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I want to make a set of small wooden shapes like these (not exactly those shapes) using two different colours for different pieces: https://www.everafterguide.com/handmade-indian-18-pieces-board-star-jigsaw-puzzle-game-wooden-toy-game-brain-teasers-98b8c82a74708399.html. It's important that the pieces are precise enough that they a large number will fit together without gaps.

Pieces

What is the easiest way to do that? In particular, what kind of wood should be used? What techniques are equipment are involved? I'd like to keep it as simple as possible, but fancy equipment is available if it's needed.

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    Can you please edit the picture into your question as well as a description of the item(s)? If the link dies then this question would be useless – Matt Mar 1 '17 at 3:18
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I made a similar puzzle over christmas - at least for the diamond shapes.

enter image description here

(picture somewhat misleading - the blocks fit in together tightly but there is a gap around the edge of the base so they can fit together loosely - this is a kids toy)

I had to make 5 puzzles (about 80 diamonds + some spares) so needed to stream line the process as much as possible. As you can see from your picture, the diamonds when lined up actually form a straight strip - this makes them easy to batch cut.

enter image description here

I picked scrap wood with a straight grain as possible. In this case I had some black wood handy so used that. Didn't matter for me too much what they looked like as I was going to be painting them.

In hind sight I would have used a lighter coloured wood to make painting easier. As you aren't painting yours I would suggest picking wood with better/more consistent grain

enter image description here

The wood was cut with a table saw blade tilted to 45° using a cross cut sled for safety/consistency.

I used a stop block to keep the pieces at the exact same length. This stop block was a cut-off from the same setup so I had a diagonal hole to register the end of the previous cut in.

I used a hold down block + a vertical toggle clamp above the strip of wood currently being cut to keep it locked in place so I could keep my hands well away from the blade. (Important when doing many repetitive cuts).

After each cut, the "bevel" of the diamond left by the previous cut would fit into the stop block for the next cut.

This setup let me cut ~100 diamonds in short order safely.

enter image description here

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Now, if you do want those or very similar shapes (all straight-parallel-sided) rather than general interlocking shapes, there are efficient ways to cut them using straight-cutting saws. Rip a strip, miter chunks off the strip using a stop. But you said not those shapes, so...more generally:

If still in straight sides, but out of parallel, make jigs to hold small pieces when you need to make more cuts. Beyond straight sides and off towards jig-saw puzzle land:

Much depends on the volume/speed required.

At the high-speed/high-volume end of the spectrum, die-cutting from plywood is possible. Not a home shop scaled operation at all. Thickness is limited.

CNC routing or lasers offers excellent repeatability and interchangeability, but is limited in production rate by cutting speed. The laser burned edge may or may not be desirable in your product, and effective laser cutting depth is limited. Router cutting depth is also limited but rarely an issue.

Simplest possible would be someone with a coping saw or scrollsaw, a pattern and care. What is usually referred to as a jigsaw these days is not much good for jigsaw puzzles - I think the modern scroll saw more closely resembles what it was when the name was coined. Those are virtually all die-cut cardboard now, of course.

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I just got one of these puzzles for my niece. Use solid wood since edges will be seen. Pieces of 1" nominal thicknes (3/4" actual) thickness would be easier to obtain although 1/2" would feel somewhat better. Boards 2" to 4" wide will do.

Use hardwoods. The version of the puzzle I got uses several species of exotic, probably tropical, woods. But, assuming you are in the US, you could readily obtain maple, walnut and oak. Best bet for appearance and choice might be to shop for 1/2" boards online.

In my puzzle, the pieces that have inside angle have been glued together from separate pieces. This means all straight cuts in fabricating. Glue these up before slightly rounding edge when finishing. If you have access to a bandsaw, that would be my tool of choice. But it would also be easy to do this all by hand. For this, use a fine toothed Japanese-type pull saw. You can find these at many hardware stores, Bear makes a commonly found version.

Fit the pieces before gluing the compound-pieces with the interior angles. You cand do this by running the edges over sandpaper held flat on your bench. This will not produce great square edges so avoid this on the edges you will glue; it will be satisfactory for the other edges. When you sand in this way, hold the piece as low as possible, in the center of the length being sanded, keep it vertical an avoide rocking.

My puzzle appear to ne finished with shellac but a wipe-on poly will do.

