Unlocking The Mystery: Jimmy Chilcutt and His Amazing Puzzle Boxes

By: Billy Adams
| Published 01/12/2021


THE WOODLANDS, TX -- A mystery has a way of grabbing people's attention. There is just something fascinating about finding a solution to a tough problem or solving a unique mystery or completing a difficult puzzle. I think we enjoy it so much in part because it has something to do with exploring the unknown. And the unknown has always captured the attention of our world since the beginning of time.

Discovering Jimmy Chilcutt

Jimmy Chilcutt is no rookie at solving mysteries. As a retired crime scene investigator, forensic examiner, and fingerprint expert, Jimmy designs and builds the most unique and beautiful wooden puzzle boxes anywhere. For most of his professional career, he was at the forefront of cutting edge forensic technology and a leader in solving crime. What many people believed to be an impossible task was just another challenge for Jimmy to solve. It was always about finding the truth in everything. And that truth helped save lives, find criminals, and solve crimes.

A Career in Solving Crime

Jimmy wore many hats during his exciting career. He was previously the Chief of Police in the city of Montgomery Texas. He worked as a bodyguard for a few days for Ronald Reagan during his stay in Houston before Reagan declared his candidancy for president. Jimmy was a captain for the precint 5 constables office in Harris County. He also worked for the Conroe Texas Police Department for many years as a crime scene investigator. He was a forensic examiner and is also considered a world-renown forensic fingerprint expert. His work has been written up in various publications, including National Geographic. One of his many advances in fingerprint technology was related to drug smuggling organizations. Jimmy developed a way to pull fingerprints from surfaces that previously was considered impossible. He also developed a way to pull prints from layered drug packaging and through this new technology, Jimmy was able to design a process to help track the journey of smuggled drugs into our country and was able to connect people associated with the transport and distribution of those illegal drugs. Many local and state agencies utilized the Conroe PD crime lab to process drugs using this process that Jimmy developed.

The Woodlands Farmer's Market

I met Jimmy Chilcutt at The Woodlands Farmer's Market located in the Grogan's Mill shopping center. The Woodlands Farmer's Market sets up various booths every Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm. From fresh produce to the coolest handcrafted products, The Woodlands Farmer's Market really is an enjoyable experience and a great way to get acquainted with The Woodlands community. Jimmy makes it a point to set up a booth there every week. You will always find him there, every Saturday, ready to talk to you about his puzzle boxes and always excited to share information about his life. He loves to talk to people and the community is always fascinated with his new puzzle boxes. Families gather around his booth on Saturday as Jimmy explains the history and background of his unique creations.

What is a Puzzle Box

Puzzle boxes date back to the early 19th century and is a box (wooden in the case of Jimmy's creations) that can only be opened through solving a puzzle that requires unique movement of parts outside or inside the puzzle box. Similar to a combination lock. The Japanese are believed to be the first to introduce puzzle boxes. The challenge is to find the correct movements on or in the box and then applying those movements in the correct order.

Puzzle Boxes Designed to Last

The craftmanship of Jimmy's wooden puzzle boxes was exceptional. A great deal of time and effort was put into making sure that his puzzle boxes were built to last. He cuts his puzzle boxes out of walnut and maple hardwoods. As the picture shows, the puzzle boxes are extremely beautiful and are designed to be passed down from generation to generation. What is unique about his puzzle boxes is that he only builds a limited number of each box. Jimmy showed me three different puzzle boxes he had on display and if you flipped the boxes over, you would see that he marks each box and sets a limit of how many puzzle boxes he will make of a certain version. Once he reaches that number, he retires that particular box and moves on to the next puzzle box.

It All Started With The Grandkids

When I asked him how he got started with puzzle boxes, he explained that what really got him started with building wooden puzzle boxes was his grandkids. One Christmas, Jimmy decided to build each of his grandkids a wooden puzzle box, so he came up with a unique puzzle for them to solve, built the puzzle boxes, and put $100 in each of the boxes for them to find. The grandkids loved the gift and couldn't wait for the challenge. They enjoyed it so much that Jimmy designed new boxes for the grandkids for 6 years in a row. The first puzzle boxes he made for his grandkids were extremely hard to solve, so he eventually started making various types of puzzle boxes that ranged from beginner level to advanced. What is unique about his puzzle boxes is that not only did he start making the puzzle boxes for his grandkids, but he also uses much of the money he receives from the sales of his puzzle boxes to help a couple of his grandkids in supporting them in their college expenses. He has three grandkids going to the University of Texas at Austin and one granddaughter that currently attends Baylor University as a pre-med student. He uses his proceeds to help them finish their degrees. In the end, a unique Christmas gift not only turned into a family tradition but also became a tool to help his grandkids achieve their college educations.

Mystery Solved

There are many unknown and seemingly impossible things that we face in life, but what isn't a mystery is why Jimmy Chilcutt was a success with his career and with his family. He is known for looking at the little things around him. He focuses on the small and sometimes overlooked details in life. And in those details, he found a way to help fight crime, uncover mysteries and build a wonderful family. One thing that most people don't know about Jimmy is that he is also an expert archer and has won various archery competitions. He had a knack for hitting the target when confronted with a tough issue in his career and it was only natural for him to take up archer in his retirement. If you get a chance to drop by The Woodlands Farmer's Market, stop by Jimmy's booth. He will not only show you new puzzles that he has developed, but he will tell you more about his life. For a man that made a living from identifying the fingerprints of other people, Jimmy sure did leave many of his own prints on the lives of the people around him.

Click here to view more photos about Jimmy Chilcutt and his puzzle boxes

Click here to view dates for The Woodlands Farmer's Market

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