Tag Archives: review

Whiskers At The Window: A Large Piece Puzzle Review

I’ll be the first to admit that I have issues accepting all the changes that my disability has forced upon me. Some are easier to accept than others; it is easier for me to ask my husband to tie my shoes, for example, than to deliberately reach for the large piece puzzles. I really hate the fact that my hands have problems with both sensation and grip on bad days.  Thus, when my representative at The Jigsaw Puzzle Factory offered a 300 Large piece puzzle, I balked. I’m not that bad yet, really! My mind protested, but I know that while this blog is about my reviews and opinions; it is mainly about discovering things to make hobbies accessible.

So I waited for a day when my hands were sore and swollen, which after last week’s brick kit, wasn’t hard.

 

 

Whiskers At The Window reminds me of the puzzles I used to do as a kid. Not in a juvenile sense, but a fond nostalgia. I love the fact that the back of the box was given to the artist, Jane Maday.

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Nice neat packaging! No puzzle dust!

The size of the pieces where certainly large! Better yet, each side has a different texture, glossy and smooth on the front, and matte and pebbled on the back.

 

On to the puzzling! The sorting went quickly enough, as this is only a 300 piece, and I’ve been doing 500-1000 pieces for a while now.

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I forgot an important fact! This puzzle is ROUND! My normal boards are rectangular! I ended up having to have the Spouse-Critter set up the full-size card table and help me move my setup.

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So big! The diameter of the puzzle is 24 inches!

Amazingly, none of my cats were interested in this puzzle. My only interruptions were SC wanting my opinion on his current project. IMG_3889

All in all, I think I managed to assemble this in about three hours, which is a new record.IMG_3890

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: The Jigsaw Puzzle Factory
  • Title: Whiskers At The Window
  • Artist: Jane Maday
  • Year released: 2017
  • Pieces: 300
  • Cut-Style: Grid-cut puzzle
  • Finished size: 24″ round
  • Bonus poster: Yes
  • Made from recycled materials
  • Made in USA

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Sturdy medium weight, 8 x 8 inches
  • Board: Medium thickness, recycled chipboard
  • Cut: Cut with a steel-cut die, all pieces fully separated
  • Image Quality: Excellent, great color saturation
  • Finish: Slightly glossy
  • Puzzle Dust: None!
  • Piece shapes: A good mix of traditionally cut and irregular pieces
  • Piece Fit: Good, but loose. You cannot pick up multiple pieces and move them

Disability Notes: I have to give my rep credit, this a wonderful puzzle. My hands didn’t ache after assembly, and the difficulty level was certainly up to adult standard. I can happily recommend a large piece puzzle for people with fine motor skill issues, or arthritis.

Where to buy: Whiskers At The Window  is available on the The Jigsaw Puzzle Factory website for $14.99 USD.

The Jigsaw Puzzle Factory: Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle from the manufacturer in exchange for review. The opinions are my own.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page. To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

TICO Bricks Smithsonian Institute: A Review

In February, at NY Toy Fair, I came across a micro-brick booth I hadn’t seen before. The ladies running it were very nice, and gave me a mini pterodactyl kit to try.  I’m ashamed to admit it has sat in my brick box since then. I remembered it when starting the blog, and reached out to The Lazy Dog & Co., TICO® bricks’ US distributor. I’m really glad I did!

I was asked which kits I was interested in, and I responded back with a list of possible kits, including The Smithsonian Institute, which was my pie-in-the-sky item. Imagine my surprise when that is exactly what they sent me! Poor Spouse-Critter, there was much squealing and happy-dancing that day.

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The Castle

Now, the Smithsonian Institution name covers over 19 museums, a zoo, 9 research facilities and tons of affiliated buildings. The building featured in the kit is called “The Castle” which is the first of the Smithsonian buildings, and its headquarters to this day. Look at this pretty building! There are days I think it lovelier than Buckingham Palace.

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Not a lot of spare packing material, TICO doesn’t pad the box!

Set up is easy, open the box, lay it all out, grab tweezers and magnifier, and check out the instructions.

Okay, so this just jumped a level of difficulty! Unlike some other brick companies; each step is only shown by pictures, there are no lists of how many bricks of each type are needed.  I know that a kit this big will have a ton of pieces, nearly 1,100 according to the box, so I haul out my MasterPieces™ Puzzle Sort and Save. Sorting all the little pieces by type and keeping them away from the cats is a necessary thing!IMG_3776

This build took me about three and a half days over the course of several sessions. My hands tended to start to ache after a few hours, so I was glad to have photographed the process.

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I hit a snag on step #9, I had a piece missing! I searched all my sorting trays, thinking it may have been missorted, no dice. Okay….I’m a resourceful brick-builder, I subbed in a 1×2 and a 1×1 brick for the missing 1×3. I kept moving on until by step #11, when it was very noticeable that I was missing not one, but several pieces! Worse, these were pieces that I needed! I dug into my stash of micro-brick spares, and found a few that would sort of match. The upside to this? I found out that TICO® Bricks are compatible with their competitor’s bricks!

