Our company has seen a lot of wooden puzzles come through our doors over the years. Some as old as 100 years come in looking in near mint condition, while others that are as recent as the disco age look like the some pets or kids got the best of them. There are a lot of things you can do to ensure that your collectible, antique or vintage puzzles last through the years. I will also let you know what we do to make sure the puzzles we buy are in as good or better shape than when we first received them.
Keep them Safe
The first thing you need to do is to keep them away from pets and kids. OK, that was an obvious one, but you’d be surprised at some of the stories I have heard about “just turning around for 1 minute…” and the damage that was done to some item or other. So keep them well protected. Another thing I have noticed on the older puzzles is sometimes the wood layers separate. I don’t exactly know the reason. It seems like the glue has lost its bonding ability. I know both heat and humidity can have an impact on glue, so try to keep the puzzles in a climate controlled environment so as to avoid this issue. I have not noticed this to be a huge issue, but I have seen some older puzzles that have come apart.
Gently Spread Them Out
Be careful when you spread the pieces out. Some people have a tendency to dump the pieces out. These are delicate pieces of work (no pun intended) and need to be treated as such. Ideally remove the pieces from the box by hand and carefully place them on your work table. Try to have a dedicated work space that can be covered up between those marathon puzzling sessions so as to keep dust away from the pieces.
Have Patience When You are Done
Of all the advice I can give, I would venture to guess the number one way wooden puzzles are damaged is by being too rough taking them apart (at least from what I have seen). I can think of the analogy here of people who climb mountains. I read that more accidents happen on the way down than going up. The reason is everyone is focused going up, once the goal is achieved and you are heading back your guard is down and you mentally feel you have accomplished your mission. The same could be said for puzzling. You have spent untold hours of fun and possibly frustration assembling a nice puzzle, and once you are ready to return it to the box you may get reckless as you break it down. A large puzzle (let’s say 1200+ pieces) should take up to an hour (or more) to properly “dis-assemble”. Where I have seen a lot of damage seems to be from when people are trying to pull pieces apart too quickly. The result of this is the connectors or knobs as I refer to them can easily break or get bent if pieces are being forced apart. These are the most delicate part of any piece and it’s very easy to break them off or cause damage to surface layer that contains the image. So be very careful. If it doesn’t easily come apart one way try pushing the puzzle piece through the other side, it may be an easier way to get them to separate. Never force it. It’s better to keep them together if you can’t seem to resolve the problem than end up breaking a piece. If for some reason you don’t have the patience to carefully take it apart (which would be a little interesting considering the patience puzzles require), break it down in larger “chunks” and do it slowly over time. Just don’t rush the process or you may very well come to regret it.