Cutting puzzles by machine

Waterjet for cutting jigsaw puzzles

Waterjet for cutting jigsaw puzzles

In order to automate the process, I thought that a machine that could move in two axes – up,down,right,left – would work. Manually, a puzzle cutter is continually turning part of an uncut puzzle into a scroll saw blade. The blade has a thickness and a width and can cut in only one direction. For my machine to work the “blade” had to cut in all directions. I knew of two – a wire saw and a laser. A wire saw, using a slurry of diamond dust, cut precisely but very slowly. A laser was more promising. I tried one, a machine that was normally used to cut patterns for boots and shoes. But the laser burned the wood, leaving charred edges.

Finally, I heard of a waterjet and choose to work with Flow Industries, who built the water jet. The water under very high pressure is forced through a diamond nozzle .007 inches in diameter. The water has enough velocity to cut through the puzzle easily. The width of cut is just about right. Not too loose and not too tight. My first table was built by Tony Coco of Coco Engineering. He built the two-axis table which moves the puzzle under the jet. It was up and running by the end of 1986.