Project – Puzzle Board

I wanted to take a brief moment to talk about a fairly simple project I’ve done making a few Puzzle Boards. Though at the moment, wood prices are kind of nutty, so it’s a good project to do later. I’ve made something like 4 or 5 of these now in various sizes, for use by my family both at my house and extended family. They could be a bit fancier as well but the same concept applies.

Basically, we do puzzles as a group sometimes. Often these puzzles take several days to complete, which means they are often in the way. We also have cats, who like to destroy things because they are cats. This is where the Puzzle Board comes in, it’s a simple flat board with an edge and a cover, to protect the puzzle while it’s being worked on.

It’s extremely simple to make, though it’s best if you have a decent saw and some clamps. For these boards, we bought some medium sized sheets of thin wood. The size depends on how large you want the board to be, the one pictures was likely roughly a 4′ x 4′ sheet. Selecting the type of wood is fairly important and it may cost a bit more than a basic sheet. A lot of flooring or plywood (4′ x 8′ sheets) is too thick, it will make the thing super heavy. Some of the cheaper wood though is too flimsy, it needs to be reasonably stiff, tough the sides will add to the stiffness.

You also need some sort of trim piece. I used 3/4″ pre finished Quarter Round, but you could use something fancier. How much depends on the length of the sides of your board, but unless you are making something absolutely massive, 1-2 8 foot pieces should work. for smaller lap sized boards you’d only need one.

The top cover board is roughly 2 inches smaller than the bottom board, to account for the edge size. So, for example, if you had a 4′ x 4′ square of flat board, you would cut it in two just over half way at 25″ wide. Four feet is 48 inches, half would be 24 inches. Cutting at 25 inches gives you a piece 25 inches wide and a piece 23 inches wide. the 23 inch wide piece will need a couple of inches trimmed off one end, but then it should sit just inside the 25 inch wide base.

For the edges, trim them with a 45 degree angle so the outer side is the same length as the base of the puzzle board. Int he example above, these would be 25 inches and 48 inches, with the 45 degree angles all pointing “in”. It’s best to visualize each piece before cutting and how it will lay, because it’s easy to accidentally cut it incorrectly and then the corners won’t line up.

Once the base and sides are cut, you can stain or paint the base and top (and sides if they are not pre finished) to the desired color. It may also be a good idea to lay things out just to make sure the top board fits and doesn’t need trimmed down any as well. If you are really ambitious you could also potentially attach some sort of mat or fabric to the base piece at this point as well.

Next use some wood glue and glue the sides on carefully, keeping them as straight as you can along the sides of the base piece. Use clamps to hold the side pieces in place as they dry to avoid things coming loose. I also would recommend using an old sock or rag between the clamp and wood, to help keep the clamp for marring the finish. All four sides can be done at once, or a few at a time, depending on how many clamps are available. If you are careful you could also simply place everything on a flat surface (like a table or the ground) and balance something heavy like some large books on top if no clamps are available. Just take care that things don’t slide around. If you re doing this, it may be helpful to use some scrap pieces so the books (or whatever) sit “flat” instead of at an angle (where they will be applying some small sideways force).

Once every thing is dry, that’s it. It’s done. Construct your puzzle on the base, when you’re taking a break, cover it with the cover piece. When not in use you can store the cover in the frame and store it wherever you have room. The basic concept can easily be resized as well. I’ve made smaller lap sized versions of these as well, for single person use in a chair.

Basement – Corner Shelf

Last post I talked about putting in some flooring and shelving as part of revamping my basement space a bit. I ended up with a couple of issues after the initial work, one was sort of previously an issue, one new. The desks don’t quite fill the wall from my Photo Booth to the pillar halfway down the wall. This was, sort of an issue before. The secondary issue, I have this Raspberry Pi Rack that I previously had sitting on a shorter bookcase next to the desk. That bookcase has been relocated, and the new book cases reach the ceiling instead of, four feet or so up, so putting the rack on top is kind of out of the question.

Another potential issue with this space involves the cats. While they have not done it yet, it’s kind of the perfect sort of space for them to sneak in and start peeing on the floor.

