Special Puzzle Pieces - Figurals & Word Pieces
Custom Puzzle Craft
Maker of Fine Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles
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Puzzle pieces may be cut in many shapes!

Puzzle #113 Figurals: Screw, Screw Driver, Wrench, Pliers and a Nut (two pieces)
Sometimes I'll go to great length to design the pieces you want

Puzzle pieces may be cut into word shaped pieces!

Word Pieces, a Dolphin and an XXX (Kisses) shaped pieces (with some Creative pieces)


The Parker Brothers' Pastime Puzzles, very popular in the early 1930's, are well known for their "figural" pieces. Figural are pieces cut to represent a "figure", for example, a cat; or an abstract geometric shape. Besides being pretty, figurals help the puzzle assembler solve a puzzle as the pieces have distinctive shapes making it easier to find the adjacent pieces. Also figurals frequently cross color line cut boundaries, reducing the challenge that puzzles cut on color boundaries offer. In England, figurals are referred to as "whimsies", as the whimsical shapes are created at the whim of the puzzle maker. Pastime Puzzles contained about 12 Figure Pieces per 100 pieces. What makes Figurals attractive is they can be pretty cool looking and they give the puzzle designer an opportunity to come up with ingenious ways to place the figurals within the context of the puzzle's picture, and thus offering more enjoyment for the people assembling the puzzle.

Pastime Puzzle figurals are frequently symmetric. Many Pastime figurals were created by folding a piece of paper and cutting out half a shape and then unfolding the paper to get the full shape [Anne D. Williams, "Cutting A Fine Figure"]. The paper was then placed on the uncut puzzle board, and the outline of the shape then followed with the saw.

Some Parker Brother's Pastime Puzzle Figure Pieces (reverse sides)

I enjoy placing Figure Pieces in my puzzles. I am developing intricate geometric figurals as well as some mythological figurals such as dragons. Here are some figurals I cut in my fifth year of puzzle cutting:

Figurals cut in November 2004
The Knife figural is one of my most realist figurals ever!

Here are some figurals I cut late in my first year of puzzle cutting. Most are quite good although for a few of them, my precision is now more advanced:

All of these Figurals (reverse sides) were included in my first 800 piece class puzzle, puzzle #52, Fantasy Faire.
The Clown's Head is a Treat Piece
- My Signature Piece (unsigned at time) is also shown (fourth row, far right).

See the figure in the third row at the far the right? She? He? is The Observer. Expect The Observer to show up in puzzles she finds interesting or curious about. The Wiener Dog in the second row likes food. In Fantasy Faire, the Wiener Dog is looking at the hot dog in the lower right of the puzzle. Sometimes the Wiener Dog will show up when there is no food. The Swirl Stars in the fourth row like to show up in the sky in K. Chin puzzles. That "thing", bottom row, second from the left, is an Art Deco Earwig.... and yes, you may request to exclude it if you don't want it!

Love Hearts

The idea of a Love Heart is to have two puzzle pieces that fit together to form a Heart. I first came up with the idea for puzzle #134 Elemental Forces, and I have had occasional requests for the heart since then. I later improved the design in puzzle #347 and it has become quite popular. 12 years later after the initial design, I designed, made, and offered for sale, earrings based on this design. See Spiral Love Heart earrings.

Love Heart design - © 2002, Custom Puzzle Craft

Pushing the Limit

Sometimes I'll cut some pretty "hairy" figure pieces or word pieces. Figurals sometimes have very narrow sections or delicate tips. Therefore these pieces require extra care when handling, both when putting the puzzle together and when taking it apart. Normally I design my figurals to withstand regular puzzle piece handling, but some customers have asked me to push the limit!

Puzzle #112 Initials, a Heart and "Word Pieces"
The Heart is a superstrong piece, the Capital letters are fairly solid
A piece like the "Anniversary" piece requires some care when handling
An alternative is to have the words printed in your picture - I can do that!

Puzzle #528 - more Word Pieces

Some Custom Puzzle Craft Figure Pieces from Puzzle #34 (reverse sides)

Extreme Figurals

This is one of the most extreme figurals I ever made - for a puzzle made from Salvador Dali's "Metamorphosis of Narcissus". The customer challenged me to cut a "bottle and glass" on the "table". The shape is from another Salvador Dali painting. A piece like this is very delicate and is recommended only for "extreme" puzzle fanatics!

From Puzzle #149 - The Metamorphosis of Narcissus

Enhancement Lines

How do you tell a basketball puzzle piece from a baseball puzzle piece?

In puzzle #129, I made a figural with "enhancement" lines. The figural was a basketball cut as a single piece per customer request. As the piece would have been a plain circle which could represent any of a zillion things, I cut partial lines within the circle to give a sense that the shape was a basketball. I will likely use this practice again for other figurals that are difficult to represent only by their outlines.

Basketball Figural

Feng Shui puzzle cutting

I have cut Chinese character figurals too. The two figures, below where cut with the surrounding pieces "flowing through" the characters so that the characters would be more distinguishable. The "Zhou" character on the right, required a small drilling operation to cut the partial rectangle within the small fully cut out rectangle. I disguised the tiny drill hole by making it seem to be part of a line flowing through the character. I like the principles of Feng Shui and I try to integrate my pieces in a harmonious fashion.

Puzzle 123 "Wan" and "Zhou" custom ordered for Imperial Silver Dragon

Go ahead and challenge me to make the figural of your desire when ordering your Custom Puzzles!

Multi-Piece Figurals

I have made some multi-piece figurals. My first one appeared in Puzzle 26, a six piece centipede. My second one appeared in Puzzle 27, a nine piece butterfly (see below). When ordering a Custom Puzzle Craft wooden jigsaw puzzle, you may request Figure Pieces and Word Pieces. I can design figurals to your request.

Figure Pieces in Puzzle #27. The two "whales" come together to form a Yin-Yang symbol

The 9 piece Butterfly Figural from the reverse

© John S. Stokes III - Puzzle Crafter & Webmaster

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