Wooden puzzles are timeless toys that can provide hours of enjoyment. Unlike puzzles made of cardboard or plastic, wooden puzzles are built to last for years or even decades if properly cared for.
Following some simple storage and cleaning tips can help you preserve your wooden puzzles so they can be passed down and enjoyed by future generations.
Why Wooden Puzzles are Special
Wooden puzzles have an extra special appeal that makes them worth preserving. Here’s why they are so treasured:
- Tactile Appeal – The natural texture of the wood is pleasing to handle when assembling puzzles. Plastic and cardboard lack this organic, warm feeling.
- High-Quality Materials – Wooden puzzles tend to be made from thicker, sturdier materials that hold up better over time compared to cardboard or thin plastic. Common woods used include birch, beech, and basswood.
- Timeless Subjects – Wooden puzzles often depict classic themes like famous paintings, shared stories, nature scenes, or imaginative maps that retain their educational and nostalgic value.
- Unique Shapes – While pictures are most common, wooden puzzles come in diverse shapes from geometric patterns to familiar objects that are interesting to reconstruct.
- Sentimental Value – Wooden puzzles frequently become keepsakes passed down through generations, gaining sentimental value as family traditions. Some puzzles date back over a hundred years.
- Learning Tool – Assembling wooden puzzles helps develop vital skills in children like fine motor control, perception, spatial reasoning, and problem-solving. They have great developmental benefits.
Due to their many merits, wooden puzzles are well worth the extra effort to preserve. With appropriate care, they can provide enjoyment for you and your family for many years to come.
Storing Wooden Puzzles
Proper storage is the key to keeping your wooden puzzles in great shape for the long term. Here are tips for ideal puzzle storage:
Find a Cool, Dry Spot
The ideal storage location for wooden puzzles is a controlled room with a steady temperature of around 68-72°F and moderate humidity of around 45-55%. Avoid temperature and humidity extremes that can damage puzzles. An unfinished basement, closet, or drawer works nicely.
Consider Climate Control
In damp climates prone to mold or hot climates where wood could warp, consider investing in dehumidifiers, humidifiers, air conditioners, or dehydrators to maintain optimal temperature and moisture levels for puzzle storage. This will prolong their lifespan dramatically.
Keep Away from Sunlight
Direct sun exposure will cause wooden puzzle pieces to fade, discolor, or warp over time. Find a dark, opaque storage spot away from windows and sunlight such as a closet, dresser, or shelf lined with a dark tablecloth. If using open shelving, cover puzzles with a cloth.
Purchase Puzzle Storage Totes
For the best protection, store puzzles in archival-quality plastic storage totes made of acid-free, lignin-free plastic with airtight lids. These museum-grade containers prevent dust buildup, and warping from moisture, and keep all the pieces neatly together.
To control moisture, place desiccant packets in puzzle storage containers. These moisture-absorbing beads will remove any humid air trapped inside that could warp wooden pieces. Change desiccant packs a few times a year as they become saturated.
Line Boxes with Foam
If not using archival totes, line original puzzle boxes with strips of polyethylene foam to cushion puzzles from damage when stacked. This also keeps pieces from shifting around loose inside the box during moves or transport.
Clearly label all puzzle storage boxes with their titles, piece counts, ages, and any other details. This helps you inventory and organize without opening boxes. Use archival-safe pens designed for museum artifact labeling.
Cleaning Wooden Puzzles
While wooden puzzles don’t require heavy cleaning, occasional light maintenance keeps them looking like new:
Use a clean, dry, lint-free microfiber cloth to gently dust puzzle surfaces. A very soft paintbrush can also dislodge dust and debris from crevices. Move the brush in a single direction rather than swirling to prevent scratching.
Clean Every Few Years
Every 2-3 years, you can deep clean puzzles showing grime buildup. Use a mild dish soap diluted in warm distilled water and a soft lint-free cloth. Avoid soaking puzzles and dry them immediately with a fan or desiccant packs.
Freshen Air Quality
For stale puzzles, lay them out loosely on a sheet in direct sunlight for 2-3 hours to air out. For musty smells, wipe with a cloth dampened in vinegar and water solution using minimal liquid.
About once a year, it’s smart to disinfect wooden puzzles your children use to prevent the spread of germs. Wipe pieces with a cloth sprayed lightly with disinfectant, allowing it to fully dry afterward. Avoid soaking in the woods.
Clean Puzzle Boxes
Use compressed air or a vacuum with a brush attachment to remove dust and debris inside puzzle boxes. Wipe the exterior with a lightly dampened cloth and mild cleaner if needed. Let boxes fully dry before replacing puzzles.
