Wednesday, May 13, 2015

DIY Framed Puzzle Mat for a Large Puzzle

I love Italy! Ever since I was 14 years old I've had this thing for Italy. I dreamed about going there, I learned Italian, I collected CDs of any Italian artist I could find, I followed the Serie A football league (Forza Milan!), and enthusiastically tuned into RAI International every day. About 5 years ago my husband and I went to Italy! We spent two amazing weeks traveling around the north (Milan, Padua, Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre). I literally cried when it was time to come home.  

While we were in Florence, we wandered into this amazing toy store (if we had had children at the time we would have dropped some serious cash there!). My husband loves puzzles and he found this beautiful "Crazy World Cup" puzzle by Mordillo. We bought it!

We had traveled with only one suitcase but after purchasing the puzzle we needed a second bag (I am more than partially to blame for this because I love books... and I had been picking up books every day of the trip, including an enormous tome from the Uffizi Gallery). So the puzzle flew home with us in our cute new red suitcase and then sat around for the next 4 years waiting to be assembled.

In March, my husband decided it was time to start the puzzle! I recently shared a Framed Puzzle Mat for children's puzzles and I thought I could do something similar for this puzzle since we do not have a dedicated space for such a large and time-consuming project.

I wanted the puzzle mat to have a sturdy base because, even in the box, the puzzle is quite heavy. Unfortunately a sheet of plywood or MDF was out of the question because it would have been too large to fit in either of our cars. So I opted for cardboard, which we have in abundance left over from our last move. I wanted to use craft foam again because it's amazing at holding the puzzle pieces in place. So basically, the puzzle mat would be made out of cardboard and craft foam! It would also have a frame in craft foam along the entire perimeter of the mat to keep the puzzle pieces on the mat.

Onto making the framed puzzle mat! You will need large cardboard boxes (enough to make two sheets in the dimensions of the puzzle), wood glue, and craft foam. For measuring and cutting the cardboard and craft foam you will need a ruler, measuring tape, and a utility knife.

Using the dimensions labeled on the puzzle box, cut out two pieces of cardboard with the same dimensions plus 1 inch on all sides. This extra inch is reserved for the frame that holds all the puzzle pieces on the mat.

Glue the two pieces of cardboard together using the wood glue. I used two large cardboard boxes and had to use most of the four sides of the boxes. If you are doing the same, make sure that the creases in the two cardboard sheets do not line up when you are gluing them together. If the mat is very large and the creases overlap, there is a good chance that the puzzle mat will buckle when it is moved (especially if it is bearing the weight of the puzzle).

You do not need to let the cardboard pieces dry, you can get to work immediately on gluing down the craft foam sheets. The idea is to glue craft foam over the entire top surface of the cardboard. Trim the craft foam at the edges if necessary.

This is what the mat looked like when I was done gluing the craft foam sheets. I started adding weights to help the foam adhere to the cardboard.

Now it's time to add the frame! Cut 1 inch strips out of craft foam and use the wood glue to glue them all around the edges of the mat.

And here is the finished framed puzzle mat! It took about 3 hours to put together (not including a trip to the Home Depot when I ran out of wood glue!). I let it dry overnight and the wood glue did a great job holding everything together.

Looking at the framed puzzle mat from the side you will see three layers: the base, the mat, and the frame:

This framed puzzle mat is massive (it is almost my size and it doesn't fit through a door without being tilted). And it is pretty heavy (I'm so glad it is made out of cardboard and not MDF). Once my husband had laid down a substantial amount of the puzzle the base had to be reinforced along one of the vertical lines (the cardboard had been recycled from our last move so there was probably a weak point in it). But it has been working out phenomenally well for him! It sits on top of an armoire in our living room during the day and he brings it down at night to work on it. In all the putting it up/taking it down none of the pieces have budged! So I'm really happy with it!

My husband is still working on the puzzle and is having a blast doing it! Once he's done, the intention is to frame the puzzle and hang it on the wall (it's such a fun illustration and we both are really big soccer/football fans!). I will share a post in the future about how we glued it together and got it out the door! I'm sure it will be an adventure! (Update: Check out my post How to Flip and Glue a Large Puzzle by Yourself to see how I did it!)

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