- Hand Cut Wood Puzzles from the Hills of Pennsylvania!

- Additional Cutting Techniques -

This page describes the following:

Figurals (Interactive, Appropriate, Complex, Enhanced)
Facial Details
Deceptive Corners/ Trick Corners
Indirectly Interlocking Edge Pieces
Color-Line Cutting


I enjoy cutting special figure pieces called figurals (sometimes referred to as "whimsies") into the puzzle by using a pattern that is temporarily glued onto the puzzle board, and cutting around it. My "key" signature piece is one such figural that is included in most of my puzzles. It is signed, numbered and dated on the back. I often include additional figurals, especially in puzzles where a common theme is present. In the photo below, you can see how the figurals may look before they are cut out, while they are still pasted onto the puzzle board.

Cutting Puzzle #16, "On the Farm"

Puzzle #06 titled "Daddy's Sweetheart" was made using a vintage print of a baby portrait; it has figurals that relate to baby items. This was my first puzzle done completely in the swirlie style cut.

With Puzzle #14, I simply cut around fish and dolphins that were already part of the print. This saved me a lot of time because I didn't have to design any of the figurals myself! It also involves color-line cutting which is described below.

Puzzle #14, "Under the Sea"

• Any two or more figurals that are relating to each other are called Interactive or Interacting Figurals. In the example below, the boy is chasing the rabbit around the campfire.

• Figurals that are appropriately placed in the puzzle (according to location) are called appropriate figurals. One of the first puzzles I ever made (Puzzle #04, Her Pets) had lots of appropriate figurals in it.. note the swan swimming in the pond, the hummingbird feeding on a flower, etc. in the photo below:

• Figurals that are made of two or more pieces are called complex figurals. The photo below shows some complex figurals (the tree, the cow, etc.)

• Figurals that are additionally "decorated" with dead-end cuts are called Enhanced Figurals. In the photo above, there is just one (the pumpkin) that is an enhanced figural.

Facial Details

I like to make each of my interlocking puzzles as tightly interlocking as possible. (Sometimes the entire puzzle can be picked up without any pieces falling out.) For this reason, I assemble the puzzle one piece at a time, as each piece is cut. This tells me if a particular area needs to interlock in a certain way to maintain the integrity of the puzzle. However, I am particularly careful when cutting around faces or words so that fine details are not lost, and therefore, some interior pieces may not be as fully interlocking as the rest of the puzzle. I wouldn't want to put a cut through a small letter or facial detail (such as an eye or smile) for example. The beauty of the original print often takes priority over cuts. Example follows.

Facial Details Closeup:

Deceptive Corners

I enjoy making deceptive corners where it is not real obvious at first that a given piece is actually a corner piece. I do this by making a cut close to the corner. At first glance, corner pieces may look like regular edge pieces so it may take a while to find the real corners. Likewise, I can also include trick corners into a puzzle, which are pieces that look just like corner pieces, but are actually either interior pieces, or regular edge pieces! (look for photo example in the future)

Indirectly Interlocking Edges

I occasionally create a puzzle with indirectly interlocking edges. This is a puzzle where it is difficult if not impossible to put together the edge pieces first, because they do not interlock with each other, rather they interlock with the interior of the puzzle. Example follows...

Color-Line Cutting

I sometimes use color-line cutting to increase the difficulty of a puzzle. In the example below, note parts of girl's hat & arm; boy's head, leg & hankerchief; dog's head & tail; parts of red car, etc.


There are many different kinds of drop-outs, which is a piece of the puzzle that is cut out by the puzzle cutter, and eliminated (discarded). Therefore, there is a "hole" in the puzzle, but one that is there for a special purpose! There are many different kinds of drop-outs. I will discuss a few here.

When the drop-out takes on the shape of a recognizable object it is called a Sculpted Drop-Out. The photo below is from Puzzle #70, On the Outside Looking In which was a print of kittens looking in a fish bowl. I placed a sculpted drop-out in the lower corner of the puzzle. It is an interesting drop-out because it is interactive and a bit complex.

Sculpted Drop-Out:

In Puzzle #50, Paw Prints, I did a series of 10 paw prints walking across the puzzle.. these were also drop-outs. The photo below shows a small section of that puzzle, also note the interactive figurals that were removed from the puzzle for this photo:

(For the complete description of puzzle #50, no doubt my finest work to date, click here.)

• There is what is called a Figural/Drop-out Combination, where you can "frame" a figural with a drop-out to make it stand out in the completed puzzle. In the example below, the polar bear figural also happens to be a complex figural! (This comes from Puzzle #78).

I will describe additional terms and puzzling tricks in the future.. there are lots, lots more!

Bob Armstrong has written an excellent, informative article about many special puzzle techniques which you can read online here. It is a must-read!

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