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How Jigsaw Puzzles Are Made

Amie Tsang, writing for The New York Times:

The rush to get hold of a jigsaw puzzle — and even stockpiling by regular enthusiasts — has transformed this quiet hobby and put companies under pressure as demand surges past Christmas levels. […]

Each puzzle piece must be uniquely shaped, to avoid one accidentally fitting into the wrong place. That means 1,000 different shapes for a 1,000-piece puzzle, each drawn by hand by workers. Before a puzzle is cut for the first time, each piece is sketched on a sheet of paper draped over the finished image.

Pieces of metal are then shaped to form an elaborate cookie cutter made just for that jigsaw puzzle; it takes about four weeks to build one. The cutter can be used only a limited number of times before its edges are dulled. It can be resharpened once and must then be discarded. At busy times of the year, the company will go through several cutters a day.

I would not have guessed each puzzle is so labor intensive. I simply assumed each puzzle of the same size was cut with the same pattern. Even having read this I’m not sure why they don’t do it that way. But the machines sure look cool. I’m also curious how they ensure they don’t package up the puzzle with a piece or two missing, which is surely a recipe for driving someone mad.

(I’ve long been curious how Lego does that too — I’ve put together untold dozens of Lego models in my life, and never once had a missing piece in a kit. Sometimes a few extras, but never something missing.)

Wednesday, 8 April 2020