How to Make a Jigsaw Puzzle

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Making a jigsaw puzzle is easy, and it doesn't have to cost much. Begin with simple, easy-to-locate items like cardboard or thin wood. When considering which type of image to place on the top of the puzzle, you need look no further than a magazine. Common household tools will do the job, along with some adhesive you can find inexpensively at the grocery store.

Things You'll Need

  • Scissors or pen knife (or saw if working with balsa wood)
  • White glue or rubber cement
  • Old magazines or large photos
  • Thick piece of cardboard, approximately the size of one side of a moving box
  • Sheet of balsa wood (optional)

Assemble Materials

  • Purchase thick poster board stock at a graphics or hobby supply store, balsa wood, or find an old cardboard box to work with. The job will be easier with the poster board or balsa wood, but slightly less expensive with the corrugated cardboard.

  • Opt for a thicker piece if working with cardboard. Select a thick piece of cardboard approximately 1 square foot in size and 1/8 to 1/16 of an inch thick.

  • Choose an image to apply to the top of your puzzle-in-the-making. Your image can be a blown-up family photo or even the cover of an old record or magazine. If the image is precious to you, make sure you work with a photocopy or digital print instead of the original.

  • Create your own image if you want to make an art project of your puzzle. Do this by painting an image of your own on top of the cardboard or poster board.

  • Gather a pair of large, sharp scissors that will easily cut through the board with precision. Old, worn out scissors will make the job sloppy and potentially difficult. For more intricate pieces, a pen knife may work best. Note that if you're using balsa wood, you may need a saw to cut it.

  • Choose rubber cement with the included brush applicator to affix your paper image to the top of the puzzle. White school glue may also be used, but may be more likely to leave lumps and bumps.

Make the Puzzle

  • Decide first upon the outer shape of your puzzle--do you prefer a circle, square or curvy shape?

  • Cut your paper image to fit the piece of poster board/cardboard/balsa wood.

  • Adhere your precisely cut image to the cardboard or wood by lightly coating the base with an even layer of glue. Carefully place the image atop the base, then smooth over evenly.

  • Allow the glue to dry for at least an hour before attempting to cut your puzzle into pieces.

  • Draw or stencil over the image of desired puzzle pieces/shapes. It may help to begin with a grid.

  • Cut pieces with your knife or scissors. Do this slowly and carefully.

  • Enjoy playing with your homemade puzzle!

Tips & Warnings

  • Puzzles are easy to make, especially when time is not an issue. If precision is desired, many home-based kits are available online for puzzle construction.
  • Exercise caution when making jigsaw puzzles with children, especially when scissors or knives are involved.
  • Pay particular attention to small children when using glue or rubber cement.

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