Name Puzzles

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Project by Karson posted 01-20-2009 06:19 PM 2545 views 8 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

As i have mentioned in other postings, when I got back into doing some woodworking in St. Louis, one of the things that I made were name puzzles.

It was a great business. Names for kids, married people and I even made wedding gifts with a big heart on the end.

This one is my wife’s and mine and it is around 35 years old. All my puzzles were made with Aromatic Red Cedar and with no finish.

If I was just cutting a single layer I used a 1/16” bandsaw blade. I welded them myself and they had a life of around 1 hr before they shattered. They were metal cutting blades and 32 tooth, so there was not a lot of metal left for the blade. The metal fatigue did them in. They would usually shatter into many pieces. If they only broke at the weld, I’d re-weld them and keep going. When I made blades I usually made about 25 so that I’d have a stock when I got into the cutting groove. Some welds would pop in 5 minutes. A testament of my welding job.

I purchased the wood at a sawmill, south of St Louis that only cut Red Cedar. All of his sawdust and chippings went into a bag and were sold as pet bedding. I paid 25 cents a bd ft for the wood back then. I’d buy 1 X 6 that were about 1” thick. I’d plane the board down to get rid of the saw marks and then I’d go sit in front of the TV with my alphabet cut out of Plexiglas (My own letter design) with my list of orders and I’d draw all the names. The upper case letters are about 3” and so I could get two rows of names per board. I’d include knots if solid otherwise I’d move the names around to give me the best utilization of the wood. All orders were word of mouth, I went to some craft shows for a year but then I’d wait for the phone to ring. And ring it did. I sold them for 75 cents a letter and I figured that i was making about $20.00 an hour for my time. That was a great wage then.

The outsides were cut with the 1/16” blade and if a single row name I also cut the puzzle loops. If a double layer name then the loops were cut with a scroll saw so that the kerf was smaller and the name wouldn’t sag when sitting on a table. In some cases where one name had tall letters like an ‘L” (Dale) in the middle of the name then the upper name had some support. In the case of mine and my wives, the upper name is sitting on top of the lower name.

The holes for “a” and “o” were drilled with a Forstner bit, the inside of capital “A” and others had a smaller drill and then the clean out with the scroll saw.

My family didn’t see me between Thanksgiving and Christmas because I was spent all my time standing in front of a bandsaw and cutting wood. The garage was full and so I spent most of my time standing in the doorway bundled up for cold weather, cutting and sanding.

I used a 1X42” sander to clean up the edges and a 6” sander to clean up the surfaces. Nothing high tech sanding marks were visible on the edges, but you had to be careful that you didn’t screw up the interlocking pieces.

These things paid for my tools and gave my kids $100.00 bills for Christmas to make up for not seeing them except when i was inside drawing the names.

It was a great time.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

14 comments so far

View kolwdwrkr's profile


2824 posts in 4923 days

#1 posted 01-20-2009 06:26 PM

That’s a pretty cool deal there Karson. Nice concept.

-- ~ Inspiring those who inspire me ~

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3810 posts in 5355 days

#2 posted 01-20-2009 06:37 PM

Neat idea Karson. It’s funny how the simpler woodworking items become the best sellers.
I see fellas triying to sell pieces with 40- 50 hours in them and little or no response.
The guys making the objects tht you can purchase with “front pocket” money seem to thrive.


-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View lew's profile


13488 posts in 5089 days

#3 posted 01-20-2009 06:42 PM

Thanks for another great idea, Karson!

Another present for the little kids next door.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View PurpLev's profile


8653 posts in 4982 days

#4 posted 01-20-2009 07:04 PM

looks fantastic… thanks for the idea (now if I had the time to utilize that idea into something….lol)

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5552 days

#5 posted 01-20-2009 07:04 PM

Great idea, Karson.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6879 posts in 5313 days

#6 posted 01-20-2009 08:03 PM

Hey Buddy;

Nice work, and write up.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 5215 days

#7 posted 01-20-2009 10:55 PM

That is a really nice story, Karson. I can just picture the whole scene.
You do what ya got to do.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View cajunpen's profile


14578 posts in 5399 days

#8 posted 01-21-2009 12:46 AM

Interesting story and very inspiring.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View jeffthewoodwacker's profile


603 posts in 5137 days

#9 posted 01-21-2009 02:26 AM

Karson, I like the story behind the name puzzles. I bet that cedar smelled good when you were working with it.

-- Those that say it can't be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 5296 days

#10 posted 01-21-2009 04:56 AM

Dandy idea, Karson. Looks like fun as well.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Grumpy's profile


26812 posts in 5184 days

#11 posted 01-22-2009 04:41 AM

I like it Karson. Great idea.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View jim1953's profile


2744 posts in 5175 days

#12 posted 01-22-2009 05:32 AM

Nice Karson Great Job

-- Jim, Kentucky

View Karson's profile


35295 posts in 5734 days

#13 posted 01-22-2009 05:37 AM

Thanks guys and gals. they seem to be appreciated

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Napaman's profile


5535 posts in 5410 days

#14 posted 01-25-2009 07:07 PM


-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

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