Dedicated jigsaw puzzlers know nothing matches the quality (or challenge) of a hand-cut wooden puzzle. But at about $2.00 or so per piece they are outrageously expensive (a 20″ x 24″ 1000-piece puzzle can cost $3,000). ELMS Puzzles solves the dilemma by offering a rental program that lets you keep a puzzle for three months, by which time you should either be done or realize you’ve met your match.
The wooden pieces (unlike cardboard) are very exact in their fitting so you have to be very certain about having the right piece. Also, many are cut with straight lines inside the puzzle — i.e. a piece in the middle won’t have interlocking pieces. Those who do puzzles by putting together the border and working their way in will really be challenged; and many of the pieces are cut in shapes appropriate for the puzzle. For example, a Christmas puzzle will have a piece the shape of a Christmas tree, the shape of a sleigh, the shape of an angel, etc. Oh, and no picture comes with the puzzle for those who “cheat” by looking at the top of the box.
While still not cheap, at $40 – $225 depending on the number of pieces, renting these puzzles becomes affordable for special occasions like family vacations with other puzzle fanatics. There are other companies that sell puzzles (Stave comes to mind from having seen their advertisements in The New Yorker), but ELMS are the only people I know who rent. I like the idea of renting 15 – 20 puzzles for the price of buying one.
I recognize this is not something everyone thinks is sane. Our family members are divided on it, some love them, others think it’s the biggest waste of time known to man. You either like jigsaw puzzles or are bored silly by them, but if you’re a fan you should enjoy the pleasure of a quality hand cut puzzle at least once.
— Julee Bode
ELMS Hand Cut Puzzle Rental Club
$50 (up to 299-piece puzzle)
Available from ELMS Puzzles, Inc.
[Note: you will need to pay shipping, either FedEx or priority mail — sl]