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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Section 2 Officially Underway

Finally today, April 23, 2013, I feel like I have offiically started working on Section 2.  Prior to today I had done so little, most of which had to be redone when the borders fell off (a couple of times), that I really didn't feel like I had made any real progress. Also, I had so many stop and go's with starting to work on Section 2 because I was still trying to figure out what to do with Section 1 to make it easier for me to work on the subsequent sections.  Now that is all behind me and I can start concentrating on puzzling again....and I couldn't be more pleased.

I re-did the borders for like the third, and hopefully final, time.  I have completed most of the tiger, and most of the lighthouse and attached house.  Most of the little sheep on the grass around the house are finished, and even the tall evergreen(?) trees next to the house are mostly done too.  I have started the horse, but haven't had much success in getting that beyond a few pieces so far.

Tonight I think I will start working on some of the hot air balloons.  I'm happy that the balloons in this section are much smaller so they should be a little easier to work with this time around.

Here are some pictures...notice how I'm working on the contact papered Section 1.  This will ultimately be a great way to work on each section.

Tiger almost done.


Start of the horse.


Bottom border.


Top border.


Lighthouse, house, trees, and sheep mostly done.


Okay, I gotta get back to work on the puzzle and see how much more I can get done tonight!

Yet Another Change In Strategy

I swear, by the time I get this monstrosity of a puzzle completed and mounted, I'm going to be a jigsaw puzzle mounting master!  I have changed and revised my strategy several times, and just when I think I've finally found the best solution, another obstacle presents itself.

As I last posted, I was getting ready to put the contact paper down on the back of Section 1 so that I could easily move it off the main puzzling board and put it somewhere else to allow me full access to a "blank canvas" puzzling board to work on Section 2.  Well, the contact paper went on pretty easily, Randy helped me, and we were done in about 15 minutes or so.  The problem is it's not that sticky!  We pressed it down firmly, and I later went back over the whole thing with a rolling pin.  It sticks to the puzzle okay, but I can tell when I try to lift one corner of the puzzle that if I were to try and flip the whole section over again, pieces would definitely come loose and potentially fall off.

I guess I was just expecting the contact paper to be way more sticky than it is.  So, now I have the dilema of not being able to turn it back over face up as it's not that sturdy.  Grrrr....

My new strategy / solution is to keep Section 1 where it is....flipped on its back with the contact paper on, and build Section 2 on top of the backside of Section 1.  At least this strategy takes care of one of the issues from before in that I don't have to see the picture of Section 1 underneath where I'm trying to build Section 2 so I won't have issues with my eyes bothering me not knowing if the piece I'm looking at is my new Section 2, or something still showing from Section 1.

I think once I'm done with Section 2, I will attempt to do the same thing that I did with Section 1 - "cut" it into mini sections, move it onto foam board, flip it over, and put it back on the table directly on top of Section 1.  Then I will put contact paper on this Section and move on to Section 3.  I foresee being able to do this with each section being built on top of the backside of the previous section.   When I'm finished with all three remaining sections, I will have to figure out the best way to attach each section to the foam board while still leaving myself a way to connect each section together.  I think what I'm going to attempt to do is put the foam board on the back of each section leaving enough of a gap near the edge where it connects to the previous section.  Since my foam board pieces will all be the same thickness, I should still be able to connect the sections together and then cut a narrow foam board strip to cover the connecting pieces once it's been put together.  At least for the moment this is what I plan on doing....who knows how many more times that will change between now and the time I finish this beast!  LOL






Friday, April 19, 2013

Section 1 - Disassembled and Reassembled

As I stated yesterday, here are the pictures and a description of my process in flipping Section 1 over on my main puzzling board so that contact paper can be attached to the back.

STEP 1:  Take a picture of the completed puzzle section - just in case you never see it this way again!  LOL  (Just kidding!!!)

STEP 2:  Carefully decide where you are going to make your cut.  I wanted to use the repeat pattern borders as my cut line, but unfortunately the size foam board I purchased was a little too short to accomodate it so I had to improvise and make more, smaller sections instead, but it worked out fine.

