Laser cutting backed photos into puzzles

While taking the laser cutting intro and checkout, I saw the downloadable pattern for a smallish 8 piece puzzle. My wife loves [big] puzzles. And it has been yakked among family about some great pics of the grandkids being made into puzzles. So I wish to explore, practice, fail a few times, and then,… make a good one. I am digging up old navy pics to practice on. [45 year old pics of shipboard life, nobody is particularly interested in]. But these are heavy photo prints of old, and I will likely use inkjet printed pics for puzzles, even though those are “ten year fade-able pics”.

Is there a pressed cardboard source or does it do ok to use a thin plywood or hardboard?

Also, i need to go evaluate which bonding glues will evaporate and “laser spatter and smoke” the least. The easy choice of the spray rubber cements, are probly not the best choice. But the water based white glues or modge podges are likely to be too hard on a photo, maybe inducing wrinkles, or causing color bleed on inkjet pics. And the urethanes like gorilla glue are likely going to foam a bit, so maybe Not flat enuf?

I will go looking for where best to pose this on the forums, looking for experienced advice. Seeking advice on - Larger puzzle templates, best backing board, and recommended glue.

Im not racing to finish by Christmas, but wouldnt mind if I could easily.

You might try this You Tube video. He uses spray adhesive which makes sense to me.,vid:9LAM64vvNcE,st:0

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I have some of this adhesive if you’d like to try it out.

I would think poly l think thin plywood, masonite, or this would work fine.

I’m excited to see how this project works out!

There’s always a little free play in puzzle pieces because of the beam width… but there are LOTS of puzzle templates out there too. our little class puzzle template is probably from openclipart, it has a lot more sizes:

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I found this puzzle generator a while back but have not tried using it yet. It does allow customization: Jigsaw puzzle

Wow thanks, that is perfect. I had not gone looking yet but THAT is what I wanted.
Now to print a larger format practice photo.

I have also wondered if the power settings need to be really low with lots of repeat passes to minimize smoke and “carbon spatter”.

I found the previously suggested [cardboard] chipboard on amazon and will order it soon. And may leave the rest of the $20 package in the fablab for others to play with. Maybe with a 3x5 card of experiences detailing what worked and didnt work for me.

Thanks again Dave Miller, etc.


lowering the power, and using more passes helps A LOT! with getting rid of burning, but it’s definitely a fine tuning thing, plan to sacrifice a couple inches of material for tests.


Thats perfect size for me. I could not get their “download” button to work. And then Dave Miller sent links to one also [just like it] and I now have the svg file. Thanksa bunch maker friends. I will be back here.


Thanks Diana, I will probly sacrifice [play] a lot. I can set it to go and then go refresh 3d printing statiin work…

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Regarding that " little bit of free play" on the laser cutter. Is it still called “kerf”? Like we do on saws.
But “kerf width” might be quite material dependent as well as number of passes dependent.

I wonder if i cant thin modge podge and dip each piece in for a thin coat. 2 improvements imagined: 1 - Protect picture. 2- close the laser cut gap a smodge. [A smidge but with modge podge.]

I tend to way overthink stuff before pushing the big GO buttons but also realize I just need to get in there and make some mistakes. Having the right encouraging peers matters a LOT too.


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Dave, thanks , I ordered some of that link

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Any cutting tool, (router, mill, knife, saw, laser cutter, water jet, etc) has an offset from the tool path to the cut edge. With saw blades the kerf is larger following a curved path compared to following a straight line.

With the laser cutter it depends on the lens, accuracy of focus, material and depth of cut. The beam width is minimum only at the actual focal distance.

A lens with a longer focal length and setting the bed height such that the focus is in the middle of the depth of cut will give a slightly smaller cutting width on thin material. Multiple passes with small adjustments of the bed can give improved results, but is a lot of effort that’s might only be justified for material that is thicker.

It’s worth pointing out that mirror cleanliness and alignment can be a big factor in getting the sharpest beam possible. It’s frequently seen that a mirror that looks 99% clean has something adhered to the surface on the only 1% that matters. Mirror cleaning can be intimidating and if done wrongly can make the problem worse.

And, for a jigsaw puzzle, some clearance between pieces is normal and desirable. The desired result isn’t what a machinist would consider a press fit. A little trial and error will pay off and perfection isn’t really necessary.


Haven’t tried anything with it, but noticed that Lightburn has a setting to automatically adjust the z-height with each pass, is that something that works on our machines?


If you are going to digitize your photos (for printing) I can offer to help you with color and saturation adjustments to give them a little more life.

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I think they are mostly already digital.

I do have a ton of 4x5" photo prints on photostock that arent valuable and that i can practice on…

Im going to also practice on photos on inkjet printer paper coz its easy to print and practice on…then hire a larger fine photo on photostock, once I get the hang of it. Part of why i would practice on junk photos. Different paper.

Do i need help getting my photos to pop better. Maybe, but as you know, it also changes with the paper. I just dont yet know HOW it may change.

Im going to remember your offer though. I.l may call upon your expertise at some point.