die patterns & swapping pieces,
re-creation tips, and
'portrait/landscape' explanation.

Die Gallery introduced January 14, 2002
Expanded August 6, 2003

Is it possible to find, or trade for, a missing piece?
(Highly unlikely; but, yes, possible.)
1. Locate the 4 corner pieces of each puzzle.
2. If they match, or are close, then there is hope.
As a possible help in swapping with other collectors,
a (PARTIAL!) summary of the dies used by TUCO
is presented following the example below.
Send us pictures of other die-cuts,
and tell us when you find a die used with another box style.

As an example of the likelihood of success, we have 5 copies of one LG15 puzzle.
4 were cut by the same die; the 5th came from a different die.
Of the 4, one was upside-down; the other 3 right-side-up.

Even when we used the 2 which were closest to each other, the following pictures show the results of interchanging pieces.

..... ..... ..

For another LG15 puzzles, we have 5 copies.
The two copies cut by die #A have interchangeable pieces;
the 2 copies cut by die #F have interchangeable pieces.
The fifth copy was cut by die #Y.

We, and other puzzle lovers & collectors, have hoped to trade pieces in order to complete puzzles. At least for TUCO puzzles, we held out little hope. We sent out some correspondence, made some contacts, bought Anne Williams book, and got some great research info from Chris McCann. The clicher that made puzzle-piece trades seem improbable was when we got "duplicate" TUCO puzzles (same box & same title) & one had 11 columns of pieces and the other had 12 columns, even though both had 17 rows of pieces, if you understand what we're trying to say. For many, many months we never found a single hint of encouragement.

(See MORE below.)


A TUCO article written by Chris McCann appeared in a 1995 publication of the Am. Game Collectors Assoc. He has also published a wonderful, marvelously illustrated, book on jigsaw puzzles. He and Anne Williams were able to interview the man, now dead, who was in charge of TUCO puzzles for almost 40 years. Chris McCann wrote this to us. "TUCO puzzle pieces are not interchangeable. TUCO used a manufacturing technique developed in late 1932 in which the dies used to cut the cardboard were twisted slightly after each cut to make each puzzle a little different than the previous one. The technique was hailed, with much self-adulation, by its developer as a 'great improvement.' All it did was confound puzzle collectors."


It has become apparent that TUCO (before or near the beginning of World War II?) abandoned the practice of altering dies after each cut. Research on this is in progress, SLOWLY!

So some hope, however slight, does exist for swapping missing pieces. At least one instance of success is known. What makes 'interchangeable parts' so rare (even after stable dies were used) is:

(1) several different dies were used for one puzzle title; furthermore,

(2) sometimes a puzzle was cut right-side-up and sometimes upside-down; and

(3) puzzles were not always positioned the same for cutting, as pictured below.

We have observed that many, if not all, of TUCO's DUBL-THIK puzzles were cut with just 2 unchanging dies, contrary to the earlier practice of reshaping the die after each individual puzzle was cut. But even when this was done, the pieces were not interchangeable.

Corner pieces produced by different TUCO dies
NOTICE that these are pictures taken of the BACK side of the corner pieces.
Small puzzle dies

die #B
187 pieces
SM02 boxes
die #B2
187 pieces
SM04 boxes
die #A
204 pieces
SM04, 07 boxes
die #C
204 pieces
SM05, 07 boxes
die #K
204 pieces
SM13,16,17 boxes
die #L
204 pieces
SM16 boxes
die #L2
204 pieces
SM21 boxes
die #M
204 pieces
SM20 boxes
die #N
204 pieces
SM21 boxes
die #Q SM25 boxes
die #R
154 pieces
SM31 boxes
die #S
154 pieces
SM31 boxes
die #T SM31 boxes
die #U
154 pieces
SM31 boxes
die #V
140 pieces
SM35 boxes
die #W
130 pieces
SM35, 36 boxes
die #S11
108 pieces
SM11 boxes
Large puzzle dies
die #Z
320 pieces
LG14 boxes
die #H
357 pieces

LG14 boxes
die #Y
320 pieces
LG14, 15, 16 boxes
die #W
320 pieces
LG14, LG18 boxes
die #A
320 pieces
LG15 boxes
die #C LG15 boxes
die #D LG15 boxes
die #E
320 pieces
LG15 boxes
die #F
320 pieces
LG15 boxes
die #B
320 pieces
LG15, LG18 boxes
die #J
357 pieces
LG15 boxes
die #X LG15 boxes
die #G LG16 boxes
die #K
357 pieces
LG16 boxes
die #M LG21,23 boxes
die #R
357 pieces
LG21,22,23,24,26 boxes
die #N LG22 boxes
die #P
304 pieces
LG22 boxes
die #Q
320 pieces
LG23, 25, 27 boxes
die #O
320 pieces
LG25 boxes
die #T
320 pieces
LG25 boxes
die #U320 pieces LG25 boxes
die #S
320 pieces
LG25, 26 boxes
die #L10 LG03 & LG10 boxes
die #L06
507 pcs (?).
Some "partial" rows
and columns.
Notches at
corners on the
2 longest edges.
LG06 boxes
die #L11
357 pieces
LG11 boxes
die #L12
357 pieces
LG12 boxes
die #L13
357 pieces
LG13 boxes
357 pieces
die #L30
500 pieces
LG30 boxes
die #LI1 LG25 boxes

