Puzzles

I’ve been making jigsaw puzzles for over 20 years, first for my children and now for grandchildren. The tools I use include scroll saws and bandsaws. The first puzzles I made were tray puzzles. Sometimes I traced my children’s hands on a piece of 1/8 inch thick Baltic plywood. I would then cut out the traced hands and separate the fingers from the palms. The hand shapes were cut from a square piece of the plywood, which then became a fitted frame for the hands. This frame was subsequently glued onto another square piece of 1/8 inch thick plywood to back up the frame and produce a tray to hold the puzzle pieces. I would then paint each finger a different color, as well as the palm pieces. I would then pick out a lighter color to paint the parts of the tray. Then using rub-on or vinyl letters, I would put numbers 1 thru 10 in each tray opening for the fingers. On the corresponding finger puzzle piece I spelled out the numbers: one, two, etc.
The pieces were then top coated with lacquer. All the paints were toy grade and non-toxic. However, note that the size of these pieces would pose a choking hazard for small children. ASTM F963 gives the standards governing children’s toys. As an example, a toy part must not be of a size to pass through a 1.68-inch diameter hole in a jig that is 1.18 inches thick. 

Now when I first made these puzzles, I had no knowledge of these standards and after all, the puzzles were for my children, and not for sale! But I don’t think the children’s mother would look favorably toward having my toys choke the children. As luck would have it, my children were old enough at the time to safely handle the puzzles I made. Another popular tray puzzle I made was a segmented, multicolored caterpillar. The caterpillar was divided into 26 pieces. Each piece was labeled with a capital alphabet letter. Under the corresponding piece the tray was labeled with the lower case letter. Since then, many other puzzles have found their way from my scroll saw to the hands of my grandchildren: free standing puzzles, interlocking puzzles and more tray puzzles. My wife has provided the artwork in many cases, while I cut it into irregular interlocking pieces, to confuse the innocent.
I found over time that not only was the size of the puzzle piece a function of the child’s age but the number of puzzle parts was also a function of age. The table below is a general recommendation for the number of puzzle parts.

• Ages 2 – 3          4 to 12 Pieces
• Ages 3 – 5          12 to 50 Pieces
• Ages 5 – 6          50 to 100 Pieces
• Ages 6 – 7          100 to 200 Pieces
• Ages 7 – 8          200 Pieces
• Ages 8 – 10        300 Pieces
• Ages 12+           500+ Pieces

Wikipedia describes the history of puzzles:

“A jigsaw puzzle is a tiling puzzle that requires the assembly of often oddly shaped interlocking and tessellating pieces. Each piece usually has a small part of a picture on it; when complete, a jigsaw puzzle produces a complete picture. In some cases more advanced types have appeared on the market, such as spherical jigsaws and puzzles showing optical illusions.”

In addition, newer puzzles can be spherical and 3-dimensional. Wikipedia continues…

“Jigsaw puzzles were originally created by painting a picture on a flat, rectangular piece of wood, and then cutting that picture into small pieces with a jigsaw, hence the name. Alternatively, it has been believed that the name of the puzzle may have given the tool its name. The origin of the name Jigsaw is not entirely known. Some speculate that upon completion of some difficult puzzles, the player would then perform a victory jig upon the puzzle. Performing this jig on the puzzle would check the structural integrity of the puzzle. Once the jig was observed upon the puzzle, the person who saw the jig would confirm that the structure was sound, hence jigsaw. This origin has little evidence to back its story and is based merely on interesting hearsay. The John Spilsbury, a London cartographer and engraver, is credited with commercializing jigsaw puzzles around 1760.[1] Jigsaw puzzles have since come to be made primarily of cardboard.”

I’ve been specifically inspired by Hans Meier who is a member of the Gwinnett Woodworkers Association and who has several You Tube videos on scroll saw puzzles. I highly recommend his videos for detailed techniques on making a variety of puzzle types.

The project chosen for this blog post is a tray puzzle for one of our 5 year old grandchildren. He loves birds, fish and animals, so we chose a parrot. And even though he has worked puzzles we have made with 48 pieces, this picture lends itself to 12 pieces which is on the lower end of the recommended number for a 5 year old.
My wife, the artistic one of our blog team, sketched a parrot which I was able to divide into 12 puzzle pieces. This sketch was subsequently mounted on a 1/8 inch thick piece of Baltic plywood.

