A few weekends ago, my friend’s mom thoughtfully gave me a 3D owl puzzle after recalling that I had an unspoken but very real liking for owls (like this little owl that I bought for the Christmas tree, the garage sale owl that I painted gray over the summer, and the sweetest ceramic owl umbrella holder that I discovered stashed in the back of my Grandma’s closet and am crossing my fingers to be graciously given someday, but that’s another story).
Her puzzle find was from either a garage sale or Salvation Army, and considering that all pieces were still in the package, she thought it’d be fun and a cute accent for my house. Thoughtful, and yes, perfect for me. Of course, it came with a lot of pieces (146, but felt like 600), and with that said, I can’t remember the last time I did a puzzle over 25 pieces.
The real age of this product is unknown, but the nicely die cut pieces were all in tact and ready for me to get busy with. The eyes, on the other hand, were really showing signs of liver damage, but that’s OK because googily eyes and classy decor aren’t usually synonymous. I trashed the round pieces immediately after taking this picture because they were giving me the heebie-jeebies.
Side note: If you’re looking to do something like this, may I suggest checking out Michael’s? They had a whole assortment of 3D puzzles in their clearance section a few days ago for $1.79 (whoa!), and the selection included foxes, dinosaurs, and, yessiree, the same owl with newer eyeballs (this time, for ages 6+, and that makes me scratch my head, but maybe it just implies that a 6-year old can help punch out the 146 pieces… I’m doubtful that they could assemble on their own).
The directions themselves are anything but straight forward, but I’ll be damned if an 6-8-year old can have a 3D puzzle and I can’t. It took me about 3 hours to assemble, maybe more, I’m not going to lie. Although, consider that my fingers are not tiny or in the prime of their youth, and also that season 2 of 30 Rock was on.
From the instructions, my favorite part was the vagueness of #2. “Get general idea of where each part goes by referring to the front photograph…”. Awesome.
I skipped ahead to #5 and decided to stain all of the owl pieces prior to assembly; there were no markings on any of the chips, so I knew that if I could identify the shapes of each piece, I should be fine. Even so, to keep the four panels of components separate for organizational purposes, I divided the pieces into four batches.
I dyed the pieces in the same organized batches by layering a piece of reemay over a potting dish (reemay is comparable to a thin, breathable felt, my Dad uses it to insulate seedlings for the garden, which is why I had a small piece on hand). I then drizzled Dark Walnut Rust-Oleum Ultimate stain over it like balsamic vinegar on a salad of wood chips. Obviously a lighter gauze, cheesecloth, or mesh would have done fine too, I just didn’t have any of that handy.
There was nothing neat and tidy about this method, because it was really like tossing a salad with dressing that stained everything around you, everything you were wearing, and your cuticles indefinitely. I pretty quickly moved the whole operation to the backyard and did my best to not lose any pieces in the grass.
The pieces accepted the dye without me having to do a tremendous amount of wiping and blotting, and after a few days of drying (in the cold garage) I was ready to begin assembling based on the direction to match grooves together number to number and letter to letter (note, there were multiples of each number and letter, not just two of each, and that made it hard).
There was cursing for the first hour. And the second hour. But it slowly began to resemble the owl on the front label.
The hardest part was placing the feathers around the body of the owl, because almost all of the feathers were slightly different sizes and shapes, and it was really hard to determine which piece was which once everything was freed from the wooden sheets. Best recommendation? Keep the pieces on the sheet until you’re ready to use them. Disregard that I was trying to sort through the owl pieces on the living room trunk/coffee table that happens to be the same exact color as the stain, that was dumb in hindsight.
In any case, the fully assembled owl looks better than any other free bird I’ve come across, despite there having been two extra pieces left over when I was done.
If the size of this little eyeball-less bird isn’t clear, it’s a short distance between my pinkie and thumb. Ultimate cuteness.
The bird, for the most part, held together pretty well by pure construction. I did bring in some reinforcing e-6000 to help hold the looser pieces in place, mostly the feathers along the back because they were joined at a downward angle and had the natural tendency to want to drop out. Also worth noting, the similar shapes of all of the small feathers leads me to believe that from behind, the bird doesn’t look quite like it should (but how would I know, I couldn’t see the bird’s back on the directions). It’s close, and sometimes that’s good enough.
I really do like how the dye absorbed evenly in some spots and unevenly in others, particularly around the eyes. Not that I was trying to make a realistic looking owl through this tutorial, but the gradations in the brown are pretty, just like on a real owl.
Anyone else spending their nights making random animals? What can I say, now that the bear rug is done, I needed a new challenge. Now go buy a kit at Michael’s and try it for yourself.