Make a 3D Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle

I’m not sure if there is any project that brings more pleasure after it leaves my shop than a jigsaw puzzle.

After buying a scroll saw, I was soon making jigsaw puzzles from 1/4″ plywood. As fun as they were to make and assemble, I soon began experimenting as I do, and started cutting multi-level 3D jigsaw puzzles. To date, I have cut thousands of puzzle pieces on the scroll saw dd(and even a dozen or so with a manual fret saw).

If you’re interested in learning how they are cut, check out my article in the latest issue of Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement: Make a 3D Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle. There are some good scroll saw tips in the article as well.

Not interested in making your own puzzle? I sell them too – they’re a great gift idea. Click here to shop.

Finishing Puzzle Table

After routing the jigsaw puzzle design, I made a base out of four mitred lengths of black walnut to raise the table up off the ground. That way, it didn’t just look like a cube sitting on the ground.

Puzzle Table17

Then came finishing. Let’s just say that it required some patience to get an even coat of finish on the edges of each of the 169 puzzle pieces.

Puzzle Table16Puzzle Table15

After the finish dried, I set it up for some studio photographs. This one shot captured the essence of the table pretty well, I thought.

Jigsaw Puzzle Table1

Find all the details for Jigsaw Puzzle Table on the product page.

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Cutting a 3D Jigsaw Puzzle

18-Piece Puzzles

18-Piece Puzzles

People have always been fascinated by my 3D wooden jigsaw puzzles. “Wow! Is that ever cool?” they marvel. “How on Earth did you make this?”

“They are little gems.  I dared to unlock a few pieces from one puzzle and was pleasantly surprised to find that they are unexpectedly puzzling!  Devilish and nicely done!”

– Jonathan, a recent buyer

Well, I decided to turn on the video camera to record the process of cutting one while making puzzles for Port Moody Art Centre’s current exhibition, Winter Treasures. The process basically involved making a series of cuts, rotating each segment on edge, making another series of cuts, then rotating each segment again to make the final series of cuts. Cutting these puzzles took a fair amount of hand strength, dexterity, stamina and patience. I also needed to be able to put the pieces back together when I was done cutting!

The result was somewhat of a hypnotizing video. The soundtrack I chose was Colin James’ Far Away Like a Radio, one of my favourite tunes to get me in the groove for cutting puzzles. Enjoy. (Duration – 4:27)

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More Multi-Layer Jigsaw Puzzles

Big or small – I make them all!

Last year I made two large, complex and challenging jigsaw puzzles with 90 and 140 pieces, respectively. Making a puzzle involves cutting out sections of pieces, turning them on edge, cutting them again, turning each section another time and making more cuts. The result is a pile of very intricate and highly unique puzzle pieces.

90-Piece Puzzle2

90-Piece Puzzle

140-Piece Puzzle2

140-Piece Puzzle

The large puzzles were impressive and the sheer number of pieces would have intimidated even a die-hard puzzler (or even its maker!). For that reason, I decided to make some smaller puzzles.

18-Piece Puzzles

These puzzles are smaller (roughly 2-3/4″ x 2-3/4″ x 1″) and have fewer pieces but are no less intricate or tricky than the larger ones.

A single is a great introduction to my multi-layer puzzles, and the difficulty can be increased by disassembling two or more into one pile of pieces.

I am offering them individually for $30 each, or $75 for three.

By the way, the two large puzzles are still for sale at this time as I write this article.

18-Piece Puzzles

18-Piece Puzzles

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Market Test Reveals Public Perception of Puzzles

This past weekend, I spent my time at Gallery Bistro demonstrating how I make my 3D jigsaw puzzles. It was a fun and rewarding experience for me and I learned a lot about how the public viewed my puzzles and pricing.

18-Piece Puzzles

3x3x2 (18-Piece) Puzzles

Almost everybody was interested in what I was doing and creating. I showed them the scroll saw blade that I use and explained how I make a 3D puzzle. Although they appreciated what I was doing, most of them were too intimidated by the 18-piece puzzles to attempt to even take one apart. A few people did successfully solve a puzzle and they, interestingly, did not seem inclined to purchase a puzzle. Those who did were buying them as gifts for puzzle-lovers on their list.

This test of making and selling puzzles gave me the confidence to move forward with them. I intend to market them more aggressively next year.