And, I would do the base and rim after completing the fitted pieces to fine-tune the overall fit. It's alway easier drawing to an outside straight.

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What is the easiest way to do that?

I'd like to keep it as simple as possible,

Easiest and simple conflict here unfortunately.

Simplest and cheapest way to do this if you don't already own suitable tools involves no powered equipment. Fair warning, it won't be the fastest, but if you get a production line going and just plug away you'll get through the sawing surprisingly quickly (one evening, easy).

Finishing off the pieces and applying a finish will likely take much much longer, but that will take a similar amount of time regardless of the cutting method used.

If you can buy the wood you need in strips of the right thickness and width all you need is some scrap wood (for sawing practice prior to cutting your main wood, and for making the jig that will allow you to do accurate repeat cuts), a sharp knife and steel rule, and one good hand saw. A clamp or two would be helpful but not vital.

If you can't buy the wood in the right dimensions you'll need some way to produce the initial strips and this is not an easy thing by hand since it's very challenging to saw with the necessary accuracy. The best power tool for doing the work is the table saw, which your comments indicate may be available. Best method may be to buy thick, wide stock and then rip long strips from the edges on the table saw.

Once you have your strips you'll make a type of bench hook or a mitre box. If you don't have clamps you can use glue or nails instead to fix a stop block that will ensure consistent piece sizes as you feed your strips into the cutting jig.

See Making a Poor Man's Mitre Box with Paul Sellers for the basic methodology used to make either jig. You just need to cut your groove in the back fence at a shallower angle than 45° but other than that you can make it exactly as shown.

Type of saw
Fine-toothed is the main thing you want here, so that the cut face requires minimal sanding or planing to finish it off.

The ideal type of saw here would be the subject of intense debate amongst woodworkers, with traditionalists saying that you should use a Western backsaw of some kind and those who have embraced the variety available to us today probably recommending a Japanese saw. Read a little more about the differences here, Comparison of Western saws and Japanese Saws

To be a little more accurate here I should say an Asian-style pull saw rather than a Japanese saw since many are not actually made in Japan and similar saws are seen all over Asia. You want one with cross-cut teeth (they will look like the smaller ones in this image, the larger, plainer, teeth at the bottom are rip teeth for cutting along the grain).

Some possibly relevant info in these previous Answers:
Are there techniques to sand small parts on a benchtop belt sander? (note Answers don't focus on using a belt sander)
Planing thin stock without the aid of bench dogs

In particular, what kind of wood should be used?

Almost anything you want. Really anything short of balsa would probably be fine, even pine or cedar which are both quite soft would work acceptably well.

But in general hardwoods will hold up to use better, arguably look better and more easily give you the contrasting colours you seek (no staining required).

A sensible combo here would be black walnut for the darker pieces and maple for the lighter ones, although there are numerous suitable choices for the lighter wood if maple is too expensive or not available, e.g. butternut, birch, sycamore, poplar, mango, ramin.

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  1. You will want a table saw with a fine tooth blade. One answer is above using the arbor tilt to get your 45 degrees. You can also do this with the miter gauge,and using a stop block attached to your fence to get consistent lengths. Having a block on the miter gauge that supports the back end of the cut off piece will reduce end of cut tear out. Speaking of which: Experiment with different blades to reduce tear out. A sled will make consistent cuts easier.

  2. A stationary belt/disk sander will make finishing faster. Do the faces Before cutting. Do edges and sides after. Note: Start one grit finder for the sides, and two grits finer for the edges to avoid taking off too much.

  3. If you are going to do production runs, make some gauge blocks: You set this between the blade and the fence and move the fence up. This allows you to reset for a previous cut quickly. Label your blocks. Test them with scrap wood to see that they actually set the saw to the place you want.

  4. For finishing buy a paper of heavy needles. thread them with dental floss or strong thread. The other end has a loop tied in it, or is tied onto a 1/4" plate washer. You have a board with a raft of cup hooks. stick a needle into a corner, and apply your finish. Hang to dry. If you are making a LOT of these, having a spray booth will speed this up a lot. In that case hang them first, then spray. The cup-hook board can be either hung from a pair of wall hooks, or hung from a couple of eyescrews set in the ceiling. Depending on the finish you may be able to dip them, hang initially over a drip catcher, then hang elsewhere. Your finish has to be thin enough and low enough viscosity that you don't end up with an ugly dried drip on the bottom corner.

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