Art Objects
Custom Puzzle Craft
Maker of Fine Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles

Custom Puzzle Craft is permanently closed to new orders.

You have entered the "Art Objects" section of Custom Puzzle Craft. Here you will find some explorations by me (John Stokes), within a realm other than my "regular" Custom and Gallery wooden jigsaw puzzles. Several areas of Art Object Exploration have emerged:

Product Line Description Numbered as Puzzles?

Small jigsaw puzzles with a set of "compulsory" requirements (just as the Compulsory Ice Dancing sport has prescribed elements). Think of these as a form of Jigsaw Puzzle Haiku! Stands are optional.

So far I've made a bunch of these in 9" x 3" size with 6 pieces, unpainted and painted and one in 6" x 6" size with 9 pieces, painted.

Golden Ratio Compulsories

Small jigsaw puzzles cut with dimensions in the "Golden Ratio" (look it up). The first ones were sized at about 10" by 6.18", each with 6 pieces, all painted. These works come with stands. Later ones were much larger about 30" by 18.54". The large ones come with frames.

The true Golden Ratio is about 1.618034 to 1. Golden Ratio formula for numerator: (1 + square root of 5) / 2.

Creative Art with Tricky Eggs Unpainted wooden jigsaw puzzles cut in my Creative cutting style with one or more "Tricky Eggs". My cutting in these puzzles tend to be a bit more extreme. There were six puzzles with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 Tricky Eggs. This major series is now closed. Yes
Painted Puzzles

Beside painted Compulsories, I've made larger puzzles with painted pieces that I do not consider as Compulsories. These puzzles are interesting when viewed in a single area, but tend to overwhelming when viewed as a whole. I make these only per special order or as experiments.

In 2012 I came up with a "Creative Showcase" series of 5 inch by 5 inch painted puzzles I consider part of this category yet due to their smaller size have the same visual appeal as my Compulsories.

Shape Puzzlettes Small wooden shapes, no picture, cut into a few pieces. Shape Puzzlettes are customizable, in both shape and cutting style. No


The idea for Compulsories came to me in the fall on 2003, after testing some puzzle blades. I was cutting particularly intricate patterns as I was interested in seeing how the different blades performed when pushed to my limit. A visitor to my shop in late 2003 noticed a couple of my test pieces and wanted to buy one. As I had grown attached to them, and because they contained some imperfections, I offered to make a new one, and thus a new product line was born! Before I started cutting I thought about what I was going to do and was reminded of the Compulsory Ice Dancing sport in the Winter Olympics. In this sport, the dancer is free to dance to the music as s/he pleases, however, during the dance routine, eight specific movements must be performed, thus the name "Compulsory". I then decided that I would define an art form - puzzle cutting performance art - used to make Compulsories - free form cutting but with some specific figures required!

Initially I defined Compulsories as being 9" x 3" with five cuts, generating six pieces. I wrote an "official" set of rules for how to cut Compulsories (see the Historical Note, below).

Initially Compulsories were "plain wood", later ones have been frequently painted. In 2008 I redefined a Compulsory as an Art Object having anywhere from 2 to 9 pieces. If more than 9 then the work is officially counted as being a "Puzzle" and is formally numbered. I know this is problematic as some customers consider all of my Creative cutting style puzzles to be "art" or vice versa. Anyway, what is, is. Confusing the issue is that some Compulsories have been offered as puzzles within the 100 Puzzles Project! Compulsories originally had to have six pieces and be 9" x 3", later I did one with nine pieces, sized 6" x 6" and put it on eBay. I later cut a prototype 9" x 3" Compulsory meant to be fully painted with five pieces instead of six, by mistake. A customer saw the picture and ordered some. Thus the decision to broaden the scope to a range of 2 to 9 pieces.

Six Piece Compulsories

At this time I am not accepting orders for these Compulsories, no price is currently set for them or their stands

Six Piece Compulsories #5, #6, #7, #8 and #9 (top to bottom) - All coated with Tung Oil

Six Piece Compulsories #14 and 15 - Both coated with Tung Oil
These are the same size, 9" x 3", as the earlier ones, just the picture is bigger

In August 2004, I made my first "painted" Compulsory. This one was made from an earlier work I had abandoned, but kept in my shop. When working on a Pelican sculpture, I decided to resurrect the work and apply some of the sculpture's colors to the Compulsory. The result looked fantastic and the work became Six Piece Compulsory #12. It was sold on September 11, 2004 at Concord, MA at a gathering of puzzle cutters. The "Desert Sand" style involves painting two pieces black, two either gray or silver, and leaving two pieces unpainted. The Pelican sculpture was later destroyed.

Six Piece Compulsory #12, painted (desert sand variety 1) - with one of the best Whirly Gears (black, center) ever at that time!
Life Pulse prelude

Six Piece Compulsory #16, painted (desert sand variety 2)
Made on February 17, 2008

Five Piece Compulsories

Five Piece Compulsory #1, painted - originally named "Compulsory 16 - Study"
No other Five Piece Compulsories have been made, no orders are being accepted
This one is considered an experimental work and remains in my own collection.

