A jigsaw puzzle is a picture that has been cut into many pieces and attached to a thin and rigid background, such as wood or cardboard. The user rebuilds the original image by putting the pieces together. Although the etymology of the term “puzzle” is unknown, it is known that Spilbury invented the first jigsaw puzzles in 1760.

In 1762, Spilbury conceived of gluing maps to thin mahogany and cedar panels, which he then cut with a fine marquetry saw. He promoted the results of his work, and they became quite popular. Hundreds of puzzles were sold before Spilbury died in 1749.

The next generation of puzzle makers, which emerged in the mid-1780s, broadened their trade to reach out to people who were not interested in maps. They made puzzles from broadsheets, tabloid-size publications with humorous poems or tales printed on them. However, broadsheet puzzles were not profitable because their subject matter grew obsolete and new ones had to be produced. Broadsheet puzzles, nevertheless, demonstrated that there was a demand for puzzles other than maps. Puzzle designers experimented with new images such as the alphabet and multiplication tables, Biblical passages, and photographs of historical events and figures.

Raw Materials

Graphics

Simply put, puzzles are made from virtually any design; however, most major manufacturers utilize lithographic prints since they are high-quality, inexpensive to produce, and readily available. Many of the images utilized in puzzles are inspired by famous photographs or paintings, but some custom puzzle creators allow you to submit your own photographs or artwork.

Backing material

Card-board (also known as chipboard) is a common backing material in mass market puzzles since it is inexpensive and simple to cut. Wood, either in 5-ply birch or pine, is still used in higher quality bespoke puzzles. Adhesive is utilized to connect the artwork to the backing material in both situations.

Cutting equipment

Jigsaws, often known as scroll saws, were used to cut the wood puzzles in the past. Customized wooden puzzles are still manufactured using this method today. A vertical blade on this machine goes up and down through a fixed horizontal table. The jigsaw puzzle sheet is manually guided through the blade to produce the required pieces.

Today’s blades are extremely thin, measuring only 0.016 in (0.041 cm) thick. This enables intricate cuts to be made that remove very little wood, ensuring that the puzzles fit together well. It also leaves a smooth edge surface with little chipping and fuzzing on the back, which can be sanded off. However, today’s brain teasers are most often cardboard-backed kinds that are manufactured using die cutting equipment.

The Manufacturing Process

It takes approximately 2,000 hours to complete a puzzle from start to end. The process generally takes around 12 months. Printing and laminating the artwork, cutting the pieces, and wrapping the completed puzzle are all crucial stages.

Printing

The first step is to choose the artwork and print it in a format that’s appropriate. Lithography is the most popular technique for printing artwork for puzzles. Lithography employs a plate that has been specially treated to absorb either water or oil. The non-printable portion of the plate is wetted with water, while the printable portions are greased, attracting the oil-based ink.

When ink is applied to the plate, it adheres only to the greasy image. The picture is transferred from the plate as soon as it comes into touch with paper. To save paper and cut press time, many puzzle pictures may be printed on the same lithography sheet. The litho sheets are laminated onto 0.087 in (0.22 cm) thick chipboard after printing. They must wait for several days before going to a die cutting press.

Cutting

The process of cutting puzzle pieces is referred to as die cutting today. The individual components are stamped out using a sharp, flat metal ribbon on a die cutting press. Rule-bending experts straighten razor-sharp steel rules into the form of the puzzle pieces based on the artist’s designs.

It takes 400 hours to complete a 500-piece puzzle at an average level of difficulty. Such dies may be created from three or four such dies. Metals rules are pounded into a die that has been mounted on wood. On one side, a wooden block is used to fix the metal ribbon.

The softer cardboard backing is cut into the proper form when this block is struck with enough force against it. The die is pushed down under great force when the laminated artwork goes through the die cut press. The artwork and underlying cardboard are scarred by cuts in the form of the die when the die is removed.

Packaging

The sheets are then sent through a breaker, which separates the pieces and drops them into their package, typically a cardboard box. Today, the box includes a photo of the completed puzzle as a guide. In the mid-1930s, this function became available. These boxes are then packed and shrink wrapped in preparation for shipment to retail outlets. Finally, they are sent to shops around the world.

Types of Jigsaw Puzzle

New Cardboard Jigsaws

Present day manufacturers and retailers deserve to be complimented on their ability to provide wonderful entertainment value. You can purchase a jigsaw puzzle for as little as 99 cents (USD) at some discount stores.

The cardboard-backed puzzles usually come in 500, 600, and 700 piece sizes. They are cut using high-speed die cutting equipment that has multiple steel rule dies. This enables up to 16 different puzzles to be cut from one sheet of cardboard.

The pieces are stamped out of the cardboard with a tremendous amount of force and then drop into small rectangular boxes that hold about 25 pieces each. The puzzle is complete when it fills up one row in the box. A dozen or so of these little boxes are shrink-wrapped together and sold as a unit.

The disadvantage to this type of puzzle is that the pieces are very thin and can be easily damaged.

