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Carters Method tutorial

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  • Carters Method tutorial

    Here is a re-print of Carters method of creating Jigsaw Puzzles.

    So,,,,to start, here’s what you’ll need...

    Pictures can be taken from almost any source, provided the paper is at least 20lb and preferably the weight of a magazine cover or greater. I take most of my pictures from calendars, cards and photos.

    Blades: I use FD 2/0 “Superior Puzzle” blades . " Ultra Thin Puzzle Blades " (narrow kerf ) from Pegas , Shark and others also work well. To me, regular 2/0 blades cut pieces that are too loose.

    Wood: All 1/4” - Probably my favorite wood is 5-ply poplar, which I get from Wildwood Designs. I also use Baltic Birch (harder to cut), oak, cherry and aromatic cedar. The poplar, for some reason, produces pieces with a tighter fit.

    Glue: I use Aileen’s Tacky Glue, spread thinly and evenly with a plastic scraper. Any yellow wood glue will work almost as well. Some folks use sprays, but, to me, that’s a little messy.

    Finishing spray: I use any Triple-Thick Clear Glaze. The best I’ve found is at Hobby Lobby under the brand name Crafts, Inc. (black label). Krylon makes a similar spray that is more widely available but it takes a longer time to dry. (Note: I do not spray glossy photos.)

    * * * * *

    Step #1 - Select picture. I deliberately select pictures that have color image lines within them that I can use as edges of pieces.

    #2 - Glue to wood. Spread a thin and even coat of glue on the wood and smooth picture down slowly from one corner to its opposite. Stay close to the glued picture for 20 minutes, checking it frequently and smoothing down edges and any bubbles that appear.

    #3 - When glue is dry (4+ hours), cut picture around edges. I cut a straight border if the picture has one I want to keep. Otherwise, I cut a randomly wiggly border. Don’t worry about making a mistake. You can’t!

    #3a - Spray one thick coat of any glaze or high gloss acrylic onto the front of the mounted picture and let it dry a day or more.

    (At this point, I take a digital picture of the puzzle. On the computer I reduce it to about 4 x 5 inches and print it out.

    #4 - Cut pieces, each with 2, 3 or 4 locks to adjoining pieces. I start at the upper right corner with a piece that has locks on each edge side. When you finish a piece, take it out and set it aside. When you encounter an image or color line within the picture, use its edges as the edges of puzzle pieces, remembering still to insert locking tabs.

    A couple hints: a) Don’t worry about pieces not being the same size. They don’t have to be. b) Try to avoid having four pieces exactly meet at their corners. It makes the puzzle too loose.

    When you’ve made 30 - 40 pieces, stop. Sand the backs of the pieces quickly either with sandpaper or with a sander held upside down in one hand while you touch the backs of pieces to it with the other. Then put those pieces together.,,,,and launch into cutting another batch....or forget it for the moment and find something else to do. You’re not running a race.

    And please....please....dont use a pattern. If you want to insert certain shapes for pieces, trace those shapes when cutting them, but don’t use a pre-set pattern for the rest of the puzzle. No matter what your experience tells you, you do not need it!

    #5 - When you’re finished cutting, flip the puzzle over and give the back a quick sanding. Take dust off the back and the front by flapping a damp sponge over the surfaces.

    #6 - Take it apart, count the pieces, give it a name and write it down on the front of a baggie to put the pieces in and on the back of the photo you took earlier.

    #7 - Start another one...........and above all, HAVE PHUN.

    Last edited by wood-n-things; 12-28-2010, 01:23 PM.
    "Still Montana Mike"

    "Don't worry about old age--it doesn't last that long."
    Mike's Wood-n-Things LLC

  • #2
    Nice...!! Thanks Mike, and especially Carter.
    I've already put aside some greeting cards and calenders. I've also gone and bought some Aileen's Tacky glue.
    Looking forward to getting into some puzzles.
    Thanks again.....

