Puzzle 893 - Golden Dragon

By Custom Puzzle Craft

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Puzzle #893 - Golden Dragon

As it happened (from my Journal archives)

March 18, 2013

Monday 5:36 PM - I recently purchased what appears to be an original K. Chin oil painting of a dragon! The painting arrived this afternoon. I'm thinking of using this painting as the basis for this year's eBay puzzle. I'm tentatively calling the dragon painting "Yellow Dragon". The painting is 10" by 16 1/2" in size. There is some minor damage which can be fixed up in Photoshop for the auction.

March 19, 2013

Tuesday 9:32 AM - I scanned a portion of the new dragon image at 720 dots per inch and studied the image in detail, there is no doubt about the image - it is an original painting. Last night I had contact with one of K. Chin's sons, Scott. The image is new to him. He said that K. Chin did paint one other dragon he knows about with the "curly smoke" in the background and that it was also a "golden" dragon although in a horizontal orientation and without the red signature "chop mark". So I'm now naming this work Golden Dragon. The other three K. Chin dragon images I have (in lithographic form) feature dragons with five toes (four in front and one in back) on each claw, this is the first one with three in front and one in back. The Chinese Imperial dragons have the four in front while the European dragons have three in front or three total.

I am attempting to obtain a photo of the other Golden Dragon image.

I've decided Golden Dragon will be this summer's eBay puzzle. My scanner is not big enough to capture the whole work so I'll farm out the scan. I'll likely print an image somewhat larger than the original after doing some Photoshop work on it.

May 2, 2013

Thursday 8:38 PM - Dropped off the Golden Dragon painting for scanning.

May 8, 2013

Wednesday 12:46 PM - I picked up the Golden Dragon scan last Friday. I had the painting scanned at 1200 dpi with the intention of printing the image in a larger size than the painting. The scan came out with a greenish cast and those smoke circles in the background are hardly visible. None-the-less I'm going along with the scan. I was able to work the colors in Photoshop to come pretty close to the painting, the circles however will be much fainter. There are numerous tiny flicks of lint, dust, etc. in the image and I've been spending a couple hours each day on it. Also the painting itself has a couple of large marks on it which I'm cleaning up in the digital image. Overall I'm about half done. The puzzle is still scheduled for June.

I might make a print image available to K. Chin collectors, if there is any interest.

I'm tentatively thinking I'll cut the puzzle in Long Round with some scattered Creative style pieces in the large dark area surrounding the dragon. Could have a 1000 pieces.

May 16, 2013

Thursday 6:42 PM - I have done little additional work on the Golden Dragon image. I did make some more progress yesterday and today. I'm currently expecting to make the Third Annual eBay Auction puzzle, Golden Dragon in the first week of June and then launch the auction shortly thereafter.

May 31, 2013

Friday 8:08 PM - I've been heavily involved with personal family stuff in the past few weeks and haven't had time to focus on the Annual puzzle, no further progress on the Golden Dragon image. I'm expecting my time to free up substantially in the coming weeks and still expect to get the June auction off.

June 5, 2013

Wednesday 7:47 PM - My time has finally freed up and I'm now back at work on the Golden Dragon image. My focus is on the annual eBay puzzle and updates here will become more frequent.

June 9, 2013

Sunday 12:06 PM - Yesterday I completed the work on cleaning up the Golden Dragon image and this morning went to my shop to prepare the board. I'm going to print and mount the print later today. As there is quite a bit of black area around the Dragon I've decided I'm going to "do something" about it - maybe some kind of geometric design with drop-outs, words, Hexels, not decided.

June 10, 2013

Monday 6:35 PM - Yesterday I did not resume work on Golden Dragon. I did the printing today. Looks good. Will mount it tomorrow and figure out what kind of things to do in the dark spaces.

