I try to design difficult puzzles. I assume that is what my customers want me to do. I don’t think anyone who buys a good wooden puzzle would like it to be easy. I want my customers to work to overcome all the tricks that I can throw at them. On the other hand, I can’t stand boring puzzles. I have heard of a puzzle called “Little Red Riding Hood’s Hood”. No picture – just solid red.
The difficulty of a puzzle is affected by three things (1) the size and number of pieces (2) the image and (3) the cut design. Big puzzles with more pieces are naturally more difficult than small ones. Complicated images make for difficult puzzles. Most puzzles are bought for gifts to others so, usually, the person putting the puzzle together does not know what the picture is. My waterjet allows me to design much more complicated cuts than can be made by hand with a scroll saw. This adds a little more difficulty.
My largest puzzle is “Forest at Fontainebleau”. It is a reproduction of a magnificent impressionistic painting by Leon Kroll. I can still see it hanging over a fireplace in a friend’s house. Together the puzzle is beautiful but apart all it is is a pile of green and brown pieces and few clues.
My most difficult puzzle must be “The Ceiling of the Debre Berhan Selassi Chapel”. The chapel ceiling is covered with angels that are represented only as faces with wings. It took me a long time to finish that one the first time and I have not done it again.