STEP 3:  Once I decided where to cut, I started taking out the pieces in that row and re-assembling them on the foam board where I would later slide the "cut out" mini section.  After I took out the row of pieces from the section I wanted to separate, both horizontally and vertically, I was easily able to pull the cut section away from the remainder of the puzzle and then slide it off onto the foam board.  Once the section was slid onto the foam board, I put the initial pieces I pulled from the section to remove it from the rest of the puzzle back where they went on the removed mini section.


Below are two pictures of the removed sections on the foam board.  As you can see in the bottom picture, I took too large a section of the animals and tried sliding it off onto the foam board.  Because the size of my mini section was almost the same size as the foam board, it was much more difficult to slide it off without destroying any of the pieces.  Lesson learned, always make your mini sections are quite a bit smaller than the size of your foam board....it's much easier to manuever that way.



STEP 4:  After the entire puzzle was cut up and moved onto foam board pieces, I labeled each foam board with a letter (A, B, etc) in the order of which it needed to be in once flipped.  I knew I had to do this because otherwise I might flip a section over and not know where it went since I wouldn't be able to see any of the picture on the front side.  And I certainly didn't want to put contact paper on the back of the whole thing, flip it back over, and discover that some animal's head was now the bottom part of a hot air balloon.  LOL

STEP 5:  For the flippng process, I took the last piece of foam board and put it over top of my "A" board, sandwiching the mini section between the two pieces of foam board.  I then put 4 small strips on tape on each side of the board sealing them together so nothing would accidentally fall out. (I later on stopped taping as the foam boards stayed together well enough and the flipping only took a few seconds.)  Once the section was flipped, I removed the tape and took the top piece of foam board off.  Now I had my first section flipped over, and ready to put back on the main puzzling board.  I easily slid it off and placed it in it's new, temporary home.  Here's a picture of several sections flipped and placed on the puzzle board backside up.



The only thing you need to be prepared for is fastening each section back together again once it's flipped.  The sections are not easy to lift and move once they are laying flat on the puzzle board, so make sure when you are sliding the section off the foam board that you try and line it up so that the new section overlaps just a tiny touch on where it's going to join the previous section.  This way, when you are reconnecting you can actually slide the new section in a downward slant to re-connect it to the previous section.  This makes it very easy to "sew" the pieces back together as opposed to having to lift the section upwards to get it in the right position to reconnect.  (Hopefully that made sense....it's really easy to see when you're looking at it, but difficult to describe.)

Here's the whole section flipped over on the puzzle board and ready for contact paper.



STEP 6:  Carefully apply contact paper to the back of the entire section so that it can be removed from the puzzling board in one large piece without falling apart.  This is the step I'm about to tackle this afternoon.  I will post more later today once I see how this goes.  Wish me luck!


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Divide and Conquer

I know I haven't updated this in a little while, but it is because I have been playing around with some different ideas on how best to approach doing Section 2 with Section 1 still on my main puzzling board.  I didn't want to get too deep into Section 2 until I got this figured out.  I have changed my strategy a couple of times, but I think I have finally found what is going to work the best...thanks to my fellow Life puzzle blog friend Charly in Chile for his suggestions.

Initially, even before I finished Section 1, I had thought I would follow in Scott Slater (who was the first in the world to finish the Life puzzle) and family's footsteps and build Section 2, 3, and 4 directly on top of one another.  They made it look really easy, and even though I wasn't sure how my eyes would handle trying to differentiate pieces once placed directly on other pieces in Section 1, I was willing to give it a try.  I found that it wasn't quite as difficult to see as I thought it would be, but then again, all I had sitting on top of Section 1 was the top and bottom border of Section 2 as you can see in the pictures from my last post.  However, what was happening was the border kept sliding all over the place and didn't want to stay in place.  I had to pick it up off the floor a couple of times because it slid right off when lightly touched.

So, I began to wonder if there was a better solution.  That's when my puzzle blog buddy Charly suggested getting some sort of paper to make a "blanket" the same size as my puzzle board to cover up Section 1, but allowing me to work with a clean surface on top of my main puzzle table.  This was a great idea, and I promptly went out and purchased 6 pieces of white poster board and put them together using tape.  I finally finished putting it together only to find out it was short about 6 inches (a miscalculation on my part apparently) on the bottom.  So I went back to Michael's and got more poster board to finish it up so that I could get back to puzzling....

