About Me and the Puzzles

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The making of a wooden jigsaw puzzle:

Despite the name, jigsaw puzzles are not cut with jigsaws. Modern hand-cut jigsaw puzzles are cut with a scroll saw.

If you want to get started making your own puzzles, check out my page on jigsaw puzzle-making equipment.

I use the thinnest scroll-saw blades available so that the pieces fit together as tightly as possible.
Scott Stafford

The picture is adhered to 1/4" 5-ply Baltic birch, a plywood often used for crafts and preferred by most puzzlecutters. The grain of each ply is at right angles to the previous ply, so that very intricate and detailed shapes can be cut, and the grain does not interfere or chip.

The puzzle is mostly cut freehand. The figurals are planned ahead of time and the patterns are adhered temporarily to the puzzle with rubber cement or 3M ReMount adhesive. Then the cutting begins. Pieces are cut one at a time, and I reassemble the puzzle as I go. This is important for two reasons. First, I have to sand the back of the puzzle after it is completed. More importantly, though, I need to make sure the puzzle interlocks well. This way, I know which sections aren't already interlocking and I can be sure to cut the next piece or group of pieces to interlock with them both to maintain integrity.

counting pieces
This partially-cut puzzle shows some figurals that are already cut, and some that are still merely patterns on the print waiting their turn.
Counting the 623 pieces of Wildflower Tapestry in careful stacks of 5, rows 10 long... Maybe I should have just guessed. :)

After cutting, I have to count the pieces. By stacking them like a blackjack dealer into piles 5 high and arranging the piles into rows and columns, I can count them quickly and accurately.

How I got started:

I got into making wooden jigsaw puzzles after reading the wonderful preamble to Georges Perec's Life: A User's Manual, of which the end is excerpted here:

The art of jigsaw puzzling begins with wooden puzzles cut by hand, whose maker undertakes to ask all the questions the player will have to solve, and, instead of allowing chance to cover his tracks, aims to replace it with cunning, trickery, and subterfuge. All the elements occuring in the image to be reassembled -- this armchair covered in gold brocade, that three-pointed black hat with its rather ruined black plume, or that silver-braided bright yellow livery -- serve by design as points of departure for trails that lead to false information. The organised, coherent, structured signifying space of the picture is cut up not only into inert, formless elements containing little information or signifying power, but also into falsified elements, carrying false information; two fragments of cornice made to fit each other perfectly when they belong in fact to two quite separate sections of the ceiling, the belt buckle of a uniform which turns out in extremis to be a metal clasp holding the chandelier, several almost identically cut pieces belonging, for one part, to a dwarf orange tree placed on a mantelpiece and, for the other part, to its scarcely attenuated reflection in a mirror, are classic examples of the types of traps puzzle-lovers come across.

From this, one can make a deduction which is quite certainly the ultimate truth of jigsaw puzzles: despite appearances, puzzling is not a solitary game: every move the puzzler makes, the puzzle maker has made before; evey piece the puzzler picks up, and picks up again, and studies and strokes, every combination he tries, and tries a second time, every blunder and every insight, each hope and each discouragement have all been designed, calculated, and decided by the other.

With that to lure me, how could I resist?


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Jack-in-the-Box Custom Wooden Puzzles signature pieceCopyright © 2006 Scott Stafford scott@jitbpuzzles.com. All rights reserved.