Introduction: Recycle Your Plastic Campaign Signs Into Jigsaw Puzzle Trays

Assembling jigsaw puzzles is a great way to keep your brain active. One of the most challenging tasks in solving a jigsaw puzzle is how to organize the hundreds and thousands of pieces in some sort of logical order. In our case, we initially used the box that the pieces came in along with tops of bankers boxes, etc.

Several elections ago, a friend of ours ran for a public office and we were given signs to put in our front yard. After the election, I began to wonder what to do with these signs.

While working on a puzzle one day, I cut one in half to use to hold the pieces; but the coloring of the sign masked out the colors of the pieces.

After some experimentation, I found that the lettering on the sign could easily be removed with a soy based paint remover and would reveal a white panel. Since the puzzle pieces were thin, all was needed was a border to prevent the pieces from sliding off when moving the boards. Foam core was thicker than the puzzle pieces and could be easily cut to use as a border. Also, the trays could be stacked on top of each other without disturbing the puzzle pieces. They were also very light due to the nature of the cell structure of the campaign sign. So here is my method of creating puzzle trays out of old political campaign signs.


Plastic campaign signs 36 inches by 24 inches

Foam core board (for strips along edge of tray)

Craft knife (I used a snap-off blade knife)

1" x 24" aluminum angle

Hot glue gun and hot glue sticks

Soy based paint remover (I used Blue Bear brand)

Plastic card

Paper towels

Step 1: Remove the Ink From the Plastic.

I used an environmentally safe soy based paint remover and some paper towels along with an old plastic card to scrape the paint off. Basically following the directions to spread the soy gel onto the printed areas of the sign, let is sit for an hour or so. Then scrape the bubbled ink off with a plastic card (like all those junk mail credit size discount sale cards) and wipe it onto paper towels. When the bulk of the ink is removed, then use a paper towel to scrub the remainder of the ink form the sign. It's really not a difficult job, just a little patience. After the first few signs you may be able to cut down on the time and there is very little soy gel product to use for all the signs.You can see the slight shading between two half signs displayed above after ink removal.

Step 2: Cut the Sign in Half

Cut the sign in half to make 2 trays of 12" by 18” each using a straight edge. (Assuming that the size of the original sign was 2’ x 3’). The size of 12” X 18” fits most folding TV tables.

I used a piece of aluminum angle as a guide.

Step 3: Create a Guide to Cut the Strips for the Edge of the Tray

Create a guide using aluminum angle to guide the cutting of the narrow strips for the edge of the tray.

  1. Foam or wood spacers are taped to the aluminum angle to set the distance of 3/8” from the inside bend to the edge of the angle.
  2. Use a ruler to set the size of the narrow strips from the edge of the angle, the scrap piece of foam core is taped to the underside of the angle to act as a stop for the foam core being cut for the strips.

Step 4: Cut Narrow Strips of Foam Core Board

  1. Cut narrow strips, about 1/4" or 3/8”, out of a foam core board (using foam core board is much easier to cut than using another campaign sign for the narrow strips along the edge of the tray).
    Use a utility knife and a yardstick or other straight edge. I used a piece of aluminum angle with the taped in spacers on the underside of the aluminum angle..
  2. This allows the strips to be cut uniformly with the utility knife guided along the edge of the aluminum angle. Clamping the aluminum angle to the foam board and a wooden workbench steadies the cutting.
  3. Make sure you use a scrap board under the piece of foam core you are cutting or you will damage the surface of the table being used during the cutting.

Step 5: Glue the Strips to the Plastic Campaign Sign

Using hot glue gun, attach the strips to the top edges of the plastic.

Try to first apply the glue to the foam core strips first, then place the strips onto the plastic sign.

Alternatively, you can try to run a line of hot glue along the edge of the plastic sign and apply the foam core to the sign.

In either case, make sure that the glue does not ooze out into the interior of the tray as it will be difficult to remove the glue. Oozing glue on the outside of the tray can be simply cut off with the craft knife.

To be decorative, masking tape can be used to cover the edges of the tray - (might be a good idea if you have small children so that they don’t get cut on any rough plastic edges.)

I left mine alone - rough looking edges; but the trays are functional.

Step 6: Determine How Many Trays You Will Need

Depending on your approach to to solving a jigsaw puzzle, 12 trays, the size of 12” X 18, seem to be enough to hold all the puzzle pieces for a 2,000 piece puzzle.

12 trays stacked are about 4.5 inches tall.