    The limits of the imagination are imaginary.
    No task is too tedious for Art.
    Rock and Scroll

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    Featherwood Woodcrafts


    • #3
      Carter's tutorial is great, and will get a first-timer on the right track to making a successful puzzle.

      My approach to gluing differs slightly and I will explain this alternative approach as it may hit a chord with some cutters.

      I spread my glue on the board only as Carter does, but I use a small foam paint roller (a 4" roller from Walmart) to spread it. I squirt the glue (nothing wrong with Aileen's Tacky Glue, but I actually use Elmer's White Glue which is quite a bit cheaper and just as good in my opinion) onto the board and then roll it out over the area to be covered. The aim is to get a wet (shiny) covering over the entire area to be covered, making sure that the edges of the image will be well-stuck-down, and I may squirt some more glue and roll that out if I didn't apply enough glue initially.

      Once I am satisfied that a thin layer of moist glue is covering the entire area, I gently lay the image onto the board. Then, using a Powerball printers' brayer with a rubber roller, I roll over the image from the center to the sides in every direction ensuring that any air between the image and the board is expelled.

      You should do this rolling fairly quickly once you have laid the image so that the image gets attached to the board before the wet glue has had a chance to soak into the image, or the image will expand and bubble up. If it does bubble up, I just run the brayer over the spot and this usually works. If it is a persistent bubble, then I resort to Carter's finger technique. Once you have firmly rolled the image, it will of course still absorb moisture from the glue and expand, but being stuck down it has nowhere to go and cannot bubble up.

      It is possible for the brayer roller to pick up some glue which then gets rolled onto the face of the image. No problem - a barely-damp paper towel will remove this, even after the glue has dried.

      I learned to attach my images by trial and error, and I am passing on what I have deduced for what it may be worth. I encourage others to experiment to arrive at a technique that works for them, and I believe that both Carter's method and my own have their merits and will make a good starting point for new cutters.


      • #4
        Thank you Ron. We can never have too much information.
        "Still Montana Mike"

        "Don't worry about old age--it doesn't last that long."
        Mike's Wood-n-Things LLC


        • #5
          This is a reply to Carters way and Ron's....I have been designing and cutting JigSaw Puzzles for over 5 years. I am convinced the using Permanent spray glue to secure your pattern is the easiest and in my opinon the best way. Carters method of cutting each piece is very new to me as I have Always applied my pattern to a 1/8" piece of wood which is then secured on top of the picture I have chosen to use. I actually cut two different thickneses of the same puzzle. Usually I discard the thinner pieces tho.
          I know it takes plenty of practice to achieve perfection in free hand cutting of each piece.
          I will give it a try....BUT....I would just LOVE any hints n tips about starting this venture.

          Thanks for any advice. Danny :+}


          • #6
            Danny, I guess my principal piece of "advice" when moving to freehand cutting is to use 1/4" wood instead of 1/8". I know most all of the people who cut puzzles in the U.S. and none of them use wood that thin. You can be much more creative and precise when there is a little more resistance while cutting.

            I know of no one besides Ron who uses patterns regularly, but he has to for the complexity of his work and he stands out as one of the best - and certainly one of the most unique.

            There's nothing magical about using the glue I use and if you've successfully used a method involving spray, keep it up.

            Remember, you can always do as I do and select pictures with lots of color lines and images within them and then use those color lines as your "pattern".

            Good luck and have phun..... Carter


            • #7
              I'm a little confused. You say you have been producing puzzles for 5 years then you say you need help in starting this venture. Do you mean the venture of freehand cutting, or puzzles in general?

              Freehand is just getting up the courage to go for it and realizing that the assembler has no idea what the puzzle pieces are supposed to look like, just that there are so many in a given puzzle. You can't make a mistake. Even if you forget to include a locking tab once in awhile, so what the puzzle won't hold together as nicely but it's still a workable puzzle.

