This puzzle has around 150 pieces -- all freehand -- including several "figurals": pieces with a thematic shape. The figurals are Rachel's and my initials (R, P, S, W, and one A for both of us; the A is essentially invisible on the right-hand border in this picture).
The picture on the puzzle was taken on Fuji 400 speed slide film (Corey suggested 100 speed slide film to me and I forgot the number!). I blew it up at The Cambridge Framery with a slide printing tool and printed it out at 8"x12". (I also had 2 alternate photos blown up out of the 36 slides I took.) The wood is 1/4" hardwood plywood from Home Depot (the tools came from there). Home Depot was super helping me plan [Ernst et al., 1997] the project, but they got all the cut sizes for my wood wrong; fortunately, I changed the picture size at the last minute and one of the cuts was close enough to the new picture size to work.
The attractive little bags used to hold the puzzle pieces came from Games People Play, a game store in Harvard Square that is so cool that I'm convinced it alone would convince my Woommate to move to Boston. Therefore, he must never know about it! (Wob, if you're reading this, the game store is really in Seattle!)
For my current puzzles, I go to a local hardware store (on Mass Ave and Rindge, can't remember the name) for blades; they have 0.010" width blades (the thinner the better!) as well as various blades for reducing chipping on the back of the puzzle. Better yet, they have the "grotesquely thick" (as Mike calls them) 0.033" kerf spiral blades. These are wonders of science as they allow me to cut the wood in any direction.. why does that matter? Well, if you think hard, you'll realize that that allows me to cut arbitrarily large puzzles instead of being limited to (modulo some tricks) puzzles with a 16" diagonal. For wood, I go to a local plywood company -- Boulter's, I think, on Broadway in far eastern Somerville. They have 1/8" Baltic Birch plywood which is both higher quality and thinner than the stuff I worked with previously. (Oh, and way more expensive!)
The upper left section was cut last, and the difficulty and intricacy of the pieces reflects that fact, I think (for example, note the two fake edge pieces in that section). The picture frame was cut first. I started the rectangular viewing window with a single 1/4" routed hole and then cut it with my thickest scroll saw blade (something like 0.04"). Then, I set set my plunge router's bit depth to about 5/32" and, using some careful if ad hoc jigs (thanks to last minute clamp purchases at Masse's Hardware on Walden and Sherman in Cambridge), I routed a pit all around the window from the back of the puzzle. The pit is large enough to fit a 4x6" picture with a bit of play, but the window is too small: presto! picture frame. As a final touch, I used the wood chisel to even out the corners of the window. I bought an ultra-cheap frame and scavenged the glass, backing, and tabs (what's the correct word for that, Denise?) to complete the frame.
There's not much to say about the cutting process itself, I leveled the scroll saw table, set the speed (for thin blades) close to its lowest setting (400 rpm), and tried stuff. Clearly, I had to be wary of cutting the tabs too thin. I might put felt lining on the hold-down foot of my saw in the future (to avoid scuffing the picture). Oh, and next time (if I remember), I'll leave a "handle" of wood that isn't part of the puzzle attached to the corner I'm cutting last. That way, I will have something large to hold on to. For this puzzle I had the picture frame!
The meal was amazing and mostly Rachel's doing. Not only did we have
incredible food including spiral pesto loaves, chickpea soup, spicy
potatoes, asparagus risotto, two kinds of homemade ice cream, Italian
sodas, and some other stuff that escapes me now; we also had beautiful
flower arrangements: flowers submerged in water beneath floating
candles in glass vases (from Dawn's wedding). It was all spectacular
and quite a fun evening! (Corey has his back to us, Anna is partly
blocked, Leo is the Finnish-looking fellow staring at the camera,
Rachel is to the right, I'm straight back, Renée had to come a few
Actually, each section has a message on the back. You can see the back of the puzzle if you like. The
picture shows all but the upper right corner and highlights my
ever-handy Super Leatherman (thanks, Dad! it's worth every 20 minute
delay at airport security! ;^).
Rachel gave me the ice cream maker early so we could use it over that weekend (she even thought to pull out the cold jacket and put it in the freezer so I could use the machine right away!). On Monday I got an Enya CD. I also got this wacky set of measuring cups/spoons. Things like 3/4 of a cup or 1.5 teaspoons. They're great!
My other present is described later at the time when I got it (at Sunset Hill Park).
For the Seattlites keeping track, I think we're still on Montlake in this shot.
This is from just afterward, getting back out to the parking lot.
Just to brag a bit, I was able to prepare every single item in Rachel's arsenal of amusement-park-wear with the exception of her contacts (I wasn't sure if she would wear contacts or glasses; so, I instructed her to prepare for either one). The only thing I forgot was a spare t-shirt for me! (My t-shirt got soaked at the water park.)
After the park, we dropped by Supermall for Rachel to have a chili cheese dog lunch (and me to call ahead for our food from Ray's Boathouse). While there in ten minutes (timed!) Rachel managed to find me not only a great new shirt but a great new shirt on deep sale! That's my wife!! :^)
Here's where I also made my biggest mistake. Blazing Saddles closes
before we could possibly have gotten back! Fortunately, Rachel came up
with a solution: we left our car parked downtown, rode the bike home,
and rode back out early enough the next morning to avoid getting
ticketed in the metered space. What I should have done was to
rent from Al's or one of the other shops within a few miles of
home. Then, I could have ridden back to return the bike myself.
While we were there, the manager took an interest in us.. possibly they don't get a lot of bicycle takeout orders! She hussled us outside for this shot.
The puzzle picture itself is a shot from Sunset Hill (as I said to Rachel in the morning "You'll recognize the picture on the puzzle by the end of the day."; she hadn't seen Sunset Hill before).
It was worth it, however. The day (and the weekend) was a fabulous experience. Rachel and I both enjoyed ourselves, and we reveled in each other's company.
Now.. how are we going to top this next year?
M. Ernst, T. Millstein, and D. Weld. "Automatic SAT-compilation of Planning Problems." In Proceedings of the Fifteenth International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, pages 1169-1176. San Francisco, CA, USA: Morgan Kaufmann, 1997.