How to make a wooden jigsaw puzzle
Instructions on How to Make a Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle
If you're looking for valuable trade secrets on how to make quality wooden jigsaw puzzles at home, you're likely to be misled by most of the free instruction you find online. This is because wooden puzzle supply is already greater than demand in the market, and there's an unspoken code among tradesmen of proprietary silence. You simply won't secure the best trade secrets without paying a price. While you can find some helpful instructions for free, most of it is incomplete, or just shy of good technique. Still, if you're new like I once was, you may be searching for quality instruction in hopes of bypassing the time and expense of a trial-and-error learning curve.
I've been making wooden jigsaw puzzles for 9 years now (I started in 2002), both to sell and to give as high end gifts. I've paid my dues in trail and error, and have examined most of what is out there in the way of puzzle-making instruction. Here I will provide you with links to, and critiques on all the best free instruction online, and also provide you with comparisons of the best high quality, reasonably priced paid instruction available.
Antiques Too Expensive? Make Your Own Jigsaw Puzzles in Vintage Style!
As old toys, antique wooden jigsaw puzzles can fetch huge price tags at auction. I have personally seen numerous nice old wooden jigsaw puzzles go for between $300 and $400 over the years. I even remember one going for $800 +/- on eBay a couple years back. The larger they are when in good condition, and the more whimsies they have, the more competition there is for ownership. Even newly cut wooden jigsaw puzzles are spendy.
They're just so nice to work, though, and I personally find them much, much more pleasing than cardboard puzzles.
So, to overcome the prohibitive cost, I simply determined I would have to make my own. I figured I could sell a few and at least make back the money spent on a good scroll saw. From there I could create my own beautiful, private collection, which I have done with great pleasure.
It's really not a difficult skill to master. It does take a practice puzzle or two before you'll love your own results, but I can say from experience that a couple of initial "so-so" puzzles are well worth the many great ones to follow!
Reviews on Free Puzzle Making Instructions - Evaluating "how to make a wooden jigsaw puzzle" advice
The thing I see consistently in online free instruction is the suggestion that puzzle makers use spray glue to mount their face art. The problem with spray glue is that there just simply isn't a spray glue product out there that provides a quality, long-term mount. The adhesion is just too soft. The recommend to use spray glue for mounting face art to lumber is a tell-tale sign the instructions are substandard.
- WikiHow.com How-to Instructions
Suggests using spray glue to mount... then offers suggestion for repair when it doesn't stick. .
- Instructables.com How-to Instructions
Also recommends spray glue, which is not a reliable mount. .
- NewPuzzles.com How-to Instructions
Recommends dry-mounting instead of wet gluing. Dry mounting is a very good option, but it is also an additional expense. On the down side it doesn't always take, but you won't discover that until the puzzle is cut. Then you'll find yourself constantl
- eHow.com How-to Instructions
In the very first segment a comment on the best paper type leads me to believe this person doesn't have much experience making wooden puzzles. The paper disparaged here is actually ideal for face art because it doesn't "tear-out" upon cutting. It is,
Most Useful Modern Puzzle Making Video
Free YouTube.com video (no embed code available)
This is one of the better offerings online for how to make wooden jigsaw puzzles, and even though it describes the making of children's puzzles, I highly recommend it. It does have one drawback, however. The video makes it look very easy to apply fast drying varnish to mount and cover face art. The reality is, paper mounted with varnish does wrinkle quickly and profusely, yet the video doesn't mention that, or tell the viewer how to deal with the problem. Yes, I have used varnish as a mount, but I lost a few potential puzzles in the beginning due to my lack of experience with this medium. It's not quite decoupage!
Unfortunately the proprietor who made the video does not want the video embedded elsewhere on the web, so you'll have to go to YouTube.com and type in "heirloom puzzles," and look for the video made by HappyLeafStudios.
Pro Puzzle Maker Demonstrates Cutting
Nobody can cut a puzzle this fast at first! Heck, I've been doing this a while and I still personally prefer a slower speed. Aside from cutting speed, what every beginner watching this hopes to find out, is how do you make a modern cut evenly spaced without guide lines? You won't find the answer here, but it's still fun to watch this craftsman at work.
1930's Instruction for $5 on eBay - Source Instruction from Height of Wooden Puzzle Craze
One eBay seller is making black and white copies from articles found in the March 1932 and June 1933 Popular Science Monthly magazine, and selling the copies for $5 a pop. The magazines themselves run about $20 apiece on the antiques market.
