Jigsaw puzzle question, 60s versions?
May 22, 2019 3:03 PM   Subscribe

Back in the late 50s and 60s, we used to do a lot of jigsaw puzzles. Generally they were strip cut (rows of pieces horizontally and vertically), but unlike modern puzzles the pieces weren't fully interlocking. Lots of them had one, two, more rarely three, and rarely all four sides "wavy", that fit up against other such wavy pieces. It not only provided more variety than today's fully interlocking pieces (with all four sides locking), but it made it a little easier to make the puzzle because you could identify differences more easily. I've looked at a lot of modern puzzles and anything that's strip cut has fully interlocking pieces, all four sides being either tab or slot.

This means that a lot of times pieces almost fit. It also means that you end up doing a lot of trial and error fitting on big expanses of the same color. Very frustrating compared to the old style. So does anybody know where one can buy the old style puzzles with wavy-edged pieces? (Some pieces, of course, were fully interlocking, but many were not). Having gotten back into making puzzles after several decades, I'm frustrated at this change. It reminds me of many other crazy things that become normalized, like bike seats that feel like you're riding on a 2 x 4, VHS winning out over Beta (yes, I'm dating myself), etc. I know there's a lot about the good old days that was really not good, but when it comes to jigsaw puzzles please...take me back to the good old days.
posted by Tom Blees to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
It looks like it might be the type found about half-way down this page: a first generation Milton Bradley 'Big Ben' puzzle. No indication that these are still made, but maybe you can find some on the popular auction sites?
posted by pipeski at 3:39 PM on May 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

You want 'irregular cut' puzzles, and it varies by brand. Bits and Pieces, Springbok are brands I like. Here is an overview of each puzzle manufacturer, separated by 'grade' and region (scroll down), with some info about cut. Avoid the low grade ones that say 'grid cut' especially, but I bet even the grid cut puzzles in the Grade A don't have the problem you describe.

Examples of 'Grade A':
Bits and Pieces — Thick pieces with a non-grid cut. Best shaped puzzles in the industry.

Springbok — Thick puzzle pieces, a super tight fit, unusual piece shapes and good colors. Images are so-so. Lots of photo puzzles.
posted by lemonade at 3:49 PM on May 22, 2019 [5 favorites]

I just had a ton of fun putting together my first Liberty Puzzle. Not cheap, but clearly a keeper.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:34 PM on May 22, 2019

I was just doing a vintage Springbok puzzle with my family (this one) and noticed - and enjoyed - the unusual pieces. Maybe start there and search for similar?
posted by nkknkk at 4:46 PM on May 22, 2019

If you're curious, the reason they don't make non-interlocking puzzles any more is because they didn't survive the practice of gluing finished puzzles to a backing to save them in a completely assembled condition. You need to be able to flip them over to do that.

You might wish to prowl thrift shops and hospitals and nursing homes until you find a few of the type you like, and make note of the brands and lines, and then search for those on e-Bay or similar places. Of course you run a significant risk of getting incomplete puzzles if you buy them second hand but there are at least millions of old jigsaw puzzles out there, mainly in the hands of people who keep the puzzles going with new owners. Have you tried searching for a forum for puzzle-doers like these?
posted by Jane the Brown at 7:53 PM on May 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

Dowdle puzzles have irregularly-shaped pieces; almost too much so. I've seen them at Costco before and you can order them online from Walmart.
posted by misseva at 12:32 PM on May 23, 2019

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