Then I emailed my contact at TICO®. She was awesome! Quick response, a request for a full listing of my missing pieces so they can be replaced, and a promise to let the manufacturer in Taiwan know. Customer Service Win!  In the end, I was only short 9 pieces, 2 of those because I subbed them in on step #8. In a kit of 1085 pieces? That’s a minuscule amount, and I would not have noticed if there was a large amount of spare bricks.

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Spare pieces!

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So Long! Just under 11 1/2 inches

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Standard micro-brick kit width of 3 1/2 inches

This Is Now Officially My Biggest Micro-brick Kit Ever!

TICO stands for Tiny – Intelligent – Combinative – Originality. Honestly, this company really embodied this! It is tiny, it took and stretched my intelligence, I managed to combine pieces I did not think would fit, and while following a set of instructions doesn’t use originality, TICO® also sells bulk piece kits.

Brick Kit SPECS

  • Company: TICO
  • US Distributer: The Lazy Dog & Co.
  • Title: Smithsonian Institute
  • Kit Number: T-1536
  • Year released: 2018
  • Pieces: 1085
  • Difficulty: 3/5 I personally rate it a 4/5 for the instructions
  • Brick Size: 4mm x 4mm x 5mm
  • Figure size: N/A
  • Finished size: 28.75cm x 9.5cm x 12cm 
  • Made from ABS Plastic
  • Made in Taiwan

QUALITY: 

  • Box: lightweight, 20cm x 14cm x 5.5cm
  • Build Integrity: Very Good, the trees and flag are a bit fragile
  • Recognizability: Excellent
  • Piece shapes: Standard brick shapes, with some new shapes like 90° angles
  • Piece Fit: Excellent

Notes: The size of the bricks lean towards using angle tip tweezers. As there are extra pieces provided, I recommend saving them with the instructions in a sealed bag. I will be sure to add an update to this blog post when the customer service issue of the missing bricks is fully resolved.  I’m incredibly happy overall with both the Smithsonian kit and highly recommend TICO® for other micro-brick enthusiasts!

Disability Notes: Due to the fine motor control required for this build, I do not recommend TICO® Bricks for those with fine motor control impediments, arthritis, or palsy, unless you have assistance. If you have a visual impairment, this is possible to do with the assistance of a magnifier.

Where to buy:  The Smithsonian Institute and other kits are available on The Lazy Dog & Co. website for $64.99 USD.

The Lazy Dog & Co. Tico® Bricks : Website 

Disclosure: I received a complimentary brick kit from the manufacturer in exchange for review. The opinions are my own.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page. To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

NanoBlock Review : The White House

I was in Washington DC last weekend, working for a friend as a vendor at Otakon®. Otakon® was my very first anime convention way back in 2001, and I was thrilled to go again. DC is full of fantastic national monuments, but the one everyone recognizes is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, AKA The White House.

Brick kits are a great way to keep my mind active when my body rebels. Nanoblock® kits are perfect because they are so small! I’ve assembled them in bed or on the couch with a lap desk; and with the micro-scale of the builds, I don’t have to worry about the build overflowing my work surface. IMG_3723I had not done The White House kit before, but with a difficulty of 2/5, I wasn’t overly worried.

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Ack! White pieces on a white board. This will not work……

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SC made me a black work board! Much better!

Nanoblock® kits come with very little extraneous packaging. The pieces are in small plastic bags, presorted by size and type. There is also an incredibly detailed and easy to follow building instructions.IMG_3726Set up was easy; open all the plastic bags, grab some tweezers, and put on an audiobook.IMG_3727

What followed was a few hours of quiet, detail-focused fun! SC had set up my camera so that I could create a slideshow of the building process.

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Pretty cool, right? It starts slow, but builds up quickly! And at the end, I have a nifty little souvenir of my latest trip for my Around the World shelf!

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The kit includes an itty bitty Nanoid of the 45th president.

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Extra pieces were included, which is great. With kits this small, breakage or piece losses are inevitable.

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Hurricane acting as Godzilla, great scale model!

My Rating: 5/5 

Brick Kit SPECS

  • Company: Kawada
  • US Distributer: Schylling
  • Title: The White House
  • Kit Number: NBH-144
  • Year released: 2017
  • Pieces: 420
  • Difficulty: 2/5
  • Brick Size: 4mm x 4mm x 5mm
  • Figure size: 1.5cm
  • Finished size: 8cm x 8cm x 4.2cm with the flag, the height is 5.5cm
  • Made from ABS Plastic
  • Made in China

QUALITY: 

  • Box: lightweight, 14cmx14cmx4.5cm
  • Build Integrity: Very Good, the trees and flag are a bit fragile
  • Recognizability: Excellent
  • Piece shapes: Standard brick shapes
  • Piece Fit: Good, small noticeable gaps along brick lines

Notes: The instructions recommend the Nanoblock branded tweezers, but I don’t own a set and found that angle tip tweezers work just fine. As there are extra pieces provided, I recommend saving them with the instructions in a sealed bag.