That night as I was sleeping, I came up with a better idea.  Personally, I think Charly was sending me subliminal messages from Chile as the next morning I discovered he had done the same thing with his Section 1!  LOL  The reason I was still not completely happy with the poster board blanket idea is because I would still have to figure out a way to flip each section over when it was complete.  And, given that poster board is extremely flimsy and flexible, I was pretty sure it would be a complete disaster if I tried to move a section sitting on top of the poster board.  I could see the entire thing crashing to the floor and me CRYING for weeks on end!!!!

So I went to Michael's again, and this time I bought 6 pieces of 3/16" foam board.  The new plan is to "cut" the puzzle into mini sections, slide them onto the foam board which is small enough to allow me to put another piece of foam board on top of each mini section and flip them and then slide them back onto the main puzzling board, backside up.  This is what I have to do in order to put contact paper on the back of the entire section.

So this morning I started "cutting" the sections.  I wanted to cut them where the repeat pattern is 37 x 27 pieces (horizontally and vertically speaking), but my foam board wasn't quite big enough to accommodate those dimensions so I ended up having to break it down into slightly smaller sections, but it worked out okay.  It was not easy getting each mini section off onto the foam board as the foam board kept wanting to move and drop while I was sliding the section off onto the board.  It was a tedious process, but I was finally able to get most of the puzzle onto foam boards.  I still have two mini sections left to slide off onto the foam board, but it will have to wait until Derek goes down for his nap.  

Once all the mini sections are on the foam boards, I don't think (fingers crossed) that it will be too difficult to flip them over and reassemble them on the main puzzle board.  Then, I can finally put the contact paper on the back and then move the whole, completed section off the board.  This way I will have a clean slate to really get working on Section 2.  I'm excited....after almost 3 years, I think I may have figured out my best strategy for doing this puzzle with limited space options.  Woo hoo!

Pictures to follow soon of how I separated each mini section from the board in case anyone else needs help figuring this out.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

And So It Begins

I was able to work on the puzzle for a couple of hours last night which was great.  In that time, I was able to knock out the borders (top and bottom) and start on the tiger. 

The first two pieces of Section 2 are officially "married".


Here's a picture of all the border pieces laid out and separated by whether they were a top or a bottom border piece.



I was initially missing two of the top border pieces, but luckily they were easily identifiable in that they had balloons on them so they were pretty easy to find in my hot air balloon bucket.  It only took about 10 minutes to remove them from their hiding place.  :o)

I am trying the method that Scott Slater and his wife, PJ, used when they put together their Life puzzle.  They built each section on top of the previous.  I am still unsure how this is going to be for my eyes when I get more of the actual puzzle on the board, but for now it is okay.  I have placed the top and bottom borders on top of Section 1 and it doesn't look too bad...see pictures below.



So, so far so good when it comes to my eyes, but we'll see how it goes moving forward.

Here are a couple of pictures of the tiger just starting to come together.  I have part of his tail and his face done, but by the time I got to start on him last night, I was already pretty tired so I didn't make a lot of progress.  As you can see in the second picture, on the yellow foam board, I have laid out all the tiger pieces by their shape and the orientation in which they go into the puzzle.  This is an amazing time saver when it comes to fitting pieces together; although, it does take a while to lay all the pieces out like this.  In the end though it's worth the extra time.



I don't know how much I will get to work on it today as I have to do some cleaning and get ready for having neighbors over for dinner tomorrow night and Derek has a birthday party to go to late this afternoon, but I will try my best to get in a few minutes at some point.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Feels Like Deja Vu

Even though it's been almost 3 years since I last sorted 6,000 jigsaw pieces, it feels like only yesterday.  LOL  Amazingly enough, I am separating the pieces into much more detailed containers, yet it feels like it hasn't taken me as long to sort through this section as it did the first one.  I guess because I am way more familiar with the pieces and some of the more subtle textures, I am more quickly and easily able to identify which container the piece should go into.  It really only took me about 3.5 to 4 hours or so to sort the pieces into about 15 different categories.  Here's a quick breakdown of the various buckets:

  • Dark blue, starry sky and the rings around Saturn.
  • Lighthouse and house plus any sheep and green grass near them (I will resort this one more when I get to that container)
  • Tiger
  • Butterflies
  • Mountainy parts of the skyline
  • Fish
  • Coral
  • Blue,. underwater pieces that didn't have a specific fish on them (I will resort this one more when I get to that container)
  • Moon
  • Rocks
  • Other animals (horse, lizard, etc)
  • Plain sky
  • Hot air balloons
  • Border pieces
  • Birds
Of course some of these containers are still too broad in scope and will be further sorted and refined as I get to each main container, but at least this is a huge help in getting some of the smaller parts out of the way first.  Thankfully, there's not a lot of land animals in this section, so the animal bucket should be fairly easy to knock out.