Maintaining Wooden Puzzles
A little periodic maintenance keeps your puzzles playable for the long haul:
Inspect for Damage
Before storing puzzles after use, inspect all pieces closely for new damage. Be on the lookout for mold, cracking, splintering, delamination, or excess wear. Address any issues immediately.
Superglue Loose Knobs
If wooden knobs on puzzle pieces become loose, use just a dot of superglue on the end of a toothpick to re-adhere them. Avoid getting adhesive on puzzle surfaces. Wipe away any excess.
Use Wax Paper for Protection
When gluing or repairing puzzles, layer wax paper underneath to avoid accidentally adhering puzzles to tables or backboards. The wax coating prevents bonding. Handle puzzles with care on waxed surfaces.
Seal Bare Spots
Use a small paintbrush to apply a thin layer of wood finish, polyurethane, or paste wax to worn areas or bare wood spots. This prevents moisture damage and restores protection.
Replace Missing Pieces
Contact the puzzle manufacturer to purchase replacement pieces for any that become lost or too damaged to use. For rare vintage puzzles, you can commission custom laser-cut wooden reproductions.
Upgrade Storage Over Time
If puzzles show signs of wear or damage in storage, invest in archival boxes or museum-grade enclosures to better protect them for the future.
Displaying Wooden Puzzles
Follow these tips if you wish to display completed wooden puzzles:
Frame Under Plexiglass
Framing a puzzle under plexiglass ensures all the pieces stay together and are protected from dust. Use archival foam core spacer strips between the layers so the weight doesn’t press down.
Apply Acid-Free Backing
Before framing, glue a backing of acid-free paper or linen fabric to the puzzle using archival adhesive. This creates a protective barrier and keeps puzzle pieces firmly in place for display.
Mount on Acid-Free Mat
Another option is to professionally mount the completed puzzle on an acid-free mat board leaving a narrow border. This can be framed as art without glass but provides less protection.
Use Removable Options
Special museum putty or archival puzzle preservative adheres pieces together strongly so a puzzle can be safely displayed without framing, but removed later if desired without damage.
Watch for Fading
Don’t display wooden puzzles in direct sunlight or bright indoor light to prevent fading over time. Periodically rotate displayed puzzles with stored ones to distribute light exposure.
Control Room Climate
Maintain moderate temperature and humidity in the display area. Especially avoid drying heat or humidity extremes near heating/cooling vents that may damage fragile puzzles.
When to Repair or Replace Puzzles
Even with great care, puzzles will eventually show signs of their age:
Repair if Still Intact and Usable
It’s worth repairing and restoring puzzles if all the original pieces remain usable. Things like backing, edge sealing, and touch-ups can return damaged but intact puzzles to playable condition.
Replace Sections if Partly Intact
If only part of the puzzle is still intact and usable, it may be possible to replace damaged sections by contacting the manufacturer for spare parts. This works better for large puzzles than small ones.
Replace the Entire Puzzle if Pieces Lost
If puzzle pieces are missing or too damaged to use, it’s usually best to replace the entire puzzle. Trying to find random replacement pieces is challenging and rarely looks cohesive.
Toss if Damage is Severe
Puzzles with major mold or mildew damage, broken frames, splintered pieces, or serious water damage that causes major warping or delamination are usually not worth saving and should be discarded.
If you have duplicate puzzles or any you no longer want, consider donating them to children’s hospitals, assisted living facilities, doctor’s offices, schools, or non-profits so others can enjoy them.
Passing Down Beloved Puzzles
With their inviting imagery, sturdy construction, and open-ended play, it’s no wonder wooden puzzles have captivated families for generations. Follow these care steps and your wooden puzzles can continue entertaining for decades more while creating special memories to pass down.
Here are some ways to share the magic of puzzles with others:
- Include treasured puzzles in your will or estate planning to gift to the family as meaningful heirlooms.
- Offer duplicates or well-preserved puzzles to relatives with young children who may treasure them as much as you did.
- Teach younger generations your puzzle preservation tips so they can carry on caring for family puzzles when you’re gone.
- Frame a finished puzzle with photos and stories of its origin to turn it into sentimental wall art for the next generation.
- Take time to assemble favorite puzzles with visiting grandchildren to share the joy and create new bonds.
Well-cared-for wooden puzzles become timeless family treasures to last lifetimes. With the right storage, maintenance, and care, the beloved puzzles that bring you countless hours of enjoyment can continue entertaining future generations in your family.
Wooden puzzles are well worth preserving due to their enduring appeal and high play value. By keeping them properly stored, cleaning them routinely, and performing minor repairs when needed, your wooden puzzles can provide many more years of enjoyment.
Be sure to pass on your puzzle care knowledge when gifting treasured puzzles to others. With some basic maintenance and care, you can ensure your wooden puzzles last long enough to become true family heirlooms.