DIY Laser Cut Puzzle

by Simona Dwass

Simona Dwass is the Makerspace Education Specialist at Fluxspace. She has a background in product design and is passionate about the benefits of hands-on learning and physical creation in the classroom.

April 8, 2022

Like many other people, I got really into puzzles during the pandemic, and decided to make my own this week. Did you know that puzzles have existed since the 18th century? The first puzzle was designed to help students learn about geography, it was made out of wood, and each piece was cut out by hand! These days, puzzles are often made of cardboard, and cut out using a process called die cutting. However, if you have access to a laser cutter, it’s not too hard to design and make your own puzzle!

Have you ever wanted to make your own puzzle?

One of my favorite parts of working at Fluxspace is our building – Fluxspace is located in a really beautiful old building that used to be a textile factory. I wanted my puzzle to capture my favorite spots at Fluxspace, so I started by walking around and taking some photos of the building. I decided to make a two sided puzzle, so I could use one photo from the inside and one from the outside of the building. I used a glue photo transfer process for this puzzle. I’ve never used this process before, and was surprised by how easy it was! I used Mod Podge, which is an acrylic based glue, because I knew it would be safe to cut with a laser cutter. When I transferred my photos, I glued them face down onto a piece of MDF. You could do this with plywood, cardboard, or even a thick piece of paper! I let my photo dry onto the wood overnight, and I stacked some books on top of it just to make sure it dried flat. Here’s where the Mod Podge magic happens – as it dries, the ink from the printer gets absorbed by the glue, sticking to the wood and sealing it so that the image and the wood are totally waterproof. The next day, I used a damp sponge to start removing the paper. This part of the process is a little time consuming, but slowly and surely the paper dissolved, revealing my image attached to the MDF! Once all the paper was gone and my image was revealed, I patted it dry and started the process all over again on the other side! Because I used a piece of MDF, my photo has a slightly sepia, vintage quality. I think it looks really cool, but next time I might start by painting the wood with white acrylic paint, so that the transferred photo is brighter and more vibrant. Finally, I had my MDF ready with the images transferred to both sides. I used Beam Studio to trace out the cut lines for the pieces. I wanted this puzzle to be pretty easy to solve, so I cut it into just 6 pieces. I drew a rectangle for the outside of the puzzle, and then three wiggly lines to separate the pieces. Using our Beam Box laser cutter, my puzzle was cut out in just about 5 minutes! There’s so much space for creativity in puzzle making! Using the photo transfer process, you can use any image in the world, or even a collage of different images! Laser cutting will let you cut the puzzle into as many pieces as you want, or you could even try something different like making a circular puzzle or a puzzle with really unique shaped pieces.

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