Puzzle 824 - Colorful Thin Cloud Sunset

By Custom Puzzle Craft

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Puzzle #824 - Colorful Thin Cloud Sunset

This puzzle celebrates Milton Bradley's cutting style I call Grid Line. Milton Bradley used this style for several years in their 1000 piece Big Ben puzzles I think mostly in the late 1950's. The webpage contains my definitive discussion about this cutting style.

As it happened (from my Journal archives)

Wednesday 8:41 pm - Finally! The write-up is done, the auction launched.

March 24, 2009

Tuesday 5:34 pm - I have decided that I'm going to cut the next puzzle to be auctioned in my Grid Line style, a style I've used just once before within the 100 Puzzles Project, back in June 2004. While grid cut style puzzles are generally scorned in the wooden jigsaw puzzle collector community, I've always felt that the Grid Line variation is cool and adds difficulty and interest to the work. I am leaving Friday for a trip to Philadelphia for my Mother's birthday and by sad coincidence, the funeral of my only Aunt. I'll be returning at the end of the month and plan to immediately go about starting work on this puzzle. While the puzzle will be of a sunset picture I took, the picture will not be the one I mentioned it would be some time ago. I'll show the picture when I complete the work.

April 2, 2009

Thursday 6:02 pm - I thought I was going to get to the design of the "line-grid" template for the next puzzle, but I didn't get to it. Will do tomorrow.

April 4, 2009

Saturday 2:21 pm - I have chosen the image to be used for this month's eBay puzzle: a San Diego sunset. The puzzle will be about 21.4 by 12.3 inches in size and will contain 527 "grid line" cutting style pieces (arranged in a 31 x 17 grid). This will result in a puzzle piece size very close to the old 1000 piece Milton Bradley "Big Ben" puzzles. I've prepared a raw grid and now need to design the details indicating every knob and line within the structure - something that will take quite a bit of time. I plan to peck away at the design this weekend as well as prepare the board, print and mount. Cutting will take place next week with my goal to launch the auction this coming Friday.

April 5, 2009

Sunday 5:14 pm - In an all day marathon I've completed the Grid Line cutting style template for puzzle #824, tentatively titled Colorful Thin Cloud Sunset. The template consists of a mixture of knobs and straight lines conforming to a set of rules that I derived from a careful study of an old Milton Bradley 1000 Piece Big Ben puzzle I have. I'll have some discussion of the rules in the auction write-up and subsequent webpage for this puzzle.

As I was sitting in front of a computer all day, I'm not going to do much work tomorrow as I need to get outside - the weather is nice. I expect to have the board prepared, the puzzle's image printed and mounted, and the cutting template printed by Tuesday afternoon. I plan to cut the puzzle Wednesday and Thursday and launch the auction on Friday.

April 7, 2009

Tuesday 10:53 pm - Yesterday I prepared the board for #824 and today printed and mounted the puzzle's image. Unfortunately there is light drizzle this evening and I'm not able to apply the necessary fixative / acrylic spray as I do this work outside. I made another small change to the grid design, I'll display the updated design when I auction the puzzle.

April 8, 2009

Wednesday 6:30 pm - Cutting of #824, Colorful Thin Cloud Sunset, is underway.

The Grid Line cutting style requires more detailed template work (maintaining position on the board) than regular grid, as in regular grid there is less precision required. The Grid Line cutting style (although not named as such) was used in Milton Bradley's Big Ben cardboard puzzles cut in the 1950's. Other than the small ones I've cut in this style, I have not seen any other puzzles cut this way since then. I think it is very possible that #824 will be the first puzzle cut in this style, with over 500 pieces, in 50 years! Cutting is going very well although I did make one tiny "back up" error in the early going.

While I have some other things to attend to tomorrow, I expect to complete the puzzle by late afternoon.

April 9, 2009

Thursday 10:55 pm - Today I completed #824, Colorful Thin Cloud Sunset.

The puzzle is superb, I feel that I captured the essence of the Milton Bradley Big Ben "Grid Line" style. The knobs are a bit bigger, but I am very pleased with this work. The puzzle is still at the shop, I need to sand the back and take formal pictures. I haven't decided if I'll put tung oil on the back.

I was planning to launch the auction tomorrow, but have decided to delay the auction until next week. The reason for the delay is that I want to do a detailed write-up about the Grid Line style. I've decided I need to assemble one of my old Big Ben 1000 piece puzzles to get some photographs other than one partial one I have (see below).

