Review: “St. Francis” by Randy Wollenmann, Sunsout – 9.25/10

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Publisher: Sunsout (US), published 2012 (still in print)

Title:  “St. Francis” by Randy Wollenmann, 1000 pieces 

Finished size: 20″ x 27″

OUR RATING: 9.25/10

Inspirational Puzzles Week

For this last week of 2016, we’re featuring inspirational puzzles to put you in a contemplative and hopefully positive frame of mind for the new year. I’ll be reviewing two puzzles in this category this week and have a top ten list on the weekend.

Box Quality:  (8/10)

The Sunsout boxes are very large and square in shape. They’re oversized compared to most boxes on the market. This takes up more shelf space but also provides a nice big image when you use the box lid for reference. The name of the puzzle, and artist’s name (Randy Wollenmann), is prominent on the front.

Sides:

Three of the sides are the same, showing a tiny image of the puzzle, puzzle name, artist name, piece count, finished size, and Sunsout logo. The fourth side has a bar code and no puzzle image. Unfortunately, the year of manufacture isn’t given. From reviews I’ve found online, it appears this puzzle has been in production since at least 2012.

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Back:

The back of the box is plain white and made of a thinner cardboard.

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Inside:

Nothing comes inside the Sunsout box except the bag of puzzle pieces and a very small paper slip with the company url. There was a lot of puzzle dust, so take care to open the puzzle piece bag over a surface that you can easily clean. The pieces were fully separated and undamaged.

The final box score is 8.

The Image:  (10/10)

I’ve had this puzzle on the shelf for a few years. When I started to look for Inspirational puzzles, I was happy to have a good reason to finally assemble it.

What drew me to this puzzle initially was the stained glass effect. It looked like it would be interested to assemble and, well, yes it definitely was! Difficult but really interesting. I love the repeating pattern of leaves, berries, and doves in the wide border around the central image.  And the colors are so bright. I must admit that I have a soft spot for St. Francis as well. We’re big animal lovers in my household and have a menagerie of our own. We have a St. Francis statue next to the house as a reminder of compassion toward animals. So the theme of the puzzle appealed to me too.

The execution of the image is stunning. I’m not sure how Randy Wollenmann achieves that realistic stained glass effect, but it’s very good. The image is super crisp even at the large final puzzle size. Randy has a number of puzzles with this stained glass look and feel. Most of them are available from Vermont Christmas Company.

This puzzle is also stunning when completed!

I’ve given this image a full 10 score.

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(Click on any of the images in this review for a closer look.)

Puzzle Quality: (9/10)

Sunsout did well in our brand comparison. You can see our full brand comparison on Sunsout here.

This 2012 puzzle has the usual good quality of Sunsout. The pieces are sturdy and fairly random in cut, as you can see in the close-up below. The piece size is above average but not huge. The fit is snug enough to be able to easily moved groups of attached pieces, which I really appreciate. This 2012 puzzle has a tighter fit than the 800 piece “A Girl’s Stocking” (2016) I recently reviewed (and that’s a good thing).

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There is a glossy finish, which can lead to glare under overhead lights at night. I didn’t have much trouble with that in this puzzle though, because there aren’t a lot of large dark areas. The image reproduction is good.

I’ve given quality a 9 score.

Assembly:  (10/10)

Wow! This was a really interesting puzzle to assemble. I’d rate it moderate-to-difficult. It took me four sessions, longer than usual for a 1000 piece puzzle. The thing that makes it difficult is the repeating pattern of leaves-and-berries that form a wide, arched frame around the central image. But personally, I really loved this extra challenge. It felt liked a true “puzzle” in every sense of the word. But let’s get down to specifics.

DAY ONE and TWO:

The first thing to get assembled was the puzzle border. Although the border is black-with-small-leaves all the way around, the puzzle cut had some sides with very wide pieces and other sides with very short pieces. Also, the amount of black border on the outside varied a little, and that helped narrow down which sides a piecebelonged too. Even so, the border was fairly challenging. I resorted to the ‘place all the pieces in rows and keep trying likely fits’ to piece it together.

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While doing the border, some of the outtermost blue band appears, as you can see in the photo below.  So a reasonable next step is to finish off those blue borders with the matching pieces that belong in the second row. You’ll also find some “small leaf” tips and other bits you can fit into the border section.

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After finishing the border and the obvious pieces that fit into the border, I next assembled the rest of the “blue band” pieces. As you can see in the work-in-progress image above, this includes two ‘frames’, one inside the other, and completes all the “small leafed garlands” in the puzzle, including the upper arch. This provides a nice framework to place the rest of the pieces into.   I also did the white doves. It’s quite fun to assemble all the doves separately as mini puzzles and then, using the box lid for reference, place them inside the main stained glass frame.

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DAY THREE:

The leaf-and-berry pattern inside the big arched frame is quite repetitive and challenging, so I delayed doing that and instead worked the inside image of St. Francis and the animals. My technical generally is to do the easier things first so that you can pare down your pile of pieces to be placed and have less to sort through. The inside image is very straight forward. The colors are bright and unique in the puzzle — the blue pond, purple and red robe, pink and yellow sky, and the brown fur of the animals. I liked the flowers too. There are purple and yellow irises and pink roses.

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The colors on the interior scene are so bright and cheerful! And the black lines that give it the “stained glass” look are very helpful for piece orientation.

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DAY FOUR:

The last day was about finishing the arched leaf-and-berry frame. This is a repeating pattern and so it’s fairly tricky. The placement of berries and doves around the border helps (though there are a lot of identical berries), but there are still quite a few number of piece that just have green leaf on them or perhaps green with a bit of a golden scroll. Once in a while it’s nice to have a puzzle that requires a little more thought, is a true “puzzle”, and the pattern was so pretty. I really enjoyed piece together this border. It was a great way to end out my puzzling year.

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I’ve given this puzzle a full 10 for assembly. It has a nice mix of easier sections (the inner scene) and challenging bits (the repeating border). It’s so pretty and bright that it’s a real pleasure to see it come together.

Summary:

“St. Francis” is a gorgeous inspirational puzzle with a stained glass look. The puzzle is bright and beautiful with very crisp artwork, and the end result is worthy of framing. I loved assembling it too. The inner scene of St. Francis was easy to piece together, but the arched frame of leaves, berries, and doves was challenging because it’s a repeating pattern. I had a blast assembling that part because I was in the mood for something that took more thought and effort. The Sunsout quality is very good, with sturdy pieces and a nice random piece cut. I like that you can move around a set of joined pieces without them falling apart. This is a moderate-to-difficult puzzle but worth every piece placed! Highly recommended.

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Where to find:

Click below to see the puzzle on Puzzle Warehouse.

PWLOGO

JJ

3 responses to Review: “St. Francis” by Randy Wollenmann, Sunsout – 9.25/10

  1. Bernadette says:

    Thank you, Jane! I just ordered one of these from Puzzle Warehouse. This is such a beautiful puzzle!! I think this is one of those rare puzzles I might have to frame when I finish!

    Thank you again!! 🙂
    Bernadette

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