Puzzles come in all shapes and sizes, adopting numerous forms that challenge the mind in seemingly endless ways.
While I spend a lot of time on PuzzleNation Blog talking about pen-and-paper puzzles (and their electronic siblings), today I’d like to focus on a brand of physical puzzles: ones made of wood!
As you’d expect, there are hundreds of different puzzles to choose from when discussing wooden puzzles, but I’ve tried to narrow the field down to a manageable size. Enough chatter, let’s get to it!
Sliding Tile Puzzles
[Available from FineWoodenToys.com.]
One of the oldest varieties of physical puzzles, sliding tile puzzles can be found in plastic, electronic, and wooden forms. And whether you’re shifting pieces in order to create a picture or pushing tiles around in order to put numbers in a specific order, the chain-solving technique is the same.
[Available from BrilliantPuzzles.com.]
A tactile and intuitive brand of puzzling, tangrams are a staple of the wooden puzzle market, utilizing simple geometric shapes in order to match designs or fit the pieces into a given space, as in the image above.
[Available from Mango Trees.]
These beautiful and elegant puzzles involve a level of craftsmanship and attention to detail that goes far beyond the usual mechanical puzzle experience.
Sometimes, you’re figuring out how to disassemble a shape into its component pieces (six examples of this sort of puzzle-solving appear above), while in others, you have to remove a given piece from a more complex arrangement, often involving ropes and other obstacles that interact with the wooden puzzle itself.
[Image found on FineWoodworking.com.]
A practical sibling of the brain teasers above, a puzzle box offers an additional incentive to the solving experience, since puzzle boxes can make terrific delivery mechanisms for cash or other gifts. (Sometimes solving them involves only one step, other times it can involve a dozen or more!)
My younger sister has a habit of employing puzzle boxes like the one pictured below to make my oldest nephews work a little harder for their birthday money. (One particularly diabolical design involved concealed magnets holding the trick access point shut.)
[Available from Pandora’s Puzzle Boxes.]
Everyone knows the goal of a maze or labyrinth: to get through it with as few wrong turns as possible. But when you have to navigate a steel ball through the labyrinth without falling into one of many pits, that becomes an even greater challenge.
Whether you’re using handles to manipulate the maze and allow gravity to shift the ball from point to point or turning the labyrinth this way and that in order to move the ball toward the finish line, your dexterity and patience are sure to be pushed to the limit.
I would be remiss if I ignored the most common variety of wooden puzzle: the jigsaw puzzle!
Whether we’re talking about the more traditional shapes in a Ravensburger puzzle or a jigsaw incorporating unique and interesting pieces like those produced by Wentworth or our friend Rachel Happen of Baffledazzle (like the ones pictured below), jigsaw puzzles are among the first puzzles to which a young child is exposed.
3-D Jigsaw Puzzles
Of course, despite the many tough jigsaw puzzles available these days, you might be looking for a jigsaw with an additional dimension of difficulty. Thankfully, there are 3-D puzzles to give your spatial reasoning a run for its money!
Both the dragon at the top of the page and the camel pictured above are 3-D puzzles that were sent to me by the lovely Sara Kingsland, owner of Completely Puzzled in Port Townsend, Oregon.
And let me tell you, these puppies put my jigsaw skills to the test. Let’s look at the camel disassembled:
Is it immediately clear to you how to proceed? It certainly wasn’t to me! Now let’s look at the dragon disassembled:
Believe it or not, I solved the dragon before the camel!
This is because the puzzles involve different approaches. The dragon was designed to be assembled from tail to head, and rarely required me to hold more than two pieces at a time to continue solving it.
The camel, on the other hand, has to be solved legs first, which means holding numerous pieces in place while manipulating others in order for everything to come together.
With the advent of laser printing, the sky is truly the limit when it comes to imagining new and challenging wooden puzzles. I can’t wait to see what these wickedly brilliant puzzlers come up with next.
Are there any types of wooden puzzle I missed, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Let me know! (Other than Scrabble, that is. I left that one off the list intentionally.) And while you’re at it, tell me what your favorite kind of wooden puzzle is!
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