April 11, 2009

Saturday 6:37 pm - It is taking me longer than anticipated to assemble a Big Ben 1000 piece puzzle in the Grid Line style! The auction will take place sometime next week.

April 12, 2009

Sunday 10:24 pm - I completed assembling the Big Ben 1000 piece puzzle and decided to assemble an ever earlier Big Ben, one from the 1940's that I purchased from Bob Armstrong but never assembled - I wanted to see if I could get insight into the evolution of the MB Grid Line style as the cutting style is different. Due to the unique way the pieces were cut I have made rapid progress with this one despite a difficult picture. I now expect to have my write up completed and the auction launched by Tuesday afternoon

Tomorrow I'll go to the shop to sand #824 and apply a couple coats of tung oil.

April 13, 2009

Monday 10:27 am - I completed the second Big Ben puzzle, will work on the write up today.

April 14, 2009

Tuesday 5:07 pm - The auction has been delayed until tomorrow. I've decided I want to assemble the puzzle beforehand to see how it compares to the Milton Bradley puzzle. Yesterday I sanded the back and applied a couple coats of tung oil. Puzzle looks great.

From the auction description:

This month's auction features a puzzle I made in tribute to what I am calling Milton Bradley's 1000 Piece Big Ben Jigsaw Puzzle Grid Line cutting style ("MB Grid Line" for short).

After presenting the pictures and description of this month's puzzle, I present a discussion of early Big Ben puzzles and why I cut this puzzle the way I did. For those who scoff at "grid cut" style puzzles, please read on, there may be something of interest here!

A section of Colorful Thin Cloud Sunset, highlighting the cutting style
Picture taken with flash

Almost every sky piece is a different color!
And many pieces pretending to be edges and corners!

Features of the MB Grid Line cutting style

Cut using 5-ply Appleply (Maple exterior and Birch interior)

This puzzle does not include my standard signature piece as I wanted the puzzle to be 100% in the MB Grid Line style, so I chose one piece to sign, date and number and a second piece to mark indicating the puzzle belongs to the 100 Puzzles Project.

This puzzle is nearly flawless, there is one tiny "back up" error affecting one piece.

Note: I cut my jigsaw puzzles using a scroll saw, hand guiding the wood into the blade, this is not a laser or water jet cut puzzle. Of course, for this puzzle, I did use a template, one of my own design. My puzzles cover fantasy, landscapes, my geometric patterns, famous paintings, mythology - a diverse spectrum of the human condition and more.

Special Notice: I am now in "deeper retirement" as far as making puzzles is concerned. I will continue the 100 Puzzle Project until it is completed, but I am not accepting any orders at this time, continuing at least into autumn.

Shipping cost within the U.S. via 3-Day FedEx is $14.00; via Priority Mail is $7.00. Contact me regarding international rates. I accept payment via PayPal, and if eBay doesn't block it, by Money Order, Cashier's Check or Personal Check. California residents add 8.75% sales tax. I'll ship to anywhere in the world.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - Early Milton Bradley Big Ben 1000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzles Discussion - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
With reference to the puzzle being auctioned

The Big Ben puzzles are die cut cardboard puzzles, and have changed a lot over the years. I assembled quite a few of these in my pre-teen and early teen years.

The cutting style used for the Milton Bradley Big Big 1000 Piece jigsaw puzzles, as mentioned, has changed over the years.

First Generation

The earliest style, I believe used mostly in the 1940's, was a combination of push fit and interlocking with the non-interlocking sides consisting of wavy lines. These puzzles had 945 pieces, cut in a 35 by 27 grid, and measured about 28" x 22" (about 1.53 pieces per square inch). These puzzles pre-date my Big Ben puzzle years and I only recently became aware of them. It is the second style that I'm keenly interested in. I recently assembled a first generation Big Ben to get possible insights into the second generation style.

First Generation Milton Bradley Big Ben 1000 Piece Puzzle
All of the edge pieces have a knob extending to their right, forming a counter-clockwise pattern.

Each pair of horizontal row cuts were cut in the exact same die pattern, making for some tricky assembly errors:

Something's wrong here!


The problem with this cutting style is that I soon figured out that the style was highly regular, and I ended up sorting the pieces by shape and was able to rapidly make the puzzle in less than a day, bypassing all of the other tricky instances in the layout.

Not my favorite puzzle!

First Generation grid layout
The two white pieces are replacement pieces made by Bob Armstrong (see Old Puzzles com)
The 5th, 9th, 13th, 17th and 21st rows are "spine" rows with "pipe" pieces connecting, and the "pipes" connected to "caps".
The remaining spaces are squares.

