Jigsaw puzzle

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Posted by motoman 04/09/2009 @ 13:11

Tags : jigsaw puzzle, puzzles, games, leisure

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Jigsaw puzzle

An assembled jigsaw puzzle of an historical map from 1639

A jigsaw puzzle is a tiling puzzle that requires the assembly of numerous small, often oddly shaped, interlocking and tessellating pieces. Each piece has a small part of a picture on it; when complete, a jigsaw puzzle produces a complete picture.

Jigsaw puzzles were originally created by painting a picture on a flat, rectangular piece of wood, and then cutting that picture into small pieces with a jigsaw, hence the name. John Spilsbury, a London mapmaker and engraver, is credited with commercialising jigsaw puzzles around 1760. Jigsaw puzzles have since come to be made primarily on cardboard.

Typical images found on jigsaw puzzles include scenes from nature, buildings, and repetitive designs. Castles and mountains are two traditional subjects. However, any kind of picture can be used to make a jigsaw puzzle; some companies offer to turn personal photographs into puzzles. Completed puzzles can also be attached to a backing with adhesive to be used as artwork.

During recent years a range of jigsaw puzzle accessories including boards, cases, frames and roll-up mats has become available that are designed to assist jigsaw puzzle enthusiasts.

Most modern jigsaw puzzles are made out of cardboard, since they are easier and cheaper to mass produce than the original wooden models. An enlarged photograph or printed reproduction of a painting or other two-dimensional artwork is glued onto the cardboard before cutting. This board is then fed into a press. The press forces a set of hardened steel blades of the desired shape through the board until it is fully cut. This procedure is similar to making shaped cookies with a cookie cutter. The forces involved, however, are tremendously greater and a typical 1000-piece puzzle will require a press which can generate upwards of 700 tons of force to push the knives of the puzzle die through the board. A puzzle die comprises a flat board, often made from plywood, which has slots cut or burned in the same shape as the knives that will be used. These knives are set into the slots and covered in a compressible material, typically foam rubber, the function of which is the ejection of the cut puzzle pieces.

Jigsaw puzzles typically come in 300-piece, 500-piece, 750-piece, and 1,000-piece sizes, however the largest commercial puzzle has 24,000 pieces and spans 428 cm by 157 cm. The most common layout for a thousand-piece puzzle is 38 pieces by 27 pieces, for a total count of 1,026 pieces. The majority of 500-piece puzzles are 27 pieces by 19 pieces. Children's jigsaw puzzles come in a great variety of sizes, rated by the number of pieces. A few puzzles are made double-sided, so that they can be solved from either side. This adds a level of complexity, because it cannot be certain that the correct side of the piece is being viewed and assembled with the other pieces.

There are also three-dimensional jigsaw puzzles. Many of these are made of wood or styrofoam and require the puzzle to be solved in a certain order; some pieces will not fit in if others are already in place. Also common are puzzle boxes: simple three-dimensional jigsaw puzzles with a small drawer or box in the center for storage.

Another type of jigsaw puzzle, a kind of cross between 2-D and 3-D puzzles, is a puzzle globe. Like a 2-D puzzle, a globe puzzle is often made of cardboard and the assembled pieces form a single layer. Like a 3-D puzzle, the final form is a three-dimensional shape. Most globe puzzles have designs representing spherical shapes such as the Earth, the Moon, and historical globes of the Earth.

There are also computer versions of jigsaw puzzles, which have the advantages of requiring zero cleanup as well as no risk of losing any pieces.

Many puzzles are termed "fully interlocking". This means that adjacent pieces are connecting such that if you move one piece horizontally you move all, preserving the connection. Sometimes the connection is tight enough to pick up a solved part holding one piece.

Some fully interlocking puzzles have pieces all of a similar shape, with rounded tabs out on opposite ends, with corresponding blanks cut into the intervening sides to receive the tabs of adjacent pieces. Other fully interlocking puzzles may have tabs and blanks variously arranged on each piece, but they usually have four sides, and the numbers of tabs and blanks thus add up to four. The uniform-shaped fully interlocking puzzles are the most difficult, because the differences in shapes between pieces can be very subtle.

Some puzzles also have pieces with non-interlocking sides that are usually slightly curved in complex curves. These are actually the easiest puzzles to solve, since fewer other pieces are potential candidates for mating.

Most jigsaw puzzles are square, rectangular, or round, and have edge pieces that have one side that is either straight or smoothly curved to create this shape, plus four corner pieces if the puzzle is square or rectangular. Some jigsaw puzzles have edge pieces that are cut just like all the rest of the interlocking pieces, with no smooth edge, to make them more challenging. Other puzzles are designed so the shape of the whole puzzle forms a figure, such as an animal. The edge pieces may vary more in these cases.

