Anthology Puzzles is new to the wooden puzzle world, but they have already become extremely popular in the puzzle Instagram community. With options to purchase full size puzzles, join a monthly subscription for a mini puzzle, or visit their in-person jigsaw library, there are a lot of ways to enjoy an Anthology puzzle! I talked to company owner, Tim, about his up and coming company.
What kind of wood do you use and why did you choose that material?
We use a specially developed plywood which has a formaldehyde-free, soy-based core that gives excellent cutting results. We are often asked why we don’t use solid wood. Not only is solid wood very expensive, but it contains a lot of moisture and has inconsistent density, which would lead to poor cutting and more burn marks on the puzzles.
Tell me about your laser cutting process
Prior to laser cutting, we print the image using archival-grade ink that is designed not to fade for at least 100 years, then mount it to the wood using a huge heated vacuum press and special bonding material that ensures the pieces will not peel.
The chosen cut pattern for the puzzle is then loaded into a piece of software that sends commands to the laser. The color of the line in the software determines what speed and power settings are used to ensure a clean cut with minimal burning. This is something of an art!
The puzzle is then clamped to the laser bed with magnets and the laser aligned using a camera and red dot guide laser before pressing start and hoping for the best! In the videos, the red laser you see is the guide laser. The cutting laser operates at a much higher wavelength and is therefore invisible to the human eye.
How do you come up with your whimsy pieces and where they are placed in the puzzle? What is your favorite Whimsy you have?
The whimsy pieces are designed on a digital tablet, much like all of the other pieces. Usually the inspiration for the pieces comes from the theme of the puzzle. They are the first pieces to be placed, then all of the other normal pieces are drawn around them. A big part of the skill in designing the pieces is to ensure enough of them interlock to keep the puzzle together when it is moved around.
We all agreed that the llama whimsy is our favorite. It has been so popular that a new design is in the works that will be available for retail purchase since the subscription puzzles are intended to be exclusive designs.
What inspired you to open the puzzle library? Tell me more about the process from idea to opening day
During the 2020 lockdown I decided to start puzzling as a means to support my mental health while stuck on my own in a small apartment. After struggling to get hold of jigsaw puzzles due to their increased popularity, I decided to investigate how I could make them myself. After a lot of research into making puzzles using cardstock, it became apparent that it simply wasn’t possible to achieve anything of acceptable quality without industrial scale equipment. This led to me looking into wooden puzzles and ultimately purchasing a cheap little laser cutter off ebay to begin experimenting. The small puzzles I created were not of great quality, but nevertheless proved popular with friends and neighbors. After trawling the internet for many, many hours I gained enough knowledge to know what equipment I needed to create commercial quality jigsaws, but it was expensive. I was fortunate to be able to acquire most of what I needed secondhand from a printing company that was closing down and after several further weeks of trial and error, I was able to create a product that I was happy with.
The library concept came from a chance conversation with a friend who asked about the possibility of making jigsaws of book covers. We trialed the idea of mailing jigsaws to people with return labels included, but concluded that the package size and weight with wooden puzzles would require a price of at least $30/mo, which we felt was too high. Many people commented on the boxes and how much they would like to collect them for display at home, so the mini puzzle subscription was actually born before the library.
Downtown Las Vegas is really small business friendly, and the offer of a space inside a local venue was too good to pass up, so the library concept was reborn but, for in-person use only. In just 4 months the library and subscriptions have allowed me to employ two part-time staff and we will shortly be opening up a full-time position as well. We are really grateful to our subscribers for not only supporting this small business, but also enabling employment opportunities for others.