Outside Inside

Hi. At present, I cut three sizes of matchbox puzzles. The mini and medium are on 1/8″ birch plywood and the large matchbox is on 1/4″. Here’s a picture of the backs of a couple of the minis.

A duo of minis. About 10 pieces each.

Now look at the edge pieces and the inside pieces. Because it’s such a small area, there are almost no inside pieces. One, two, maybe three if I cut extra small. And I don’t want to cut anything so thin or small that they feel like they might break. I always want them to feel good. And If I want interlocking pieces, I have to make (almost) every piece have connections to two other pieces. One on each side. This gives me (again, almost) no room to play.

And then the picture forces me to do some other things. I like to cut the pieces with some respect to the image. The middle top piece on the left puzzle up there is probably a face that I didn’t want to hack in two. Probably Mona Lisa. (You’re welcome, Mona.)

Now’s here’s a medium:

A lonely medium. About 20 pieces.

So now here on the medium matchbox puzzle, I have more room (it’s a bigger area) and can mess around a little. Be a little more creative. I can cut out a big swirl in the middle. One that doesn’t really need to connect to every piece around it. (It’s absolutely one of the clouds in the sky of Starry Night.) I can also cut pieces with more connects. There’s one there that has at least 6 connects depending on how you define them.

Now let’s look at a large matchbox:

A solo large. About 25 pieces.

It has a little more area and a lot more heft going to the thicker wood. But just that little bit more lets me get more creative.

There’s that medusa head looking thing on the top left. I got to do knobs of a bunch of different sizes and shapes. I see arrows and double and triple knobs. I get a buzz (or warm fuzzy, if you will) out of a puzzle that works out like this. I even got a serendipitous chance to cut a dog shape you can see on the bottom row of pieces. (Sometimes things work out that way. It’s not planned. Someday I’ll put up a tirade on figural (“whimsy”(yuck! hate the name, dislike the practice))pieces.)

I would love it if I could make every puzzle piece in every puzzle I do not look like any puzzle piece that you think of when you think of a puzzle piece. (Yes, I know you may have to read this sentence a couple times to get my meaning. Maybe I should have used commas somewhere. Maybe you could read it out loud. Don’t worry about it. It’s so important and I’m so happy with the statement that I guarantee I will repeat it again in other posts. It’s just that meaningful.)

So am I complaining? Maybe. A little. But I’m thinking more about the constraints of the canvas I’m working with. (Ooh, look, he’s an artist now. Oh, wait, an artiste.) (Hey, I can call myself whatever I want. I’m the Chief Creative Officer. I need to print up some business cards. And you can bite me. Not really. Just figuratively. Figuratively bite me.)

I guess I can see one of the reasons why most hand cutters will cut huge puzzles. You just don’t have to be so precious to get fully interlocking. Most everything you cut will be inside. Do dropouts. Do eggs. Throw figurals in there. Do a bunch of repetitive strip cuts. (By the way, if you do this, you suck. Strip cutting is lazy. Repetitive pieces are lazy. Stop this. You’re an embarassment. Go work in an office somewhere. Someday I’ll do a blogpost on my real feelings about strip cutting. And laser cut puzzles. Not today, though. I need to wrap this up. Nobody’s going to read this far.)

Thanks for your attention.


Hand In A Glove

As I was listening to a bootleg of David Bowie playing Lou Reed’s Waiting For The Man, I cut the last pieces and sanded this 20 piece matchbox puzzle. Here are a few of the pieces.

I like them. They speak to me (as they say). Now in what way could those pieces possibly fit together? What must the intertwining pieces look like? How could that climber/bowler/whatever on the right get to the snailish thing on the bottom left or the 45rpm record insert looking thing at the top? Well, let’s see.

So those are the other pieces. The roads and bridges that connect the islands from the upper picture. Obvious, aren’t they? I should have guessed, right? Here’s the whole thing assembled:

So, what’s my point? I think I’m saying I can’t guess what the puzzle will end up like. I like to say the puzzle is a song and my cutting is the performance. No two will ever match. They may be alike in some ways but they will always be different in other ways. This is their purpose. This is their value. This is why hand cut puzzles are special. They cannot be machined. Laser cut puzzles aren’t this. Die cut puzzles aren’t this.

