Puzzle Brand Comparison — White Mountain

REVIEW DATE: updated 7/30/2016         PUZZLE TESTED: “Winter Village” (2016), “A Year of Dogs”

OUR RATING: 69 points, A Grade

CATEGORIES: collages, education, infographic, regional, nostalia, painted landscapes, animals, other

CUT:  Random cut       FINISH: glossy

PIECE FIT:  moderately tight                       PIECE SIZE: large

This page is part of our Puzzle Brand Comparison. You can find the overview page here.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD OUR WHITE MOUNTAIN BRAND COMPARISON IN PDF.

SUMMARY:  Scored 69

White Mountain is US puzzle brand specializing in collage, educational, and regional puzzles as well as a wide mix of other images.  The pieces are larger, random cut pieces that fit very well. The final finish is flat and seamless and looks quite nice framed. Image reproduction and the boxes are excellent. The new boxes come with a box stand. On the down side, their pieces are on the thin side and can easily get image lift (where the image lifts off the backing). As for the puzzles they offer, their catalog is excellent and they release 4-5 new puzzles every month. They specially design and commission many of their puzzles. White Mountain is unique in that they poll their customer’s often about potential new puzzle images.

White Mountain Website.               Jigsaw Junkies coverage of White Mountain puzzles                 Puzzle Warehouse White Mountain Page

1. BOX Exterior  — 10/10

How deluxe does the box looks and feel? Is it sturdy? Will it hold up over time?  How nicely does it arrange on the shelf?

The White Mountain boxes are good and fairly sturdy. They’re larger than Buffalo Games and MasterPieces, but smaller than Sunsout.  Size for the 1000 piece box below is 10″x12″ (Sunsout are 12″x12″).  The box design is distinctive for their brand and mostly given over to the puzzle image itself on the front.  I also like that their box sizes are consistent between their various puzzle sizes, making their boxes look good together on a shelf.

Front:

The front includes the puzzle title, “Winter Village” and the artist’s name, Steve Crisp. I like to see that on the front of a box.

WM_WinterVillage-Box1

Sides:

All 4 sides feature the company logo, an image of the puzzle, the piece count, puzzle name and artist, which makes the box quite nice for shelving vertically.  The year of manufacture is also on one side. This is a 2016 box.

WM_WinterVillage-Box3a WM_WinterVillage-Box3d WM_WinterVillage-Box3c WM_WinterVillage-Box3b

Back:

The back of the box is sturdy and acts as a mini catalog of other puzzles in the White Mountain line. There’s nothing about the artist or puzzle image here, but it’s nice to see other puzzles in the range, especially years later when some of these puzzles will be out of print.

WM_WinterVillage-Box6

FINAL SCORE:

The box exterior scored really well. While the bottom of the box was dinged just one point for being a generic catalog (that is, not having an artist bio or information on this puzzle image), an extra point was earning for having the artist’s name on the front.

WM_BoxExtScore

2. INSIDE THE BOX  — 8/10

How deluxe are the internal goodies (such as posters or brochures)?  When you remove the pieces is there puzzle dust, pieces stuck together, hanging chads, and places where the image has begun to separate from the backs?

For the refresh on this White Mountain brand comparison, I looked at a brand new 2016 puzzle. I was surprised to see this puzzle comes with a few things in the box. There’s a sheet about White Mountain and also a box stand that also had pictures of other White Mountain puzzles. The pieces are in a plastic bag and are well separated.

WM_WinterVillage-Box4

The box stand that’s included:

WM_WinterVillage-Box5

In my previous brand comparison of White Mountain, I noticed a lot of puzzle dust. I made the mistake of tearing a hole in the puzzle bag and dumping it out on my puzzle board (my standard procedure).  What I got has a pile of pieces and a large, messy mound of puzzle dust. There was probably at least 1/4 cup of dust (for a 500 piece puzzle).  I had to carefully separate the pieces in the pile from the dust, brushing them off, and then vacuum my puzzle board of the dust before I could put the puzzle together.

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NOTE: For the review refresh, with the 2016 “Winter Village” puzzle, there was only a small amount of puzzle dust, not nearly as bad.

The second problem I had in my original review was image lift. On a brand new 550 piece puzzle, 3 of the pieces had the image lifting off the tab and others felt on the verge on coming loose.  While it doesn’t preclude putting the puzzle together, it does raise concerns about the durability of the puzzle since more image lift is bound to occur as the pieces are fit together and separated.  (See photo below.)

