How Jigsaw Puzzles Are Made

How Jigsaws are Made - Then & Now!

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

What is a Jigsaw Puzzle?

Jigsaw Puzzles are a fun activity for all ages. A puzzle is made up of many colourful pieces, and you have to put them in the right place on your board before solving it!

The best part about these puzzles? The satisfaction that comes from completing one - after hours spent trying out new techniques or figuring out how to navigate those tricky corners.

It is a construction toy where pieces are made up of polygonal shapes that can be assembled to create a whole picture. You complete the puzzle but following the picture, finding the pieces and putting them together to complete it.

Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle

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, and this would be a wooden jigsaw puzzle.

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?

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 the Jigsaw Puzzle

Die-cutting involves making a sharp metal cutting die that can be used to stamp out multiple different puzzles. Making the die cutting press 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 cut puzzle pieces don’t usually follow the lines in the image then the same die can be used for different images and jigsaws can be mass-produced.

Modern Jigsaw Puzzles - Laser Cutting

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

While most jigsaw puzzles are made of cardboard or paperboard, wooden puzzles are often coated with some form of protective layer. This can be anything from lacquer-based varnish to spray-on plastic coating.

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.

Jigsaw Materials

Cardboard Puzzles - Most modern jigsaw puzzles are made with cardboard with the picture printed onto a softer cardboard backing material. These will come packaged in a cardboard box with the puzzle piece usually being in a bag.

Acrylic Jigsaw Puzzles - Acrylic is a hard clear plastic that is often used to make jigsaw puzzles. It can come in various thicknesses and it's available in many colours, which creates many combinations that can be achieved.

Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles - are still very popular as a first jigsaw puzzle for children.

Different Types

Puzzle Boxes

A puzzle box (also known as a secret box or trick box) is a container that may be opened only by solving a riddle. The design of the puzzle box requires the puzzler to slide, rotate and flip multiple pieces in order to access the contents of the box. Puzzle boxes can be custom made or found pre-made.

2D Puzzles

A jigsaw puzzle is a type of two-dimensional jigsaw. The pieces in these puzzles are flat, and the pieces may be bonded together and placed on a surface.

3D Puzzles

The idea of building a jigsaw puzzle is to make something beautiful and difficult at the same time. However, 3D puzzles involve putting all those tiny parts together with creating a three-dimensional replica or model.

Not just the cutting - Design is Important

And it's not just the cutting process. Making a great jigsaw puzzle starts with selecting the perfect puzzle 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. And the material will play a large part in how long it takes to piece together, how easy it is to lift the pieces out of the box and what size pieces are used.

Quality puzzles are constructed to combine pictures with cuts on design pieces to enhance satisfaction among users. Puzzle artists are cautious in their designs not to reduce major features of the art such as the face. The artist controls skill through different combinations of pieces varying both the amount of complexity and size that the cuts will provide. The more pieces this problem is placed in the puzzle the harder it can be assembled. Several puzzle makers have made the job harder by avoiding straight-edged edges. The lack of flat borders makes the edges of the pieces difficult to identify and the edges make them more difficult to locate.

A Puzzle Sheet is a sheet of material that is cut to form a picture. The puzzle pieces are made by cutting away everything from the outline or edge of an object or figure on a sheet of paper, cardboard, wood, etc.

Custom puzzle makers

Puzzles can be custom made or pre-made downloadable jigsaw puzzle games. Custom puzzles are specially created by the maker to commemorate an event, person, place etc. Such events may include birthdays, weddings, anniversaries etc. Puzzles that have been custom made

The future

The artwork used in puzzles has been continually altered to accommodate current consumer taste. This new style of puzzle takes a 2-D griddle puzzle into a 3-D-form. Virtual puzzles are electronic, neither cardboard nor wood. These virtual puzzles are produced on a computer and exist only on the screen. The software allows puzzle lovers to continue enjoying the complexity of reassembling the scrambled pictures without any physical construction.

Puzzle Making is Usually a Family Business

More often than not, those involved in making jigsaw puzzles are family owned and run businesses. Puzzle makers that started as far back as the 1920s such as Ravensburger and Bits and Pieces still exist today. Many of their original items were actually handed down through families overtime before they created their own company images.

Three Dimensional Puzzles are puzzles are made by cutting pieces out of material to form different shapes. The parts after the cutting process are put together to make up a single object or picture.

Take Away

While the process of cutting and assembling a jigsaw puzzle may seem simple, there is more to it than meets the eye. There are many different materials that can be used such as cardboard, acrylic, or wood. The quality of your puzzle will depend on how difficult it is to assemble and whether major features like facial features were cut away in order to make assembly easier for you. Furthermore, puzzles come with various shapes which require pieces from varying levels of complexity in order to put together an image correctly. Puzzle making has been a family business since its inception decades ago when people would hand down their own designs through generations before starting up their own company!

So next time you're having fun with your friends or family playing around with a jigsaw puzzle remember there is more than meets the eye!

Interested in learning more? Read How The Benefits of Jigsaw Puzzles.

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