First Anniversary Preparation

Elaborate schemes are the norm for my romantic occasions with Rachel.. usually I'm assisted in my plotting by Denise (and provide reciprocal plotting aid). However, this year's anniversary was somewhat more ambitious than most occasions -- not only because it was such a special one but because we would be apart for the surrounding months! So, I got help from Denise and a whole gaggle of others.. and I took pictures! (This is normally anathema to me.)

Anyway, I planned a particularly full day of events for us and centered the day around my present to Rachel: a hand-made jigsaw puzzle with a built-in picture frame. These photos detail some of the work involved in creating the puzzle. (Almost all the work was done in Mike's shed.)

Plans and Ruminations
With Jacob's help, I sketched out preliminary plans for how to cut the puzzle. Initially these plans were greatly complicated by my intention to cut a puzzle with a diagonal larger than 16" (the throat size of my saw). Jacob pointed out a method to do this and together we worked out the details. Just make a middle cut (with puzzle edges/tabs) all the way across the puzzle, cutting in half the longer side. If I were not making a modern-style interlocking puzzle, this would not have been a problem (or not as much of one, at least). In the end, the puzzle had a 14 + epsilon" diagonal: no problem.
The Shot
After making several different sizes of enlargements from several photos, I settled on this one with Mike's help. This one had an appropriate area to cut the picture frame and sufficient visual interest. Mike predicted that the flaws (specks of dust on the slide when it was enlarged) in the shot would not be visible after cutting the puzzle, and he was right.
Starting Out
Mike kindly took a shot of me displaying the tools.
The Pristine Pusher
When I learned to use a band saw, the first piece I cut was a "pusher": a piece of wood with a flat, canted face and grips. You use it to push wood through a table saw (or other saw) when the piece is too small to use your fingers. The saw cuts right through the pusher, but that's better than your fingers! So, the first piece I cut on the scroll saw was the same. (For picky folks, the face is at an angle which is not nearly obtuse enough wrt the bottom of the pusher to be useful. However, since you really don't need a pusher for a scroll saw, this was never an issue.)
Mike Cuts a Fine Figure (even close up)
Mike did some cutting after I convinced him of how fun it is. I only charged him 25 cents! These shots show what it looks like to actually use the scroll saw.
Action Routing
The router was used to create the picture frame. I actually made the frame first, but I had more fun with the scroll saw; so, the routing picture got demoted to here.
Broken Blade
I went through only three blades in the course of making these puzzles (since then, I've chewed through blades much faster; partly because I moved to thinner blades and more exotic blades -- like spiral blades -- partly because I'm less patient!). When they break, it's generally a surprise but not dangerous because a scroll saw blade is held on both sides. Still, I'm glad I was wearing Mike's biking goggles.
Three Puzzles: Mike's (partly cut), Denise's (jigged for sanding), and Rachel's (being disassembled for stowage)
These are the three puzzles I cut before the anniversary.

Mike's is partly done, and you can see the incomplete cut where the blade broke in the wood. Restarting these cuts smoothly can be difficult.

Denise's is finished and inverted for sanding. Sanding individual pieces was a nightmare, but once I started jigging the puzzles tightly and sanding the whole thing together, it worked great! You can see the D-shaped figural pieces (a pair) in Denise's puzzle.

Rachel's is finished, sanded, and marked. I wrote a message on the back of each puzzle. At this point, I was piling the pieces to go in their separate bags and also just generally fingering them to work out the sawdust.

I delivered all the puzzles (well, except Mike's) in dyed felt bags that were made for board game pieces. The card in the background was the anniversary card for Rachel. The pictures on the right are of Rachel and me and of Fauna NMI Xerxon, terror beast, monster of doom, horrifying death creature, and slightly frumpy, chicken-hearted house cat.
Th-th-th-that's All, Folks
The finished puzzle, assembled.