My plan this time is to do the border first, and probably the tiger so that I can check and see if my plan to build on top of section 1 is truly going to work.  Then I think I might try the moon or maybe the rings around Saturn next.  After that probably the hot air balloons will be up to bat....they should be relatively easy to complete this time as they aren't nearly as large as the ones in Section 1.

And I'm so happy to report that there's hardly ANY clownfish in this Section!  Woo hoo....those guys are beautiful, but a royal pain in the arse.  This section actually looks like it might be a little bit easier than the first one because there's not as much of any one element like there was in Section 1.  The clownfish are almost nonexistent, there's only a couple of land animals to do, and the hot air balloons are much smaller.

Can't wait for Derek to go down for his nap today so I can start putting the border together.  Here's a  couple of pictures from this morning before I finished sorting.




The picture below is all I had left to sort this morning....finished in a little over an hour.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

After 2 Years, 8 Months, and 10 Days

I am elated to announce that

SECTION 1 IS DONE!!!!

I can't believe it took me this long to finish the first section, but I am so proud of myself for sticking to my committment of getting this puzzle put together.  I am now officially 25% done!  Doesn't seem like much in the overall scheme of things, but for me, it's a pretty huge accomplishment since I've never completed any puzzle over 1500 pieces before this.

It has been an amazingly fun, therapeutic, frustrating, and rewarding process from start to finish, and I cannot wait to get started on Section 2.

Here are a few pictures of the completed section:







I learned some valuable lessons along the way that I believe will help me to be more efficient in doing the next (and subsequent) sections.  Here's a few:
  • Do a much more thorough job of initial sorting.  In the first section, since I had never worked with any of the pieces before and didn't have any kind of sense what was what, I didn't do a very good job of sorting the pieces.  I designated one bucket for each of the following - all the animals, anything that was blue (which was the sky and the underwater stuff), anything that looked like a clownfish, anything that looked like a hot air balloon, and the border pieces.  As anyone reading this who has also worked on or completed Life knows, this is not NEARLY specific enough.  So, needless to say, I had a ton of refining to do in the sorting process throughout the section.  Now that I have spent almost 3 years looking at the puzzle pieces and the textures, I think I will have a much easier time sorting this next section.  It will take me a lot longer to get through the initial sort process this time, but it will pay big dividends in the end when I can easily pick out a particular animal to work on or a specific balloon, etc.  I think having looked at the pieces for so long, even though the next section has different stuff, will help me tremendously.  I will have a little better understanding of  how to sort a clownfish piece from a balloon piece, for example.
  • Don't save the worst parts for last.  My intention when I first started the puzzle was to do the border, followed by the hot air balloons, and then move immediately into the clownfish as all the other Hall of Fame stories on the Life website I'd read indicated that the clownfish were the hardest part of the section.  For some reason, and I'm not quite sure why now, I didn't follow through on that.  Regretably, I ended up tackling the clownfish almost dead last (followed only by the even more difficult area between the waterline and the start of the clownfish).  I won't make that mistake again.  Luckily, there are only a few clownfish in this next section.  Most of the fish in Part 2 are different from one another and should be much easier to figure out, but the area between waterline and fish will still need to be tackled early on to prevent having the hardest sections to do last.
  • Double and triple check floor and clothing after each puzzling session.  Not following this advice could be the reason I am missing one piece!
Overall, I am extremely pleased with how well this puzzle came together.  I was NEVER bored or even came close to feeling like giving up.  I am more anxious now than ever to move forward and get this baby completed.  I know more "life" events will likely happen before I get Section 2 done, but I guess that's why the name of this amazing puzzle is "Life - The Great Challenge".  It most certainly is true to its name, but well worth every painstaking minute!

Thanks for sticking with me for so long, and I hope you continue to stay with me for the next phase.  Happy reading and happy puzzling.