Tips from Lisa:

A few years ago Lisa wrote:
"I've been visiting your site for a couple of years now and have been collecting TUCO puzzles for about 20 years (long before they became so popular) I have FINALLY hit upon a pretty good method for rebuilding missing pieces and thought you'd like to know. I used to struggle to cut the very thick cardboard with an exacto knife - but that just drove me crazy and hurt my fingers. Now I glue a thin piece of GREY cardboard to both sides of a piece of balsa wood (the paper keeps the wood from splitting) and cut it with an exacto knife - it is SO much easier. And since I'm an artist anyway, I use colored pencils to color the missing piece. And spray it with Matte medium to set the color. It sure has solved that pesky problem of incomplete puzzles, and you really can't tell the difference. Just wanted to pass on a helpful hint. I really love your site. Lisa"

Since that time Lisa has refined her methods. We understand she now uses TUCO's original UpsonBoard as the foundation for her pieces, cutting and shaping them with a 'roto-tool.'

Many prominent collectors turn to Lisa to replace their missing pieces and repair damage!

Jo's PastTime comments about recreating puzzle pieces:

Once the idea was suggested to us of RE-CREATING puzzle pieces & we thought about it a while, we knew that was the solution to missing pieces.

The most important part is simply to be willing to start, willing to re-start, willing to experiment, and willing to fail, ha! Currently I don't worry about the shape and thickness of the new piece until I believe I can be satisfied with the color(s). In my experience what matters most is the color of the cardboard or paper being used, and the colors available on crayons, ink-markers, paints, etc. Bright white paper is NOT the best for me; I prefer cardboard or 'grey-board' such as was used for the TUCO boxes. Cereal boxes or various packing materials can be useful. Watercolor pencils, fabric markers, and crayons suffice for me presently; I don't resort to oil paints or acrylic paints. After I re-create the coloration of the region of the missing piece, then I cut it to shape and build up the backing to the proper thickness.

Possibly assemble the puzzle on top of a piece of paper, if you know it is incomplete. Otherwise, when assembled, slide a piece of paper under the location of missing piece(s). Trace the outline of the missing piece(s) onto the paper; cut out the shape & you have your pattern. Trace around the pattern onto cardboard, wood, or paper & cut-out with scissors, Xacto knife, or razor blade.

Good luck with the colors! We have simply used a big box of 64 color crayons. Bob Armstrong uses "water colored pencils," which we also like. Fabric markers ('magic markers') are great when you have the right color! We're sure that oil paints or acrylic paints would be unbeatable for exact coloration if you have them and have the artistic ability; the proper gloss, sheen, or dullness is another question, however. For light-color pieces, a white cardboard might be best; for darker-colored pieces, the crayons don't do too good on white; a tan "brown" cardboard is best. We've also just colored onto a brown "Kraft" paper bag or other paper & then pasted it onto a cardboard background of the proper thickness. You can always paste later attempts onto properly cut pieces of cardboard. The pieces don't have to be colored very professionally to make a big difference in the puzzle - just stand back 3 feet or more & see! Use your ingenuity for materials. Of course a piece can always be recolored if you're not satisfied the first time.

Best wishes! Bet all you need is a word of encouragement!


NOTE: if you store your puzzles next to paper and/or cardboard,
use ACID-FREE material to safeguard the image on the puzzle.

When assembling puzzles, we might work on a double thickness of paper.

1.) If we find that a piece is missing, we slip the paper partially out to the point where we can trace the shape of the piece near the edge of the paper, before removing the paper completely and proceeding to re-create the piece.

2.) If the puzzle is complete, the lower sheet is removed.

Either way, we’re left with one sheet which we cut a couple of inches larger than the puzzle; then we fold the paper up over the puzzle edges and tape the corners. With this bit of security against accidents, we store the puzzle on a sheet of cardboard.

When we have assurance that the puzzle is complete (often by counting pieces), we assemble the puzzle on cardboard, then cut the cardboard to the proper size, and finally place the cardboard & puzzle on top of a sheet of paper which we fold up over the edges as described above.


NOTE: All of the TUCO non-interlocking puzzles were rectangular; but none of them were square. If they were wider than they were tall, then modern terminology would be that they have “landscape orientation;” if taller than wide, then their orientation is “portrait.” After TUCO (TheUpsonCOmpany) began placing guide pictures on their boxes, beginning with LG14 they used ingenious designs on the large boxes, which displayed the same information regardless of whether the guide picture had landscape or portrait orientation. However, with SM26 for example, the small portrait puzzle box design differed slightly from the landscape box design. Also notice that the STAR OF BETHLEHEM box on the first page of our website is a curious deviation from prior faultless designs!

When making a list of our personal collection, for each puzzle we have replaced the second letter of the McCann code by "L" or "P" to indicate the orientation of that particular puzzle; and following the numeric digits in the code we have added a letter or two to indicate the color of the box. Using HOLD EVERYTHING on the first page of this website as an example, our code Lp16r tells us that we have a portrait puzzle in a red LG16 box.

Revised June 27, 2006.
& Links
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