Basically, it needed to be filled.

My original plan was to make a super basic little table that was the same height as the desk to fill in the hole. When I started planning it out, I realized that there wasn’t really any reason that the shelf could not be taller, so I opted to make it the same height as the new book cases.

There are some other challenged in designing this shelf. I didn’t want it to be deeper than the book shelves, at least not up top, but the end of the desk doesn’t reach the front of the book shelves. So the new unit would need to be slightly “L” shaped. Another problem was the power strip hanging off the end of the desk. While the basement has water issues in places (that I’ve been working to resolve), it’s never flooded anywhere near the desk and flooring area. I’ve still taken the precaution of making sure there isn’t anything electronic on the floor, so the power strip is strapped to the end of the desk.

Part of the purpose of the new unit was to also hide this wiring mess. But I still need it to be accessible. When the shelf was just going to be a short table, this was easy, make the top removable. Since I was making the shelf taller, I had to redesign things a bit so the middle shelf was removable instead.

After sketching out the general idea of what I was going for, I purchased some white pre-finished boards from Menards and set about cutting and assembling the new shelf unit. I used pre-finished boards so it would match the IKEA shelving.The base of the unit is pretty straight forward. It’s a square box. For the removable shelf, I built in a square of support blocks and cut a piece to fit. Since the unit sits flush against the one wall, I opted to leave the vertical gap on the right side open. This gives a place to reach in and pick up the removable shelf, plus a path to slip cables through for anything that’s temporarily plugged in. For the more permanent connections like Network cables going to the switch in the Pi rack, I later drilled a hole in the fixed back half of the middle shelf.

For the more permanent connections like Network cables going to the switch in the Pi rack, I later drilled a hole in the fixed back half of the middle shelf. The back half being fixed in place also means that I don’t have to completely remove the Pi Rack and Alexa anytime I want to open up and get to the Power strip.

After adding a stained piece of backing to the shelf, I went up and drilled some shallow holes to add shelving. I ended up liking these small shelves much more than I expected honestly. I can put some of my tech stuff on one for easier access and I really like the additional mini display areas for some of my more favored figures.

After putting the shelf in I found I needed to make a few last bit touch ups. Firstly the front was more exposed than expected, so I added a vertical board to fill in the space. I also need to get some white paint to touch up the tops of the front vertical pieces.

Overall though I am really happy with the result.

Weekend Project – Picket Fence Shelf

Just wanted to show off a little recently completed wood project.  My brother ended up with a huge pile of extra fence pickets and I put some of them to good use making some shelf units for my daughter.


The process was pretty straight forward, each shelf consists of 11 pickets and 3-4 30″ boards.  The board length is variable of course which may alter the number of pickets needed.

First, I did a rough sand job of each picket, rough because I wanted to remove the worst of the rough bits but leave some of the overall “rustic” roughness of the surface.  The pickets were also trimmed off by 1″ incrementing lengths (1″, 2″, 3″, etc) so they would stair step across the back.  The boards for the shelves were also cut from an 8 foot 1×10″ board.

At this point, everything was painted with several coats of white paint.

Assembly is a bit tricky but by the third shelf I had a pretty good method down.  The side pieces get marked for where the shelves should fall (variable intervals depending on needs).  Then the side shelves are screwed onto the ends of each shelf in the appropriate places (I just screwed right through into the ends of the shelves, careful not to split things).  Two screws each picket, each shelf point.

Then I measured out from the edges on the backside to line up the longest center picket in the middle, this is then screwed down with a 1/4″ off set from the bottom from the sides.  This will leave a small gap along the bottom along the back.  The purpose is to make the unit more stable so it will only hit the floor on the side pickets.  Getting 4 side pieces to sit flat as legs is a lot easier than getting 11 pickets to line up flat on the ground (which would cause the shelf to wobble).

Next the two shortest back pickets are attached along the edges of the back.  The remaining pickets get attached last and I found it was easy enough to just eyeball the spacing.

I also added some simple boxes to the bases of two of the shelves to give some added height (as pictured above).  This part is optional.