Introduction: Jigsaw Puzzle Creation

This project will allow for your class to design and create their own jigsaw puzzle! The following project was created with a grade 9 or grade 10 classroom in mind. High school students of all ages could complete the project, if they know how to use the tools needed. I think that it is a little more difficult than a middle school student could complete!

With that said, this project will meet standards 19 from the Standards for Technological Literacy. Standard 19 is Manufacturing technologies. The benchmarks that the project hits are benchmarks M, O and P. This standard as well as the learning objectives below will be hit if you follow the steps laid out in this instructable.

Student Learning Objectives:

Students will be able to apply the design process to design and produce a jig saw puzzle.

Students will be able to understand the role that manufacturing plays during the completion of the project.

Students will be able to work individually, or in groups, to understand that different materials have different qualities.

Note: For this project I used the dremel and the scroll saw to cutout my puzzle. This was effective in cutting the pieces out, but it was time consuming. If you do not have a dremel or scroll saw you can either use the laser cutter to cut directly through the plywood. Otherwise, you can you your CNC router. This may make it a little less clean, but will cut through your plywood effectively.


Sanded Pine Plywood (one per twelve students) - $4.85 each

2oz paint bottles - $0.50 each. You can buy larger paint sizes, however, I didn't need them for my use.

My total $6.35 + tax.

Tools Needed:

Table Saw

CNC Router Machine

One of the Three: Dremel, Scroll Saw, Laser Cutter,

Projected total for a classroom of 24 students would be $19.70 + tax. This includes two sheets of plywood and $10 for paint.

Step 1: Find Your Desired Wood

For this step I went to Lowe's Home Improvement and looked for a thing piece of wood that would be easy for me to cut through. I found a sheet of plywood that was 24"x24"x1/4". This was thin enough that I could easily cut through it with a scroll saw, laser cutter, or a dremel. It was also thick enough that I could carve my picture into it without damaging the integrity of the wood.

Step 2: Cut Your Wood Down to Size

This step can vary depending on the scale of puzzle you are attempting to make. I decided to create mine 6"x8". This would allow me to create 12 puzzles per sheet of plywood. For cutting down my plywood I used a table saw. Additionally, my piece of plywood had gotten warped in the car so I cut from the center of the wood to allow the most level base possible.

Step 3: Find and Upload Your Image

Finding your image can be a difficult step depending on the level of detail your picture holds. I had originally planned to do a picture of me that I enjoy, but after uploading my image I realized it wasn't going to look how I had hoped. When selecting an image make sure to select an image that has non-intricate lines. You can see the design that I ended up using above.Think something a little more basic. As mentioned in the tools I used the X-carve to create my puzzle design. To upload your image you need to create an account on From there, you click on easel then explore easel. Here it will ask you to sign in if you aren't already signed in. After signing in it will show you any past projects you created. You can select one of those or create a new project. You will most likely need to create a new project. On the left hand side of your screen you should see an import button, click that and upload your image. I would recommend image trace, that is the one I used, but you can use whichever upload method you appear. You should now see your image in the work zone.

Step 4: Setup and Run the X-Carve

I'm going to give a very basic rundown of what I did as your X-Carve settings may be different than mine. After setting my image up I placed my piece of plywood on the work area and attached the board making sure that it would not move. The depth that I set to carve at was 1/8". After this, I chose the bit that I wanted to use. For my puzzle I used a 1/8" upcut. From here, I pressed the carve button and followed the instructions. This included knowing the model of the x-carve, the bit I was using and other necessary information for the program to run. From there, run through the calibration. After this you are ready to start carving your puzzle! My piece took about 52 minutes. With that in mind if you use a small board or a less detailed picture it may take less time. You could also use a thinner piece of wood so that you wouldn't have to carve as deeply.

Step 5: (Optional) Paint Your Carved Piece

I chose to paint my NC State logo. I thought it looked good when it was carved, but painting it helped to elevate it to another level. I used simple Walmart paint and left the picture to dry overnight. If you didn't want to paint your carve or if you don't have time to paint it then you don't have to. It would just be used to help make it look better. You could also base it on if the design needs to be painted. Sometimes the x-carve does a good job of making it presentable without anything after it.

Step 6: Trace Your Puzzle

I had planned to use the scroll saw so I wanted to have a guide for me to follow on the back of my piece of wood. My trace had 48 pieces each one was 1"x1". To help guide my puzzle design I searched 6"x8" puzzle outline. This gave me several different options to choose from and helped me to make sure the puzzle pieces had a more random distribution.

Step 7: Cut Your Puzzle

Once the outline is finished it is time to cut your puzzle. As mentioned I had planned to use the scroll saw. I was able to get through about 7 pieces before the blades stopped cooperating with me. They would constantly break and it was becoming more trouble than it was worth. Because I had already started cutting it by hand I chose to continue work with the dremel. The dremel worked efficiently, however, there are some larger gaps between the pieces than I would have liked. This causes the pieces to slide around. Despite this, your eyes do a nice job of filling in the gaps and the puzzle still looks complete. With that said, a pro of the dremel is that most classes are going to have more than one so multiple students can be cutting their puzzle at the same time. I just want to reiterate other options that you have to cut your puzzle. I had used the scroll saw/dremel. If your wood is thin enough you could also use the laser cutter or the x-carve to cut through your puzzle completely. You would only need to find a vector image then make sure that you set it up to cut the entire thickness. Each option can work effectively depending on what resources you have available.

Step 8: Solve It!

Once you have finished cutting your puzzle make sure to mix the bag up and try to solve it! Don't worry if it takes a little while your pieces may not be completely flush and there may be some small tolerance errors, but make sure to give it a shot. You got it!