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Above: From the original review of “A Year of Dogs” (brand new, first assembly).

2016 refresh:

Unfortunately, this issue is still there. There were a few pieces right out of the box that had some image lift (see photo below). I think part of it is that the pieces really are pretty thin and light, and the image portion/paper can easily come loose from the backing. I noticed if I put two pieces together and then tried to separate them, I could feel the image start to lift and so I had to be very careful if I wanted to take two pieces apart. This would mean if you assembled a puzzle, then broke it up to do again another time, you will likely get image lift in more pieces. A spot of glue can fix the problem, but it’s unfortunate in an otherwise great brand.

imagelift

Above: Image lift on White Mountain’s “A Year of Dogs” puzzle 

FINAL SCORE:

The box interior score was dinged a little for puzzle dust and lost two points for some image lift out of the box. One bonus point was scored for the inclusion of the box stand.

WM_BoxINTScore

3. PIECE THICKNESS — 8/10

How thick are the pieces compared to other brands? How does a piece feel in your hand? How easily are pieces damaged or bent during assembly and separation?

Piece thickness is a critical part of puzzle quality to me, second only to the puzzle image.  Doing a jigsaw is a tactile experience, it’s something that gets me off the computer and tablet for a few hours. I enjoy the thick feel of the pieces and the satisfaction of a good fit.  White Mountain pieces are noticeably thinner than the great Euro brands like Ravensburger, Gibson, and Jumbo, but also other competing US brands like Bits and Pieces, Sunsout, Springbok, and Buffalo Games. However, they are not as thin as bargain brands like D-Toys or Ceaco. The thinness does cause some image lift, which is a quality issue (see above).

whitemountain_2

2016 “Winter Village” update:  The pieces seem about the same thickness as before (below), still perhaps half the thickness of Ravensburger.

WM_Thickness_2016

FINAL SCORE:

WM_ThicknessScore

4.  PIECE SIZE & SHAPE — 10/10

Are the pieces standard shapes? Special shapes? How much variety do they have? Are they large or small?

White Mountain pieces are one of the largest in the industry, as you can see in the comparison below.  This is probably a considerable advantage for people who have difficulty with eye sight or handling small pieces.  For me, I quickly get used to the piece size while working the puzzle, so it doesn’t impact my enjoyment either way. It does make for a very large final puzzle, however. That means going up a size on the puzzle board and can make framing more expensive. A larger final product does feel more like an accomplishment. 🙂

comparison-1

The puzzle cut is a nice random cut with a wide variety of piece shapes. This means you don’t often get a piece that seems to fit where it doesn’t belong. I prefer random cut to grid cut myself, and I like the White Mountain cut.

WM_Redlin_OurFriends1000_CU1

 Above: White Mountain puzzle “Our Friends” by Terry Redlin (1000 pieces)

FINAL SCORE:

White Mountain scores very well in this category.

WM_ShapeScore

5. PIECE FIT– 11/10

Do pieces interlock well? Can it be confusing if a piece fits or not?  Can you move groups of pieces together? Does it look snug when it’s done?

The piece fit is good.  I never had any difficulty determining if a piece went someplace or not, and they interlock well. The end result is very flat and seamless, as you can see below.

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 Above: Detail of White Mountain puzzle “A Year of Dogs” by Tomoyo Pitcher (550 pieces)

The pieces also hang together well. The pieces stay connected when lifted.

JJ_WM_lift

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FINAL SCORE:  

White Mountain scores well here too, with no deductions and earning an extra point for being able to lift the puzzle (to a certain extent) without glue.

WM_FitScore

6. IMAGE REPRODUCTION — 8/10

Are the colors bright and vivid? Is the image sharp or feel like a bad Xerox? How is the finish/texture on the pieces?

This seems to vary a bit from puzzle to puzzle, but is generally very good.  As you can see from the photo of the dog puzzle above, that puzzle was very sharp and had amazing colors.  Their Terry Redlin puzzles, on the other hand, are much softer and a little dark colorwise, but much of that is the painterly style.  Their vintage collage puzzles can be a little blurry on the words and labels, but it’s hard to find vintage images that don’t have this issue and it’s not noticeable when the entire puzzle is assembled.

WM_Redlin_TrimmingTheTree_750_CU

Above:  Detail of White Mountain puzzle “Trimming the Tree” by Terry Redlin, 750 piece panoramic

The puzzles do have a glossy finish, which means there is going to be glare under overhead lights. See example below.