The parrot tray puzzle was a 13 step process:
1 Select a puzzle subject. In this case the grandchild dictated the subject matter.
2 Sketch an outline of the puzzle subject, a parrot. My wife sketched the parrot and selected the colors. The sketch is then divided up into the required number of puzzle pieces attempting to select areas of the figures that will either make it easy or difficult to solve the puzzle. It’s important to consider the size of the pieces.

puzzle sketch jenny skip
prepping the sketch
3 Use contact spray cement to attach the sketch to a suitably sized piece of 1/8inch thick plywood.

puzzle jenny skip.com
sketch mounted on plywood
4 Drill a starter hole in the sketch with a 1/16 inch diameter drill bit. Think about this location. The object is to be able to completely cut out the whole figure from the board, leaving the remainder of the board as the frame for the puzzle.
5 Using a number 0 46 TPI spiral scroll saw blade, the outline of the subject (in this case the outline of the parrot) is cut out.

scroll saw blade jenny skip.com
scroll saw blade
6 Once the subject has been removed from the frame portion of the board, the subject is cut into pieces. For the parrot puzzle, 12 pieces were selected. The body parts of the parrot were selected to be parts of the puzzle. Several miscellaneous cuts were included to add some challenge to solving the puzzle.

puzzle craftsbyjennyskip.com
cutting out the puzzle pieces
7 Use mineral spirits or a heat gun to remove the paper sketched pattern from the frame and puzzle pieces.
8 Lightly sand the frame and puzzle pieces.
9 Cut another 1/8 inch thick piece of plywood that will form the back of the puzzle (i.e. the bottom of the tray). Lightly sand this board.
10 Glue the tray bottom to the bottom of the frame.
11 Apply a sanding sealer to all the puzzle and tray parts and lightly sand with 320 grit sandpaper.
12 Paint the puzzle with toy safe acrylic paint and apply a clear top coat of lacquer.

13 Mail puzzle to subject grandchild and wait for kudos!!

craftsbyjennyskip.com parrot puzzle
parrot puzzle (with Grayzie the cat in background)

Selfie-Tote

One last post for Selfish Sewing Week

Funny how one must proclaim it a special “selfish” holiday in order to justify making something for oneself…

I like making things for others but…

1) I don’t have a lot of confidence about my talents and abilities, and

2) It’s risky to spend a lot of time and money on something that the other person might not like or appreciate.

However, if I make something for myself,

1) If it looks crummy or I just don’t like it, my feelings aren’t hurt, and

2) I don’t worry about sending my gift off to Goodwill or the Island of Unloved Toys, Etc.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I did cut out an additional top: finished, and ok, but nothing spectacular. And I had cut out some pieces for a purse, tote, whatever you want to call it.

This item I made from scratch. No pattern, just knew sort of what I wanted it to look like, and went from there.

The body is an old denim remnant I got anciently at a yard sale.

purse making jenny skip.com
assembling the various parts and pieces

The liner is Willow Bend Bandana from the Alexander Henry Fabrics Collection c 2006 (ahem, yes, it has been in the stash that long).

bandana fabric craftsbyjennyskip.com
Willow Bend fabric for liner

The knit portion on the outside is half Picasso’s Moon art yarn and half red Mei Mei Bamboo in a circular stockinette.

denim and knitted tote craftsbyjennyskip.com
finished tote

The straps are from Cindy’s Button Company. I found a 1/2 yard remnant of Pellon Flexible Foam Stabilizer in the interfacing stash that was just the right dimensions to line the body, and used some plastic needlepoint canvas to line the bottom and top rim.

plastic needlepoint canvas as stabilizer
stabilizing the bottom

A small red zipper showed up in the zipper stash, and a packet of red bias binding provided the edging for an inner purse pocket and 4 loops to attach the leather straps.

purse lining craftsbyjennyskip
lining has a zipper pocket and a bound-edge pocket
tote bag bottom view craftsbyjennyskip.com
bottoms-up view

Had this idea in my head for years, but it took a designated Selfish Sewing Week to bring it into the real world. Thank you Rachael at imagine gnats for your inspiration!

