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.

23 Weird Laws You Might Have Broken

Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy hosts "The List Show."
Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy hosts "The List Show."
Mental Floss via YouTube

If you've ever played a game of bingo in North Carolina, you may have been a party to a crime without even knowing it. And if you've ever eavesdropped on a neighbor in Oklahoma and shared any of that juicy gossip, you might just want to go ahead and turn yourself into the police.

From coast to coast, America is full of bizarre laws that you've probably broken at one time or another. Join Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy as she digs into the history of 23 of the strangest of them—like why you can't eat fried chicken with a knife and fork in Gainesville, Georgia. You can watch the full episode below.

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

Watch: Woman Plays Violin During Brain Surgery to Help Doctors Avoid Damaging Her Fine Motor Skills

Violinist Dagmar Turner played George Gershwin's "Summertime" and other selections during her brain surgery performance.
Violinist Dagmar Turner played George Gershwin's "Summertime" and other selections during her brain surgery performance.
Furtseff/iStock via Getty Images

When 53-year-old Dagmar Turner told neurosurgeons she was right-handed, they said that was no problem—the brain surgery they were planning to remove a tumor only ran the risk of affecting fine motor skills in her left hand. To Turner, a lifelong violinist and member of the Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra, that was still very much a problem.

Turner told ITV News she suggested playing the violin during the procedure so the surgeons at King’s College Hospital in London could ensure they weren’t damaging coordination in either hand. They agreed.

According to NBC News, the violinist played George Gershwin's “Summertime” and selections by Gustav Mahler and Julio Iglesias while surgeons extracted the tumor from the right frontal lobe of her brain. BBC News reports that she’s been living with the growth since 2013, and doctors decided it was time to operate in November 2019.

You can watch her play in the video below. (The top of Turner’s head is completely obscured by plastic and other surgical materials, so there’s nothing graphic in the clip. Having said that, anyone who’s especially squeamish about the inside of an operating room should proceed with caution.)

Professor Keyoumars Ashkan, a neurosurgeon who helped plan the procedure, said in a statement from the hospital that the mid-surgery performance was a first for him.

“We perform around 400 resections (tumor removals) each year, which often involves rousing patients to carry out language tests, but this was the first time I’ve had a patient play an instrument,” he said. “We managed to remove over 90 percent of the tumor, including all the areas suspicious of aggressive activity, while retaining full function in her left hand.”

[h/t BBC News]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER