After trying out and loving the first wooden puzzle I did, I went searching for more companies and found Nautilus Puzzles.
Turns out there’s many in the UK, which makes complete sense as the whimsy puzzle piece comes from the Victorian era, but some of the companies I found in the US were backlogged due to COVID-19.
Fortunately for me, and other puzzle enthusiasts, it seems like Nautilus Puzzles is doing a pretty good job staying ahead of the demand, though numerous puzzles go in and out of stock frequently on their website. Still, I found Once Upon a Fairytale by artist Aimee Stewart and knew this would be my birthday present to myself.
Long-time readers know that I love fairy tales and why I absolutely had to get this puzzle for myself! It shipped incredibly quickly considering the state of our postal service in the US right now, and I ended up completing it over the course of a week.
At 428 pieces, Nautilus Puzzles puts it at a Level 3 difficulty, which is their highest level. That almost makes me want to try their largest puzzles which comes in at almost $160! It’s got 693 pieces and is 23.5″ X 16.5″. Compared to this behemoth, Once Upon a Fairytale is a respectable 11″ X 15″ and $94.95. I say almost because I don’t even know what I would do with this puzzle when finished, but you bet I’ll be bothering my loved ones to buy me more of these puzzles next year.
Now there’s a number of companies in the wooden puzzle space now as I mentioned earlier, but most of them have followed in the footsteps of a Russian company that premiered the animal shaped puzzles (like the dragon) late last year. COVID-19 resulted in a bunch copying them within Russia, the rest of Europe, Australia, China, and of course the US.
Nautilus Puzzles on the other hand, has been doing puzzles for 15 years and shifted to the wooden whimsy puzzles in 2018. Which is great because that means they’ve fully perfected the system of printing on the wood and using a laser cutting machine to get really clean cuts!
From their site:
Nautilus Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles are creatively designed by a team of artists and jigsaw puzzle enthusiasts in California. The unique cuts in every puzzle reflect the imagination and mischievousness of our different designers who throw in funky whimsical shapes, tricks and teasers to make each puzzle a challenging and entertaining experience.
Our figural “whimsy” pieces are inspired by the wooden puzzles cut by hand in Victorian times reflecting not just the subject of the image, but also capturing the mood and style of the artwork.
Nautilus Puzzles, cut using the latest laser technology, are fabricated from premium quality woods and inks, guaranteeing a durable heirloom product that is designed to be shared over generations.
Be advised: These puzzles may be habit-forming!
Well, the habit has been formed so it’s too late for a warning…
Each puzzle is sent in a beautiful box that has a magnetic closure. Inside the box was the drawstring bag (pictured), a color print of the image for ease of puzzling, and a little card (which in my haste I promptly lost).
Pieces are 4mm made from “formaldehyde-free Finnish birch/basswood plywood which is sustainably harvested in Finland” and fit together really well. As you can see below the pieces are super fun and were shaped like characters or figures you’d expect in a fairy tale. This puzzle is from the modern collection, but I’m not entirely sure what sets the modern cuts apart from the classic or Victorian cut puzzles. Though classic does seem to have more whorls and Victorian puzzles seemed to have zero straight edges.
My process for this puzzle was to first flip every piece right side up and then try to sort by color. I made a mistake and instead of sorting, I should have just found any piece with a straight edge. Even though many of them would not have been for the outer sides, I would have finished the outline quicker. Still, working my way through the puzzle section by section and finishing it was super soothing and I felt accomplished after each night of working.
I learned my lesson from the dragon however, and actually placed the pieces on a piece of cardboard the size of the finished puzzle. This way when I was finished, I could flip it over onto another piece of cardboard to mod podge the backside to keep it together.
Nautilus Puzzles assumes that people will remake these puzzles and I’m sure that’s the case for most puzzlers, but I really want this on my wall so I used the mod podge as a way to bond the pieces together. I’d mod podge a little section at a time and hold the pieces together for about a minute. Since mod podge dries so fast, it didn’t take a long time for the pieces to “set up” properly and now the puzzle won’t come apart!
Now it might seem weird to call a puzzle company or its puzzles luxurious but the puzzle really did feel nice to put together. Not a single jagged edge or any weird leftovers from the laser cutter. As someone who has used one hundreds of times, I know how meticulous you have to be when setting up the wood for cutting. Plus the smell of cut wood is lovely so you know it’s packed pretty immediately after manufacturing!
Images courtesy of Nautilus Puzzles
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