Nine Piece Compulsories

Nine Piece Compulsory #1, painted, with stand
The work is 6" x 6"
This is considered an experimental work - no other 6" x 6" works have been made and no orders are being accepted

Nine Piece Compulsory #1, painted, with stand - other views
This work was auctioned on eBay as the 77th puzzle of the 100 Puzzles Project and sold for $197.50 with stand.

Six Piece Golden Ratio Compulsories
Small - 10" x 6.18"

The main rule for these Golden Ratio Compulsories is that only five cuts are allowed, resulting in six pieces. Extensive use of "flow cutting" is encouraged. The works tend to feature my more popular Creative style elements mixed with wild new explorations. These are integrated works meant to be viewed as a whole as well as in detail. Over time I have learned that mixing linear elements with the whorls and swirls creates a beautiful tension in the works.

#1 - On October 9, 2008 I completed my first Golden Ratio Compulsory at the suggestion of a customer, although the work was not placed as an order. I decided on a larger size: 10" by 6.18". Cutting the Compulsory in a larger size gave me more room to roam, and I think the work is excellent - usually there is some curve or other cut I wish I could do over, this one is really nice. When I cut it, I deliberately left out some of the common patterns I frequently include in "regular" Compulsories, so as to let new creativity flow to the wood! This one was for practice / exploration and remains in my own collection. I couple years after I made it I had an accident and broken the white piece (hard to see the break in person, not visible in the picture) and chipped out a second piece on the back side.

Six Piece Golden Ratio Compulsory #1
This image updated August 6, 2012 (scanned and color corrected)
Lots of areas with cool stuff happening

#2 - On March 18, 2009 I completed my second one, with a similar coloring scheme. This work was auctioned as puzzle #87 of the 100 Puzzles Project. With stand, it sold for $381.54.

Six Piece Golden Ratio Compulsory #2
Extensive write-up at Six Piece Golden Ratio Compulsory #2

#3 - On May 16, 2010 I completed my third one, with a similar coloring scheme, for sale at the 2010 Puzzle Parley in Salem MA. The work had a problem in that two pieces became stuck together. I heard from the customer that the pieces separated in dryer conditions.

Six Piece Golden Ratio Compulsory #3
I absolutely love the Green and Black area lower left center.

#3 - On July 4, 2012 I finally made a fourth one. This one had a stand as did the second and third ones. The stands are made from three pieces of high quality dark wood. When I made the first two I glued the three pieces together in one operation. When I glued the pieces in the stand for the 4th Golden Ratio Compulsory, I glued two pieces and then later the third piece. This gave me greater control over the gluing process. For the Green section I switched from "Green Apple" to a different green (will have name here eventually)

Six Piece Golden Ratio Compulsory #4
Parts of the white section was derived from the design in #3
I love doing these works - they are so cool - I really like the black angular section to the lower left!

Six Piece Golden Ratio Compulsory #4 with Stand
The slanted stand design was inspired by the slanted buildings in the intro of the Blade Runner movie.

Six Piece Golden Ratio Compulsories
Large - 30" x 18.54"

The next four 6 Piece Golden Ratio Compulsories I made were made with the same design. I stayed with the same design as I worked to solve various issue in the large size: detailed in the scaled up design, board material, paint and framing problems. I show the first and last one here to illustrate how the design changed over time.

Six Piece Golden Ratio Compulsory #5
This one cut in a much larger size 30" by about 18.54"
(The sides extended to 31.5" by 20.04", not shown, intended to be covered by a frame design which did not come to pass)

Six Piece Golden Ratio Compulsory #8
GR6, 7 and 8 were cut as 30" by 18.54" (no extensions for framing)
Many small changes were made during the evolution of GR5 into GR8

GR5, GR6 and GR7 were made for one customer. GR5 was made from 1/2" MDF (medium density fiberboard) and was severely damaged during shipment as I underestimated the fragility of the MDF medium. This one was shipped disassembled without a framing solution. The first remake, GR6 was cut using 1/2" 9-ply Baltic birth with a smooth finish on both sides. This work had major problems during the painting process with a lot of paint wrinkling and was not shipped. I later destroyed this work. I developed a framing method for GR6 using a metal frame, plastic backing and paired magnets. GR7 came out much better and was shipped assembled and framed, using the same framing solution as GR6. The magnets permit the work to be very quickly disassembled. For GR8 I used a different framing solution which involved screwing in each piece to a 1/4" thick backing board. The reason for the new solution was to develop a presentation method I felt would be more likely accepted by art galleries.

GR5 - Completed October 17, 2012. Damaged during shipment. Three pieces destroyed by customer. Three pieces restored and kept by customer.
GR6 - Completed November 23, 2012. Problems with the painting process. Destroyed by Custom Puzzle Craft.
GR7 - Completed December 30, 2012. Shipped.
GR8 - Completed January 31, 2013. Kept by Custom Puzzle Craft.

