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Puzzles: Freehand, or Patten

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  • Puzzles: Freehand, or Patten

    One member of this forum is well known for Xmas card puzzles, puzzles made from postal stamps, and in general is well respected for his craftsmanship. His craftsmanship is so good he scrolls his puzzles freehand; he does no use a pattern to guide his cutting.

    My brain must be wired in a different way. Every time I have tried to scroll a graphic puzzle 'freehand' it has been a complete disaster. Bad beyond belief. So I have tried to create cutting patterns, but as you might guess, alignment or registration problems between the pattern printout and the graphic leave 'opportunities for improvement.' {Those who do not work in an for an ISO-9000 compliant company, may not appreciate the total context of horror from thoes two words.}

    In a previous post I was asking about a strawberry pie puzzle I was working on. ( No mater how hard I tried I could not produce a freehand puzzle. I moved on to other graphic puzzle problems, and the same thing. I just cannot freehand a puzzle: nope, nadda, not happening.

    But since I needed to see the graphic to create the pattern I turned to tracing paper. First I create a standard cut pattern for the graphic, copy that pattern to the tracing paper, and then modify the tracing paper pattern to fit how the tracing paper becomes attached to the graphic. Even still I am adjusting the pattern 3 or 4 times after all that.

    I am working on another project with the above cut pattern problem, but I am trying to add stack cutting. This has me going in circles again because of the critical nature of alignment in the stack. The graphic needs to be exactly aligned. See below:

    Notice the card on the left has wood showing on the lower left hand side. There are other clues that the alignment is off. I am using 3M spray adhesive for quick turn around time on orders. I have made the pattern very loose, to accommodate the stacking miss-alignment of the cards on the backing. (The small over sizing of the plywood is so that the glue up to the bottom piece of plywood can have an error in alignment and then can be put on a shooting board and planed square again.)

    I am working on this technique; it is not functional at this time. I need suggestions on getting the graphic alignment on the stacking so I can make sharper cutting. And I need to just say "Enough" on tweaking (minor adjustments) of the cutting pattern.

    BTW: I have only done about 11 or 12 of these that turned out worth giving to business people. The other 70-75% ended up in the trash as a learning experience. The 'goal' is to be able to produce these in lots of 10 or 12 for a customer, stack cutting 3 or 4 at a time. And each business man has his 'unique card cut plan' in case he/she wants to order more latter.

    TIA for all who comment.

    Last edited by GrayBeard Phil; 05-30-2005, 02:05 PM. Reason: Massive re-write edit

  • #2
    tracing paper

    Great thinking on the tracing paper!
    I am one of those fortunate ones who can cut without a pattern, although I am not telling how many mistakes I have made
    If you could print the pattern with your computer onto the tracing paper you would be well on your way. With far less mistakes than me

    good work!
    "proud member of the best scroll sawing forum on the net."
    Ryobi SC180VS scroll saw EX21


    • #3
      I'm not sure I totally understand the problem but I have a suggestion. Make a copy of the card to be used for the pattern. Draw the puzzle lines out directly on the pattern and scan it back into the computer and save it. Print it back out on transparency sheet ( used for overhead projectors). That should provide a transparent overlay that will align perfectly with the original art work used for the face of the puzzle.
      If it don't fit, don't force it....get a bigger hammer!!


      • #4

        About those transparency sheets, the last time I looked into them they had a problem with ink jet printers in that the ink would not stick to the plastic. Do you know if there has been an improvement?

        Since you mentioned it, yes I agree, I failed to express myself with the clarity I had in my head as I wrote it. Since I do not have permission to use a business card from someone else, I cannot demonstrate with a photo. Most business cards today are almost completely filled with images, logos, names, web sites, phone numbers, and now even star burst rays. There is very little room, or should I say blank spaces, to place the tongue and mouth of a puzzle piece.

        Because so many business people have their ego (or should I write it EGO!!) attached to their business card, I don't want to cut through their name, company, phone number, web site, or address. So I end up with a puzzle piece that is just the phone number, or just the first name, or just the logo, and any suffix to the name is kept with the last name like Symth Jr., D.D.S. well you get the idea. The difficulty is that there is just no room for error because the cards are so 'filled up'. The cutting should leave all information about the business person, so the client who gets a puzzle card is not only impressed but can still use the card as intended.

