In 2012, I received an order for a puzzle from a wonderful photograph of children playing dress-up. Here is the image. The same customer just ordered another puzzle with another beautiful picture (see at right). The puzzle, below, is 14″ x 21.7″.
The third image shows a new design full of figure pieces. Many figures take more than one piece.
While I am not sure that so many figures make for a better puzzle because they tend to make it easier to put together, but in this case, where there are so few different colors in the image, I think it works. Additionally, the light colors make the cuts less prominent and the end result is a prettier puzzle. The customer asked for the girls’ names be cut out, so I used a playful font.
Aside from the cut design, this puzzle shows the importance of a good picture. If you have an idea for a puzzle, send me a picture and we can discuss how to make it a wonderful puzzle!
This is a story of a special puzzle that I recently made. My customer sent me two pictures of racing motorboats, one for the puzzle and one for the drop-out-lettering. We decided on an oval puzzle because a rectangular one would have too much unnecessary background. The final size was 10 x 15 inches. I used a design from an 11 x 14 puzzle so I had to modify the periphery. The picture above shows the design part-way made.
I wanted the name in the puzzle just as it is on the transom. I was glad that the picture was taken almost directly from astern so I could just trace the letters. The name was slanted to be parallel to the boat’s waterline. The letters were large enough so that the puzzle could be put together with or without them.
This is my first blog since before Christmas so it is appropriate that this year starts with an upbeat story. For the first time the Marblehead High School girl’s team won the state championship. The meet was at the Harvard pool. 31 teams competed but only with each team’s fastest swimmers. All afternoon Marblehead exchanged the lead with Wayland, a prennial winner. Comming into the last event, a relay, Wayland was slightly ahead. Marblehead won the relay and the championship by one second. It was David vs Goliath. Wayland had 19 swimmers, Marblehead 7. The Boston Papers were there. A Herald reporter christened the Marblehead team The Magnificent 7.
My wife asked me to design and make puzzles for the swimmers and coach. A mother took a good picture. In the upper center of the puzzle my signiture cat is surrounded by fish. All other silhouettes are female. The cat is too. She comes from a cartoon by Albert Dubout that shows her leading her kittens across a war torn Paris street. Notice Olive Oyl , lower middle next to “Jane Bond” but no Popeye. I put in as many figure pieces as possible; that makes the puzzle easier. Swimmers are not necessarily avid puzzlers.
My client asked for a puzzle of his friend’s house including an alligator as a special piece and the house name in drop-out lettering. He gave me a picture that might have been good enough for an 8 x 10 puzzle but not for an 11 x 14. The picture may have been taken with a cell phone. So we made the puzzle with wide white borders and put the name in the bottom border. He found the alligator at the left, I traced it in right and left hand versions and put each piece in the side borders. Just for fun I made the corners differently.
Here is a puzzle of a picture that I took recently at a wedding in Marrakech. I don’t think much of it as a picture but as a puzzle, its impressionism and movement makes it interesting and perhaps difficult.
Years ago I read of a famous and hard puzzle named Little Red Riding Hood’s Hood. It was solid red, without a picture of any kind; difficult but oh so dull. For me an interesting picture is important.
I am going to take Marrakech home and put it together. I think it will be fun but I am not sure that it is good enough to be one of my standard puzzles.
I have been cutting wooden jigsaw puzzles since 1986. I think it is high time to contrast waterjet cutting to hand cutting. Each has its advantages.
I think the most obvious advantage waterjet cutting has is price. Cutting a puzzle by hand takes skill and time. Good hand-cut puzzles are more expensive. The biggest advantage that a hand cutter has over a waterjet is the ability to relate the cut to the picture. I wish my machine had that ability but obviously it just does not see the picture. Almost all my puzzles are regular shapes, rectangles and ovals, that conform to the length and width of the picture. I cannot make a cut along a horizon or the outline of a tree.
Here are two pair of pieces pictured front and back. The hand-cut ones on the left are very smooth. The waterjet-cut ones are smooth only at the top where the jet enters the cut at the picture. The cut is progressively rougher toward the back. This is not a disadvantage. The rough edges hold the pieces together so the puzzle will stay together until it is taken apart. I think you can see that the waterjet cut is a bit thinner than the hand cut. I am amazed that the jigsaw cuts are as fine as they are. That’s a tribute to the skill of the cutter and the quality of the blade. But the hand-cut puzzle is a little looser, has more visible cuts and the pieces slide around because they are so smooth.
This is a picture of several pieces that make up a centaur weathervane. It is part of the design of many of my bigger puzzles. I show it here to illustrate the amount of detail I can put into my figure pieses. The jet stream is like a tiny round jigsaw blade, in this case .007 inches dia. It can cut in all directions. I take advantage of this to put a lot of figure pieces into a puzzle. Also this allows me more freedom to add drop-out letters and numbers to custom puzzles.
One neat way to make a puzzle special is the add specific lettering to it. The lettering can be pieces in the puzzle as in the blog two weeks ago, or it can be spaces between pieces as shown below. I call that drop-out- lettering. The spaces can be smaller than pieces so more words can be put into the same space. Numbers work too. When letters, words or numbers are pieces in the puzzle, they can go anywhere because they don’t change the picture. On the other hand drop-out-letters interfere with the picture so should by designed into unimportant areas. For this puzzle of a friend’s boat, I alligned the lettering with the oval shape and for RUNNYMEDE I copied the typestyle from the name of the boat on its transom.
The picture was taken in Sandy Bay at a Junior Olympics regatta last summer. We were there as Race Committee. Next week’s blog will depart from puzzles to discuss junior sailing and Sandy Bay. Puzzles are not the only things I’d like to blog about.