Metal Jigsaws

These puzzles were introduced in the early 1900s as a high-end product that was sold mainly through mail order catalogs. They were made from lithographed tinplate and came in sizes up to 24 x 30 inches (61 cm x 76 cm).

The dies that were used to cut the metal puzzles were very expensive, so the pieces were usually stamped out in great quantity. As a result, most of the puzzle manufacturers have gone out of business.

Today, there are only two companies in England that still manufacture these puzzles. They come in three sizes: small (up to 400 pieces), medium (up to 800 pieces), and large (up to 1500 pieces).

The metal puzzles are cut on a hydraulic press that has a male die and female matrix. The thickness of the metal determines the number of pieces in the puzzle.

Wooden Jigsaws

These puzzles were introduced in the early 1800s and were made from a variety of woods, including mahogany, ebony, and rosewood.

The wooden puzzles were cut on a scroll saw and came in sizes up to 24 x 36 inches (61 cm x 91 cm).

The dies that were used to cut the wood puzzles were very expensive, so the pieces were usually stamped out in great quantity. As a result, most of the puzzle manufacturers have gone out of business.

Today, there is only one company in Germany that still manufactures these puzzles. They come in three sizes: small (up to 400 pieces), medium (up to 800 pieces), and large (up to 1500 pieces).

The wooden puzzles are cut on a pantograph machine. This is a very slow process that can only produce about 100 puzzles per day.

The advantage to this type of puzzle is that the pieces are very strong and do not easily break.

Rotating Jigsaws

These puzzles were introduced in the early 1900s and were made from lithographed tinplate.

The dies that were used to cut the metal puzzles were very expensive, so the pieces were usually stamped out in great quantity. As a result, most of the puzzle manufacturers have gone out of business.

Today, there is only one company in England that still manufactures these puzzles. They come in three sizes: small (up to 400 pieces), medium (up to 800 pieces), and large (up to 1500 pieces).

Old Cardboard Jigsaws

Cardboard puzzles have been around since the 1930s, but they were of poor quality. In the 1950s, Waddingtons perfected dye cutting techniques and teamed up with Tower Press (Beiersdorf) to dominate the market for 40 years.

Modern Wooden Jigsaws

In 1987, a laser cutter was added to the jigsaw cutters’ arsenal. This considerably sped up the manufacturing process and allowed for the production of high-quality wooden puzzles without the need for skilled craftsmen to work for hours. The drawback with this technology is that, like all other digital fabrication processes, it requires costly machinery.

The fact that jigsaw pieces fit more tightly together than laser cut ones is a common misconception among puzzle enthusiasts. Furthermore, the uniqueness of each puzzle adds to the enjoyment.

Floor Jigsaws

The first time a youngster encounters jigsaws is most likely to be with a ‘Floor puzzle.’ This typically takes the form of large, thick pieces that are bright enough to entice and retain the attention of a toddler while also being sturdy enough to withstand little feet and bottoms’ impact.

Educational Jigsaws

There was once a good-intentioned nursery school teacher who required that every kid complete a portion of the school jigsaw before heading home each night. According to legend, the jigsaw was completed in record time, but none of the kids ever did another jigsaw again!

Jigsaws about maps, famous people, and the identification of plants and animals are all exciting for kids to learn while having fun.

Three Dimensional Jigsaws

3D puzzles are loved by a small group of individuals known as “Hobby builders.” Some people adore them, while others despise them. Whether you enjoy them or not, try a 3D at least once.

Fiendishly Difficult Modern Jigsaws

However, they may be classified as either numerous pieces or a monotonous design, such as a plate of beans. Their functions are also twofold: for extreme jigsaw fans who believe they need to do only one, and secondly as presents for folks you despise!

Old Wooden Jigsaws

All wooden puzzles were cut using hand-held, treadle, or electric saws until the advent of the laser cutter (see above). It’s worth noting that rather than working to a set pattern for each jigsaw, the puzzle cutters relied on their own discretion to provide a variety of shapes and sizes for each piece. It’s not always easy to tell what makes a piece of antique jigsaw-puzzling great, so try considering it while you’re shopping. Although the quality and cut of these old wooden puzzles differ considerably, they are all fascinating pieces of history.

Acrylic Jigsaw Puzzles

Acrylic is a strong, transparent plastic that’s often used to construct jigsaw puzzles. It comes in a variety of thicknesses and can be found in a number of hues, allowing for several color combinations. Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles – which are still very popular as a first jigsaw puzzle for youngsters – are also quite common.

Virtual puzzles

Virtual puzzles are made out of electronic materials, not cardboard or wood. These virtual riddles are created on a computer and exist solely on the screen. Puzzle enthusiasts may continue to enjoy the intricacy of assembling the scrambled pictures without having to build them physically.

Three Dimensional Puzzles

Three Dimensional Puzzles  3D puzzles are made by cutting items out of a substance to create distinct shapes. After the cutting, the parts are combined to form a single item or picture.

Puzzle making is typically a family affair more often than not, jigsaw puzzle makers are families who own and operate their businesses. Ravensburger and Bits and Pieces, for example, began in the 1920s. Before they created their own company images, many of their original items were passed down through families over time.