Disability Notes: Due to the fine motor control required for this build, I do not recommend Nanoblock® for those with fine motor control impediments, arthritis, or palsy, unless you have assistance. If you have a visual impairment, this is possible to do with the assistance of a magnifier.

Where to buy:  The White House is available on the Schylling website for $19.99 usd. It and other Nanoblock® kits can also be found at your local Barnes & Noble.

Schylling Nanoblock® : Website 

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle from the manufacturer in exchange for review. The opinions are my own.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page. To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

Hidden Images Glow in the Dark Jungle Pride : A Puzzle Review

I normally wouldn’t have chosen this puzzle for myself. It’s a 500 piece, which is within my current ability, and the subject matter is cat-based…But Spouse-Critter (SC) fell in love with both the tigers and the idea of hidden images. I tend to shy away from both hidden images (the Magic Eye™ images give me vertigo) and glow in the dark ones. That being said, how could I tell SC no? He rarely steers me wrong.

 

I love how well protected the puzzle pieces are! IMG_3653

There were only a few hanging chads, and it’s obvious that the die stamp had gotten dull rather than a design flaw. The chipboard is made of recycled materials, and the pieces are of medium thickness.

 

I had a bit of trouble keeping the cats off my tigers! We did find that one of the images on the side of the box is meant to be seen when upside down, so you can use the box to store puzzle pieces and still see the image!

 

Once I had my frame in place, the assembly only took me a few hours, spaced out over some rainy days. The mix of standard and irregular pieces made for a great mental exercise. Matching stripes took what felt like forever!

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It came out so pretty!

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Low light glow

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It reallly glows!!!

It took some experimenting to get the glow to pop, those rainy overcast days hadn’t given off enough light. I got limited results with a led lantern, so SC went out and bought a black light bulb. Look at the glowy awesome!! The box says there are 16 tigers in the puzzle. I could only find 14, but as I mentioned before, I suck at finding hidden images. The ones I did find look amazing.

 

 

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: MasterPieces® Inc.
  • Title: Hidden Images Glow in the Dark Jungle Pride
  • Artist: Steve Read
  • Year released: 2017
  • Pieces: 500
  • Cut-Style: Grid-cut puzzle
  • Finished size: 15 x 21 in
  • Bonus poster: No
  • Made from recycled materials
  • Made in China

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Sturdy but lightweight, 8 x 8 inches
  • Board: Medium thickness, recycled chipboard
  • Cut: Cut with a steelcut die, very few pieces were not fully separated
  • Image Quality: Excellent, great color saturation
  • Finish: Slightly glossy with sandy texture where the glow in the dark ink is
  • Puzzle Dust: Minimal
  • Piece shapes: A good mix of traditionally cut and irregular pieces
  • Piece Fit: Very good, small clusters of pieces could be moved without falling apart

Where to buy: Hidden Images Glow in the Dark Jungle Pride” has been re-issued as a 550 piece puzzle and is available on the MasterPieces website for $12.99 USD.

MasterPieces Puzzles: Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle from the manufacturer in exchange for review. The opinions are my own.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page. To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

Puzzle Preservation: MasterPieces Peel & Stick

I finished assembling a puzzle today and the Spouse-Critter(SC) liked it enough to request it be glued. As I had received both the puzzle and a package of puzzle glue sheets from MasterPieces; I figured why not? This turned into an adventure!

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First, I had to move my “helper”.

I’ve never used glue sheets before, so I was rather excited. Would it be easier than the liquid glue I normally use? It had to be faster, right? So I flipped my puzzle upside down and got to work.

Hmm….this can’t be right. The puzzle is a 500 piece measuring 15″ by 21″. The packaging states that it will cover two (2) 500 piece puzzles and that with eleven sheets out of the twelve in the package to cover my puzzle certainly isn’t happening here.

I stopped and did a little research. The packaging says the glue sheets are 7″ by 7.5″. My measurements,with Hurricane for scale, say they are 6.5″ by 6.5″. Now, the company’s website states the sheets are 6.75″ by 6.75″. OK, maybe I got new product in older packaging. It sucks, but I do have enough to cover my puzzle. (SC Edit: Turns out, the packaging is 7″ by 7.5″. The issue seems to be a communication error between designer and manufacturer.)

