The Joy of Hand-craft: Making (and solving!) Wooden Puzzles

Gift-giving holidays (like birthdays and Christmas) are like a little workshop-laboratory for the kids in this family! They think of ideas to make for each other, and then we often embark on an adventure of figuring out how to make that gift-idea into a reality.

A close-up of a wooden puzzle, hand-carved by Spencer Michalski at
A close-up of a wooden puzzle, hand-carved by Spencer Michalski at

When Spencer decided that he wanted to make wooden puzzles for his brother and sister, his first impression was that it would be pretty simple. Draw up a design, transfer the design onto a piece of wood, and carefully cut along all of the lines. No problem!

Spencer Michalski, the artist behind the hand-carved wooden puzzles at

But in practice, he learned a valuable lesson. The saw has a kerf, or thickness, and that thickness is removed every time you cut between two pieces. And when you draw a puzzle onto a piece of wood and cut it out by hand, you end up with gaps, and your pieces don’t fit properly. No matter how carefully you design, and no matter how carefully you cut, you just can’t start from the whole puzzle and slice it it into its pieces.

What he had discovered, of course, was true in both woodworking and in life: each piece must be individually crafted for the best fit!

And so he returned to the workshop with a new plan – cutting each piece separately according to his design, fitting them as he went, building them all into a finished whole.

A hexagon wooden puzzle, hand-carved by Spencer Michalski at
A star-shaped wooden puzzle, hand-carved by Spencer Michalski at

And, of course, suffering setbacks, learning a new way, and trying again is always a great lesson in perseverance and steadfastness.

Woodworking lessons…Work lessons…Life lessons…That’s what you get with kids-in-the-workshop!

by Sydney Michalski

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