Monday, July 20, 2015

Picture Puzzle Blocks

Several years ago I was given a kit for creating a puzzle out of wooden blocks and photographs. I tucked it away in my bottomless pit of projects and didn't think about it again until the stars aligned to jog my memory.

Since my parents passed away, I have spent a lot of time going through and scanning family documents and pictures. It has been a wonderful journey down memory lane. Knowing that I had a reunion coming up this summer with my siblings and their spouses, I tried to pick up the pace so that we could enjoy the pictures together. I remembered the puzzle blocks and thought that they would be a fun way to share some of the photographs with them.

As I said, the original puzzle that I did (I ended up making six) was from a kit. I had hoped that I could simply link you to their website, but it apparently no longer exists. However, I used their instructions, and I want to give them credit. My kit came from or

What you will need for this project: 9 wooden, 2" blocks; six photographs; decoupage glue (like Modpodge); a foam brush; sandpaper; a trimming tool (like a single edge razor blade); an ink pad; acrylic sealer, if desired. You can buy the blocks at craft stores, cut them yourself, or have them cut at a hardware store:

Step One: Find six pictures. Look for images that can be cropped to a square shape. Enlarge or reduce your images to a little larger than 6 x 6 inches. Print your pictures on standard copy paper in black and white. (You can probably use color, but I have never seen them done that way.) Let the ink dry and then draw a six inch square around the portion of the picture you want to feature. Divide the large square into nine equal squares. Each square should measure 2 x 2 inches. Cut out your squares. I separated the pictures into six zip lock bags so that they wouldn't get mixed up with each other:

Step Two: Lay out your wooden blocks 3 across and 3 down. With a pencil, lightly mark each block in the upper right hand corner with a number and a letter: A1-A9. Rotate all the blocks to the left--Side B--and mark each block the same way: B1-B9. Rotate left again and mark Side C. Rotate left again and mark Side D. Rotate each block up for Side E and mark it. Then rotate each block down twice to find the remaining, unmarked side, Side F. Mark it.

Step Three: Protect your work surface. Lay out your blocks so that Side A is showing and the numbers run left to right and top to bottom-1 through 9. Arrange your cutout picture squares on top of the blocks to recreate your picture:

 Remove the cutout image, keeping your picture squares in order. Apply a thin layer of decoupage glue to the top of block A1. Place the first picture cutout on top of the glue. Smooth in place, pressing out any air bubbles. Continue applying picture cutouts to Side A2-9:

Step Four: After the glue is COMPLETELY dry on Side A, turn your block so that the picture side is face down on a cutting board. Using a sharp cutting tool, carefully trim off any overhanging edges:

After you have trimmed Side A, turn the blocks to Side B placing them in the correct order. Follow the same procedure--gluing, drying, and trimming--for all Sides B through F.

Step Five: After all the blocks are glued and trimmed. carefully sand the edges of each block:

If desired, use a black ink pad to darken the sanded edges of each block to give it a distressed look. I feel like this step made a wonderful difference to the look of the puzzle:

Apply a thin layer of decoupage over each section of the blocks, paying special attention to the edges to make sure that they are completely glued in place. This layer smeared the ink slightly, but it actually added to the aged look of the blocks. This step takes time because you have to let each side dry completely before you turn the blocks to cover the next side. You may apply extra coats of glue for added durability or apply a coat of clear acrylic sealer instead. (I suggest the sealer because decoupage glue tends to remain slightly tacky even when it is dry--especially in high humidity.)

We had so much fun at our reunion playing with our blocks together!