It seems advent calendars are everywhere this year with themes ranging from traditional spiritual matters to all manner of pop culture. I wanted to put a crafty spin on this trend so I made my parents a custom jigsaw puzzle advent calendar. This Instructable is a call back to my previous guide to upcycling dollar store puzzles https://www.instructables.com/id/Adding-Your-Own-A... and my guide to creating art stencils https://www.instructables.com/id/Everything-I-Know...
I wanted this project to be easy to reproduce using common materials. I decided to use foam core board and poster board to create a board with recesses to hold the puzzle pieces and cut card stock pieces to cover them up. Using a 48 piece puzzle would give us two pieces every day until the puzzle was completed on Christmas Eve. Festive fun!
Step 1: Materials
I used common supplies available at your local dollar store. I used one sheet of foam core board, one piece of poster board, one 48 piece puzzle, various colors of card stock, glue stick, super glue and spray paint. I used basic craft tools like a ruler, yardstick, hobby razor knife and a mechanical pencil. I cut my stencils with a Silhouette Cameo paper cutting machine, but they can also be hand-cut.
Step 2: Assemble and Paint the Puzzle
I assembled the puzzle and gave it a light coat of primer to help the spray paint stick to the cardboard. Use light coats of paint and give plenty of time for drying so that the puzzle pieces don't stick together.
Your choice of art work and technique is up to you. I like spray paint and stencils because I can make a series of nearly identical puzzles. You may prefer markers, paint pens or brushed paint. Experiment and have fun.
I used a Silhouette Cameo paper cutting machine. If you are unfamiliar, here's an Instructable I did about mine- https://www.instructables.com/id/Make-Awesome-Cut-...
I first sprayed a background gradient in black and grey. I then sprayed three large stars in gold. When that dried I added three more slightly smaller stars in silver. I let that dry and then added 'Merry Christmas' in green, let it dry and then sprayed the same message in red slightly off center from the green layer to create a drop shadow effect. I let this dry completely over night to prevent the puzzle pieces from sticking together.
Step 3: Create the Calendar Frame
An advent calendar is designed to count down the 24 days leading up to Christmas. Each day is represented by a tiny envelope or covered recess which may contain a message, picture or treat. I decided to use foam core board with holes cut out and poster board on the back.
First, I measured a puzzle piece to determine a good hole size. I figured out that if I put the pieces in diagonally, they'd fit in a square slightly larger than 2". I decided to use a 1" space between the holes. I decided on an arrangement with the holes in a 5x5 grid with a blank space in the center. This resulted in a 16" square board. I used a yard stick and a pencil to lay out the hole locations and carefully cut them out with a hobby knife.
When all the holes were cut out I cut a square of poster board to fit the back of the cut foam core. I used a glue stick to attach the poster board and piled books on top to weigh it down while it dried. When it was dry I numbered each little cubby hole to keep things straight later.
Step 4: Make 24 Covers for the Holes in the Board
Again, you can use any theme for your calendar- be creative, I decided to cover the holes on the front with little squares decorated to look like presents. Since the holes in the foam core were around 2.25", I cut the squares at 2.75". I cut 6 squares in four different colors. I also cut thin strips of red and green card stock for the ribbon and bows on the presents. This was a bit tedious, but my beautiful and helpful wife lent a hand while we watched holiday shows.
Step 5: Fill the Holes
I wanted the recipient to get two playable puzzle pieces every day, so I filled the holes carefully. I started with two adjacent pieces in the first hole, added two more to the next one and so on. It was important that each piece had a place to go on the puzzle so loose pieces weren't waiting around to get lost or in the way. Each day the puzzle will grow just a little bit.
Step 6: Covering the Holes
I covered the holes with the card stock presents I made earlier. I arranged them in an interesting pattern before gluing them to insure a pleasing look. I used a yard stick to keep them aligned and stuck them on with a small dot of super glue in each corner. I held each piece in place briefly with my fingers to let the glue set. The recipient can easily slip a fingernail or similar tool under the edge to remove each days puzzle pieces.
Step 7: Finishing Touches
I used a black marker to number each box. I also added a shiny bow to the empty middle square. That's it. This was a pretty easy project and could be modified to fit any theme or interest.