DIY Jigsaw Puzzle Board with Trays
Create a portable puzzle workspace with this DIY jigsaw puzzle board with trays.
Our family loves to puzzle, especially during the holidays. Growing up, my parents would buy a new holiday puzzle each year. Luckily, they kept many of the puzzles. Putting those old puzzles together is such a walk down memory lane. We’ve also expanded our collection with the gorgeous and whimsical puzzles from White Mountain Puzzles.
With two kids under 6, up until last year it was a true hazard to leave a puzzle out on a table. Our little helpers repeatedly (and accidentally) swept pieces onto the floor, spilled trays of pieces, or broke apart finished sections. Also, we struggled to find space to leave a large puzzle out long enough to finish.
Our solution was to build a portable puzzle board with trays. The board is sturdy, yet not too heavy to carry and stow under furniture. The foam board trays are light and allow for easy sorting, organizing, and storing.
At the end of the evening, we stow the trays in the puzzle board and hide the board under the couch (or a bed). Clean-up is easy and we have the kitchen table ready for breakfast the next morning.
We love a good DIY project. Check out some of our favorites:
- Toy Tree House
- Toy Storage Bench
- Sports Equipment Storage From Repurposed Fence Panels
- Train Table Top
- Kid Art Display Using A Large Frame
Our Puzzle Strategy
We start with the flip and sort. While turning the pieces face up in the trays, we put the edges pieces on the puzzle board. Usually, I work on the edges, Dean picks the most striking image (he thinks it will be easier to put together), Gigi works quietly and quickly, and Gpa celebrates every connection as if he discovered gold. Somewhere along my puzzling journey, I decided that the puzzle box shouldn’t be consulted. Inevitably, that leads to stealthy peeks from the rest of the puzzle crew.
Both kiddos love puzzles. Recently, they’ve taken more of an interest in adult puzzles. To reduce the level of frustration, we find connecting pieces and let them figure out how they fit together. When the puzzle is complete, we pull out 10-20 pieces around the puzzle for the kids to fit back into place. That is still a challenge and the kids love finishing the puzzle.
DIY Jigsaw Puzzle Board Size and Material
Puzzles come in all sizes; the jigsaw puzzles we tackle are generally 24″ x 30″ or smaller. Our jigsaw puzzle board is 26″ x 32″, giving a little extra space on all sides.
We considered making the board larger, but wanted to keep it portable. We store the puzzle board either under a couch or a bed in a different room from where we puzzle. So, the jigsaw puzzle board needed to fit through a standard doorway.
The puzzle board is tall enough to hold two levels of foam board trays; one set slightly smaller to fit within the bigger trays. We’ve found that the more trays, the better, especially with multiple puzzlers at work. Each person can grab a tray to work in, creating even more puzzle area. We considered using cookie trays, but decided on less slippery, customizable foam board. Foam board makes perfect puzzle trays – they are light, yet sturdy, and foam board is an inexpensive material.
Gpa and I went back and forth on material for the puzzle board. Actually, we made a first version from 3/8″ MDF. We loved the smooth finish on the top and edges of the MDF, but the board was very heavy. For the second version, we chose high-quality formaldehyde-free 1/4″ maple plywood. With some sanding, the plywood top and edges are very smooth. Plus, the jigsaw puzzle board is sturdy, but light.
We love a good DIY storage project. Check out some of our favorites:
- Under Couch Toy Storage From Repurposed Cardboard
- How We Repurpose Plastic Food Containers
- LEGO Organization Saga – Episode 1: Instruction Book Storage
- LEGO Organization Saga – Episode 2: LEGO Model Storage
Tips for Cutting Foam Board
- Kids should keep away while the adult uses a sharp utility knife.
- Always be careful when using a utility knife. Clear all body parts out of the cut line. Make sure to close the utility knife any time it is not in use and keep out of kids’ reach.
- Protect the work surface. I cut on top of several layers of cardboard or self-healing mat.
- Use a new, sharp blade to get a clean cut. If blade starts to dull and snag the board, replace with a new blade.
- Push the point of the blade all the way through the board, then pull the utility knife along a metal ruler in one smooth motion. A dull blade or multiple cuts may leave jagged edges.
