Cheap Way to Save a Puzzle

About: I have been an industrial electrician for almost 10 years. This is why many of my projects are electrical related. I am working on a BS degree for LD&T.

I enjoy putting together puzzles and hanging them up for home decoration.  You have a few options when it comes to displaying a finished puzzle.  The cheapest way is to just stick it in a frame that holds it tight, but not glued together.  With this option you might save money, but if it falls off the wall you run the risk of the puzzle falling apart and needing put together again.  You can buy one of those bottles of powder and mix it up, but those little bottles can get expensive.  There is always the most expensive way, taking a finished puzzle to a frame shop and let them glue it and frame it.

I am cheap, so i spent some time looking for a way to save my puzzles.  The cheapest way I have come up with is to use simple Elmers glue.  The same glue every kid uses in school.  

- easy to get
- cheap
- non toxic
- no bad odors
- fast drying
- easy to work with

- leaves the puzzle with a matte finish

Now I will show you how use it.......

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Step 1:

Items needed

- Puzzle
- Plastic
- Elmers Glue
- Something to spread the glue
- A knife 

The first thing I do is prepare an area to work on the puzzle.  I first tape a large piece of plastic down to a table, I used a cheap garbage bag.  

now assemble your puzzle.  

Step 2:

After you have finished assembling your puzzle you will need the glue and something to spread it with. The black tool that I use is a squeegy from a window tinting kit. In my pic the bottle of glue is a 1 gallon bottle.  I have done a lot of puzzles with this bottle.  I also use the glue for other crafts, thats why I spent the $12 for a gallon bottle.  This is the normal white glue, Elmers also makes a clear glue but i have not tried to use it. 

The knife will be needed later. 

Step 3:

First I just pour some glue onto the middle of the puzzle. Then just start spreading. make sure to cover the entire puzzle, add more glue if needed. do your best to make an even coat across the entire puzzle. 

As you spread it thinner it will start to dry, if it starts to clump up stop spreading it. You may need to add a little more glue to make it spread out smooth.  Be sure to get all the edges.  You can see in the last pic that I ran the glue off the edge a little. 

Step 4:

Let the puzzle set until it is completely dry, this may take a few days.  

Carefully lift the puzzle off the plastic. I normally start in one corner and work my way around.  If the puzzle pieces are breaking apart then you did not put enough glue on, just put another layer of glue on.

You can see in this pic the way the glue dried on the edge of the puzzle.  This is when you need a knife.  Carefully trim the excess glue off the edge, but try not to cut into the puzzle.  

Once you have finished trimming the excess glue off you are ready to hang the puzzle.  At this point you can attach a picture hanger to the back, or put it in a frame.  

Update-- After a comment below I added a pic.  I recommend some one try it another way and let us all know how it turned out.

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    26 Discussions


    1 year ago

    wouldn't it be better to flip the puzzle over and do the same process on the back side, or how about using peel and stink drawer liner on the back to hold it together, or aerosol spray on glue. Why would you want to put anything on the picture side?


    1 year ago

    I built my puzzle on Canvas board I’m ready to march Pagett seal it may I just seal it right to the canvas board or will I still have to flip it and seal it and then flip it back to the canvas board


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I've used duct tape and contact paper to hold puzzles together and it works really well, but they will be flexible so you may want to attach them to plywood/foam with spray adhesive, or frame them. Shirley you could try that or maybe Amazing Goop all purpose adhesive to glue it to something.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Contact paper is a great idea! Just to hold the puzzle together until you can attach it to posterboard or foam board or whatever.


    2 years ago

    I've always glued the back of the puzzle, as I was leery about messing up the front. But I didn't use a lot of glue- just enough to secure it to posterboard before framing. Plain old Elmers watered down and painted on with a paintbrush. I also used glue sticks, which were even better- the only downside is that it uses up a lot of glue stick.

    I now have a large, non-rectangular puzzle that won't fit in a standard frame- so I'm going to hang that on its own. For that I'll probably have to coat both the front and back to seal all the pieces together.


    3 years ago

    For those who read this and want to try an inexpensive solution: use cork bulletin board without a frame and the thinfoil cling film (the wrapping plastic foil which is very clingy to itself, known as Saran Wrap).

    How to do it? First put the big puzzle on the bulletin board. The board must be a rectangle without any frames. Then wrap the board around in the cling foil starting at the top-left, continuing to right aiming somewhat lower than when you started. You should aim for a small foil overlap each time you go around on the front face of the board. It takes some skill to wrap the cling film plastic without a lot of wrinkles however it is possible. You will need 4 to 6 hands to do this properly but the results are nice. The puzzle will NOT fall out of place once it's nicely wrapped. You can also secure the cling film plastic at the back with duct tape, so it doesn't unwrap. Then it's really ready to hang.

    Please let me know here if you have success with this method, it was completely my idea and I love the result. The idea is to save the puzzle from glue to have it available at any time by tearing away the thin film foil.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    If you brush the glue on with a cheap foam brush it won't drip and puddle and you can glue the back. I use Mod Podge for a strong. bright, clear gloss finish.


    I need a suggestion to preserve a plastic jigsaw puzzle. Its semi transparent plastic. The surface is shining glossy image. I can seal from the back once its finished. But with what? Water base glue will not hold plastic well. I have mod podge but it will peel right off plastic.

    I use mod podge gloss craft glue, it dries on clear and has a shiny finish, lasts longer than school glue


    4 years ago on Step 4

    If you build the puzzle on a piece of foam board, you can lay another piece of foam board on top when its done. Clamp them together to flip it over. Then glue the back instead of the front. This way you won't have that ugly mat finish.

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Step 4

    but you risk having the front of the puzzle sticking to the foam board and pulling the picture from the puzzle off. i dont know if i recommend this. you should try the clear glue and see how that dries.


    4 years ago

    Has anyone tried using duct tape on the back to hold it together and give is support?

    You can glue it to single layer cardboard for stability. I've put them in poster frames with no glue with great success too as they come in sizes about the same as most puzzles.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I was wondering whether glueing the puzzle in this way would make it possible to disassemble and build it again, or not at all? I'm trying to figure out a way to frame a few puzzles without mounting them permanently.

    2 replies

    If you use this method then it is permanent, thats the reason for using glue. If you want to take them apart later my suggestion would be to buy a good frame that fits together very well so that the puzzle can not come apart in the frame, but you would be able to take it out of the frame and disassemble it.

    Thanks, I had the same idea in mind with a tight-fitting frame if the glue couldn't work. I'm thinking of using frame clips and acrylic/glass to keep it as cheap as possible, not sure if it'll be tight enough though. If it works I'll try to post an Instructable on it :) I've got Van Gogh's "Nuit Etoileé" (1 000 pc) and Salvador Dali's "Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening" (1 500 pc) with which I've started my collection of fine art puzzles, and I'm sure they'll look beautiful framed! But it'll take a while for me to build them too...


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I don't know if i would have the heart to start over on that. why was it sitting up?! it should have been on a flat table! my limit is about 1500 pieces.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Lack of space (19ft by 8ft !!) ? Also "photo opportunity" is easier if it's up. They'd apparently taken advice on the maximum angle that was safe, and ... it wasn't.

    The guy actually MADE the jigsaw too, not just assembled it. Re-assembling it was probably going to be a job for the Queen :)