The hardest part is getting the backing to peel. I did this on a good hand day, where I had sensation in my fingers and it was difficult. I honestly couldn’t imagine how hard it would be for my friends with major hand mobility issues. Maybe an easy-peel corner? IMG_3675Other than some wrinkles, my first piece went on really well. Color me impressed, these glue sheets are super sticky! All the other main sheets(6) went down easily. IMG_3677I laid full sheets across the top and bottom of my puzzle, thinking that those would be the areas needing the most support. This left a strip down one side and one down the center that still needed glue sheets. The uncovered areas were all under 2″ wide, so I cut 2″strips from two additional glue sheets. Ha! I was able to cover my puzzle completely using only eight sheets instead of the estimated eleven. I still have four sheets to use if I want to save one of my micro puzzles.

Rating: 4/5

Pros:

  • Much less messy than glue
  • Fast application
  • Zero drying time
  • No chemical scent for people with Chemical Sensitivities

Cons:

  • Hard to open
  • No way to reposition-once it’s down, it’s down!
  • Measurement discrepancy-measure your puzzle first!
  • Cost. See Cost Analysis

Cost Analysis:

I know I’m not the only disabled person on a limited budget. At $5.99 a package, MasterPieces Peel & Stick Puzzle Glue Sheets are great if you only need to save one or two puzzles. If you are like me, and save a good number of puzzles; then the same cost covers a small bottle of liquid puzzle glue that will do four or more puzzles.

Overall:

I’ll email Masterpieces regarding the size discrepancy, and recommend an easy peel corner or perforation to make opening the glue sheets easier. They have an awesome guarantee system and I’ll post an update about what I hear. I solidly rate this product a 4 out of 5 and do recommend it for puzzlers who either hate glue or have a Chemical Sensitivity.

MasterPieces Peel & Stick Puzzle Glue Sheets can be bought here.

MasterPieces: Website/FaceBook

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle and glue sheets from the manufacturer in exchange for review. The opinions are my own.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page. To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

Sharks! A Puzzle Review

Early last February, I got to go to the New York Toy Fair. This was an awesome weekend where I got to see the new toys, games, and hobby kits that companies would be selling over the upcoming year. While there, I was gifted a veritable plethora of swag. Swag is great, it’s the free stuff that companies give out in the hopes you’ll spread the news and buy more stuff. At the time, I had no real plans for the swag, which included puzzles, micro-brick kits, and  bath bomb kits. Then winter hit me, and hit me hard. I spent the better part of two months staring at the ceiling, too ill to leave to bed. I watched a lot of Netflix. Honestly, I watched so much that I became bored with boredom. It’s summer now, but nothing, especially good health doesn’t last long. My spouse-critter (SC) recommended I start a blog, talk about the things I love. My body may have bad days/weeks, but my brain still craves stimulation, and I certainly can’t be the only one!

Back on topic, one of those Toy Fair Puzzles was this:

1000 piece Shark Chart Puzzle by EuroGraphics Puzzlesimage003

My family and friends will agree…I’m obsessed with sharks. Discovery Channel’s Shark Week is sacred holiday in my house. What better way to build this puzzle than to marathon watching Shark Week’s 30th Anniversary season?

So I set up my work station, AKA the couch and bought a season pass on Amazon. The cats decided this was to be a family project. IMG-3569Zane tests the box for sits as Teedle warms my spot.

IMG-3584This is a new brand to me, and I was really impressed. While there were a few pieces that weren’t fully separated during the cutting process, the overall quality of this puzzle is excellent. The irregularly cut pieces, mixed with traditional ones, made for a fiendishly clever puzzle.  IMG_3587Featuring nearly 30 sharks from over 25 different species; this puzzle is almost more educational than Shark Week! Better yet, my FAVORITE shark is on it. wobbegongSpotted Wobbegong FTW!IMG_3590All finished, and beautiful!IMG_3592Hurricane gave it the Cat Seal™ of approval as Zoomie supervises.

Okay, enough cat photos. Here’s the details!

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: Eurographics Puzzles
  • Title: Sharks
  • Artist: Unknown
  • Year released: Unknown
  • Pieces: 1000
  • Cut-Style: Grid-cut puzzle
  • Finished size: 26.5 x 19.25 in
  • Bonus poster: No
  • Made from recycled board and printed with vegetable based ink.
  • Made in USA


QUALITY: 

  • Box: sturdy, sized 14 x 10 in
  • Board: Very sturdy and rigid
  • Cut: Cut with a steelcut die, very few pieces were not fully separated
  • Image Quality: Excellent
  • Finish: Slightly glossy
  • Puzzle Dust: Minimal
  • Piece shapes: A good mix of traditionally cut and irregular pieces
  • Piece Fit: Very good, small clusters of pieces could be moved without falling apart

Where to buy: At the time of this post, “Sharks” is listed for sale on the Eurographics website for $17.99 usd.

Eurographics Puzzles: website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle from the manufacturer in exchange for review. The opinions are my own.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page. To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!