Jigsaw puzzles have always been a great bad weather activity for the entire family. In San Diego we don’t get too many rainy days and cold nights so we generally need another excuse for building a puzzle. Fortunately our family has found that a jigsaw puzzle can also make a great, low cost piece of artwork. It is clearly not an appreciable investment, but it is a fun activity that the entire family can enjoy for many years. In this post we thought we would show you how we put together a puzzle for mounting in the guest bedroom.
Our recent jigsaw puzzle adventure got started when we went to the Puzzled Etc store in Pigeon Forge, TN in August 2016 (a month before devastating fires hit the area). This store was chock full of puzzles but what really caught our attention was they were finishing up what at the time was the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle, the Educa Wildlife puzzle at 33,600 pieces. This mammoth puzzle is almost 19 feet long and 5 feet wide. They had been working on it for several years.
Since that time they have finished that puzzle and from their Facebook page it looks like they have moved on to the even larger Disney’s Memorable Moments puzzle. I guess one challenge of working the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle is in the time from start to finish a new puzzle will come along to take the crown. Anyways the Disney puzzle is 40,000 pieces and measures a whopping 22 ft by 6 feet and retails for $600.
The reality of working a puzzle that large is almost unimaginable. However, it should be noted that the Disney puzzle actually is 10 separate sections each with its own Disney scene. So it is like working ten 4,000 piece puzzles. The largest puzzle we have done is 6,000 pieces and so this is within the realm of possible. By the start of September 2017 it looks like Puzzled Etc was done with the Peter Pan section and moving on to Fantasia.
Our ambitions are a little more modest so that day in Tennessee we took advantage of their buy 4 puzzles and get 1 free to buy four 1,000 piece puzzles and a 2,000 piece world puzzle. The weather in San Diego continues to be sunny, so a year later we have only completed two of them. However, both these puzzles are now proudly on display and make great conversation pieces that cost under $20 each.
The first puzzle we completed was the 2,000 piece world puzzle, measuring 4 feet by 2 feet. The official title is World Wonders Illustrated Map by Russian artist Maria Rabinky. This puzzle is a great conversation piece because it shows all kinds of famous landmarks from around the world. Because there are so many different elements this was a relatively easy puzzle to complete given its size.
We have all kinds of visitors ask how we are able to mount these puzzles so we thought a brief tutorial was in order. So here, step-by-step is a guide to mounting a puzzle. As an example we are going to use the Rock’ N Roll puzzle from White Mountain Puzzles. This puzzle is part of a series of pop culture puzzles created by artist James Mellett. This puzzle features images of dozens of iconic rock stars. If you can’t figure out who is who, there is a handy online guide. Funny thing we noticed, an earlier version of the puzzle had the Grateful Dead and Bob Marley who are edited it out in current editions. You can still see the top of Jerry Garcia’s head above the guitar. Not sure how this occurred but an interesting side note. Anyways on to puzzle mounting.
Buy puzzle and build. Nothing special needs to be done until the puzzle is complete.
Buy supplies. For this we go to the local drug store (CVS, Rite-Aid or Walgreens in our neighborhood) and buy poster board. A pack of 10 boards size 22 inch by 28 inch costs about $5. For a 1,000 piece puzzle you need 2, so that is about a $1 in cost. Next you need glue. There are all kinds of glue but we use wildly available Mod Podge which we buy in 16 oz bottles for about $6 at Micheal’s. A single bottle will do about 4 puzzles so about $1.50 each. Note there are many specialty glues labeled for jigsaw puzzles. Mod Podge makes its own jigsaw puzzle saver glue but it costs about twice as much and as far as we can figure is the exact same as the regular. Basically a marketing ploy to take a multi-use product and rebrand it for a single use and charge more.
Slide poster board under puzzle. No need to add any other protective surface but make sure the board extends beyond the puzzle edge. Open the glue and pour out a blob on the puzzle.
Spread the glue around the puzzle, making sure to get all the edges and in the cracks. You can use almost anything to spread: a business card, your finger, a foam brush (I wouldn’t recommend a paint brush) or in our case a cheap putty knife. Keep pouring around the puzzle and spreading until the entire puzzle is covered. At first we freaked out because it goes on white and looks like a mess, but it will dry clear.
Let dry for 2 hours or some. Carefully lift puzzle and add additional coats as needed. The puzzle should not be fully stuck to the poster board but should lift fairly easily. At this point add glue underneath the puzzle to stick it firmly to the poster board. When everything drys the puzzle should be able to stand on its own without any loose pieces. Glue any remaining loose spots.
Trim the edges using an exacto knife. Make sure you use a cutting board or other surface to protect the table. Once the edges are trimmed the puzzle is ready for mounting. For this 1,000 piece puzzle we simply nailed it to the wall using 4 wire nails. The larger puzzles of course take more. Viola! You have a fun, hand built piece of art.
Of course, if you really wanted to get fancy you could frame your puzzle. For us that is too much. When the kids leave the home and we get an interior decorator to fancy the place up these puzzles are likely to come down. Right now simple, colorful and cheap works for us.
We will say that our masterpiece 6,000 piece puzzle was a little more effort. For this 6 foot by 4 foot beast we bought a foam backing board and mounted with heavier nails. It was also more of a challenge getting the finished puzzle onto the board. Otherwise, this method worked fine for a puzzle of that size. Now we need to tackle one of these 30,000+ piece puzzles. Finding a place to hang it will be a challenge. Maybe the living room ceiling?
Not sure if this 6000 piece behemoth is still in print but it is called USA Vacation