JJ_WM_Glare

FINAL SCORE:

I deducted one point for glare and one for the fuzziness on some of their vintage collages.

WM_ImageReproScore

7.  IMAGE VARIETY & ARTISTS — 14/10

Does the brand have a wide variety of fun images and good artists?

White Mountain’s strength, by far, is its images.  If you like collage puzzles, you probably own a number of White Mountains.  Their puzzle “Candy Wrappers” has been a bestseller on Amazon for quite some time.  They also carry a large selection of Terry Redlin puzzles, nostalgic scenes (like Steve Crisp), and scenic landscape paintings. They do history, educational, and regional “infographic” puzzles like these. I particularly like their multi-scene Christmas puzzles such as “Santa’s Big Night”.

Furthermore, they release new puzzles regularly, 4-5 a month, so there’s always a fresh wave of new images. I also really like that they do customer surveys of potential new images to see what people like, and are always asking for suggestions. They’re the only puzzle company I know who does this.

WMgroupI

Above: White Mountain puzzles “Candy Wrappers” (1000), “Autumn Traditions” by Terry Redlin (1000), and “Checking It Twice” by Howard Robinson (1000)

Another big plus for White Mountain is that they commission images for jigsaws–puzzles in which they come up with the concept and layout and pay an artist to make them. This is how they do their regional and educational puzzles. Many companies which just license images from art houses don’t put this much thought and care into their puzzle line.

FINAL SCORE:

White Mountain has scored very highly in this category. I gave them a bonus point for being ‘best of breed’ when it comes to either collage or educational puzzles (take your pick). I also consider their educational puzzles to be “puzzle plus”, because not only do you assemble an image, but you get a lot of facts and history and information on top of the fun. And there’s certainly more than ten puzzles in their current catalog I either already have or would be happy to have. 🙂

WM_ImageVariety_Score

SUMMARY:  Scored 69

White Mountain is US puzzle brand specializing in collage, educational, and regional puzzles as well as a wide mix of other images.  The pieces are larger, random cut pieces that fit very well. The final finish is flat and seamless and looks quite nice framed. Image reproduction and the boxes are excellent. The new boxes come with a box stand. On the down side, their pieces are on the thin side and can easily get image lift (where the image lifts off the backing). As for the puzzles they offer, their catalog is excellent and they release 4-5 new puzzles every month. They specially design and commission many of their puzzles. White Mountain is unique in that they poll their customer’s often about potential new puzzle images.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD OUR WHITE MOUNTAIN BRAND COMPARISON IN PDF.

 

 

 

 

8 responses to Puzzle Brand Comparison — White Mountain

  1. Barbara McMillan says:

    Hello Jane:

    I received a White Mountain puzzle “Humming Birds” on my birthday, July 28th, and agree with all of your comments. There is some image lift but not too much and mostly along the edges (I always keep my Krazy Glue handy and repair immediately). I love the variety of piece shapes and in fact sorted this puzzle by shape, rather than colour. There is definitely no question as to fit once you have found the right piece. I found the box holder pretty usless as it is quite flimsy and falls over easily. Something in strong cardboard would be good. I am only 1/3 of the way through and am enjoying it very much.

    I really like the look of several of the other puzzles and will refer to this review for future purchases.

    Thanks again for all your hard work and good advice.

    Best wishes, Barbara.

  2. jigsaw dave says:

    It not good enough for a brand to have image lift. I don’t want booklets,stands or anything else Just a good Jigsaw with good pieces that fit and will last.There are a few brands that i won’t buy anymore as they are either too thin , too loose or image lift. I’m afraid White mountain will go on that list.It’s a pity as the pictures look so good.

    • Cheers, Dave. Fair enough. Thanks for the comment. I hope these brand comparisons provide enough information for consumers to make up their minds given their likes and priorities.

    • jigsaw dave says:

      Forgot to say that your advice and work with brand comparisons is second to none. Its the first site i go to for information.

  3. DebbyZ says:

    I really wish these puzzle manufacturers would consider the piece thickness as essential as a great image. It makes me sad when I have to try to avoid puzzles I really like because I know the quality will disappoint me. Thanks so much for all your reviews! I love them.

  4. Kathleen says:

    I used to do a lot of White Mountain puzzles and found the quality generally to be acceptable. However, I didn’t like all of the “4 outie-knobbed” pieces. In a 1000-piece puzzle, I counted around 100 of these shaped pieces. They need more variety in shapes which they have except for these annoying pieces.

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