Sculpted Dropouts: An Advanced Puzzle Cutting Technique

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Sculpted Dropouts (An Advanced Puzzle Cutting Technique)

Sculpted dropouts are an advanced puzzle cutting technique where the puzzle cutter cuts away and discards small pieces of the puzzle as it is being cut in order to produce recognizable shapes such as silhouettes, words, numbers, pictures, etc. This is done by careful planning prior to actual cutting. Cuts are made in precise locations to achieve the desired result. Sculpted dropouts make the puzzle more challenging to solve and more unique and aesthetically appealing.

I want to first clarify that there are other types of dropouts besides sculpted dropouts. For example in the picture below, the arrow points to a dropout. This tiny dropout section is merely the background and is not a sculpted dropout. It is irregular in shape and can not stand alone on its own to form any recognizable pattern, shape, etc.

dropout above, is not a sculpted dropout

A sculpted dropout is a special kind of dropout that forms a recognizable shape, pattern, silhouette, letter, number, word, picture, etc. This guide shows some of my previous work utilizing the sculpted dropout technique. I also illustrate the difference between simple, complex and interactive sculpted dropouts as well as solid and outline.

Sculpted Dropouts: Simple

A single dropout which by itself forms a recognizable shape, silhouette, letter, number, etc.

The picture below shows a section of a puzzle with two simple dropouts representing birds in the sky. When the entire shape is dropped out (and not just an outline of the silhouette), I call this "solid."

simple sculpted dropouts, solid

Simple dropouts can not only represent silhouettes of animals (or people, objects, etc.) but numbers or letters as well. Dates, titles or other text can be dropped out of a puzzle to acheive a very unique effect.

simple sculpted dropouts, solid


Sculpted Dropouts: Complex

Multiple dropouts that work together to form a recognizable shape, object, pattern, etc.

The example below shows 4 paw prints. Each pawprint is made up of 5 separate dropouts. Alone, each of the 5 dropouts would not form a recognizable shape but together they make a paw print. Thus, four "complex sculpted dropouts" are shown below.

complex sculpted dropouts, solid


Some sculpted dropouts don't necessarily need to be complex in order to make a recognizable shape. (They could have been designed as a simple sculpted dropout for example.) But some sculpted dropouts are complexly designed in order to keep the puzzle as interlocking as possible. For example, if I had cut the United States dropout shown in the photo below as one continuous sliver, then the section of puzzle within the dropout would no longer be connected to the rest of the puzzle.

When only the boundary of a silhouette is dropped out (and not the whole thing), I call this "outline."

complex sculpted dropout, outline


The sculpted dropout of the wolf below is another example of an instance where using a single dropout section would have created a puzzle within the puzzle. While it is possible to do so, it is generally not desirable because the section within the dropout will not interlock with the rest of the puzzle.

complex sculpted dropout, outline


Sculpted Dropouts: Interactive

Separate dropouts (either simple or complex) that are placed in such a way so that they relate to one another.

Below are two separate droputs (both complex sculpted dropouts- butterfly and cat) that are interacting with each other. The cat is trying to catch the butterfly. This is a good example of interactive dropouts.

interactive complex sculpted dropouts, outline


The example below shows a series of simple sculpted dropouts (numbers and numerical symbols) working together to form an equation. This particular dropout is also considered to be appropriate because it is correctly placed within the picture on the puzzle. (Note the writing on the chalkboard.)

(appropriate) interactive simple sculpted dropouts, solid


Another example of an appropriately placed interactive dropout is shown below. It is made up of a combination of simple and complex sculpted dropouts. The completed puzzle was that of a jaguar at rest; it looked like he was having happy dreams. I placed this "thought bubble" near his head to give the effect that he was dreaming about his next prey, a deer. (You are seeing the reverse side of the puzzle.) The animal is a simple sculpted dropout (solid), while the surrounding bubble and dots make up a complex sculpted dropout- the thought bubble.

(appropriate) sculpted dropout combination
(simple, complex, solid, and outline!)


Occasionally there may be a sculpted dropout that is a little more tricky to classify. The example below shows a fish (simple sculpted dropout, outline) inside a fishbowl (simple sculpted dropout, outline) with a cat on top (simple sculpted dropout, outline) staring down at the fish (interactive)! Notice that the cat and fishbowl were cut out with one continuous line! While both the fish and the fishbowl are simple sculpted dropouts, the combination of the fish inside of the fishbowl is a complex sculpted dropout. (You may not have recognized it as a fishbowl without the fish.)


All of the examples shown above were taken from photos of my hand cut wooden jigsaw puzzles made in the past. I hope you have enjoyed reading about sculpted dropouts! (Comments about this guide may be made by clicking here.)

If you've found this guide helpful, please vote yes below and then check out my other puzzle-related guide!

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