How Jigsaws Are Made


How Jigsaws are made

Jigsaw puzzles are great fun and have loads of benefits for people of all ages. But have you ever looked closely at a puzzle and wondered how they are made?

As the name would suggest jigsaw puzzles have been traditionally made using a jigsaw. An image would be painted, printed or engraved onto a flat piece of wood and then cut into irregular shapes using a jigsaw.

This type of saw has a thin blade that is ideal for making intricate fine cuts in wood but you wouldn’t use it to cut a cardboard puzzle. And cutting puzzles in this way is labour intensive and doesn’t allow for mass production. So how do they cut all those tiny pieces so that each one is different and yet they all fit together so perfectly?

Sometime in the 1890's saw the development of a process called die-cutting. Die-cutting uses metal cutting shapes, a bit like cookie cutters, and can be used to cut the same shape over and over again. It was also around this time that interlocking pieces were introduced that have since become the standard format for jigsaw puzzles.

Scroll Saw

Traditional wooden puzzles are still made using a scroll saw or jigsaw. If you happen to be a fan of woodworking and own your own jigsaw you can make your own jigsaw at home from any picture you choose.

Die Cutting

Die cutting involves making a sharp metal cutting die that can be used to stamp out multiple different puzzles. Making the die is a labour intensive precision process but once the template has been made it can be used to stamp out literally hundreds of puzzles. And of course, as puzzle pieces don’t usually follow the lines in the image then the same die can be used for different images.

Laser Cutting

Laser cutting involves programming high-quality precision lasers to cut out the puzzle pieces and is commonly used for commercially produced wooden puzzles.

The shapes of the puzzle pieces

As well as there being different methods of cutting puzzles. Broadly the majority of jigsaw puzzles fall into three categories. Grid cut, ribbon or strip cut and random cut. Whimsy pieces that depict objects such as people or animals may also be included. And different puzzle manufacturers tend to specialise in different styles.

Random cut puzzles might appear more difficult at first but are actually considered to be easier as the random shapes are easier to spot, whereas the pieces of a grid puzzle all look pretty much the same.

Not just the cutting

And it's not just the cutting process. Making a great jigsaw puzzle starts with selecting the perfect image to use and choosing the perfect material.

Images range from bright simple images that are engaging for children to works of art. Some puzzles have a different image on the box making them trickier to complete. While others feature repetitive images or large spaces that are all the same colour that add to the challenge.