              You will find after awhile you begin to have your own style of cutting pieces. So go for it and please stop by and share some of your work with us. We love pictures here.
              "Still Montana Mike"

              "Don't worry about old age--it doesn't last that long."
              Mike's Wood-n-Things LLC


              • #8
                This tutorial is great, but leaves me with one question. What would I have to do differently if I wanted to use a custom image? I'd like to make some puzzles of printed pictures, but I'm afraid that the ink will run if I just use my home printer. Will using heavier paper fix this? Or a different kind of printer? Thanks for your help.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by NobodysWeasel View Post
                  This tutorial is great, but leaves me with one question. What would I have to do differently if I wanted to use a custom image? I'd like to make some puzzles of printed pictures, but I'm afraid that the ink will run if I just use my home printer. Will using heavier paper fix this? Or a different kind of printer? Thanks for your help.
                  I seal pictures printed on my computer with a water-based clear acrylic coating such as Minwax Polycrylic. This is available in satin, semigloss and gloss; I prefer satin. I apply it with a foam brush, brushing out to use the thinnest coating possible. If necessary I apply a second coat when the first has fully dried, typically a couple of hours.

                  Others use a product called Triple Glaze. I have tried this but find the surface too thick and shiny for my taste.


                  • #10
                    Picture edge burn

                    I just started cutting puzzles. Just started scroll sawing too so be patient with me. Cut a 5x7 picture (35 pieces) on photo paper printed from my computer. Glued pic on 1/4 inch BB. Glued pattern on 1/8 BB and taped them together to cut. Cut using 2/0 puzzle blade. On some areas the cut edge of the pictures look burned.
                    I think that I just continued too long after the blade was not cutting properly. Used 2 blades on the picture. Would this be typical problem? Suggestions on how many pices would be a normal blade life for this approach. Realize if I were cutting freehand I might have seen the problem and change more often but have not had courage to tackle that yet ; but, I may have to.


                    • #11
                      Bill, it sounds as if your blades just weren't sharp enuf. I must admit I don't know why you would use a pattern but, that aside, getting rid of the extra 1/8 wood would help make the blade cut more freely. Feel free to email me direct if I can be of assistance. Carter



                      • #12
                        3/8th of an inch of BB and all of the glue (and modge-podge) is probably too much fo the blades you are using. The burn can also be caused if you blade seed is high and your feed-rate is slow. Have you tried different brands of the same size? The teeth per inch on a 2/0 can range from 25 to 30, you may want less.You have a choice of MGR, skip and double-tooth blades. Ask your supplier for some samples.
                        Grab a piece of scrap and just start cutting pieces off of it. When you first start cutting randomly or freehand, you may make a piece or two that is smaller than you like but it is really no big deal and "mistakes" will become rare with practice.

                        I use spray adhesive regularly for its ease and quickness but I have doubts about how they define "permanent". Variations of wood / white glue have been used by puzzle makers for over 250 years and the paper is well adhered to the surviving examples. I also have doubts about various coatings, will they yellow, how permanaent are they, etc. I like to do puzzles and I really dislike puzzles with a shiny surface.


                        • #13
                          Thanks for the advice. I followed Carters approach and did another freehand. I also lowered the speed of the blade. Yes I am still slow. LOL Think that will improve with practice. I did not get burn on the last picture. Problem on it was that the clear spray I used left some funny images on the picture surface. I went ahead and finished cutting though because I need the practice. I will get another spray for the next one.
                          I did find cutting freehand more relaxing. I cut somewhat larger pieces but just cut what felt right using color lines where it seemed to fit.


                          • #14
                            Flying Dutchman Superior Puzzle Blades

                            I have been using the FD-Superior Puzzle blades on my puzzles and I use the two board method. One 1/4" BB with my pattern on a 1/8". The blades have such a leadoff that I am cutting at almost a 45 degree angle. What can I do about this. This angle will not allow the blade to make a square cut. My saw is an Excalibur.


                            • #15
                              Sounds like too little tension. Carter will say why the pattern? Go freehand and save yourself some wood too.
                              "Still Montana Mike"

                              "Don't worry about old age--it doesn't last that long."
                              Mike's Wood-n-Things LLC


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