Watch How Jigsaw Puzzles are Made

iStock // ThomasVogel
iStock // ThomasVogel

Traditionally, jigsaw puzzles have been made by using, wait for it, a jigsaw—though it's also called a scroll saw. If you've never seen one, a scroll saw has a fine, straight blade that's usually mounted vertically a little bit like the needle in a sewing machine. By running the blade up and down (hooray, power tools) and moving wood through it, you can cut fine patterns into wood. Note that the term "jigsaw" can also refer to a coping saw, which is a handheld power tool with a straight blade sticking out—great for cutting holes in walls, but perhaps not puzzles.

So that's great. But how do people make jigsaw puzzles today?

The short answer is: It's complicated. There are still high-end handmade puzzles on the market today, but commercial makers have typically moved on to other methods. Below, let's examine a few of the most popular methods.

1. METAL TEMPLATE GRIDS

Mass-produced commercial jigsaw puzzles are made of cardboard. Nobody hand-cuts cardboard with a jigsaw. So the game is all about making a cutting die (a sharp metal outline) that emulates that jigsaw cut. Once you have a cutting die, it can be used to stamp out countless cardboard puzzles.

In this video, starting at about 1:30, Ravensburger artisans show how they create their jigsaw puzzles using a "ribbon cut" grid system and a series of jigsaw-style edges. The metal template allows safety-gloved employees to snap in the edges of each piece, allowing for a unique pattern for each puzzle design.

2. SCROLL SAWS

For woodworkers, the only game in town is a real jigsaw. In this video, George Vondriska makes an elk jigsaw puzzle using some plywood, a computer print-out, and a scroll saw.

(Note: If you want to get into this, watch this 100-minute class.)

3. PSYCHOLOGICAL TORMENT

Steve Richardson says "they pay me to drive them crazy," describing the way he designs incredibly challenging jigsaw puzzles using an X-ACTO knife (which are then actually cut by hand). Calling himself Tormenter-in-Chief, Richardson has some famous clients, including the Gates family, the Bush family, and the royal family of Great Britain, among others.

Richardson's company only sells about 3,600 puzzles per year, all handmade. Every puzzle contains a single "clown" piece, the company's logo—though sometimes he doesn't actually fit in.

4. LASERS

In this video, a laser cutter uses the Force on a Star Wars poster. It's fascinating to watch how it accomplishes the cuts, doing all the vertical cuts first (with little oscillations to get the wiggles in), then the horizontal cuts. Watch as, during the horizontal cutting stage, the pieces pop out!

5. RANDOM CUTS

In this video, Allegra Vernon walks us through all the steps that happen before the actual cutting. She discusses how images are selected, photographed/scanned, edited, and generally optimized to become good images for a jigsaw puzzle. Then she gets into the "random cut" process starting around 2:20. Both sections are fascinating. Vernon also explains the "ribbon cut" method employed above by Ravensburger.

20 Weird Clubs That Actually Exist

Mental Floss via YouTube
Mental Floss via YouTube

Groucho Marx once famously quipped that he'd never "want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members." Most people would probably say the same about the Martin-Baker Ejection Tie Club—a very exclusive, 63-year-old organization created specifically for individuals who have had their lives saved by an ejection seat. Currently, the club boasts more than 6000 members.

That's just one of the weird and wonderful clubs you'll learn about in our latest edition of The List Show. Join Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy as she hunts down the world's most unusual clubs (Extreme Ironing Bureau anyone?). You can watch the full video below.

For more episodes like this one, be sure to subscribe here!

Video Captures Fiery Eruption of Mexico's Popocatépetl Volcano

RobertoVaca, iStock via Getty Images
RobertoVaca, iStock via Getty Images

Mexico is home to 48 active volcanoes, but few can compete with Popocatépetl. Located around 40 miles southeast of Mexico City, it's one of the most active volcanoes in the country, and on January 9, the extent of its power was caught on camera.

The video above, reported by NPR, shows the Popocatépetl stratovolcano—also known as a composite volcano—spewing lava, ash, and rock in a fiery plume that reached 20,000 feet above its cinder cone crater. CENAPRED, Mexico's National Center for Disaster Prevention, filmed the volcanic eruption as it unfolded early Thursday morning. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also recorded the explosion from space using its GOES 16 satellite.

No one was hurt by the incident last week, but CENAPRED is warning people to avoid the area as debris continues to fall from the summit. The center has set its Volcanic Warning Light to Yellow Phase 2, which indicates there's no immediate threat of danger.

Since it emerged from dormancy in 1994, Popocatépetl, or "El Popo," as it's known by locals, has become one of the most active volcanoes in Mexico. Tremors and showers of ash are now regular occurrences for residents of nearby towns. Given its volatility, there are currently 20 devices monitoring the volcano 24/7.

[h/t NPR]

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