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Making A Jigsaw Puzzle

A jigsaw puzzle is a tiling puzzle that requires the assembly of often oddly shaped interlocking and mosaiced pieces. Typically each individual piece has a portion of a picture. When assembled the jigsaw puzzle produces a complete picture.

Most modern jigsaw puzzles are made out of paperboard. They are easier and cheaper to mass-produce than the original wooden models.

An enlarged photograph or printed reproduction of a painting or other two-dimensional artwork is glued onto the cardboard before cutting. This board is then fed into a press. The press forces a set of hardened steel blades of the desired shape through the board until it is fully cut.

This procedure is similar to making shaped cookies with a cookie cutter. The forces involved however are tremendously greater. A typical 1000-piece puzzle requires a press that can generate upwards of 700 tons of force to push the knives of the puzzle die through the board.

A puzzle die is a flat board often made from plywood which has slots cut or burned in the same shape as the knives that are used. These knives are set into the slots, and covered in a compressible material, typically foam rubber, which serves to eject the cut puzzle pieces.

New technology has enabled laser-cutting of wooden or acrylic jigsaw puzzles. The advantage of cutting with a laser is that the puzzle can be custom cut into any size any shape with any size or any number of pieces.

Many museums have laser cut acrylic puzzles made of some of their more important pieces of art. This way, children visiting the museum can see the original piece and then assemble a jigsaw puzzle of the image.

Acrylic is used to make the pieces very durable and waterproof. Acrylic also can withstand continued use without the image fading or the pieces wearing out or becoming frayed. Also because the print and cut patterns are computer-based lost pieces can be manufactured without remaking the entire puzzle.

The next time you get stuck and frustrated while working on a jigsaw puzzle, think of all the work that has gone into making it. Selecting the art piece, casting a puzzle die, choosing the material, cutting ... the process involves a lot of planning and work. And it does make you appreciate your puzzle even more.


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