June 11, 2013

Tuesday 4:59 PM - Moving along, today I mounted Golden Dragon. Still in the press, will take it out this evening and inspect it to see how it came out. I've identified two areas in the dark sections around the Dragon where I'm going to "do something", haven't decided what, yet. Tomorrow I'll focus on coming up with something. Also not fully committed to having a straight edge border for the puzzle

June 12, 2013

Wednesday 10:09 AM - Yesterday's mount was perfect.

I did some design work addressing "what to do" in some of the dark areas last night. This morning I completed the design work. There will be "Golden Dragon" text in the lower left of the puzzle, and a geometric design based on my "V Pattern" in the upper-middle left area consisting of 60 tiny drop-out sections. The physical handling of the geometric design section while cutting it will take some planning as this area will require a lot of handling while cutting and I want to keep handling of the board to a minimum, to equalize the wear on pieces being cut. I will likely mount the section with the planned drop-outs onto a thin carrier and handle the carrier while cutting the drop-outs, as I plan to do all the drilling and cutting of the drop-outs before cutting puzzle pieces around them.

I also selected figurals for the puzzle, there will be just a few - a subset of those which have appeared in other K. Chin dragon puzzles.

In keeping with the other K. Chin dragon puzzles I've made, this puzzle will have a regular straight-edge border.

I've been thinking about sprinkling a few elaborate Creative style pieces into the puzzle, still not decided on this - if I do it will be just a few elaborate pieces in the dark areas.

Cutting starts tomorrow! It has been six months since I cut a puzzle.

June 13, 2013

Thursday 7:51 AM - Puzzle cutting will start Saturday afternoon, I decided to focus on wrapping up miscellaneous things this week, see a movie or two.

June 15, 2013

Saturday 9:24 PM - Cutting of puzzle #893, Golden Dragon, is underway! This is the first puzzle I've cut this year, been around six months, and it's as if I haven't taken any kind of break at all. Cutting Long Round style, for example, is so ingrained, it is just like walking!

I subdivided the board into five sections, isolating the section which will have 60 tiny drop-outs. I developed a carrier for that section and then drilled 60 holes and then cut 15 of the 60 drop outs. All in all about three hours of work. The work was cut short by a late afternoon tango party.

Tomorrow there is going to be a massive clean-up at Mixed Media with most members working on the project, myself included. Could take a major portion of the day. I probably won't be able to get back to cutting until Monday. My schedule next week is wide open, I expect to get the puzzle done by the end of the week and then posted on eBay shortly thereafter.

Puzzle #893 Golden Dragon - Status June 15, 2013
The missing section is shown below
The white corners were trimmed so I could do the initial cut on my favorite saw - Hegner 18" - the borders will be trimmed later

The bottom board is a "carrier"
The middle board is the production section
The top board is covering up the guidance as I don't want to reveal it yet

I nailed the production board to the carrier through the white boarder. The rest of the nails are a "fence" to keep the rest of the board from even small movements. Blank and guidance papers are taped to the production board; no tape actually touches the production image.

June 16, 2013

Sunday 4:44 PM - A lot of work was done today at Mixed Media, loading up and hauling away huge amounts of trash. Karim, and a helper of Karim, Erin and myself worked about three hours on this. After a lunch break I worked on Golden Dragon for about 2 1/2 hours, finishing the tedious drop-out section (yesterday's count was 13 not 15, all 60 are now done). Overall I'm quite pleased with how it came out and very pleased with how the carrier protected the work from stress due to the extensive handling required.

I expect to work each day this coming week until the puzzle is done. I'll sprinkle 5-10 Creative style pieces in the black areas to avoid making the puzzle excessively difficult and to add an artistic splash to the work.

