Watch How Jigsaw Puzzles are Made

iStock // ThomasVogel
iStock // ThomasVogel

Traditionally, jigsaw puzzles have been made by using, wait for it, a jigsaw—though it's also called a scroll saw. If you've never seen one, a scroll saw has a fine, straight blade that's usually mounted vertically a little bit like the needle in a sewing machine. By running the blade up and down (hooray, power tools) and moving wood through it, you can cut fine patterns into wood. Note that the term "jigsaw" can also refer to a coping saw, which is a handheld power tool with a straight blade sticking out—great for cutting holes in walls, but perhaps not puzzles.

So that's great. But how do people make jigsaw puzzles today?

The short answer is: It's complicated. There are still high-end handmade puzzles on the market today, but commercial makers have typically moved on to other methods. Below, let's examine a few of the most popular methods.

1. METAL TEMPLATE GRIDS

Mass-produced commercial jigsaw puzzles are made of cardboard. Nobody hand-cuts cardboard with a jigsaw. So the game is all about making a cutting die (a sharp metal outline) that emulates that jigsaw cut. Once you have a cutting die, it can be used to stamp out countless cardboard puzzles.

In this video, starting at about 1:30, Ravensburger artisans show how they create their jigsaw puzzles using a "ribbon cut" grid system and a series of jigsaw-style edges. The metal template allows safety-gloved employees to snap in the edges of each piece, allowing for a unique pattern for each puzzle design.

2. SCROLL SAWS

For woodworkers, the only game in town is a real jigsaw. In this video, George Vondriska makes an elk jigsaw puzzle using some plywood, a computer print-out, and a scroll saw.

(Note: If you want to get into this, watch this 100-minute class.)

3. PSYCHOLOGICAL TORMENT

Steve Richardson says "they pay me to drive them crazy," describing the way he designs incredibly challenging jigsaw puzzles using an X-ACTO knife (which are then actually cut by hand). Calling himself Tormenter-in-Chief, Richardson has some famous clients, including the Gates family, the Bush family, and the royal family of Great Britain, among others.

Richardson's company only sells about 3,600 puzzles per year, all handmade. Every puzzle contains a single "clown" piece, the company's logo—though sometimes he doesn't actually fit in.

4. LASERS

In this video, a laser cutter uses the Force on a Star Wars poster. It's fascinating to watch how it accomplishes the cuts, doing all the vertical cuts first (with little oscillations to get the wiggles in), then the horizontal cuts. Watch as, during the horizontal cutting stage, the pieces pop out!

5. RANDOM CUTS

In this video, Allegra Vernon walks us through all the steps that happen before the actual cutting. She discusses how images are selected, photographed/scanned, edited, and generally optimized to become good images for a jigsaw puzzle. Then she gets into the "random cut" process starting around 2:20. Both sections are fascinating. Vernon also explains the "ribbon cut" method employed above by Ravensburger.

The Palos Verdes Blue: The Beautiful Butterfly That Wasn't Extinct After All

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wikimedia // Public Domain
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wikimedia // Public Domain

Terrible extinction news frequently makes the headlines, but sometimes, conservationists declare defeat too early. The Palos Verdes blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus palosverdesensis) is one such example: Presumed extinct in 1983 after it seemed to vanish from its habitat in California's Palos Verdes Peninsula, it was discovered flitting among the grass in San Pedro again 11 years later.

Aside from coming back from the edge, the butterfly is notable for fuzzy wings that look brownish when closed, but a stunning silvery blue once they open up. Today it's still listed as threatened, but there's a captive breeding program to help make sure the beautiful species never goes missing again. Learn more—and see the butterfly up-close—in the video from Great Big Story below.

Why Cutesy Names Are the Most Effective Way of Getting Your Cat's Attention

iStock
iStock

When you were naming your cat, you probably didn’t consider your feline friend’s hearing range. But according to Vancouver, Canada-based veterinarian Uri Burstyn, you probably should have—at least if you want your cat to pay attention when you talk to it.

According to Dr. Uri, the name he goes by in his adorable YouTube videos, Felix isn’t a great cat name. Nor is Garfield. But Fluffy? A great choice.

Cat ears are finely attuned to high-pitched noises. Since most of their prey communicate at high frequencies—think mouse squeaks and bird chirps—cats are not as good at hearing low-frequency sounds. Ideally, you want your cat’s name to end in a high frequency, since that’s the kind of sound cats hear best and naturally pay attention to.

For human speech, that basically means that it should end in an “eeeee” sound rather than a consonant. Grumpy Cat? A bad name. Just “Grumpy?” Perfect. That's why "kitty kitty" works pretty well to get a cat to pay attention or come toward you. It's a squeaky sound.

Luckily, many nicknames in English tend to end in an ie or a y, so you probably already have a cat-friendly name for your pet waiting in the wings. Now you know why your cat is more likely to respond to your high-pitched, baby-voiced nicknames than its full name.

Enjoy Dr. Uri's explanation, and his helpful demonstration with his noble friend Lancelot, in the video below.

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