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Make Your Own Jigsaw Puzzle

Learning to make your own jigsaw puzzle is an interesting twist on the popular jigsaw puzzle hobby. Nearly anyone can design their own jigsaw puzzles with a wide variety of difficulties, themes and materials. Making jigsaw puzzles as a hobby can even turn into a side business where you can sell your specialty handmade puzzle creations.

The jigsaw puzzle hobby is popular all over the word. People of all ages enjoy the concentration and artistic experience of searching for which pieces fit together to complete the puzzle. This can be a very absorbing activity that embraces the fundamental philosophical principle of starting with something fragmented and gradually making connections to “get the big picture.” When you make your own jigsaw puzzle, the big picture is entirely up to you.

The History Of Jigsaw Puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles got their name based on the type of woodworking saw used to make traditional wood puzzles. Jigsaws are saws with reciprocating blades that can make both straight and curvilinear cuts. This flexibility makes jigsaws ideal for creating the oddly shaped pieces that make jigsaw puzzles especially fun and challenging.

John Spilsbury, a London engraver, created the first jigsaw puzzle around 1760. To create his puzzle, John mounted a map on a wood backing and used a saw to cut out the countries in the map. Early puzzles such as these were used as educational tools for children. Jigsaw puzzles weren’t formally known as “jigsaw” until 1880.

Cardboard jigsaw puzzles came onto the scene in the late 19th century. Using die-cut manufacturing methods, puzzle companies started making more intricate puzzle designs. These challenging puzzles, combined with popular puzzle images, led to greater popularity with adult hobbyists in the early 20th century.

Did You Know?

  • The most pieces ever assembled together in a single jigsaw was 209,250 at the Grand Formosa Regent Hotel in Taiwan.
  • For a 1,000-piece jigsaw it will take you about 30 minutes just to get all of the pieces sorted.
  • Although a 500 piece cardboard jigsaw can now be manufactured in the twinkling of an eye, it takes about four and a half weeks for a craftsman to assemble the form that cuts it.
  • Some of the hardest jigsaw puzzles to solve are those with only a solid color image (for example, all black).

Getting Started With Jigsaw Puzzles

Make Your Own Jigsaw PuzzleWhen you make your own jigsaw puzzle, you can do so using a variety of materials. If you’re not an experienced woodworker, you can start this hobby using backing materials such as cardboard, thick poster board or even balsa wood. If you’re learning how to make your own jigsaw puzzle as a part of your woodworking hobby, you can use a thin sheet of your favorite hardwood or dense particleboard. Plywood sheets pose problems since the wood can easily splinter when cutting.

Depending on the materials you choose to use, you can get started in this hobby for just a few dollars up to a couple hundred if you need to buy the tools for making a wooden jigsaw puzzle. In addition to your backing material, you’ll also need glue, scissors or a sharp knife, or a jigsaw (or similar) and a sander if you plan to make your puzzle out of wood. You’ll also need an image to apply to the puzzle backing. If you want to be really creative you can even paint your own picture for the puzzle’s image.

How To Make Your Own Jigsaw Puzzle

Step One

The first step when you make your own jigsaw puzzle is to cut the backing material to the size you want for your puzzle. This is usually determined by the size of the image you intend to use for the puzzle.

Step Two

With your backing cut to the right size, now you’ll need to apply your image onto the puzzle backing. If you’re using an existing photograph or artwork, you can do this simply by gluing the artwork to the backing. If you’re using wood as a backing, you’ll also want to spray the affixed image with a clear sealant. This will help guard against fraying as you cut the puzzle. If you’re planning to hand-paint the puzzle image, this is the step to do so. Allow plenty of drying time during this step.

Step Three

When the glue, sealant or paint is dry, next mark off the puzzle pieces. A good source of inspiration for puzzle piece shapes is to just use an existing puzzle for ideas. You can also download puzzle templates online.

Step Four

With your puzzle design in place, now is the time to start cutting. Whether you’re using scissors, a knife, or a saw, take your time when cutting out your puzzle. If possible, cut your puzzle into four sections (following the outline of interior puzzle pieces) to make this process a little easier.

Step Five

As you cut out your puzzle pieces, put the pieces together to make sure they fit. If you’re using a saw, you’ll also want to lightly sand the puzzle piece edges to remove any splinters or rough areas.

Jigsaw Puzzle Tips and Tricks

The following tips and tricks can help you learn how to make your own jigsaw puzzle…

  • Start out simple and work your way up. To build a quick puzzle, just glue a magazine cover to a piece of cardboard and cut out pieces freehand.
  • To avoid marking directly on the puzzle image, just outline the puzzle pieces on the reverse side of the puzzle backing.
  • Once you get the hang of them, multi-purpose hand rotary tools can also be used to cut out puzzle pieces for certain types of puzzle backings.

Expanding Your Puzzle Hobby

Once you’ve learned how to make your own jigsaw puzzle, consider expanding your hobby with some of the following ideas:

  • Try your hand at making a three-dimensional puzzle.
  • Sell your puzzle creations at local farmer’s markets or even online.
  • Get your kids involved in the hobby and teach them how to make puzzles with their Legos or other building blocks.
  • Expand beyond puzzles and create wooden brainteasers.

Related Jigsaw Puzzle Resources

Check out the following resources for more information about how to make your own jigsaw puzzle…

JigsawPuzzleEquipment.com – sells a variety of jigsaw puzzle equipment for the avid and professional jigsaw puzzle creator. You’ll find puzzle machines, knives, substrata, gluing machines and even a puzzle blog.

JigsawPuzzle.com – easily create your own jigsaw puzzle using a household iron and a do-it-yourself photo puzzle kit.

JustJigsawPuzzles.com – a fun site where you can solve jigsaw puzzles online. A new puzzle is featured daily and you can also search from existing puzzles.

Related YouTube Videos

Check out the following videos to learn even more about starting this hobby.