Jigsaw Puzzle Mats

May 11, 2011

Have you ever started a large jigsaw puzzle only to put it away shortly after you realized that you didn't have the space to finish the puzzle? Many people like to solve their jigsaw puzzles on their dining room tables because a table is flat and sturdy. When dinnertime comes around that puzzle needs to be moved to make room for the meal. But how do you move a puzzle without completely disassembling it?

Instead of destroying all of your hard work, try using a puzzle mat. Puzzle mats are an affordable solution to keeping your jigsaw puzzles intact when you need to move them. Before you start a puzzle, lay the puzzle mat down on the table you plan to use. When you need to move your puzzle, roll up the mat with all of your pieces on it and store the mat wherever you like. When you're ready to finish solving the jigsaw puzzle, carefully unroll the mat. All of your pieces, including the pieces that were connected, will all be in the same place where you left them. A few pieces may have become slightly dislodged, so just put them back where they were. Some minor adjustments beat having to solve the same puzzle all over again.

Jigsaw puzzle mats are easy to find in most major retail stores and online. Use a puzzle mat the next time you pull out your favorite puzzle. It may save you some time and hard work later.

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What to do with a Finished Jigsaw

April 14, 2011

Jigsaw puzzles are a great game. You can solve them by yourself or with a group and there's no competition unless someone hides a piece from you. Everyone works together to put the picture together and usually some fun conversation takes place around a puzzle. But after you've spent countless hours finding a place for every piece what do you do with your finished puzzle?

Gluing a puzzle is a great way to save your jigsaw accomplishment. Puzzle glues can be found in retail stores and online. Slide a piece of baking paper, thin plastic or some other sturdy material under the jigsaw puzzle to prevent the puzzle from sticking to the table you are working on. Evenly coat the surface of the puzzle in multiple thin coats, getting in all of the little nooks and crannies. Applying too much glue at once may cause the puzzle to swell and the picture may start peeling off of the puzzle pieces. If the edges of the jigsaw begin to curl, flip the puzzle over to the unfinished side and apply glue. The puzzle will usually return to its flat shape once the glue has dried. Make sure you read the label of the glue that you purchase. Remember that not every puzzle glue is the same and each will recommend how many pieces it will cover.

Now that you have your glued jigsaw puzzle, how should you display it? The most common way to display a jigsaw is to put it in a frame. Most jigsaw puzzles come in standard sizes so finding a frame shouldn't be too difficult if you go to a craft and framing store. Once your jigsaw puzzle is in a frame, hang it up wherever you like!

The most common thing to do with a finished puzzle is to break up the pieces and put the jigsaw back in the box after you're done admiring your hard work. Nothing beats keeping your favorite puzzle around so you can solve it again on another day.

Happy puzzling!

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History of Jigsaw Puzzles

February 28, 2011

It seems like everyone enjoys solving jigsaw puzzles, but have you ever wondered where they came from?

In the 1760s, John Spilsbury, a London mapmaker and engraver, created the first jigsaw puzzle. Spilsbury mounted one of his maps of Europe onto a wooden board and carefully cut out each country. The puzzle was designed as a teaching tool for geography classes. As students put the pieces together, they would learn how countries were connected to each other. Within two years he created puzzles in eight themes - the World, Europe, Africa, America, Asia, England and Wales, Ireland and Scotland. As Spilsbury's invention became more popular, jigsaw puzzles were used as aids with maps, genealogies, mathematical tables, biblical scenes and nursery rhymes.

Puzzles for adults appeared in 1900 and became popular in America in 1908. Solving jigsaws remained an activity for the wealthy as hand cut wooden jigsaw puzzles were expensive and beyond the means of an average worker.

Jigsaw puzzles were at the height of popularity during the Great Depression. Cardboard backing replaced wood and mass production cut the cost of puzzles making jigsaws a time-consuming and affordable pastime for an average family. The puzzles were die-cut using a machine that arbitrarily cut out the pieces. These "Jig of the Week" puzzles were sold in drugstores as advertisements for 25 cents and could be rented from libraries for three to ten cents depending on the size. Jigsaw puzzle sales reached an astounding ten million a week in 1933.

Now that you know the history of jigsaws, open up a puzzle and start putting it together!

References: Cabinet Magazine, British Library, Wikipedia, Autism Speaks

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Homemade Jigsaw Puzzles

February 5, 2011

Making a custom jigsaw puzzle is easy and affordable. With a few simple supplies and some common household tools, you can create your very own jigsaw puzzle.

For materials, you'll need some balsa wood, poster board, or thick cardboard that can be found at hobby stores for the back of the puzzle. Select a picture you would like to solve. Home photo and magazine covers work well. If you want to use a picture that has special value to you, make a copy of it and use the copy for the puzzle. You won't want to cut up your favorite photo. You can even create your own picture by painting one on the puzzle backing directly. You'll need some rubber cement and sharp scissors to cut out the pieces or a pen knife. Dull scissors won't cut well and will make your puzzle look sloppy. If you are using balsa wood, you may need a saw.

Now that you've gathered your materials, you can now make your puzzle. Think about what shape you would like you puzzle to be. Do you prefer a rectangle, square, circle or abstract shape? Cut your image to fit the piece of backing and in the shape you want. Paste your picture to the backing by applying an even layer of glue to the backing. Carefully place the image on top and smooth out the wrinkles. Let the glue dry for at least one hour before cutting out the pieces. Next, think about what you want the puzzle pieces to look like. Lightly draw your pieces over the dried image then carefully cut out the pieces using the scissors or pen knife.

Once all of your pieces are cut out you can now solve your homemade jigsaw puzzle! If your puzzle didn't turn out the way you wanted or if you aren't crafty, you can buy blank puzzles from Cobble Hill here.

Happy puzzling!

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