Selfish Sewing

Um, yes…I do recall posting late last week that Selfish Sewing Week was coming up…now it’s almost over and I still haven’t done any sewing for myself. Pretty lame!

In my defense, I have been planning some projects…but haven’t carried out those plans to fruition yet (as of Thursday morning). We’ll have to remedy that.

Here’s what I planned:

1) Camel Ponte Roma & microsuede skirt

2) rayon blouse to match

3) black & gold boucle knit sweater

4) white embroidered cotton shirt

5) brown stretch jacquard lace skirt

6) white crushed voile top lined with white Posh polyester

7) denim & knitted art yarn purse with red leather handles

8) either a skirt or top in a leopard print

9) something out of that teal and gold plaid-printed jersey

10) rayon slip-dress

Have you stopped laughing yet? Looks like a tall order!

sketches craftsbyjenny skip.com
sketching the plan

But since I wrote down this list yesterday morning, I’ve already made the first two items and cut out the fabric for 2 other items. Each little project is economical in that I used fabric remnants. Sometimes it’s a challenge to come up with something wearable from a piece of fabric that is less than a yard.

#1: Camel Ponte Roma/microsuede skirt. The pattern for this is one I made, using an old skirt I bought at Beall’s Outlet, and tracing around it. I found two remnant bundles at JoAnn’s that were the same color: Camel, Cornstalk, or beige. Ponte Roma is always awesome, and to pair it with a faux Suede, seems timely!

#2: Rayon 1-yard top. This pattern was a freebie from Runway Sewing; I scoped it out on Pinterest. I didn’t have any 1/4″ bias binding around to apply to the neckline, so I used some 1/2″, and I didn’t like it all that much. And the neckline itself was way too big, resulting in a very sloppy look. I took a great big tuck in the front, making it look a bit like the Colette Sorbetto top, also a freebie pattern. You might wonder, “Why didn’t she just use the Sorbetto then?” The sleeveless Sorbetto is a little skimpy for me. I like my shoulders to be covered.

skirt & top jenny skip
Selfish Sewing Week skirt & top

So I wasn’t a total no-show for Selfish Sewing Week. I’ll be relieved to get back to non-apparel sewing, though.

a Wooden Root Beer Tote

As we experiment with 21st century technology, we find that unless we put a lot of our 50-year plus brain cells to work, this new technology will often move us backward, in lieu of forward, with our craft. In keeping with our blog’s theme, we decided to take a 19th century brew and apply a 21st century twist to it.

We love root beer. One of our children really loves root beer (at one time he actually placed 99 bottles of root beer on a ledge in our kitchen). Another son spent 2 years in the UK, where there’s not much root beer for sale. We bought some 2-liter plastic bottles of Mug Root Beer from Wal-Mart and spent about 10 times the price of the soda to ship it over to him. While my wife set out to explore the history of our favorite root beer, IBC root beer, I set out to construct a beer-of-the-root tote.

Many of my favorite You Tube woodworkers have designed and produced beer totes on their channels. Not being a beer drinker, in the purist sense, I’m not sure why you really need a beer tote. From what I have seen, beer bottles usually come from the store in a nice cardboard tote. In fact, even our IBC root beer comes in a nice cardboard tote. But I digress… on to the application of 21st technology to construct a wooden root beer tote.

As luck would have it, I found a CNC model of a beer tote on the Vectic web site. The model was complete and provided the g-code to run our Shark 3.0HD CNC machine. The model called for a 24-inch x 24-inch board, in my case a piece of 0.45 inch thick Baltic plywood. I anchored the board to a sacrificial board on the CNC machine, loaded the g-code and pressed go.

