Unique Jigsaws – What Makes a Jigsaw Puzzle Different?

Unique means unparalleled, having no equal, the only one.
The elements of a jigsaw that can make it unique are:

  1. The image.
  2. The cut pattern.
  3. The type of material.
  4. 2D or 3D
  5. Limited edition.

Hand cut jigsaws are certainly unique. Usually only one jigsaw is cut and certainly when my father and great uncle cut their jigsaws by hand, they cut the only copy of the image. These jigsaws are unique without question. They fulfill all the definitions of unique. The cutter will choose the cut line as he/she cuts. If asked to cut the same picture again, they would take a different path.

The mass produced pressed jigsaw can not be unique even when it has a special image or is limited edition numbers. The cut pattern is used on numerous other images and the quantity produced exclude them from the definition of only one.

In the middle are the hand designed jigsaws cut on a laser. Here, a number of jigsaws can be made but the cut lines are unique because they are not used for any other image.

By hand designing the cut lines, the image is enhanced and the jigsaw created is tricky without being repetitive.

Types of cut patterns used in hand cut jigsaws.

  • Interlocking – similar to a normal standard jigsaw
  • non-interlocking – the piece shapes sit next to each other but do not lock into each other. A very old traditional way of cutting. This creates a difficult jigsaw as there is no shape recognition involved in putting the jigsaw together.
  • Colour line cutting – here the cut lines are placed along colour changes e.g. cutting around a person in a picture. This makes a difficult jigsaw because the jigsaw can not be put together by looking at the colours or the picture. The puzzles is reliant on the shape of the piece to work out where it goes. A small jigsaw can be very challenging when cut in this way.

The different cutting creates a different jigsaw experience for the person putting the jigsaw together. When putting together a standard interlocking jigsaw of 1000 pieces, the jigsaw is very very difficult at the beginning because the person has to search through hundreds of pieces and may have to try large numbers of different pieces before finding the right one. By the end of the jigsaw, the last pieces are very easy to put in because the image can be used and there are only a few pieces to search through.

When doing a colour line cut jigsaw, the puzzle is difficult at the start and even when down to 5 or six pieces, it can still be difficult! This is because the image is no help, the colour of one piece will not show the colour of the next adjacent piece.

The image selected for a jigsaw is extremely important. The image can be unique because it is created from someone’s wedding photograph or a family picture or because the image is painted by the jigsaw cutter. Otherwise the image can be from a photographer or illustrator and will be used multiple times. The picture needs to have lots of interest throughout the area of the jigsaw with lots of colours and no big areas of one colour. It is best to select neutral images, not particularly male or female. The picture should be beautiful otherwise there is no point in recreating it. When looking at jigsaws in general, there is a laziness when choosing the image. Many companies churn out the same type of old fashioned pictures that give jigsaws a bad name.

Jigsaws are made of many different substances these days. Hand cutters still use wood as this cuts well with a treadle fret saw. Some companies use MDF despite claiming they are wooden jigsaws! 3D jigsaws are often made of plastic as the modeling process requires a material that can be deformed in all planes. With the invention of Yag lasers, metal jigsaws can be produced. Acrylic works beautifully for CO2 lasers as the cut edge is very smooth when cut in this way.

A unique jigsaw should be something the puzzler has not come across before. New ideas, tricks and surprises should be contained within the cutting. The mind set for doing the jigsaw can be unique, a colour edge cut jigsaw requires a change in how the person goes about doing the jigsaw. Looking for the shape rather than the image is unique to the colour edge cut jigsaw.

Some would claim a very difficult jigsaw is the largest jigsaw in the world or one with a totally repetitive pattern e.g. baked beans. However, a colour edge cut jigsaw is intelligently difficult, a small jigsaw with seemingly few pieces can be exceptionally difficult but challenging and great fun to complete.

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