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Freestanding Animal Puzzles

Wednesday 11 July 2018

We're not promising to keep the kids amused for hours, but these puzzles will keep them happy long after they've been made.

We have used 27mm beech, but any chunky hardwood would do. To a large degree the pattern size can be governed by the size of wood you have – just be aware that if you go smaller some of the pieces may be too small. The puzzles should not be given to very young children because they could be a choking hazard. Finishes can either be a child-friendly varnish or food-safe oil.

Getting started

Step 1

First, prepare the wood by making sure both sides are completely flat and then sand all surfaces smooth, going through the grades of sandpaper 180 to 240 grit. Utilise the surface of the prepared wood by placing the pattern of the elephant horizontally across the grain, with the feet aligned with the edge of the wood

Step 2

The giraffe and penguin can then be placed vertically with the grain

Steps 3-4

Next, use the 4mm drill bit to drill the eye of the main elephant and penguin. Change to the 3mm bit to drill the remaining smaller eyes, leaving the 2mm bit to make the blade entry hole for cutting the smiley monster's mouth within the penguin

Cutting out

Step 5

Fit the scrollsaw with a No.7 reverse tooth blade – this will keep the underside burr to a minimum. Check that the blade is square at 90 degrees to the scrollsaw table, and then begin by cutting the wood block in half to make it a more manageable size

Step 6

Commence by cutting around the outer edge of the elephant, starting with the piece between the feet. Continue to cut around the back of the elephant in one continuous cut, returning to remove the waste from the tail

Step 7

Once the main elephant is cut out, continue to cut out the smaller individual puzzle pieces… cut into the lines of the smaller elephants to define the ears

Step 8

Sometimes it's easier to follow the cut line of the smaller elephant all the way to the end of the ear, and then back the blade out to continue along the cut line to separate the piece.

Steps 9-10

The same can be said of the last small elephant to be separated. Make the first cut in toward the mouth, back the blade all the way out, then continue the cut from the other side, stopping when you reach the mouth to let the blade catch up with you, before making the sharp turn to meet up with your first cut

Step 11

Lastly, cut the waste from the area inside the trunk on the main elephant. The best was is to follow the cutting line towards the mouth, then back the blade out just enough to be able to continue along the cutting line, then return to make the last cut into the mouth for a lovely sharp corner

Steps 12-13

Continue to cut out the giraffe and penguin in the same way as with the elephant

Steps 14-15

When cutting the smiley monsterâ's mouth within the penguin, thread the blade through the pre-drilled hole, then cut along the low edge of the mouth line

Step 16

Next, back the blade up to the pre-drilled hole and then follow the short upper cut line


Steps 17-18

Remove the paper pattern from all the pieces, and then round over the edges and remove the burr from the underside with a fine 280 or 320 grit sand paper to give a better appearance

Step 19

Apply paint – colour of your choice – to the puzzle circles within the giraffe, and allow to dry before applying your finish of choice… but make sure it is a child-safe finish