Shark CNC making beer tote jenny skip
ready to be cut out

As a side note, I did check out the tool paths to make sure I had the correct router bit installed, a ¼-inch end mill, and that I had the right cutting depth set for the plywood used. When the CNC machine had done its job, I separated the pieces and performed a dry fit.

beer tote parts cut out by CNC
parts and pieces cut out

This is where my lack of close attention to details caught up with me. First, I had somehow neglected to include the cutouts for the wedges that were designed to hold the tote together. This problem could be overcome with some strategically placed glue. So after a dry fit , I added a little glue, sanded the tote and applied a coat of white primer in preparation for my wife’s 19th century enhancements.

parts of beer tote
parts prepped for assembly

However (the eraser word) another synapse short-circuit became apparent when I tested the fit of the IBC root beer bottles. They didn’t fit!!! Evidently they are larger in diameter than an average beer bottle. After some serious hammer applications and some significant trial and error with the oscillating spindle sander, the bottles fit. The tote was reassembled and a coat of red, white and blue paint was applied. My wife added the finishing touches.

CVC root beer tote jenny skip
the tote

Root beer was popular in 19th Century North America. A tourist back then could find root beer throughout the country, but it wouldn’t necessarily be the same drink from town to town. The root used to make the concoction might be sarsaparilla, burdock, dandelion, or sassafras (real sassafras roots and bark were banned by the FDA in 1960 so now artificial sassafras flavoring is used). A foaming agent could be added, along with spices such as hops, anise, ginger, or many other choices or combinations (see Wikipedia’s article for the whole story).

We remember having homemade root beer at Halloween parties in the days of our youth, made memorable with the addition of dry ice, so it looked like a smoky, spooky potion! If you’re feeling adventurous, you might want to try Dr. Fankhouser’s Homemade Root Beer tutorial. It’s powerful stuff, so take care!

Root beer? Check. Root beer tote? Check. Now we have to figure out where to tote the root beer.

It’s Fall, Y’all

So we’ve been thinking about Fall home decor and Halloween hi-jinks. If you want to see some fascinating history about how modern-day Halloween celebrations have evolved since medieval times, check out this History Channel page.

Meanwhile, one of our two cats, Grayzie, had to go back to the Vet Specialist to get a second radiation treatment to burn out his thyroid, because apparently the first treatment didn’t work. Like before, he went and stayed at the vet hospital for about 5 days, until his radioactivity levels lowered enough for us to take him home. When he got home, the other cat, Pauly, hissed at him and treated him like–well, like a dog. Like he was a total stranger. We worked with them on that, rubbed Pauly, then Grayzie, down with a pair of dad’s dirty old socks (which they love to snog) and got that hissing back down to a minimum. But for a joke, we found this prop at the hardware store and put it out for Pauly, to see how she reacted.

cat skeleton jennyskip
“Grayzie, is that you?”

We had a lot of laughs with this photo; if you can come up with a funny caption you’d like to submit, please leave a comment!

Machine Embroidery Finish

Finished reversible table runner with an everyday side and a holiday-ish side.

quilted table runner
every day machine-quilted table runner
machine-quilted holiday table runner jenny skip
holiday side of runner

The design on the every day side was “traced” using the machine’s 2mm satin stitch, and free-motion settings. I feel that my machine’s specialty stitches are underused, so I wanted to try out one for this project. For stitching the outer border, the feed dogs were turned back on, and the machine’s star stitch was used.

star machine stitch jenny skip
close-up of star-stitch border

Finished just in time for Fall Selfish Sewing Week, It’s also the final wrap-up of National Sewing Month. Not sure if Selfish Sewing Week is a widespread phenom. I’d never heard of it before, but I do like the notion of it! Sometimes I don’t feel justified just sewing for myself, which is a little crazy, because there isn’t a lot of feedback generated from folks to whom I’ve given home-sewn gifts. Or the feedback isn’t overwhelmingly positive. If I sew something for myself and I end up hating it, it doesn’t hurt my feelings. If I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing it in public, there’s no visible shame, there’s no ongoing question. There’s no wondering if the other person received it in the mail, or getting the same package returned from the postal worker three months later.

What would you plan to sew if you were participating in Selfish Sewing Week? Something trendy?
Elle

Glamour

Vogue

Burda

Something for the home?

Etsy Fall Tutorials

Something for relaxation?

Spa Gift Patterns

Something to show your team spirit?

Go Gators! Etsy Offerings

The week’s wide open!

