Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Lather, rinse, repeat. I feel like that’s what has been going on lately.

Wake up.
Feed the dog.
Play with the dog.
Tell the dog, no mouth.
Make some puzzles.
Tell the dog, no mouth.
Tell the dog, down.
Feed the dog.
Play with the dog.
Tell the dog, no mouth.
Make some puzzles.

You get the picture. I hope.

I haven’t really made anything new with the Glowforge in a while. I love making the really thick puzzleboard puzzles. And really love making the baltic birch puzzles…


But, I wanted something new.

I had a bug in my head the last few days. One of those that you can see in your mind, but you don’t know exactly how to describe it - much less make it.

I wanted to do a 3D relief puzzle… but, something that was actually dimensionally correct - not just a vary power 3D engraving. After some discussion with some awesome forum members to get the ideas rolling, I stumbled across a decent solution.

I hit print on a 3-hour 3D engrave at 1am this morning. Mensa is knocking at the door, I’m telling ya.

At 4am, I ended up with… something.


I decided to sleep on it.

And this morning, I busted out the alcohol. Breakfast of champions, right? At least for 3D engraved baltic birch.

That makes me feel a little better… kinda cool. Not what I saw in my mind.

I’m not a huge fan of wood engravings… or maybe I’m just a picky jerk, so I kinda knew where this was going to go from the beginning… but it was kinda cool, at least. A neat experiment. Nothing to sell. But, trying to be creative is good.

Maybe it needs some color. Color makes everything better. Brighter. Happier.

Where are those acrylics? Did the dog eat those acrylics? That would explain a lot

Ahh, buried under that thing, that’s buried under that other thing…

I tentatively dipped the brush into some red paint and smothered it on. The brush was dry. Is this a dry brush technique? I’m not much of a painter, so like with most things, I’m just gonna wing it.

Hey, that looks better already… more is bettah! Right? Like a stick of buttah?

A couple hours later, I have this:

Hey - now we’re cookin’ - with buttah!

I figure that’s pretty cool… stick her back in the laser and run a few passes with the new puzzle cutting technique I came up with a few days ago.

And, as Emeril would say: BAM!

(Don’t ask me where the celebrity chef theme came from - things evolve, ok?)


Nailed it, the colour totally transformed it.



Literally speechless. That looks amazing.




Lol ah JB this was a) awesome and b) and glimpse inside your head. :grin:

Amazing finished product though. The colour totally does transform it. …how many hours of laser time is this, just out of interest. I can’t imagine the price of it as a saleable item.


That is amazing. You should teach a class. I’d watch the heck outta that!


Ohmygosh, I think you have singlehandedly created a whole new class of puzzles! This is museum-quality! Very well done!

And, give the dog an ear scritch from me.


This is absolutely brilliant. Clearly not sleeping is good for you.


:rofl::rofl: No, I’m not much of a painter. I sat down to paint over an engraved line the other day. Immediately paint everywhere. “Glad I didn’t remove the masking,” I thought to myself.

I’m with you on not caring a lot for wood engravings, including ones done by hand five hundred years ago, unless they’re used in printing, but I just keep coming back to look at this. It invokes a feeling in me and that is what I like my art to do.


WOW! I have to say, I would have left it alone after the color (no puzzle). But I understand that’s your shtick right now. Looks fantastic.


Without paint, I don’t think I would do another.

It can be a scary place. :slight_smile: this piece is 10x9”. It was a 3 hour engrave (270LPI) and about a 30-minute cut after painting.

ha thanks. Like I said, just winging it!!

In my head, that’s what I wanted to do. Hand painted puzzles are out there. And they are expensive. But I don’t know about puzzles quite like this. Puzzles are such a tactile sensation. The weight of the piece, the texture of the paper. The depth from the 3D engrave though. Just something else - to me, at least!

They’ve done studies that sleep deprivation is good for creativity. That moment when you are just falling asleep and you have that million dollar idea? They have a name for it! That I can’t remember…

Lol. I’m not much of an artist. But the one thing I’ve learned from artists is that loose is good… I have a hard time with loose - I like a precise, straight line. But they are right. Loose is the way to be. You can always fix stuff.


Stunning journey. Way to go. :grinning:


Ok, so you’ve refueled my desire to try the wood engrave again and maybe add some color. I’d figured my last try was a little too much blank board. Time to sift through my photo archive. Thanks for the tremendous inspiration!


Could have hardly started with a better photo so rich in textures to begin with and pure old timely nostalgia, and then the painting was far richer than the “paint by number” look it would have had if painted by most folk, and then the puzzle adds another dimension again even if it is never apart to put together.

Museum quality work for sure!


Wow. Amazing! Can you tell me what kind of picture you did and what type of processing did you have to do with it before lasering? Give the dog a good belly rub for me too!:grin::+1:

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Wow! The color made something that was already very 3D even more so somehow! Great job! Puzzles are on my mind for making…I plan to do some soon. My kids love puzzles and I have some photos that will work great as puzzles.

I’ll probably do more like the first ones you showed, where you Mod Podge a printed photo onto some wood, and then laser it. Any hints you have found that help it to be successful?


I like it before it became a puzzle … AND afterwards. Love puzzles.

This is exceptional with the paint really pulling you in. Very nice job!

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Experiment. A lot. :slight_smile:

I am not a big fan of the spray adhesives. They are expensive. And they don’t work all that well, in my experience. When you’re cutting things up, any little area light in coverage will pose a problem. I tried a few different glues and finally settled on a Daige automated glue machine. It uses a low-temp, pressure-sensitive hot glue that has worked wonderfully - and is only pennies per square foot. They have a hand roller (roll-a-taq, I believe). But I’m not sure of the glue it uses or the effectiveness. You want a glue with a low water content though or you’ll experience warping in your puzzleboards.

I cut the puzzles face up, after they are printed and varnished. The printer puts a layer of clear coat over the print, and then I use a spray varnish as another means of protection. It also increases the tactile sensation. Cutting chipboard takes some power. I’ve gone away from using full power - dropped it to 100 and make multiple, faster passes. It cuts in the same amount of time, just way cleaner. With the clear coat and varnish, any smoke residue wipes right off (while still in the laser bed).


Wow! Awesome tips! Thanks!
What do you like for clear coat/varnish? Lacquer? I know it not as likely to yellow as something like polyurethane. I had not even thought about using a clear coat.

I was looking at Mod Podge because I know they have a “puzzle saver,” so I figured it would surely not be bad for warping. But, it is water-based so it gave me pause.

The clearcoat is a Canon Chroma Optimizer (its held in an ink-tank just like other pigment inks - more info here:

Originally, I used just the Krylon varnish, which they claim is non-yellowing, to test things out with and make sure it would work. Now I use either Windsor & Newton matte finish or Golden. Both are good brands. If you use a more expensive rag-type paper to print on, you can finish it with something like Breathing Color roll-on varnish. The paper is way more expensive, but the varnish is much cheaper in a liquid formula per square foot of application. The rag papers absorb a lot more of the water than true photo paper. Roll on varnish on photo paper runs a very high risk of spreading the ink.

Cutting face down gives you a smaller apparent kerf on the puzzle face but also removes more material that you can’t see, and that helps the interlock/friction fit. Cutting face up makes a slightly larger kerf but tighter fitting piece. The difference in kerf between full power and 100 is fairly significant on pieces like this so I don’t use full power.