Puzzle #893 Golden Dragon - Status June 16, 2013
The five sections assembled with the V Pattern drop-outs revealed
The blue at the bottom is an artifact of shop lighting, it is white

June 17, 2013

Monday 4:24 PM - Got off to a late start today on puzzle #893, Golden Dragon, due to a Pilates session which was pushed back to late morning. I did the edges, and then cut the small upper left section into about 75 pieces. There's so much black I "almost" feel guilty making such a puzzle, it's going to be quite hard to assemble! I didn't take a picture of the section after I was done (forgot), but I did take a picture of the first two pieces cut, two of the 10 or so Creative type pieces which are to be sprinkled around the puzzle. Went for the hardest Creative style piece to cut, "no fear", really to get it out of the way. I've done better, but it is OK. I've decided to cancel the idea of having "Golden Dragon" drop-out text, too corny, instead I'll add a few more figurals to the puzzle (will decide on them this evening). After I finished the first section, I subdivided the section with the "V Pattern" drop-out before calling it a day. I have nothing scheduled for Tuesday or Wednesday except puzzle cutting, I expect to make major progress on the puzzle the next two days.

First and second pieces cut today
Then cut about 73 Long Round pieces

June 18, 2013

Tuesday 6:59 PM - Procrastination cut into the time spent on #893, Golden Dragon, still made fairly good progress today cutting about 160 pieces bringing the count to about 235. I expect to increase the amount of time I spend cutting tomorrow. Cutting is going extremely well.

With all of the black areas, the puzzle is going to be very, very difficult to assemble, something I'll mention in the auction.

Puzzle #893, as of yesterday
Picture taken w/ flash

Puzzle #893, as of today, June 18, 2013, bit out of focus
Absurdly difficult

June 19, 2013

Wednesday 6:16 PM - Today I did quite a bit of cutting of puzzle #893, Golden Dragon; I was at the shop for about seven hours. The pace was a slower, I cut about 210 pieces, bringing up the total to around 445. Cutting continues to go very well, and I'm now projecting about 915 pieces. I cut the large upper right section of the puzzle and then subdivided the lower right section and did the figurals and Creative pieces for that section. I hope to get 4-5 hours of cutting in tomorrow.

I continue to think this puzzle is going to be super-extremely difficult to assemble, and will strongly word the auction to that effect. I am making all of the edge pieces interlocking to provide some assistance.

WANTED: Does anyone have Google Glass they could lend me for a few days? I'd love to document the cutting of some pieces with it adding running commentary, could be a pretty amazing video! Thing is I need it FedEx'd overnight for Friday Morning delivery! Contact me! Will pay all expenses.

Puzzle #893, Golden Dragon, as of today, June 19, 2013.
Again bit out of focus - my iPhone is not as good as the camera I use to use use for in-shop in-progress pictures

June 20, 2013

Thursday 7:49 PM - While the stock markets swooned I worked some more on puzzle #893, Golden Dragon. Picked up the pace today, I was in the groove, cut around 220 pieces in 4-5 hours, bringing the total to around 667. Cutting continues to go remarkably smoothly. I might get the puzzle cutting done tomorrow, if not, then Saturday. I'm currently expecting to launch the 3rd Annual eBay Auction Puzzle featuring this puzzle this Monday, June 23.

My efforts here and on Facebook to get a hold of Google Glass failed.

Puzzle #893, Golden Dragon, as of today, June 20, 2013

June 21, 2013

Friday 5:20 PM - I'm continuing to make good progress with puzzle #893, Golden Dragon. Today in about four hours I cut 170-175 pieces, bringing the total to around 850. Cutting is nearly done. I have 60-65 pieces to go. I expect to complete the puzzle tomorrow, then sand the back and take formal pictures. Sunday, I'll take the puzzle apart and count / inspect / dewisker the pieces as needed. I expect to launch the auction on Monday as the 3rd Annual eBay Auction puzzle. Fingers crossed as I approach the end of the puzzle, no voids so far!

Tomorrow I'll also cut the board for puzzle #894, The Magic of Flowers, the only customer puzzle currently scheduled for this year.