P.S. 23 December 2015

The more I looked at the finished table runner, the more that yellow binding around it didn’t agree with me. So I ripped it off and re-sewed metallic gold seam binding on the edge instead.

table runner, machine embroidery hack
everyday side with gold binding
machine embroidery hack with gold metallic binding
Christmas-y side, with gold-bound edges

Knitting, Always

Knitting is in my blood. I learned how (English method) from a grandmother when I was about nine, then never really developed that skill until I retired, a few years ago. My other grandmother, who was born in England and came to the US as a teenager, was an accomplished knitter. Her husband, my grandfather, was a descendant of Catalyntje Tricaud, originally of France but living in Holland to escape religious persecution, and who came to America in the 1600’s. Some sources say that Tricaud came from a family of specialty weavers. Perhaps the name Tricaud is a variation of tricot, from the French “to knit” and in English, a special type of knit fabric.

If you had to classify the degree of technicality of the types of knitting, probably machine knitting would be the most high-tech. We haven’t ventured into the world of knitting machines, probably because I don’t know all I want to know about hand-knitting yet. Most knitters I’ve met are pretty passionate about the type of knitting they like best: English method, Continental method, loom knitting…

Then again, the most low-tech method would be hand-knitting on regular old wooden knitting needles, do you agree? And you could be knitting with your own hand-spun yarn from your own sheep’s fleece, that you made into batts and spun on a drop-spindle.

My variety of knitting probably comes in as medium-tech. I bought this yarn at Hobby Lobby, on sale, and it was already intended to be made into a hat. The necessary amount of yarn was wrapped around a cardboard tube, with the knitting pattern attached on back of the label, and a big pre-fab pompon was stashed in the tube, so that when the yarn was all knitted up the pompon would be freed up to attach. The yarn, Keppi Sparkle, colorway Orange Fizz, was a mixture of lots of different types of fibers all together in a continuous strand, so it was self-striping.

Kepi hat kit skip jenny
Keppi Sparkle knitted hat kit

Rather than the traditional double-pointed needles (which usually spell disaster for klutzy me) I used a more medium-tech circular needle.

knitting needles jennyskip
medium-tech circular needle and yarn needle

This whole project was easy and quick. Meanwhile, I’m on another more complex knitting project, and I just took a break to zip through something rewardingly speedy.

knit hat craftsbyjennyskip.com
Keppi Sparkle hat in Orange Fizz

Machine Embroidery Hack

This project is the second of a number of winter holiday quilts I intend to make for gifts this year.

Defining Quilting, Wikipedia writes that in America in the early 19th Century, the type of quilting done was whole cloth rather than pieced assembly. Piecework quilting would have been a thrifty pursuit, using up smaller bits of cloth. But colonial seamstresses were also able to employ thrift in the whole cloth quilts by using old blankets as batting in between layers of cloth and sewing through.

This small quilt, slated to be a tabletop runner or a wall decoration, is pretty much a whole cloth quilt, except for the addition of a couple of strips on the sides of the red panel, to make it an even match to the reverse side.

Like the colonial quilters, I decorated the whole cloth with an embroidery design. Except I “embroidered” with the sewing machine, using a 2mm satin stitch that is loose in some areas, tight in others. I switched the feed dogs’ normal setting to “free motion spring action” so that the fabric could be moved around under the needle in whatever direction I needed to sew. Then I attached the free-motion spring-action foot (I tried the plain free-motion foot first and didn’t like it a whole lot. The spring-action foot is much better). So this is not one of those machine embroideries that stitched out an automated pattern inside a fixed hoop, it’s all free-motion sewing using the machine’s satin stitch setting. A narrow zig-zag could be used with a similar effect.

To add a special holiday touch, I used gold metallic thread. I’ve had problems with metallic thread shredding during machine embroidery, but this time I wised up and used a special metallic thread needle, and it worked pretty good most of the time.

gold thread and metallic needles, craftsbyjennyskip.com
needle and thread

With a nod to the thrift and industry of our colonial forbears, I used fabric remnants for the front and back whole cloth components, with the green and black strips on the side from a Robert Kaufman Kona cotton roll-up (2 1/2″ x 44″ strips in Dark Colorstory). Love being thrifty! Love to see a cast-off roll of fabric in the remnant bin and wonder what can be done with just that one lone little piece?