Since the earliest days of jigsaw puzzles the manufacturers have constantly endeavoured to create new cutting styles that differentiate their work. Even amongst modern, mass-produced puzzles there is considerable variation in the size, shape and intricacy of individual pieces.

The method of cutting pieces varies from puzzle line to puzzle line. Two puzzles of the same size and series from the same manufacturer usually have exactly the same cut, since the cutting dies are complex and expensive to make and so are used repeatedly from puzzle to puzzle. This enables disparate puzzles to be combined in odd ways. Larger puzzles are commonly cut into two or more sections.

More recently, technology such as computer controlled laser and water-jet cutting machines have been used to give a much wider range of interlocking designs in wood and other materials. These methods however have the undesirable effect of removing a small amount of material giving a loose fit with the adjoining pieces.

Beginning in the 1930s, jigsaw puzzles were cut using large hydraulic presses which now cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The cuts gave a very snug fit, however the cost limited jigsaw puzzle manufacture only to large corporations. Recent roller press design achieve the same effect, at a lower cost.

The most common approach to building a puzzle is to start by separating the edges from the inside pieces. Once the edges are built it can become easier to move inward. For those new to puzzles it is recommended to choose one consisting of multiple areas with contrasting designs and colors. This enables the narrowing down of potential portions of the puzzle where a particular piece will fit.

Some people like to use the picture on the box to help solve the puzzle. Once you have completed the edge, if you can find the location of a particular piece on the picture, you can place it down inside of the overall puzzle at approximately the place it belongs. If you do this enough times, you find pieces eventually will start fitting together.

Another approach is to sort the pieces by color, and work on one color at a time. When you get to large areas with the same color (such as the sky in many landscape puzzles) you can go by shape, or you can place all the pieces in a grid and approach the problem by taking a piece that already has an anchor (like an edge piece) and trying it against all the pieces laid out.

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Jigsaw puzzle accessories

Jigsaw puzzle accessories for making, displaying and storing jigsaw puzzles.

Jigsaw Puzzle Accessories is the term used to describe the equipment used by jigsaw puzzle enthusiasts in pursuit of their hobby.

Jigsaw puzzles were made commercially available in England by John Spilsbury, around 1760 and have been widely accepted home entertainment in the UK ever since. Jigsaws enjoy similar popularity throughout Europe, and in the American Great Depression jigsaw puzzles sold at the rate of 10 million per week. It is perhaps therefore surprising that companies who produce games and puzzles have been slow to exploit the commercial opportunities afforded by so many enthusiasts who require something on which to construct their jigsaws along with methods of storing and displaying them.

Without the protection afforded by intellectual property rights, most companies are reluctant to make large investments in product development and promotion and one of the main obstacles to the commercialisation of jigsaw puzzle accessories has been the difficulty in obtaining such protection. The most prevalent function of a jigsaw accessory is to provide a surface on which to construct the puzzle and then quickly pack it away in its part-assembled state; products most often take the form of mats that can be rolled up (complete with puzzle pieces) or boards that can be stored in a case. Such functionality is so basic that it has been found to be almost impossible to secure patents and this probably explains why no accessories became readily available until nearly the end of the 20th Century.

In the late 1980s Falcon Games in England decided to tackle the intellectual property issue by route of applying for a trademark and on 4 August 1989 their self-explanatory Jigroll name was registered (UK Patent Office Reference 1318441). Although many companies have since copied the functionality of the Jigroll, none have been able to give their products the same name and in jigsaw puzzle parlance "Jigroll" has almost become a generic term for all jigsaw mats and rolls.

Falcon enjoyed similar success with the Porta Puzzle mark registered on 9 March 1993 (UK Patent Office Reference 1528876) for "Folders and cases made of plastics and/or card for holding and carrying jigsaw puzzles". Since the registration of this mark there have been a number of innovations and improvements to the original design, both by the current owners of the mark and other companies, but collectively carrying cases for jigsaw puzzles are still most often referred to as "Porta Puzzles".

Jigsaw puzzle frames in which a completed puzzle can be displayed have never been very popular in either Europe or the U.S.A. but this is not the case in Japan where the customary use of jigsaws is for wall decoration. From the time that jigsaws first became available in Japan, in the 1970s, jigsaw frames have been available to fit the jigsaw sizes of all the leading manufacturers.

Illustrated below are the most widely used modern products. Most of the accessories come in a range of sizes to cater for jigsaw puzzles between 500 and 2,000 pieces with the 1,000 piece size being the most popular.

The major problem with stand alone construction trays is that they cannot be packed away and stored with a part-assembled jigsaw. However, they can very easily be moved around from place to place in a home - the only functionality required by many people.

Launched in 1989, the Jigroll was the forerunner of modern jigsaw puzzle accessories. The jigsaw is constructed on a green cloth that has a course texture to which cardboard jigsaw pieces adhere. The non assembled pieces are also kept on the cloth. When the puzzle needs to be cleared away the entire cloth is rolled around a drum thus keeping both the assembled and non-assembled pieces trapped in position until the cloth is unrolled again.

