Learn how to make a puzzle with an xTool machine! It’s an easy process, and I’m walking you through the steps you can follow to make your own custom puzzle. xTool sent me the beautiful acrylic sheets to make these projects.
How to make a puzzle with an xTool P2
Hey all! Back with another xTool P2 CO2 laser cutting machine project. I shared an xTool P2 review not long ago after xTool sent me the machine to review. That post outlines what you can make with the machine—including some of the things to ask yourself before investing in one.
One of the benefits of having an xTool P2 machine is that it is a CO2 laser machine. This means that it can cut a wide variety of acrylics, including colors and transparency levels that you cannot cut on a diode laser.
Reminder—the xTool M1 machine, which I have also reviewed, is a diode laser. It can cut some types of acrylic, and I have a post all about cutting acrylic on the M1 machine if you’re interested. But today I am cutting some fun acrylic colors and finishes that require a CO2 laser.
I’ll be using both of my machines for this project today—but to be clear, you can use the xTool P2 for the entire project. It’s just easier for me to multitask while sitting next to my M1 and monitoring the cuts than it is my P2 🙂 So in the pictures, you’ll see I’m cutting some of the wood pieces on the M1 but cutting the acrylic pieces on the P2.
Here’s what I used for this project:
- xTool P2 CO2 laser machine
- xTool M1 diode laser machine (but you don’t need this machine for the project, you’ll just see it in some pictures)
- 1/4″ or 6mm wood for the base; I’m using baltic birch
- 1/8″ or 3mm wood for the puzzle cutouts; I’m using this basswood
- 1/8″ or 3mm acrylic for the puzzle pieces; I’m using acrylic from the xTool line that they sent me for this project
- Wood glue
- Wood finish of your choice—stain, varnish, paint, aerosol spray, whatever
And here’s how to make a puzzle with a laser cutting machine!
Step 1: Design your puzzle
I will be making a few name puzzles for this post. But the process is the really the same no matter what type of puzzle you are making. I am also designing my puzzle in xTool Creative Space, which is the free software most people use to cut files with xTool machines.
However, you can replicate this project in many other different types of design software! All you really need is access to a text generator, a merge or combine tool, and various background shapes like rectangles.
Here are the pieces you need for your puzzle:
- Plain backing piece—I’m using 1/4″/6mm baltic birch
- Puzzle cutout piece—this piece is the same size as the plain backing piece, but it has cutouts for all of the puzzle pieces; I’m using 1/8″/3mm basswood for this and adding a small semicircle to help make it easier to take pieces out
- Puzzle pieces—these are the actual pieces you’ll put into the puzzle cutout areas; I’m using 1/8″/3mm acrylic for these
A note on the semicircles: These are not required. They add a nice touch on the name puzzles, especially because they are designed for very small kids. If you use them, you’ll need to merge/combine them to the puzzle cutout areas. If you don’t use them, you’ll have to turn the puzzle over and dump the pieces out to get them out of the cutouts.
Also–when placing the letters of the name text on the backing pieces, make sure to align the text both vertically and horizontally so it is perfectly centered.
Here’s a look at the steps in xTool Creative Space if you’re a more visual person!
Step 2: Cut the wooden pieces out
Adjust your settings according to what you’re cutting. I’m using 1/4″/6mm baltic birch for the blank base and 1/8″/3mm basswood for the cutout piece. Make sure to remain by your machine to monitor the cuts—never leave a laser cutting machine unattended while it’s working and always vent the exhaust smoke appropriately (out a window or into a purification system).
Step 3: Cut the acrylic puzzle pieces out
Next repeat step 2 for your acrylic pieces. I’m cutting my acrylic pieces out of a few different types of acrylic. No matter the color and transparency, everything cut out beautifully! I used the P2 acrylic settings on xTool’s website.
Step 4: Assemble the puzzle
As a final step, you’ll want to finish and assemble the puzzle. This can be done in a variety of orders. For some of the puzzles, I glued the wooden cutout piece to the blank base using wood glue. Then I sealed the pieces using aerosol varnish in a satin finish.
For others, I wanted to paint the letter areas in the cutouts, and I thought it would be easier to do that before gluing the two base pieces together. So I painted the plain base piece first, then glued the cutout piece on and finished everything with aerosol varnish.
No matter which approach you choose, make sure any finishes you’re using are safe for younger people. There are plenty of non-toxic and water-based finishes out there. I highly recommend doing your research based on the materials available to you (and any local regulations if you’ll be selling these!).
Can I make a puzzle without a CO2 laser cutting machine?
If you don’t have a CO2 laser cutting machine, you can still make a puzzle at home! Diode laser machines are perfectly acceptable to use—you’ll just have fewer acrylic options to choose from when working with a diode.
Instead, you could choose to forego acrylic all together and cut the puzzle pieces out of wood. Actually, this means that you’ll have less waste since you can use the wooden pieces you cut out of the puzzle cutout piece! You can always paint them to give them more color and personality.