I have included these public domain sources, along with modern manufacture techniques, and added puzzle making information from the era, in The History and Craft of Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles, (in "The Best How-to Book for Puzzle Crafting" module below).
Although these instructions are from the 1930s, you will find they are easily understood and applied to the workshop of today. Some of the product names have changed, and some of the glues and such available back then aren't available today, but overall you will find the articles very helpful.
If this seller has any current listings, they will show up here:
Out of Print Puzzle Craft Books - Spendy!
The following titles can sometimes be picked up on Amazon, but you'll pay a pretty penny. The demand is bigger than supply for this information.
Out of print. Used copies go for about $75
A Good How-to Book on Amazon - One low-cost puzzle instruction option
This book is brand new, published in February of 2011. This is a generously illustrated book for beginners and hobbyists, written by a second generation puzzle maker who knows his stuff (Charles W. Ross). Ross shares a number of trade secrets that the beginner can use in making heirloom quality puzzles.
The book contains figural patterns and a figural stencil tip, excellent gluing and mounting advice (with only one exception...), plus it goes into materials detail not found elsewhere. For example, Ross does an excellent job explaining lumber and saw blade choices from a professional woodworker's standpoint, and he offers spot-on advice in paper selection.
The book does have some inadequacies, however. For one, Ross advocates drawing cutting lines on the face art at times. This is absolutely not necessary, even for a beginner. Second, spray glue is given as an implied viable gluing option. Even though Ross provides instruction for using spray glue properly, spray glue is not, in my opinion, ever an appropriate adhesive for heirloom quality puzzles. Third, the book offers inadequate instruction on re-creating period-style puzzles and boxes, and offers no period source instructions, or even references. And lastly, nothing is offered in the way of brass and tacks entrepreneurial information for those who would like to turn the hobby into a business.
All this being said, at around $10 retail the book is worth the price paid, and is a far cry more comprehensive than the free how-to information currently found online.
The Best How-to Book for Puzzle Crafting
The History and Craft of Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles - $7.99
(Links to the author's storefront at TeachersPayTeachers.com)
This is the first and only wooden puzzle making book to provide both modern how-to instruction, and classic historical how-to instruction using primary source documents. Plus, this resource is all in a no-fluff, quick-read format, much like an instructional magazine.
Users of this resource get all the hoped-for practical puzzle making tips, like how to select equipment and materials (glues, blades, lumber, scrollsaws, best paper types, etc.), along with little known trade secrets for things like making re-positionable cutting and figural guides (so you don't have to draw on the face art), and hard-to-find stack cutting instructions and tips.
For those who desire a nostalgic look and feel to their wooden jigsaw puzzles, this book cannot be beat. Period source instructions cover not only puzzle making, but also authentic puzzle box re-creation. You'll also get a handy puzzle history timeline showing the evolution of picture puzzles and cutting tools clear back to the Colonial era. Very useful information for history buffs, reenactors, and educators.
And finally this well-rounded resource also includes a nice figural pattern library, along with entrepreneurial tips for entering the saturated wooden jigsaw puzzle market.
If there is a downside to this book it would be in its concise format. While the book has numerous pictures throughout, it is not a full-scale pictorial instruction manual. I wouldn't call it a play-by-play book for "dummies."
Brevity and all considered, this book is well-rounded and thorough in content, and is by all standards the best treatise available today in the art of wooden jigsaw puzzle manufacture.
Gallery of Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles
Here I am cutting a puzzle in my kitchen during the holiday season, 2010. The following images are of some of my favorite wooden jigsaw puzzles...
This was my first two-sided puzzle. It was finished in a traditional cut with whimsies and some line cutting. This puzzle dons the face art of two antique German postcards which I enlarged using a graphics program. Cute, cute, cute! It measures roughly 11x6 inches.
This was one of my first wooden jigsaw puzzles. It comes out every Christmas at our house. The outline cut is called a "silhouette." This puzzle is fairly large at 14x18 inches, with 140 free-style cut pieces.
This free-style cut puzzle was made using a public domain image by Normal Rockwell. This one is titled, "The Rivals." Measures 11x13 inches, with 110 pieces.
These little beauties are called Puzlet Gems, shown here very close to actual size (average is 2.5x3 inches). They are the smallest workable wooden jigsaw puzzles with whimsies to ever be produced. To my knowledge, no one else is making anything quite like them. I sell them in limited editions through LetsPlayHistory.org/Puzlets.