Every Day We’re Puzzlin’

I like the title.  Not everyone in the office was so sure about it and my attempt to be hip by referencing a pop song.  But we are, or at least we seem to be.  Doing puzzles and I mean the jigsaw variety.  We’ve always loved them because in our business there are some wonderful wooden colourful puzzles that are always best sellers.  But outside of that, we didn’t take too much notice until a year or so ago, when someone suggested a 1000 piece puzzle as a Christmas present.  You know how it works, you don’t see one for ages and then you see them everywhere like waiting for buses.  Since then, we see them everywhere and more people that you think are secret puzzlers.  So, with my interest piqued, I wanted to find out more about  these puzzles and where they came from and other interesting bits of information.

Where do puzzles originate from?

It seems certain that modern jigsaw puzzles were first devised by an 18th Century Cartographer, John Spilbury, around 1762.  According to legend, his first puzzles were maps cut into pieces and sold to the aristocracy so their children could learn the extent of the Empire at the time.

It seems the Jigsaw part of the name comes from a so-called “jig-saw” that was used to cut the pieces, the term Jigsaw Puzzle coming into use in the late 19th Century.

What are the different types?

The original puzzles would have been made of wood and cut by skilled craftsmen.  There is still a hard core of enthusiasts who enjoy these puzzles.  We’re told that wooden pieces fit more snuggly together than modern pieces made out of hard card.  Nowadays, we are used to laser cut cardboard jigsaw puzzles.  Introduced in the late 1980s, laser cutting revolutionised the puzzle market by speeding up production times significantly.  Modern cardboard puzzles tend to be either 250, 500 or 1000 piece.  The Guinness World record for the largest jigsaw (pictured) comes in at over 500,000 pieces and we can only imagine took some putting together!

Who’s puzzling these days?

child's wooden puzzleIf you’d asked me a year ago, I’d have said it was only my grandparents’ generation.  Now I know that we’re all at it in some way shape or form.

Early years – something that looks attractive to hold the attention of young minds and with pieces that can be mixed and matched.  These wooden puzzles tend to be passed between siblings and we hear quite a-lot how they are passed down the generations.

Pre-schooworld map puzzlel/Nursery – more pieces, smaller pieces, more thought needed to assemble, more dexterity required.  Can’t think of much better ways for a young person to learn patience and develop concentration.  This world map puzzle (pictured below) is a classic example of a puzzle for this age – a great way to learn about the world we live in today.  John Spilbury would surely approve!


Grown ups – smaller pieces, more pieces and much more intricate designs.  It strikes us that people who puzzle want a break from the digital world, a moment of peace and tranquility.  Some read books, some go to the gym and take part in other activities to get away from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives.  I’m sure some people puzzle with someone else but at its heart, puzzlin’ seems the ultimate solo activity.  Turn the telly off, switch the phone off, no emails, no distractions just head down to complete the next bit.

Whatever your do, make doing a puzzle your New Year’s Resolution.  We think you’ll like it and enjoy the time to contemplate the task at hand.  Always interested to hear your comments.  What was the first puzzle you remember completing, have you done one recently?


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