Welcome to this performance.

And thank you for your attention.


A New Hope

Here’s something new we’re working on. They are quite dusty at the moment. But they won’t be when they fulfill their purpose.

Order emerging from chaos

Here’s a closer look. They are about half an inch high on quarter inch wood.

4 Monas Lisa (like 4 Attorneys General)

We’re expanding to jewelry! (And anything else that we can come up with.) So I think these will be earrings. We may do the opposite facing Mona. We haven’t decided yet. Stud earrings would be my guess. I don’t wear earrings but I love them. Difficult to cut but worth it. What do you think? Something there?

Small is in the eye of the beholder

Thanks for your attention.


Birthday Cuts

Craig here. So I cut these two puzzles on my birthday. At about 9:30pm.

Starry Night – Reverse

I sanded them in a 60 degree garage/workshop while listening to the song Woodstock by Crosby Stills Nash and Young (written by Joni Mitchell, if you didn’t know.) Lori took the pictures.

The Great Wave by Hokusai – reverse

I feel like that’s the most hippie/boho/far out thing I could be doing. These are quite psychedelic in a two-color way, you know? I really like the way they turned out. I sure couldn’t have planned them like this. Happy birthday to me.

Thanks for your attention.


Why Round The Corners?

Hi. (I’m still working on a salutation that feels right.)

So when I make a ten-piece 1/8th-inch thick puzzle that fits into a mini matchbox, I round the edges of the uncut picture before I cut it. But why?

Left = pointy, Right = roundy

There are reasons. There are always reasons. We are always thinking through things here. One reason is it feels better. I love the feel of wooden puzzle pieces. But I’m not fond of sharp edges. I know it can’t always be helped when I cut the pieces. It makes even sharper points when I start cutting in at a less than 90° (because the other side is then greater than 90°.) Either way, one side is very pokey. And that’s icky.

There’s sawdust on me.

Another reason is it helps with lifts. Lifts are when the lamination and paper pull away from the board. I want these things to last a lifetime. And not just any lifetime. My lifetime. And your lifetime. I want these things to last at least our lifetimes. So we glue down any lifts we find. If you find a lift, you have my permission to glue that sucker down.

A third reason is I think it looks better. It’s done by hand. You can tell a machine didn’t just stamp it out. It varies. Look at the corners in the first picture. They aren’t all the same. Can you tell? You can’t? Well, I can’t either, but I bet if you had one in your hand you could.

So I round the corners. Mostly. I might not always. But I do now. Some stuff even has irregular borders. I do that on some of the big piece puzzles already. I’m thinking I might start doing that on some of the other puzzles too. I could do it on the mini matchboxes too. I don’t mind doing one more step to get the puzzle the way I think will be the best for it.

Thanks for reading.


Claimer (See, it’s the opposite of a Disclaimer):
You can find the puzzles featured on our blog at larkwalkpuzzles.etsy.com or under the “shop” heading of this website (Hint: it’s less expensive here rather than there). Any puzzles you can’t find at either place can be quickly made to order. Just get in touch with us at either store site.

History and Future

Hi. I’m Craig. I do most of the wood cutting for Lark Walk. I want to say a few introductory things about me and the work.

I was a teacher, actuary, musician, ceramicist, and a retail store owner. For a while now I’ve been a woodworker. I have always liked puzzles and toys (who doesn’t?), so that’s what I like making.

That’s the history. Now, the future.

I’m going to be posting here finished and in-process projects and probably some educational or opinion pieces here related to Lark Walk, puzzle and toy making, or just anything in general I feel would be a good post.

Enjoy whatever you find and respond if you like. Everyone’s welcome to do both or either. (Until they aren’t.)

Thanks for your attention.

Craig Kowal (Chief Creative)

Dragon Stand Up Puzzle

Here’s a brand new stand up wooden puzzle design! It started off as a customer request, but it was so fun, it’s now a part of our stable of wooden puzzle animals. 6″ x 8.5″ and made from locally sourced Red Oak.  Plus some miniature friends.

6″ x 8.5″ Dragon Puzzle