Couple piece together puzzles for kids

CORVALLIS, Ore. —- Marvin and Margaret Jack first startedmaking puzzles in the early 1980s with a single pedal-poweredscroll saw. in the decades since, their product line of custom-madepuzzles hasn’t changed much; but their business has grown.

Still popular are wooden puzzles ranging from simple peg puzzlesfor $17 to a complex 13-layer jungle masterpiece that sells for$700. Another favorite is a detailed puzzle of monarch butterflieswith two layers, for $300.

At any time, the Jacks have about 25 puzzle designsavailable.

“We try to have something for everybody,” Marvin, 56, said.

The cost is mostly labor, to painstakingly cut and paint byhand. each ends up both a piece of art and a toy.

They built up the business out of their south Corvallis houseand shop while raising their two children, Alleya and Noah.

The business’ reputation grew along with the children, and nowthe Jacks produce more than 3,000 puzzles a year under the name KidPuzzles. some sell locally, but many more are shipped to customersacross the United States and Canada.

The work happens in a shop next to the Jacks’ house on CrystalLake Drive in south Corvallis. They use a scroll saw to cut puzzlepieces and a shaper to finish the edges in one room. the other sideof the building, accessed through a storage room packed withinventory, is a painting space complete with a ventilated hood forspray painting, drying racks and a design table with a lightbox.

Customized puzzles that include the recipients name spelled outin puzzle pieces are a top seller.

“That’s probably half our business,” Margaret, 53, said.

The longest first name the couple will put on a puzzle is 11letters, such as “CHRISTOPHER.”

This year’s most popular name might be Avery. out of an orderfor about 100 puzzles earlier this fall, 10 were Averys —- “Fromall over the country,” Margaret said.

The couple also recently started making three-name puzzles andpuzzle stools, which proved to be popular. Marvin said about 30have sold in the past month for about $50 each.

“It was pretty encouraging,” he said.

Marvin does most of the designing and all the cutting. Margaretdoes all the painting.

“There’s a lot of detail in what she does,” Marvin said.

The couple travels the festival and craft fair circuit eachyear, ranging from their booth to the Corvallis Fall Festival andthroughout Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Arizona to as faraway as new Orleans and Pennsylvania.

They combine work with pleasure, camping and kayaking. Marvinoften seeks out contra dances during their travels —- anotherpassion.

They’ve been on the festival circuit for so long, they’re nowmaking puzzles for the children of the children who once receivedone from them. Adult customers tell them that although they’vethrown out many of their childhood toys, they still own the puzzlesthat the Jacks made.

Maybe that’s because even the puzzles’ makers find them tough tosolve. One of their pet peeves is when someone knocks over a puzzleat their festival booth.

“Then you have to spend the whole afternoon putting it backtogether,” Marvin said.

Making the puzzles also is time-consuming. the Jacks have a signin their workshop, noting that the minimum hourly wage is$8.40.

“It’s the wage we’re really shooting for,” Marvindeadpanned.

The couple has finished producing puzzles for the holiday rush.Now they will fill online orders and stockpile puzzles for nextspring’s festival season.

Marvin has begun work on a new series of bird-themed designsincluding a Sandhill Crane, pelican and blue heron. the couple alsorecently donated about 80 extra puzzles to Vina Moses, as they doevery year at this time.

Couple piece together puzzles for kids

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