After a break I began work on the 9th Golden Ratio Compulsory in the 30" by 18.54" size with weeks spent on tweaking the template design prior to the production cutting. Six Piece Golden Ratio Compulsory #9 was completed on April 18, 2013.

Six Piece Golden Ratio Compulsory #9

Pricing: $600 for the regular sized Golden Ratio Compulsories (10" x 6.18") with stand, and $10,000 for the 30" x 18.54" size with frame.

Creative Art with Tricky Eggs

Creative Art with Tricky Eggs is a spectacular series of plain wood puzzles I started in July 2007 and completed in July 2012. These puzzles are documented elsewhere on the site, please refer to the links in the table.

CAWTE logo
Creative Art with Tricky Eggs - Logo
This logo was designed and used for the last puzzle in the series when auctioned on eBay, using two pieces from the last puzzle.

Creative Art with Tricky Eggs - List of puzzles
Puzzle #
Pc / Sq"
Name / Link
Sales Method
2007 Jul 3
12.5" x 12.5"
Tung Oiled
Creative Art with Tricky Egg
Custom order
2008 Jun 9
31.5" x 16.5"
Tung Oiled
Creative Art with Six Tricky Eggs
Custom order
2008 Oct 15
18" x 15"
Tung Oiled
Creative Art with Four Tricky Eggs
Custom order
2009 Nov 24
25.25" x 16.25"
Tung Oiled
Creative Art with Five Tricky Eggs
eBay Auction
2011 Feb 20
19.25" x 11.25"
Tung Oiled
Creative Art with Two Tricky Eggs
eBay Auction
2012 July 9
20.6" x 12.4"
Tung Oiled
Creative Art with Three Tricky Eggs
eBay Auction

Painted Puzzles

I have made some works with more the 9 pieces, officially counted as puzzles.
Puzzle #
Pc / Sq"
Name / Link
1st Cost
Oct 8, 2005
7" x 7"
Painted Creative Style #1 - Life Complexity
Jul 15, 2008
14.1" x 14.1"
Painted Creative Puzzle #2
Mar 13-22, 2012
Creative Showcase
Puzzle Exchange

I have settled on a piece size of about 1 piece per square inch for Painted Puzzles, although bit smaller than that for my Creative Showcase series. I am not accepting orders for Painted Puzzles at this time; the "Current" price is a general guideline for what I'd charge for this kind of puzzle

Historical Note - The Original Compulsory Rules

These are the original "rules" I made up shortly before cutting the first Compulsory in November 2003, a six piece 9" by 3" Art Object. I have since defined Compulsories as having anywhere from 2 to 9 pieces with a set wood size depending on the number of pieces (described above). I have since "unpublished" the rules, and have relaxed requirements regarding the saw's' speed, pausing, taking breaks, etc.


- Rectangular board, wood, 9" x 3"


- The saw has to run at least 700 rpm
- The saw's speed may not be changed at anytime during the course of the performance: from the initiation of the first cut until the completion of the last cut.


- Five cuts. A cut is completed when a section of wood is divided into two pieces. 5 cuts means 6 pieces.
- The distance of each cut may be as long or as short as desired.
- The cuts may be located anywhere on the board
- A cut may loop back to itself, ending the cut
- Dead-end cuts are not permitted (no backtracking of the blade)
- No patterns may be used to guide the cutting in the form of overlays or drawing on the wood
- Once a cut begins, the saw has to remain in motion, unless a blade breaks
- If a blade breaks, the replacement blade must be threaded to the same location as the break, a closing cut from another direction is not permitted
- It is OK to pause the movement of the work during a cut, but the saw continues to run
- There is no limit to the elapsed time between cuts, but the cutter should (not compulsory) remain positioned in front of the saw for the duration of the performance.


Compulsories are not as tightly bound as the Olympic Compulsory Ice Dances! The cutting is free form with some strongly suggested movements.

- At least one very tight gear curl
- An interlude with parallel lines
- At least one very fancy curl
- Some basic Swirl Curl movements (sway curl, mushroom reversal, bow-tie, etc.)
- Strong emphasis on flow-cutting; may be thought of as "puzzle cutting feng shui"
- Odd-numbered bubble runs (usually 3 or 5 bubbles).

Some of these strongly suggested movements must appear.

Shape Puzzlettes

Shape Puzzlettes are small wooden shapes cut into a few pieces. Unlike regular jigsaw puzzles, no picture is attached to the wood. The wood is usually stained to highlight the cut. Currently the maximum size offered is with a longest dimension of 10" and with a maximum of 10 pieces. One Word piece or up to two Figure pieces may be requested.

A Shape Puzzlette
Whale shape cut into seven pieces, including a "TAY" word piece.

© John S. Stokes III - Puzzle Crafter & Webmaster