Kids can help assemble the foam board trays. Keep kids a safe distance away when using the sharp utility knife. Use your discretion as to how much kids should help, if at all, with low-temp hot glue. My son holds pieces in place after I apply the glue. My daughter is learning how to carefully use the glue gun, with lots of supervision and reminders to not touch the tip or the glue.
If you’re a fan of foam board, make a DIY foam board piñata or DIY Encanto Casita!
DIY Puzzle Board With Trays – Materials
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- 1/4″ x 4″ x 8″ maple plywood
- 1/2″ x 2″ x 4″ maple plywood
- 120- and 220-grit sandpaper
- wood glue
- 1/4″ crown, 1/2″ long 18 gauge staples
- foam board
- low temperature hot glue sticks
- skill saw
- table saw
- miter saw
- tape measure
- speed square
- random orbital sander
- pneumatic staple gun
- utility knife
- metal straight edge ruler
- low temperature hot glue gun
How To DIY Jigsaw Puzzle Board With Trays
1. Measure and Cut Plywood
For our 26″ x 32″ puzzle board, we cut a 1/4″ plywood sheet into two 26″ x 32″ boards using a skill saw along a metal guide. Sand all edges and surfaces with 220-grit sandpaper.
2. Measure and Cut Internal Structure
To accommodate the foam board trays, we made a 1 1/2″ space between the top and bottom boards using 1 1/2″ struts.
three 1 1/2″ x 24″
two 1 1/2″ x 15 1/4″
On a table saw, cut 1/2″ plywood sheet into 1 1/2″ strips to form the struts. Then cut struts to length using miter saw. Sand all edges and surfaces with 220-grit sandpaper.
3. Assemble the DIY Jigsaw Puzzle Board
For ease of assembly, we made a quick jig. Using the pneumatic stapler, we secured two pieces of scrap wood together, with the shorter piece perpendicular to the longer. The length of the longer piece allowed the strut to sit right in the middle of the board.
We attached the struts to the top and bottom boards with a pneumatic stapler. Practice on a scrap first to get used to where the staple comes out.
Draw a line in the middle of both sides of the bottom board to mark strut location.
Starting with one of the longer struts, apply wood glue to the strut and along the pencil line on the bottom board.
Clamp the strut in place and secure with staples.
Repeat for each strut.
For the shorter struts, use the jig to line up the strut before clamping. Then use the jig to place the staples.
Tap each strut with a rubber mallet to set the staples and ensure a snug fit. Wipe excess glue with a rag.
Once all the struts are stapled to the bottom board, add glue to the top of each strut.
Then, line up the top and use a tape measure to place staples in the middle of the board. Use the jig to staple the shorter struts.
4. Finish Puzzle Board
Fill any holes and gaps with wood filler. When dry, sand and repeat until smooth (filler tends to shrink when it dries). Give all edges and surfaces one more pass with the sander to smooth any rough spots.
To make it a little less pointy for our kiddos, we sanded the corners until slightly rounded.
Add thin felt furniture protective pads to the bottom of the puzzle board to protect any surface the board sits on.
The high-quality plywood we selected had such a smooth finish and beautiful color, we elected not to add stain or paint. Either is an option.
5. Make Foam Board Trays
We made foam board trays in 2 sizes, one slightly smaller to fit inside the larger tray. On the larger tray, we cut the front side longer to create a tab, making it easier to pull the tray out of the pocket.
Mark cut lines for the tray bases and sides:
Larger Tray (make 4):
Base: 11 3/4″ x 14 1/4″ (cut 4)
Long Sides with Tab: 3/4″ x 15″ (cut 4)
Long Sides without Tab: 3/4″ 14 5/8″ (cut 4)
Short Sides: 3/4″ x 11 3/4″ (cut 8)
Smaller Tray (make 4):
Base: 11″ x 13 3/8″ (cut 4)
Long Sides: 3/4″ x 13 7/8″ (cut 8)
Short Sides: 3/4″ x 11″ (cut 8)
Mark cut line with pencil on the foam board. Place metal ruler over each line and cut using a utility knife with sharp blade.
Use low-temperature hot glue to create the trays. Attach the short sides first, adding a line of hot glue along the bottom edge. Reinforce with a line of glue at the joint. Then add the long sides.
What’s your puzzle strategy?
One thought on “DIY Jigsaw Puzzle Board with Trays”
WOW! Brilliant! I wish I had your vision and energy! Auntie MB
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