Shop scene earlier this afternoon

Puzzle #893, Golden Dragon, as of today, June 22, 2013
This iPhone picture came out nicely! Yesterday's was with a Nikon

June 22, 2013

Saturday 5:44 PM - Cutting of puzzle #893, Golden Dragon, is complete! The puzzle came out really well, no voids, no chip outs on the back, looks great. I've taken the formal photos, will post them tomorrow. Also tomorrow I'll do the counting and inspection. Auction launch is still planned for Monday. I've decided, that since this puzzle may be one of the most difficult puzzles I ever made, I owe it to the myself and the puzzle community to assemble it! So next week I plan to assemble it, keeping track of the time of course. Hopefully I'll get it done before the auction is over.

Signature piece (upper left), and six figurals: Turtle, The Observer, Twirl Star, Pelican, UFO, Dragon's Sword
All figurals and Creative pieces are in the black areas - will have a picture of the Creative pieces tomorrow

June 23, 2013

Sunday 4:27 PM - I'm in the process of counting / inspecting the pieces. The preliminary count is 916. I have made a decision that I'm going to assemble the puzzle before posting the auction so I can include a more accurate statement about the difficulty. So it will be at least several days before the auction is launched. I'll post more pictures here after the puzzle is assembled.

June 24, 2013

Monday 5:16 PM - Late yesterday I began to assemble the puzzle and yes it is really hard! I spent about three hours on it, got the edges done except for one piece which I gave up on, most of the surrounding pieces for each figural and Creative style piece and just a little bit of the interior towards to the top of the puzzle, the background color there is a bit lighter and has a distinctive texture.

Today I've already put in another five and half hours, the Dragon and just about all of the "smoke" pieces are done, some of the figurals and creative piece complexes have been placed, and then in a very difficult exercise I did the "V Pattern" drop-out section and placed it. Of course having just cut the puzzle I knew approximately where some of the sections went. Still, the Dragon itself was a very pleasant challenge. What remains are quite a few background pieces and the placement of some of the remaining figurals and creative pieces (I'm not referring to any of the pictures I took of the puzzle earlier for help).

I'll discuss an assembly strategy after I'm done. By the way, final piece count is 916, the size of the puzzle is 12 15/16" by 23 5/8".

Took about three hours to get to this point
I was just beginning to assemble the Dragon

The top of the puzzle, with some interior background pieces assembled
About seven hours into the puzzle

Where I am now, about 8 1/2 hours into working on the puzzle.
Will be very tough going from here on out - all background pieces

The "V Pattern" drop out section was very difficult, and I had a huge advantage as I fully understand the pattern and did the cutting! I've decided I'm going to explain the pattern in the auction, I think this is essential.

The "V Pattern" as cut in the puzzle is at the very, very beginning stages of "growth". When grown by computer though many cycles and then colored using color logic, sections much further along look really good. Here is a V Pattern image snippet I've shown here before, quite a long time ago:

V Pattern image snippet

June 25, 2013

Tuesday 9:23 PM - I've now assembled Golden Dragon. My total assembly time was somewhere in the 12.5 to 13 hour time frame, far longer than any other puzzle of mine I've assembled. The final 100 pieces or so were most difficult, color cues were nonexistent, did it all by shape. Long Round is a particularly tough style when going just by shape. I'll have a discussion here tomorrow. Also tomorrow I'll mount #894, The Magic of Flowers with a goal of cutting it on Thursday and shipping it on Friday. The Golden Dragon auction will start on Sunday June 30.

June 26, 2013

Wednesday 9:13 AM - Here are a couple more pictures of the end stage assembling of Golden Dragon taken yesterday.

Even at this stage, the going was tough

Last few pieces

A recommended general strategy for this puzzle:

1) Dump and turn over all the pieces
2) While doing so or afterwards, separate into: 1) edges, 2) all figurals and Creative pieces and any piece which looks like it will fit into or next to a figural or Creative piece, 3) all pieces with any part of the Dragon picture or surrounding smoke 4) the remainder. The "remainder" pile can then be separated into two piles: a) those piece which appear to be part of the V Pattern drop-out section, b) the "background" pieces.
3) Do the edges - will not get all of them
4) Do the figural / Creative piece groups
5) Do the Dragon and then as much of the smoke as possible
6) Do the V Pattern drop-out
7) Do the background pieces - these pieces are lighter colored near the top and darker at the bottom. The color gradations are very subtle and eventually there will be about 100 pieces left which have to be put in by shape alone.