A Little Less Insanity: A 90-Piece, Layered Jigsaw Puzzle

There is now another wooden 3D puzzle on my Gallery page.  Like big brother, the 140-piece monster, this one also has multiple layers.  However, it has only 90 pieces, so it should be a cinch to complete, relatively speaking!

Like puzzles?  Come try one this weekend only at Gallery Bistro (2411 Clarke Street, Port Moody).  Opening hours are 10am-3pm on Saturday, December 14 and Sunday, December 15.

90-Piece Puzzle2

90-Piece Puzzle, partially disassembled

90-Piece Puzzle1

90-Piece Puzzle

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Get Personal with Insanity

I will be making and selling my wooden 3D jigsaw puzzles at Gallery Bistro (2411 Clarke Street, Port Moody) Saturday, December 14 and Sunday, December 15 from 10am-3pm.

Sometimes I describe my work as that which is so insane nobody in their right mind would attempt it. My wooden 3D jigsaw puzzles are examples of that.

My latest offering is a small puzzle comprised of 18 pieces. They are simple enough to not be too intimidating, yet complex enough to keep someone engaged. The neat thing about these puzzles is that the difficulty can be increased by combining the unassembled pieces of multiple puzzles in the same jumble.

cropped-18-piece-puzzle2.jpg

Gallery Bistro is a great place for breakfast (how about the classic eggs benny?), lunch (my latest favourite is the shrimp and avocado sandwich!), or a drink to warm your belly (chai tea, anyone?). It is also a vital part of the community. They display the work of local artists and allow groups such as Inlet Artists and the organizing team of Kaboom! The Port Moody Art Explosion (all of which I am a member), to hold meetings there.

18-Piece Puzzles

Five 18-Piece Puzzles

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More Cribbage Boards Now, More Puzzles Soon

There are two new cribbage boards on my Gallery page.  Both are presently for sale and they will be the last two available this year.

Click on any image to view the product details.

Cribbage Board 9

Cribbage Board #9 (Click image for details)

Cribbage Board #10 (Click for details)

Cribbage Board #10 (Click image for details)

In Other News

I’m sure you saw my insane 140-piece puzzle that I posted last weekend.  It’s so complex that even I, a puzzle-lover and the maker of the puzzle, am afraid to take it apart because I’m not sure that I’ll have time to get it back together before it sells.

140-Piece Puzzle Top

140-Piece Puzzle (Click image for details)

If you don’t enjoy driving yourself insane, but still like challenging yourself with puzzles, I have some smaller, simpler 3D (multi-level) jigsaw puzzles that will be available soon. All the puzzles are made of hardwood and I cut each piece myself.

How I Prefer to Make Speculative Work

When not required to make something that meets a certain set of criteria, I am free to let the design evolve on its own. Sometimes (but not often), I end up making nothing more than scrap wood and sawdust. That’s how it goes sometimes.

I feel that this quote embodies my philosophy on making speculative work (for starters).

“A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”

– Lao Tzu

This is also how I make my jigsaw puzzles. I start with nothing more than a piece of wood and a new blade in my scroll saw. I don’t draw a pattern so I have no lines to follow. I just make one cut at a time. Once I free a piece (or section) from the rest, I proceed to cut it into smaller pieces, making cuts from the edge, end or face.

The result in a very complex puzzle with pieces that must be assembled in the correct sequence. For example, when viewed from the top,this section appears to be three pieces.

140-Piece Puzzle1

However, it is actually made of nine pieces which slide together. Reassembling these nine pieces alone takes several minutes. Can you imagine if they were mixed among a hundred other puzzle pieces?

140-Piece Puzzle2

This 3D puzzle is made up of sections one to four layers deep. That is how the complexity of the puzzle is hidden. Would you have guessed that this puzzle is comprised of 140 pieces?

140-Piece Puzzle Top

This puzzle is for sale and all the details can be found on the product page. Please contact me if you are interested in acquiring it.

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Mechanical Puzzle Box

After Woodworking in America, I hitched a ride to Phoenix with Paul-Marcel.  In his shop, I built a puzzle box with a mechanical lock.

In this video, I demonstrate the operation of the box while talking about wooden jigsaw puzzles and the design and construction of the box.  (Duration – 10:04)


Read about another of my wooden jigsaw puzzles, Diamond Challenge, and watch a video of the assembly HERE.