How to make cuts for a child's jigsaw

Greetings from a new Instructabler:

I'd like to make some wooden blocks as well as some jigsaw puzzles and perhaps a lockbox for my daughter.  (She's six months old now so I have some time to figure this out.)  I'm thinking something like this for the puzzle (simple shapes and pegs for her to grab onto), and something like this for the lockbox.  

I'm trying to figure out what is the fewest number of saws I have to buy to make all these things.  Seems like I'm going to need a band saw for the wooden blocks, but I'm wondering if I might be able to get away with it on the scroll saw?  This extremely helpful site describes using a band saw with a circle cutting attachment for arches and triangles.  Do I need a band saw for cutting 2 3/4" hard maple?  I'd likely have to just not make the 5 1/2" triangles if I went this route (which wouldn't be the end of the world).

I'm a bit puzzled (as it were) regarding how to make the puzzle pieces and also the doors for the lockbox.  I imagine that if I didn't need the puzzle piece itself and just needed the outline then I could drill a hole in the piece, thread the scroll saw blade through, and cut the shape.  How do I make the cut that preserves both the puzzle piece and the surrounding wood?  Do companies that make these toys make the puzzle pieces (and doors) separate from the puzzle outlines (and lockboxes), or do they use lasers or something else?

Your guidance would be greatly appreciated!

sort by: active | newest | oldest
Vyger2 years ago

Well, you have a lot of questions.

I have seen something similar to the box used for dementia patients. They test them to see if they can get locks and latches open. If they are really good at opening things then they need to be more careful about watching them.

Anyway, sometimes openings like those in the box are cut, or more correctly punched out, with a die. They can cut an entire piece at one time with no saws. But thicker wood requires a saw of some sort.

Maple is a pretty hard wood, its up there with ash, and while you might be able to cut a few pieces with a scroll saw that type of wood will dull the blade really fast. I just answered a question about band saws. I gave up on the cheap band saw blades and used/use carbide tooth ones. They are expensive but they last long and reduce the frustration level of dealing with dull blades.

Rather than say a lot more I will just give you links to a couple of my projects that use a lot of the tools you are thinking about.

(Shameless self promotion, but lets face it, if I don't then who else will?)




statestraveller (author)  Vyger2 years ago

Thanks for taking the time to answer my question,Vyger. Seems like the self-promotion in this case is entirely warranted - I spent quite a bit of time reading through your I'bles; espeically the lovely one for the dementia puzzles.

Thanks for the info on die cutting; I had a feeling there was something involved that I wasn't going to be able to replicate. In looking around I did find a couple of other potential solutions both neatly illustrated in this puzzle: either make a join part of the design (like between the leaves and trunk) or make a really tiny pilot hole (there appear to be pilot holes at the tip of the bird's wing and the lower right corner of the gnome). Also it seems that one could potentially sand off enough of the inserted piece (if the shape was relatively regular, like a door for a lock box) to both hide the pilot hole and create enough space to move the door in and out of the box body.

I think a scroll saw is the way to go for the puzzles. So my remaining question is - if I get a carbide coated blade, do you think I'll be able to use the scroll saw make straight cuts across small squares of hard maple to make triangles for building blocks - perhaps using some of your custom clamping jigs and rigging a fence?

Thanks again!

If your not making a lot of pieces then a scroll saw might work just fine. I don't know if they have carbide tipped blades but I would imagine they do. The carbide ones are often used for metal cutting. Scroll saw blades are very thin, maybe 1/4 to 1/8 of an inch and that is what makes them capable of doing tight turns and curves. Band saw blades are usually wider and make gentle curves. But they usually cut faster because of the higher powered motors. Since a lot of what I have been doing is straight line I have been using my table saw for most of it.

One thing that you really should get is a stand alone belt sander. All of the saws leave blade marks on the wood. As the teeth move up and down they leave streak marks. These are easily sanded out but doing it by hand would be a real task. I have been really impressed by the cheap sander I got. The belts are what are really important. I bought a whole array of them from companies on E bay. A 400 grit belt, which is very fine, leaves a ready to finish surface. An 80 grit one will eat wood away at an amazing rate. Its easy to sand off 1/4 inch of material in no time.

Harbor freight has good equivalent ones for very reasonable cost. Mine has held up well.

Something else that might work for making cut outs would be a roto zip tool. Its bit is 1/8 inch though so you would loose a lot of material. Most methods of doing cut outs would involve discarding the cut out portion. Its a waste but its a destructive process. Then you would trace out the opening and make a fill piece from more wood stock. Between the cutting and sanding you will loose a lot of material so if you want a good fit you will almost have to use a separate piece of wood.

One thing that is for certain, it will take practice before you can get consistently good results. Save the scrap and the duds (bad tries) because you never know when you will need a piece that is just that size. Funny thing is the box of scraps may get more attention than the finished product. Kind of like that cat that likes the box better than the bed that came in the box.

statestraveller (author)  Vyger2 years ago

It will be just a few cuts so it sounds like the scroll saw will work out fine for the blocks. And since the scroll saws seem pretty precise it shouldn't be too big of a deal to trace an opening in the puzzles and make a separate piece to fit - I had visions of spending hours making a shape that wouldn't *quite* fit right...

And regarding the belt sanders - I'm lucky enough to live in Berkeley, where we have a Tool Lending Library. That should tide me over in the short term...

Thanks again for your help.


There are about 100 stores listed in Calif.

By the way, these work really good for fingernalis. They sand them doun to nothing really fast, wether you intend them to or not.

statestraveller (author)  Vyger2 years ago

Ha ha - excellent. My six month old daughter's fingernails need some attention, because I'm too afraid of cutting her to do it with clippers - the belt sander sounds like just the thing to help.

rickharris2 years ago

A jig saw!

A scroll saw

A fret saw

What your looking for is a saw with a thin narrow blade.

For real ease of working you could get them laser cut