This is the general order I followed although from time to time I would jump around to different task groups.

Wednesday 4:33 PM - Puzzle #894, The Magic of Flowers, is now mounted and ready for cutting. I plan to cut and ship it tomorrow. Had to make an extra trip to the shop this morning as I had made the board an inch too short in the vertical direction and needed to make a new one.

On Friday I'll concentrate on writing up the Golden Dragon auction for eBay. Auction launch will be on Sunday.

From the auction description:
Custom Puzzle Craft Annual Puzzle #3

This is the third wooden jigsaw puzzle in my Annual Puzzle Auction series. This puzzle, Golden Dragon, from a painting by K. Chin, is one of the most difficult to assemble puzzles I have ever made.

Golden Dragon
About 12 15/16" by 23 5/8"
Long Round cutting style with a few scattered Creative style pieces
916 pieces including six figurals and Signature piece.

Going back to the third puzzle I ever sold, puzzle #23, Green Dragon, in May 2000 (100 Puzzles Project puzzle #2), I have frequently featured the art of K. Chin.

Green Dragon
Imperial Silver Dragon
Royal Dragon
Green Imperial Red

I was initially drawn to K. Chin's art by a picture of a dragon I saw on the web. I later found out the print was originally titled Celestial Green Dragon and did not have a unicorn in the lower left. Later, the unicorn was added, and prints of it were sold as Imperial Dragon and the Celestial Unicorn. At the time I sold the first puzzle, I had not come across either name, so Green Dragon is the name I've continued to use. I have sold nine Green Dragon puzzles in all.

I later came across a large untitled print of what I was told by K. Chin's sons was titled Imperial Silver Dragon. I've later seen these prints titled as either Celestial Imperial Dragon or Imperial Celestial Dragon. Again, the first puzzle was sold before learning the other titles, so Imperial Silver Dragon is the name I've continue use. Or just a nickname, Silver Dragon. There is something about K. Chin's dragon paintings that are so full of flow and energy! The first Silver Dragon puzzle was cut and sold in November 2000 (100 Puzzles Project puzzle #7) and was the first puzzle with some Creative style cutting although primitive by today's standards, and the first puzzle with the appearance of my Observer figural. I have sold nine Silver Dragon puzzles in all.

Also in the early going, I came across a picture of a Red Dragon. K. Chin's sons referred to is as such, although the print was titled Royal Dragon and was the name I've used for the puzzles. The first puzzle I made with Royal Dragon, was in May 2001 (was not introduced / sold via the 100 Puzzles Project). I have sold seven Royal Dragon puzzles in all.

Over the years I've had my eyes out for additional K. Chin dragon prints, but have come up empty handed. I knew at least one more image existed as a less attractive dragon picture was contained in a picture of K. Chin, St. George and the Dragon.

St. George and the Dragon picture upper left.

My luck finally changed a few months ago, when I located and purchased a small painting of a new K. Chin dragon. I've decided to name this dragon, Golden Dragon. Subsequently I've learned there exists two other K. Chins paintings of other dragons. Obtaining imagery is on my to do list.

The Golden Dragon painting is finely detailed, but has a lot of black area compared to the size of the dragon. I had the painting scanned at 1200 dots per inch and I then cropped out some of the black areas. Unfortunately the painting has some damage and I either cropped out or Photoshopped the damage areas (all in the black areas). As the painting is an oil painting, there were a lot of problems with how the scan came out due to reflection and the fibrous surface of the painting (which was painted on a smooth Masonite). The image used for the puzzle is an enlargement of the original image. In the future, I may have the painting scanned again by an alternate service bureau, with the eye of making posters available, no decision has been made about this.