Care needs to be taken to ensure that just the right tightness is achieved - too loose and the pieces will fall about and possibly be lost, too tight and pieces can be damaged.

Portapuzzle obtained a registered trade mark for Falcon Games approximately 4 years after their successful launch of Jigroll (see above). A portfolio case opens out to reveal a foam backed lining. The puzzle is constructed on one side of the case and the unassembled pieces are kept either on the other side of the case or on "Panels" provided. When closed up the foam backed lining on either side of the case exerts enough pressure to keep the jigsaw pieces in place.

This invention is generally considered to be a safer way of keeping pieces in place but it involves more material and more assembly labour than a Jigroll and is consequently more expensive.

The outer carrying case holds a separate "Construction Tray" on which the jigsaw is made and "Sort Trays" on which the unassembled pieces are kept. The sort trays come complete with tightly fitting lids. To pack away the jigsaw the sort trays (with their lids in place) are fitted inside the construction tray and the whole is then zipped up inside the carrying case.

The separate construction tray is very light and can easily be moved around and an additional benefit is the raised edge around the outside of the tray that ensures pieces don't drop off and get lost. On the downside, the extra component parts add to the retail price.

The loose pieces of a jigsaw take up approximately twice the space of a completed puzzle and these nesting boxes aim to solve the problem of how best to store 1,000 loose pieces in a small area. The boxes can be used for sorting different shapes or colours of piece. Each box has a removable insert so that sections of the puzzle can be constructed in the box and then easily moved to the developing jigsaw.

This accessory is a good choice for those who have a table that is large enough to accommodate a completed puzzle and are prepared to dedicate the table to the jigsaw throughout the time that it takes to complete it.

Traditionally (especially in Japan) jigsaw puzzles that are hung on a wall are glued onto a backing board. Once glued, it is a simple process to fit a puzzle into a frame in much the same way as a picture is fitted in a picture frame. The major problem with gluing is that the jigsaw immediately loses its charm and its value as a puzzle. Therefore, many jigsaw puzzle aficionados regard it as sacrilege to glue a puzzle.

JigFrame solves the problem by the use of a shallow drawer incorporated into the frame. The assembly allows jigsaws to be framed without the use of glue. Before purchasing, make sure that your puzzle fits within the upper and lower size limits given by the frame manufacturer.

The product comes with 10 cardboard sheets on which completed puzzles are stored. The puzzles along with their cardboard sheets are stacked on top of each other in the manner of a multi-tiered sandwich. Ultimately the entire sandwich is held together with straps that are provided and then the whole is stored in an outer cardboard case.

This accessory is most suitable for dedicated enthusiasts, schools and clubs where there is a requirement to keep and display completed puzzles.

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TDC Games

TDC Games is a board game and jigsaw puzzle manufacturer located in Itasca, Illinois.

TDC was founded in 1984 by Larry Balsamo (former club owner, magician and owner of Hey!Wires Singing Telegrams) and Sandra Bergeson (former soprano with the NYC Opera). TDC is a regular exhibitor at Toy Fair in New York City each year, with products distributed internationally.

TDC did not enter the puzzle world until several years ago, with a series called "The Alphabet Murder Mystery Puzzles". All of the TDC puzzles have some sort of gimmick. For example, "Portable Puzzles" include a puzzle roll-up in each box. "Puzzles for Dummies" have numbered pieces and a grid to help put it all together, while "Visible Puzzles" have big pieces and a magnifying glass for the vision impaired. The most memorable puzzle in the TDC line has been "LOST". Based on the incredibly popular hit TV show on ABC, the "LOST" puzzles consist of 4 1000 piece puzzles with secret information about the show hidden inside. What most people failed to realize was that the secrets were hidden in glow-in-the-dark images on the back of each puzzle.

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Stave Puzzles


Stave Puzzles is an American jigsaw puzzle company located in Norwich, Vermont. The company was started in 1969 by Steve Richardson and Dave Tibbetts, the name being a combination of their two first names. They manufacture hand cut jigsaw puzzles made from cherry-backed, 5-layered, 1/4" wood. Stave produces several different puzzles types ranging from traditional puzzles, teaser puzzles which can have many open areas within the puzzles, trick puzzles in which the puzzles can be put together in two or more ways of which only one is correct. They also create three dimensional puzzles, limited edition puzzles and complete custom puzzles. Each puzzle is provided in a green and blue rectangular box and does not include a picture of the completed puzzle.