Skip looked at the embroidery and said “Wow! Where did you come up with that beautiful design?”

metallic design, craftsbyjennyskip,.com
machine “embroidered” whole cloth

I just turned the little quilt over and said, “Here,” and showed him the motif on the reverse, which I had just traced over with the machine needle, and it duplicated the design on the opposite side in bobbin thread.

tracing design machine embroidery
reverse side

Are you also working on holiday gift items? September’s almost over…

Give That Man a Cigar (pen)–Part 2

The stabilized cigar halves sat around the house for several days because it rained…and also, the main participant in the project broke his ankle.  Once the boot was installed on his broken pin, and the weather cleared up for a few hours, the cigar pen project was back in play.

craftsbyjennyskip.com drilling out cigar
drilling out the center of the cigar half

First step was to drill out the centers of the cigar pieces, to make room for brass tubes from the pen kit.

craftsbyjennyskip.com sanding pen tubes
sanding the outsides of the brass pen tubes

Next, putting a little “tooth” on the outside surfaces of the brass pen tubes by sanding with 80 grit Abranet, so they adhere better when they’re glued inside the cigar pieces.

craftsbyjennyskip.com gluing pen
gluing up

Next, gluing the brass pen tubes into the drilled-out centers of the cigar pieces.

craftsbyjennyskip.com cigar pen
brass tube is going to fit in this slot
craftsbyjennyskip.com sanding cigar pen
sanding ends of cigar to flush with the brass tubes

The cigar halves, with their glued-in brass tubes, are then sanded on the disk sander until the ends are even with the outer edges of the brass tubes.

craftsbyjennyskip.com turning cigar on a lathe
the cigar halves are then mounted on the lathe and trimmed

The cigar pieces are slid onto a pen mandrel and mounted onto a lathe to be turned and trimmed using a Rockler round carbide mini turning tool.

craftsbyjennyskip.com cigar pen
shaping the cigar pen

Next, many applications of 1) thin CA glue and 2) spray-on accelerator, then sanding with more Abranet from 80 grit to 600 grit.

craftsbyjennyskip.com Abranet
sequence of Abranet from 80 grit to 600 grit
craftsbyjennyskip.com friction polish
application of high friction polish, then glue

After several coats of high-friction polish, then several coats of thick CA glue were applied, to fill in lots of little divots and voids that were chipped out by the turning tool. Even though the cigar was stabilized with resin, it wasn’t completely smooth and rock-hard. It was very chippy. The final finessing step is wet sanding with a series of water-soaked sanding pads in grits 600 to 20,000.

craftsbyjennyskip.com wet sanding pen barrel
wet sanding for the final finessing
craftsbyjennyskip.com pressing pen
pressing the pen parts into place

The rest of the pen parts from the kit are pressed into place.

craftsbyjennyskip.com cigar pen
finished cigar pen

There, a cigar that isn’t bad for your health! Maybe next time we’ll get a Cuban cigar and see if it turns out any different.

Making Flying Objects to Help Make-a-Wish Foundation

One of my YouTube heroes, Steve Ramsey of Woodworking for Mere Mortals, has just started a campaign to support the Make-a-Wish Foundation, entitled Makers Care. This campaign was inspired by the need to provide transportation for children to support their wish. Steve will donate $5 for every picture submitted of an airplane made (up to $2000 I think), to MakersCare.org. Corporate sponsors are matching his donation. In addition, the website also provides a vehicle for anyone to donate to this cause, and offers random prizes for participation throughout the campaign. Thanks, Steve, for all you do to inspire woodworkers and for supporting our many ill children that have so many needs!
Our submittal is shown below. They aren’t planes but they do represent a method of transporting not only corporate executives (even presidential hopefuls), but also our troops, rescuers, medical transport, etc. So hopefully Steve will accept our photo contribution. Just in case, we are making a donation through Makers Care. If you are reading this blog, please support this effort… you will bring so much joy to the lives of these children!!

wooden toys
helicopter toys made from wood scraps

The wood for these toys came from my cut-off bin, and I used non-toxic acrylic paint. These toys are for designed for kids age 4 and older.

Using current technology to create 19th Century crafts