes take much longer to do? I’m wondering if some of the cost is made up by more hours of puzzling time. I mostly like Ravensburger and some SunsOut puzzles have unusual shapes. Best wishes, Margaret

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It does take more time, especially if you are used to the “normal” ones. Your brain takes quite a while to recognize how the different shapes should fit together. And if the designer of the puzzle is skilled enough, it adds a LOT more time. I love the challenge!

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  13. Robyn Annala

    A good wooden puzzle to include in this are DaVICI puzzles. They are contenders with Liberty, similar cut and thickness, but I believe DaVICI’s cuts are far more artistic than any other brand, and I have tried many. I would rate DaVICI as #1, Liberty as #2, Wentworth as #3, and perhaps Artifact or Nautilus as #4. Liberty are high quality, but they seem to depend too much on gawky people dancing as whimsies, whereas DaVICI has individualized cuts for every puzzle theme, and they are much more detailed and immersive, offering a different take on the puzzle theme for every puzzle, no two puzzles are alike or even seem alike. And DaVICI doesn’t hold you down to 1 or 2 puzzles per order. Also, if you order all in a collection (often of 10 puzzles) they will send you another puzzle for free for completing a collection, and they are nice puzzles.

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