Steve Richardson moved from New Jersey to Vermont in 1969 and started a game design business with Dave Tibbetts. In 1974 he was offered $300 to make a wooden jigsaw puzzle. He accepted the job and bought a saw to teach himself how to do so. In the same year Steve and Dave the two formed Stave Puzzles, forming the name from a combination of their first names. In 1976 Richardson bought out Tibbetts's share of the company for $1 and a jigsaw. He built a small shop behind his garage and hired his first employee. In 1983, Stave introduced their first 2-Way Trick Puzzle, called Go Fish. In 1998 Stave was invited to show their puzzles at the White House.

In 1989, Stave Puzzles released an April Fools joke puzzle called 5 Easy Pieces, which had no solution. The puzzles first thirty buyers were refunded their purchase price. In 1990 Stave Puzzles was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as having the most expensive jigsaw puzzle. In 1997, Stave introduced the Monkey Fist trick. In 1998, the Crazy Claws were introduced and in 2003 the first 3D Trick Puzzle, "Loop-de-Loop".

Owners of Stave Puzzles include Queen Elizabeth II, Barbara Bush, Stephen King, Julie Andrews, Tom Peters and Bill Gates.

Stave produces traditional rectangular puzzles that range in size from 5"x 7" (75 pieces) to 25"x20" (1000) pieces. For every hundred pieces, five custom pieces such as dates, names or silhouettes can be cut into the puzzle.

Stave's Teaser puzzles are designed in such a way as to make assembly of the jigsaw puzzle harder than in a traditional jigsaw creation. Stave commissions original artwork for these puzzles. Illustrators and Stave craftspeople work together on the design to reduce the number of visual cues that would normally make it easy to put together a traditional puzzle.

A typical Teaser design has some areas that are similar to traditional puzzles, making it easier to assemble some of the puzzle. However, in the center of the puzzle, or in other separate areas, holes are left into which many pieces have to fit. These pieces may be silhouettes of shapes that are representative of objects, people, animals, etc. It's not apparent how they fit together in the holes of the puzzle until they are played with and studied.

Steve Richardson earned the name Chief Tormentor for inventing the Trick puzzle, a puzzle genre in which some pieces fit in two or more different places, but only one of the solutions is considered correct. The object of a Trick puzzle is detailed on a small block of wood that accompanies Trick puzzles.

An example of a Stave Trick puzzle is Champ which is made up of 44 blue pieces and fits together 32 different ways, only one of which is correct where the serpent eats its own tail.

Teaser and Trick puzzles have been combined together in puzzles such as Palace of Pranks.

Stave Limited Edition puzzles are the premier puzzles Stave produces. Each is produced from custom commissioned artwork and sold in a limited quantity. Typically the limited edition is only 50, though some run to 100.

There are four main types of limited edition puzzles: Double Deckers, Riddle, Mystery Story, and Trick. Some of the limited edition puzzles are hand painted (as opposed to a print affixed to the wood).

In general the limited editions also include items that fit the theme and help guide you through the puzzle and additional games. For example the Limited Edition Trick Puzzle Time Traveler comes with several hand crafted booklets to link the puzzle to the time-travel theme underlying the puzzle. The theme of the puzzle is major events (cultural, historical, scientific discoveries, etc.) from 1000 CE to 2000 CE. The booklets guide you through untangling a set of chronological mishaps caused by an evildoer.

Double deckers: Double decker puzzles are made up of multiple layers that sit on top of one another. Irregular edges and dropouts highlight the imagery in interesting ways. Some double decker puzzles include very simple tricks--swappable image areas. For example, the Snow White limited edition allows you to swap the Evil Queen and Snow White in the mirror.

Riddle puzzles: Riddle puzzles are accompanied by a book of riddles, word games, and other surprises linked to the puzzle. For example, figural pieces in the puzzle might form a rebus that must be solved.

Mystery story: Each puzzle is accompanied by a complete mystery novel. However, you do not learn the ending of the mystery until you send in your answer to Stave's "mystery hot line." For example, the limited edition Hexed has artwork by Andrea Farnham and a novel by Susan Stofflet. The puzzle comes in sections enclosed in velvet bags that you do in pieces as you read and solve parts of the mystery.

Trick: The limited edition trick puzzles are similar in general challenge types to the other trick puzzles sold by Stave. The main difference is greater theming and integration. Taking Time Traveler as an example, the entire puzzle has a theme, and solving the tricks and re-arranging the pieces is linked to a story and learning about history. Other puzzles such as Knight at Stavely Castle include 3D pop-ups such as an entire castle facade that goes together multiple ways and a 3D sword that you need to remove from a stone. These trick puzzles are thus more intense than the generally available trick puzzles because of the themed linking between the puzzle and accompanying materials.

Custom puzzles are just that, full custom work designed in conjunction with the crafters at Stave. The efforts can range from the "simple", such as a wedding picture made into a puzzle, to complex, completely commissioned artwork and carefully designed cutting styles.

Stave Puzzles was named by Tom Peters as the 1991 Product of the Year.

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Source : Wikipedia