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.

A Different Kind of Scrolled Sign

I recently completed this sign for my friend Mike. It bears his and his wife’s names, and those of his three dogs.

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I created the layout using a computer, then printed it out and adhered it to a sheet of Baltic birch plywood. I cut out the waste around the letters with my scroll saw and dyed the wood to create contrast before gluing it to the backer board for support.

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I had a lot of fun developing and making this project, and Mike was thrilled to receive it and has been showing it to everybody.

Feel free to contact me if you’d like a custom sign of this style made for you!

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)

Links:

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

Links:

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

Links:

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.

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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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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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Diamond Challenge

I really don’t know what to say about this project, other than it’s the most complex scroll saw puzzle I have made to date. It’s made up of 65 pieces of Douglas fir, which I’ll admit was ambitious. There are some really cool pieces that still blow my mind. One of the most challenging parts about this puzzle is that the cuts are angled so some pieces can only be slid together from one direction.

The first time I solved the puzzle, it took me over two hours. I’ve assembled it over a dozen times and have now learned to solve it in less than 40 minutes. I’ve also watched other avid puzzlers struggle with it for upwards of 4 hours.

After cutting the diamond blank to shape, I just walked to the scroll saw and started cutting puzzle pieces.  The design was completely off the top of my head and it took over two hours of solid scrolling to cut all 65 pieces.

This video was made showing yours truly taking apart and assembling the puzzle. Note that it took me two minutes just to take it apart and another 38 to assemble. I sped up the video to make my 40-minutes of agony seem like a completely  tolerable 5:21.