What is the best way to build a puzzle? There is no right or wrong answer, but this does not mean that people don’t have strong opinions. Despite the variation in methods the same challenges beset puzzlers regardless of method. Some obstacles are keeping all the pieces together, having an undisturbed workspace, storing the work in progress, and sorting the pieces. Over the years of building puzzles, one indispensable tool we have found is the puzzle tray. Here are some of the ways we have found to use puzzle trays in our puzzling, but we are interested in getting your ideas as well.
- AS A PUZZLE TRAY: the first use of a puzzle tray is a sturdy surface on which to build your puzzle. Some get a larger tray than the dimensions of the puzzle they are making; this provides room around the puzzle border for working with loose pieces. If you’re worried about not knowing the size of the puzzle border, you can use a marker and draw the puzzle size on the board.
- AS A SORTING SURFACE: One common step is to sort the pieces by color or shape. Being able to share the sorted pieces makes building the puzzle as a team easier. The mobility of a puzzle tray makes it ideal for a sorting surface that can be passed between people. It is even a great assist when one is working alone.
- TO STORE: Some like to separate their pieces into containers. We suggest getting a 5 or 6 pack of flat, square storage containers at the grocery store. Double-sided tape or glue the containers on a puzzle tray to sort the pieces into them. Since they have lids, you can close them and protect loose tiles. Like we stated above, it also makes them portable.
- THE MULTIPLE TRAY APPROACH: using two or three puzzle trays works very well. Have the puzzle being assembled on one tray, then use a second tray to hold your sorting containers or as your sorting surface. It may seem to take up room, but when it comes time to pause, place one tray on top of the other to keep the loose pieces safe and protect puzzle in progress.
These are a few ideas we have found that have made building puzzles more efficient, productive, and fun. We look forward to your comments on using puzzle trays or other accessories to help you do puzzles.