Second Generation

I do not know of any place on the web where the cutting styles for the Milton Bradley Big Ben 1000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzles are documented. My guess is the second generation was introduced sometime in the early 1950's and discontinued perhaps around 1960. The third and subsequent generations have a higher degree of interlocking, do not have interior straight lines, and are not a subject of this write-up. Starting with the third generation cutting style, the Big Ben puzzle boxes have the word "Interlocking" on them.

I've always really liked the cutting style of the second generation Big Ben puzzles and I recall wanting to design puzzles like this! When I was in my early teens I actually cut a 40 piece wooden jigsaw puzzle using 3/4" pine wood (with a picture of a flying saucer drawn on the wood with crayons) with a coping saw with this style in mind! Alas this puzzle does not exist anymore.

The design of the Second Generation grid layout fixed some of the problems of the First Generation.

1) The grid size was increased to 36 by 28 pieces, bringing the total to 1008, much closer to the number on the front of the box! The cardboard was a bit thinner and the puzzle piece size reduced slightly, the puzzles were 28" x 20.5" (about 1.76 pieces per square inch).

2) The annoying squares with no knobs were eliminated.

3) The layout of the pieces was now irregular, making it impossible to rapidly assemble the puzzle sequentially by puzzle piece shape.

All of the puzzle piece sides without knobs were now cut with straight edges. The layout of the pieces was creatively arranged so that crosses and other shapes appeared within the overall design. The puzzle was much harder and more interesting to assemble!

Second Generation Milton Bradley Big Ben 1000 Pieces Puzzle
Like the first generation of the edge pieces have a knob extending to their right.

Second Generation cutting pattern

Detail of another Second Generation Big Ben 1000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle
I first put this togeter when I was 9

Analysis I did in year 2000 (view from front) - Milton Bradley Big Ben 1000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle (1008 pieces!)

Analysis of shapes formed by straight lines I did in year 2000 (view from front)

The puzzle I'm auctioning here was cut in tribute to this Second Generation style. A 1008 piece grid style puzzle cut with this kind of precision with a scroll saw would be a formidable task. Still I aimed pretty high, and designed a 527 piece layout grid (31 by 17 grid) to go with a nice sunset photograph I had taken. The pieces are a little smaller (about 1.96 pieces per square inch).

As a company, Custom Puzzle Craft, I have made about a dozen puzzles in "Grid Line" but these were not in the Milton Bradley Big Ben style. So to differentiate this puzzle, I'm formally naming the style I'm using for this puzzle "MB Grid Line". In the MB Grid Line, a piece can only have one "in" knob, because the knobs are very large in relationship to the size of the puzzle piece.

I auctioned this puzzle, Lone Cypress, Pebble Beach, in June 2004 as the 36th puzzle of the 100 Puzzles Project

The Lone Cypress, Pebble Beach puzzle was cut in my Grid Line style. This does not qualify as a MB Grid Line puzzle as the knobs of the edges do not all go in one direction, and many pieces have two "in" knobs, where in the MB Grid Line style, only one is allowed.

My "regular" Grid style has a wavy cut
Custom puzzle, 30" x 20" cut in October 2002

Abstract rendering of template used for this month's puzzle
I made the outer knobs go clockwise just to be different!

Shape Analysis I did today for the puzzle being auctioned (view from front)
I incorporated quite a few of the effects found in the MB puzzle - including the instance of a two piece rectangle!

One thing I have discovered since cutting this month's puzzle is that in the Milton Bradley Second Generation analysis, I found that no two adjacent pieces may have knobs extending in the same direction! In my puzzle I think there are two instances of that. There is a lot more to talk about, but that's it for know. This stuff is incredibly obscure and maybe a half dozen people on the planet are even mildly interested. If you want to know a whole lot more really obscure info about this stuff invite me over!

One more thing about the puzzle being auctioned..... the puzzle is too simple to put together! The sky has so many colors that the super fine color gradation makes it very easy to find adjacent pieces despite all of the straight lines. I assembled the puzzle last night - still there were a few areas that I had to pause, well for a few seconds. The puzzle is a very cool work.

Colorful Thin Cloud Sunset
Photo by John S. Stokes III
Date Completed
April 9, 2009
22 1/8" x 12 1/8"
Cutting Style
Milton Bradley Grid Line
# Pieces
Color Line Cutting

© John S. Stokes III - Puzzle Crafter & Webmaster

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