Fitting in all the pieces can be charming or challenging
Prices range from $50 to $595 for stock work from 3 1/2 by 5 inches to 11 by 16 inches. Shown here: Santa’s Magical Toys, 5 by 6 inches, $85. Contains 60 pieces. Two of the pieces are Beffa-Negrini’s “foolish figurals” — a candle and Santa in his sleigh.
If your idea of relaxation is fitting together the pieces of a puzzle, then one of artisan David Beffa-Negrini handcrafted puzzles will make your pastime all the more special.
At his Fool’s Gold Puzzles in Harrisville, Beffa-Negrini starts with 1/4-inch basswood, backed with a mahogany veneer. The veneer insures that both sides look good. After dry-mounting an image of a painting or photograph, he uses a scroll saw — much like a quilter would use a sewing machine to top quilt. He turns the wood in a freehand manner to cut puzzle pieces in a variety of sizes using a very fine .0007 blade.
To create a custom puzzle or just to add a bit of whimsy, Beffa-Negrini can cut words (or “foolish figurals,” as he calls them) into the pattern. Puzzle dimensions vary from 4 by 6 inches to 36 by 48 inches, while the pieces range in size to create puzzles in a range of difficulty, from relatively simple to deeply complex. After finishing with the scroll saw, the pieces are sanded, rubbed with tung oil and lastly given an additional coat of paste wax. The pieces are then tucked into a soft gold lamé pouch and packaged inside a custom black box with a gold jester on the lid. The jester is the Fool’s Gold signature, and it actually fits into the puzzle. Beffa-Negrini signs and numbers that piece, saying that it’s a way to identify the puzzle maker should the box be misplaced. These puzzles are collector’s items, and you won’t find them at the Goodwill store along with the cardboard variety.
To add an additional layer of difficulty, an image of the finished puzzle isn’t included. Also, tricks are employed to fool the assembler, such as disguising the edge or corners, cutting between two colors, adding voids and using irregular edges.
Stock images include reproductions of work by local artists, including Marianne Stillwagon, Fred Parsons, Victoria Elbroch and Bob Askey. They are available is a variety of sizes.
Custom and corporate work is accepted, so a favorite family photo or meaningful image can be transformed into a puzzle for about $2 per piece. Fool’s Gold puzzles are available at many League of New Hampshire Craftmen’s shops and Exeter Fine Crafts. Orders are also fulfilled online at foolsgoldpuzzles.com.