Jigsaw Puzzles – This Piece Must Go Somewhere!

Working Jigsaw Puzzles is one of the best ways to pass time quickly. When you really get into working a puzzle the hours will slip away without much notice. The pace can be slow but the satisfaction you get every time you find a piece that fits makes the task quite enjoyable. What other pastime will give you a feeling of accomplishment 500 to 1000 times in a single afternoon?

Jigsaw puzzles were originally made by painting a picture on a sheet of wood and then using a jigsaw to cut it into many irregular shaped pieces. That’s how they got their name.

A fellow by the name of John Spilsbury has been identified as the first person to make puzzles and sell them commercially. This took place in England around the year 1760. Since that time puzzle makers have evolved from wood construction to cardboard greatly reducing the cost.

Selecting your first puzzle can be a challenge. Choose a puzzle with distinct areas of color or prominent lines that give you a reference point from which to add pieces. Usually the first timer will want to start with a 500 to 1000 piece puzzle. These are big enough to be challenging yet can be done in a reasonable period of time. The really big puzzles can take so long that you lose interest and are really more fun when you have gained some experience.

Getting Started

Most puzzle workers begin by turning all of the pieces face up and then sorting out all of the edge pieces. During the process of sorting edge pieces watch for the four corner pieces and keep them separate. Begin by putting together the border or edge. Use the picture on the puzzle box to guide you in placing these first pieces.

Once the border is finished, I usually begin looking for pieces that connect to the border using lines, colors or other distinguishing patterns as reference points. As I search for these next pieces I usually begin sorting the remaining pieces according to their most prominent colors. In doing this presorting I usually speed up the process down the line. In general, I usually sort into three to six piles with another pile of pieces that don’t fit in any of the color piles.

Some Assembly Required

After the border is together and I do the rough color sort, I usually begin looking for patterns within the color groups. Using the box photo as a reference I usually start getting some of the pieces to fit. These little islands of completed puzzle are then placed in their proper position within the border. Eventually these start to connect and then you fill in the gaps with the fewer remaining pieces.

Some jigsaw puzzles may have numerous illustrated small characters which, as I find them in the box picture, are placed in their approximate position. Slowly as more and more pieces are place in position you will see some that fit together. Before long these bigger chunks of puzzle will connect with each other and eventually the puzzle is complete.

Be aware that some jigsaw puzzle pieces will seem to fit together but really are in the wrong place. You must use the combination of fit, color and pattern to ensure that the piece is in the right place. Even after all of that effort, you will still get it wrong once or twice per puzzle. Don’t worry, that is part of the process of putting it together. As you close in on the wrongly positioned piece it will become apparent and you can fix it.

To Glue or Not to Glue

There are two schools of thought at work on this subject. I have met people that insist that if they go to all the work to put a puzzle together, they are going to glue it together and hang it on the wall. Actually, some puzzles really are beautiful and when framed make a nice artistic statement.

The other approach is to work the puzzle, break it back into pieces, and either pass it to someone else to work, or save it to work again another day.

If you do choose to glue your puzzle, getting the right glue is critical. Some glues are too watery and can soak into the pieces and cause swelling and distortion. I have seen positive reviews for a product called “Ravensburger Puzzle Glue”. Ravensburger is a company that makes high quality puzzles.

To glue your puzzle, you will want to slide it off your work surface and onto a sheet of plastic. The glue is applied to the top surface of the puzzle so, there is no need to flip it over. When applying the glue, work it into the joints and make sure you keep the sides straight and square with each other.

Once the top surface glue has dried, you can then glue the entire puzzle to a sheet of rigid foam backing board. You can get these at most any craft store. Bonding to the backing is done using simple contact cement.

Thrift Shop Puzzles

I am a big fan of picking up jigsaw puzzles at the local charity thrift store. Yes, I do get one once in a while that is not complete but 90 percent of the time they are all there. These puzzles are great bargains as they cost next to nothing and what you do pay goes for a worthy cause. Having said that, watch for puzzles that have been taped shut as these will most likely be complete. And, absolutely avoid those with broken corners with pieces hanging out.

Over the years I have found many high quality Heye, Ravensburger and Springbok puzzles. Many, which after I worked them, I put them on eBay and sold them at a nice profit. I even found a rare Wysocki wooden puzzle once, which I paid $2 for and sold it for $125. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened often enough to supplement my retirement fund in any noticeable way.

Finishing Up

Working jigsaw puzzles are a superb way to relax during times of the year when staying inside is the best idea. Many people have found that working a puzzle is as therapeutic as meditation. The disengagement of the brain from the daily grind as it focuses on the process of shape recognition and problem solving has a very calming effect.

Best of all, it is fun!

Here is a little bonus I found one day as I was looking for a new puzzle:

Silly Things People Say When Working Jigsaw Puzzles

- This piece must go somewhere.

- See if you can fit this on your side.

- The color doesn’t look right but that piece has got to go there.

- That piece has to be easy to find.

Other descriptors include fun hobbies, popular hobbies, fun games to play and find a hobby.

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