Custom Jigsaw Puzzle

          This is a large and ellaborate custom puzzle that I made last year for a Christmas presant. It is about 16 x 20 inches with 700 or so pieces. I was asked to make names of the kids in the puzzle as pieces and put each name near each kid. The MARSHALL piece was over two inches long. Normally I would prefer to use drop-out-lettering (covered in a future post) but in this case it would have resulted in too many spaces in the puzzle. The added design made the puzzle much more than just a custom puzzle with a nice collage of pictures.


          Over the years I have made many large custom puzzles. Unfortunately, I didn’t take pictures so I can’t show them to you. One I especially remember started in 1994 when a couple came into the shop with pictures to be made into a collage for a 50th wedding anniversary. The center picture of the parents was a sepia toned black and white 5×7 enlargement of the parents on their wedding day. She was in a wool business suit and  “sensible” shoes. He was in his navy blues. He had weekend liberty from his ship in Boston to get married.

Figure Pieces

I try to fill my puzzles with figure pieces. One of the advantages of cutting with a water jet is that I can cut much more intricate detail than is possible with a jigsaw. Generally, figure pieces make a puzzle easier to put together so there is a practical limit. One of my designs for an 11×14 puzzle has a total of 326 pieces. Of those pieces, 29 are single-piece figures and there are three figures made of two pieces each.figure_pieces1

The cat at right was from an Albert Dubout cartoon of her leading her kittens across a war-torn Paris street. That figure piece is in almost all of my puzzles and is the one I sign and date.  The date is the first time the puzzle is taken apart for packaging and shipping. Next to the cat is a demure young lady I call Jane Bond. Lower left is my only nude. At lower right is a figure few know though she used to flittingly appear about once a week on public television. I will show some more figure pieces in future editions of this blog.

The Elephant and the Mouse

This is one of my early puzzles, first made in the late 80s. The original was a poster that my brother picked up in India and had hanging in the guest bath of his apartment.  It is a picture of a Ganesh or Ganesha, which is the patron saint of drummers among other things.

I looked Ganesha up, found it all over Google and got confused. Anyway, here are two sites for anyone who is interested.

The Elephant and the Mouse

The Elephant and the Mouse

The puzzle has been a slow, steady seller since the beginning.  It is relatively easy to make because the border can be made first.

Puzzle Design

Most of my puzzles are designed with a little more than 2 pieces per square inch. Thus a 15 3/4 x 19 3/4 puzzle has 311 square inches and about 700 pieces. I try to make the longest dimension of each piece longer than one inch and shorter than two.

I use three puzzle styles shown below. The one on the left is the one I started with and I still use it, most recently for “Rooster”. The sample shown is from the lower left corner because that is where my signature piece, the cat by the French cartoonist Dubout, is. The second style in the center uses more but smaller arcs. I used that style for “Gracie”. The style at right is different. It is based on a grid of equilateral triangles, not squares. Therefore three lines cross each other at a point rather than two.  Of course the grids are references and get put aside whenever a figure piece gets in the way which is most of the time.