        So when I attach the tracing paper, no matter how much I have predetermined where to cut, I am still adjusting the cut lines to preserve the information and graphics but still make the puzzle work. Don't forget, I will not be able to hide my errors. If I am going to charge money for my work, I will receive say 15 business cards and I will be expected to return 15 business cards made into puzzles each with the craftsmanship expected.

        If you want to get a feel for what I am talking about, think about the truly great puzzles that Carter J. makes and go to this web site for business card designs for ideas:



        • #5
          Phil, when you say you can't cut a puzzle "freehand", do you mean completely without any guide? If so, I'm in the same boat. However, I do just fine by laying out a simple grid over the picture and using it to determine where the corners will come. I know between each pair of points I need to make a mushroom in one direction or the other, but the shape of the mushroom comes only while I'm cutting. I seem to get along okay with that little bit of freedom, with the overall layout of the puzzle constrained by my grid.

          The grid doesn't have to be regular, and easily can accommodate including little sub-pictures like the plane or the name in this project. It should just take a minute to "dot the corners", and outline the specific pictures.

          I will also indicate with a little arrow along each side which direction the mushroom should go, so I will avoid having a lot of them in the same direction in a row, without having to think about this while cutting.

          This saves a lot of time in the preparing stage, as most of it is mechanical.

          Why use tracing paper or transparencies? Why not make a photocopy of the card, draw your grid on that, and make as many copies of that as you need for your run? If alignment is a problem, take a paper punch and punch out a hole along each edge of the photocopy. You can see each edge of the card through the hole and line it up with the edge on the copy. If the edge isn't clear in the photocopy, make the copy with the card backed with black paper.


          • #6
            Hi Phil.....

            I'm in a little bit of a quandary on how to write this response so it is of some real help to you. First, thank you for the compliments. They are not deserved. I don't think my not using patterns has anything to do with talent, but more simply with the way I think and approach working with the scroll saw.

            Speaking bluntly, it's beyond my comprehension why one would use a pattern for cutting jigsaw puzzles. I know many people who make and sell puzzles and not one of them ever uses a pattern. Early in the past century, Parker Brothers had at times over 75 women turning out many hundreds of wooden jigsaw puzzles each month and all they used were outlines of cutouts of animals and other shapes for insertion in the midst of their freehand-cut pieces. In my personal case, the images within the pictures I cut are always maintained as pieces, which, I suppose, gives me a sort of "pattern" in between random-shaped pieces.

            My humble advice, for what it's worth, is to keep practicing freehand cutting and try to rid yourself of the physical and psychological constraints that relying on a pattern imposes. The only object is to make each piece so that it has three or four tight "locks" or "knobs" to fit with adjacent pieces. The pieces can vary in size and shape any way you like. They don't have to be the same and it's best if they aren't.

            Over the years I have made many business card puzzles. I remember one guy who used them to market his consulting by sending a potential client a puzzle of the client's business card with one piece missing, recommending that my friend be called to find the "missing piece" for business success.

            With the card, you would (as you have done) first determine the pieces that must stand alone, such as the phone number or name. The first piece you cut should be one of those or a random piece designed to get you where you can cut one of them. After they are cut, then you simply divide up the rest. If you could get past the need for a pattern, your allignment problems would vanish, your speed would increase and I feel your puzzles would be better.

            Please don't get me wrong. I'm not evaluating anyone's skill in the least, and, in fact, do not claim any special talents at all in this regard. The vast majority of people who contribute to this board have skills that make me stand in awe. I just know that the freedom and ease of freehand cutting is a true joy. I have wanted to approach this subject on this type of forum for a long time and welcome any dialog it generates. In addition, if anyone needs help in overcoming stumbling blocks, I'm more than happy to help.

            Above all, have phun....

            Last edited by Carter-Johnson; 05-31-2005, 10:24 AM.


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