After some cropping

I'm thinking that Golden Dragon may have been painted before the other three, as Chinese "Imperial Dragons" have five claws per foot (four in the front and three in the back) while "European Dragons" have four claws per foot (three in the front and one in the back). The Green, Silver and Red dragons all have five claws, Golden Dragon, four. K. Chin, perhaps didn't learn about the difference until after he painted Golden Dragon.

This puzzle, with 916 pieces, was cut over an eight day period starting on June 15, 2013 and each day until completion on June 22. After the puzzle was cut, I handed sanded and vacuumed the puzzle three times, with 240 and later 320 grit sand paper. The puzzle is very, very difficult to assemble! This is a warning! There are extensive areas of dark background and even though the upper area is lighter than the bottom area, extensive areas can only be assembled by shape alone, color clues are nonexistent. I assembled the puzzle in 12 1/2 to 13 hours, the longest time I've taken to assemble a puzzle in my adult life. The figurals and scattered Creative style pieces (all in the dark areas) help a bit. I made all of the edge pieces fully interlocking to provide some relief, but be warned trying to locate them all in the early going is very difficult!

This puzzle includes my standard signature piece, signed the usual way (Custom Puzzle Craft, overall puzzle number, date and my signature) and I marked a second piece on the back to indicate the puzzle is Annual Puzzle Action #3, 2013. For this puzzle I used 5-ply Appleply. The Appleply cut extremely well, the puzzle looks great front and back.

Puzzle #893, Golden Dragon / Annual Puzzle Auction puzzle #3, year 2013

Signature piece (upper left), and six figurals: Turtle, The Observer, Twirl Star, Pelican, UFO, Dragon's Sword
All figurals and Creative pieces are in the black areas

Creative Pieces


Working the puzzle

Top part of background is lighter, some hope here

Very, very tough going towards the end

Back side before signatures signed

OK, so there a section with a drop-out pattern! This pattern's design is formed by the first five cycles of the "V Pattern", a pattern I discovered in high school. I was thinking of doing an exposition of the pattern here, but as I've documented it several times elsewhere, Google John Stokes V Pattern and look at the images, you'll find plenty of leads. Understanding the pattern will help a lot in putting it together. I had a huge advantage assembling it as I created the pattern and did the cutting! Even so it was still EXTREMELY tough, for everyone else may be NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE.

Golden Dragon is the first puzzle I cut since December 2012. And other than one small puzzle I made a few days ago for a customer with very personal circumstances, no other puzzles are planned until next year's Annual Auction Puzzle! I may do some "art" puzzles with big pieces and very low piece counts, but not any time soon. My focus now turns to lasers, new materials, and maybe 3-D printing. The "V Pattern" drop-out is a strong hint as to where I want to go.

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. No templates were used for this puzzle, except for the figurals, Signature piece and V Pattern drop-out. My puzzles cover fantasy, landscapes, my geometric patterns, famous paintings, mythology - a diverse spectrum of the human condition and more.

I also make very elaborate low piece count painted Creative style "Art Object" puzzles, this being my most recent work:

Golden Ratio Compulsory #9, about 30" by 18.54" with six pieces. This item not included in this auction!

Shipping cost for the Golden Dragon puzzle within the U.S. via 3-Day FedEx is $25.00. Contact me regarding international rates. I accept payment via PayPal only. California residents add 8% sales tax. I'll ship to anywhere in the world.

Golden Dragon
K. Chin
Date Completed
June 22, 2013
12 15/16" x 23 5/8"
Cutting Style

Long Round w/ a few Creative

# Pieces
Color Line Cutting
Turtle, The Observer, Twirl Star, Pelican, UFO, Dragon's Sword - plus a "V Pattern" drop-out section with 60 drop outs.

© John S. Stokes III - Puzzle Crafter & Webmaster

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