Jigsaw Puzzle


Jigsaw Puzzle
Amber Bailey goes more or less round in circles to produce a simple fun jigsaw

Amber Bailey goes more or less round in circles to produce a simple fun jigsaw

Rather than having a go at a jigsaw puzzle I decided to make  one instead. It was also a good excuse to dust off my treadle fretsaw for a quick but satisfying little project, that is perfect for beginners or those who fancy trying something a little different.

What you will need
• 6mm thick plywood – approximately 291 x 204mm
• Treadle fretsaw – or other saw type
• 1 x full-size paper template
• Carbon paper
• Abrasive paper
• Spirit dye
• Gouache – or other type of paints
• Range of brushes
• Transparent white polish
• Mop

Preparing the materials

1. Before any work can begin on the image for your jigsaw puzzle, the surface of the groundwork needs to be prepared by smoothing down with abrasive paper. Smooth over the outer edges and it is advisable to round off the corners, as these will be naturally quite sharp. Prior to producing the front design, cover the back and edges with several coats of red spirit dye. On a project like this, all round presentation is very important as all of the sides will be made visible at one point or another

Painting your design

2. The image used on the jigsaw puzzle is all down to personal preference. I have decided to paint a copy of a Windsor chair, but this is your chance to get creative with a subject of your choice. To find a suitable image to copy, print a picture from the internet for reference. If you intend to paint the picture yourself then you could also look at other artists for inspiration and to find your perfect style. Remember that the more complicated and confusing the image, the harder it will be to put the puzzle back together

Enlarge pattern to desired size

Health & safety
When cutting with a fretsaw you are required to hold your fingers very close to the blade, be wary of slipping. Wear hand protection if necessary.

3. Should you be following my design, keep the Windsor chair to a selection of natural colours, but with a bright and fairly impressionistic background. To produce the background give the wooden surface a solid coat of blue paint before working over it with varying shades of blue and yellow, edged with navy gouache. Consider your brush thickness – for the background there is no need to use anything too delicate. If you are unfamiliar with gouache paint, apply it in the same manner as watercolours, diluting where appropriate. You may wish to seal the background with a layer of shellac so that the colours do not run when applying the foreground detail

4. Now to light sketching. Never use anything harder than a HB grade pencil as it will be hard to rub out and may show through on your design

5. Work through the design by blocking out the entire shape in mid-brown, then layering various shades of brown before imitating light and shade. My palette for the Windsor chair consisted of white, black, Vandyke brown, raw sienna, burnt sienna and yellow ochre

Alternative inspiration
If you don’t feel confident in your artistic abilities then you could use a photograph instead. Be sure to secure the entire page down with spray mount or contact adhesive. Using a photograph is a great way for turning the project into a gift for loved ones.

6. Having left the image to completely dry, seal and build up a finish of transparent white polish cut to a 50:50 ratio with isopropyl alcohol, applied using a polishing rubber. This should bring up the colours, while making sure that the image does not suffer any wear. Be careful not to smudge the design while coating with shellac

7. Now leave the puzzle for at least 24 hours while the surface hardens. After it’s dry, turn it over, ready to transfer the jigsaw template. I have chosen to create a 24-piece jigsaw puzzle, however the number of pieces is entirely up to you

8. Cover the spirit-dyed surface of the puzzle with a piece of facedown carbon paper and the paper template – securing with tape is necessary. Using a ballpoint pen, trace over the design with enough pressure to leave a copy. Try to keep to a thin single line that can be discreetly covered over with the saw line

Cutting the design

9. Cut your way down one side of the puzzle pieces so that you have a series of rows. Temporarily tape these back into position before cutting down the other sides to separate all the individual pieces. The wooden board will need to be held in place to avoid it from lifting when the blade goes up

Alternative cutting
For cutting the jigsaw puzzle, I have recommended a treadle fretsaw, however, other examples of hand and electric saw would be just as suitable. The advantage of using a treadle fretsaw is that it will cut quickly and its long saw arm allows for a generous turning circle. The solid frame work also means you do not have to worry about trying to keep the saw blade straight, this will matter when fitting the puzzle together again.

10. Ensure you have a coarse enough blade to handle the thickness of the wood

11. Tape the rows together to allow for smooth continuity in the cutting and fitting of the other lines

Finishing touches

12. The very last step is to clean up the sawn edges; any burrs or splinters of torn wood fibre need to be smoothed down with abrasive paper. This is to remove possibility of injury while handling the jigsaw. These edges can now be stained up to match the back of the puzzle

13. Use a small brush to apply the spirit dye to avoid it splashing onto the front of the puzzle and ruining the image

14. All the pieces are now ready to be put back together

Treadle fretsaws are no longer being produced, however they can be picked up second hand online or at second-hand tool merchants. For plywood, visit your local timber merchant and your local tool retailer and DIY store for all other equipment.


Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.