How to hang a large and heavy puzzle?
September 29, 2010 9:11 PM   Subscribe

How do I frame/hang a really enormous puzzle?

I recently completed a 9000 piece puzzle that is 192cm x 138cm (76 inches by 54 inches for those of you of a non-metric persuasian). I want to hang it on my wall. I looked into puzzle glue, but it is not recommended for puzzles this large.

My husband's family always used to cover puzzles with clear contact (the sort you use to cover books), so we tried that (front and back). Unfortunately there are two problems:
1. It is not rigid. When we tried to hang it, it buckled and curled and bent.
2. The contact does not seem to hold every individual piece. When we tried hanging it, several chunks of puzzle detached themselves and fell down inside the plastic "envelope" formed by the contact. We managed to remove a bit of the contact and replace them, but obviously the contact is not sticky enough, or is not in touch with all of the pieces, or the weight of the puzzle is causing the pieces to detach.

So our thoughts now are:
1. glue the whole thing to a rigid backing of some sort? (After removing the contact from the back) We could use cardboard or foam, but I am concerned that this might not stick any better than the contact did. Also anything thicker than thin cardboard gets very heavy at this size.
2. glue a strip of rigid backing across the puzzle at several points? This would solve the rigidity problem, but not the detaching problem.
3. Something like one of these banner rails?

The third option seems like the best solution so far, so here is where my main question here comes in:

I cannot find a banner rail that is exactly the size we need (76 inches). The largest one I've found is 72 inches. It seems to have stoppers on each end (see the second link above). Does anyone have experience with these - is it possible to remove these stoppers and use the rail on something longer than it was designed for? Alternatively, if we buy two of the smaller plastic ones, could we join them side by side and have it still look okay? If we can't get exactly the right length there, could we trim one of the plastic rails down? Does anyone know if these sort of rails would hold something as heavy as a puzzle, rather than the posters they are designed for?

My other question is whether anyone has any better ideas for hanging this monster? We can't afford to have it professionally framed - I have done that with smaller pieces at a cost of several hundred dollars: I hate to think what it would cost for something this size. My budget is a maximum of $200.

Finally, a little bonus question: we are going to be moving overseas sometime in the next year. How the hell do we take something like this with us? Will it be easier if we DON'T mount it to anything beforehand?

In case anyone wants to recommend products or services, please bear in mind that I am in Australia.
posted by lollusc to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
For smaller puzzles (1m x 0.6m) I've used clear plastic tape -- in the US it's called packing tape -- on the back, overlapping the strips just a bit.

For something that large, forget contact paper. Have you considered gluing cloth to the back? Any strong cloth will do. Use a liquid glue like PVA thinned with water, and go over it with a roller to make sure all the pieces are well glued. Once everything is dry you can mount it however you like -- and you might even be able to roll it up into a tube for your overseas move.

If you plan to hang on to it for more than a couple of years, use archival materials, and linen (canvas would probably be too heavy) for the backing.
posted by phliar at 9:40 PM on September 29, 2010

The issue with gluing anything to cardboard on a large scale is that the moisture will cause the pieces to buckle. I've had decent success with using papier mache in gradual applications, but then, I've never attempted anything this large.

W/r/t size, you've gotten to the point where the material is not going to have any structual integrity. Find something that does and use it as a backing, and stick it on with something like Gorilla Glue or Paleobond. Go over the surface with clear glue for extra insurance.

Using a non-absorbant backing will reduce the chance of buckling. Stay away from any water-based glues as they will probably cause buckling as well.

I can vouche for the Paleobond, btw. I use it regularly in a fossil prep lab and we've used their products to stick a 900 pound femur back together.
posted by DoktorFaustus at 9:42 PM on September 29, 2010

Once you figure out how to mount it (good luck there), the best thing to mount it on, I think, would be a large piece of foamcore board. I have had incredibly large (on the scale of what you're working with) photographs mounted (printed?) on this material and they are quite lightweight. To hang, we used that stick-on velcro you get at the craft store. (I recommend putting the boy side on the board and the lady side on the wall.) Works like a charm.
posted by phunniemee at 10:35 PM on September 29, 2010

You could mount it on cloth like phliar suggests and extend the cloth past the edges of the puzzle. Put in a few grommets, or sew in rods across the top and the bottom, and hang it from those.
posted by anaelith at 1:02 AM on September 30, 2010

You want to glue it to gatorboard (which is basically super-strength foamcore -- very rigid and flat), but I have only seen 4'x8' sheets, so I am not sure if you can find a piece that will handle it. Call a good art supply (NOT a Michael's etc. More like a Utrecht or a non-chain) store and see what they have, or what they can order. As for what glue -- rubber cement would be a good candidate, if the contact high doesn't kill you.
posted by misterbrandt at 7:26 AM on September 30, 2010

Thanks for the suggestions for gatorboard/foamcore board. That sounds good. I've tried a few art supply places around here and not found it. But I'll keep looking. I have no idea what a "Michael's" or an "Utrecht" is - don't think we have them in Aus!

The idea of gluing cloth on appeals as well. Since it won't solve the rigidity problem, I would still need to mount it to foam board as well. But I assume the advantage of cloth is that you can soak it in the glue, and also that because it is more malleable than card or foam, it would adhere to each puzzle piece more easily.

I'm a bit worried about glue suggestions. Rubber cement and Paleobond sound like excellent ideas, but extremely expensive to buy enough to cover the whole puzzle. If I knew for sure it would work, it would probably be worth it, but since this still feels very experimental, I'd hate to spend a lot of money on glue and board and still have it be a complete failure.

I'll leave this open in case anyone else has any ideas, especially about my questions about the poster rails.
posted by lollusc at 8:07 PM on September 30, 2010

Stupid American :). I meant to say: try a real art supply shop (where real artists/students go), not a "crafts" store where you go to get your construction paper and your dried flowers. Or call a commercial sign shop. Also, "gatorfoam" may be a more common term in Australia?

In the states, at least, we can buy rubber cement in a metal tin by the quart or gallon, which should be enough to cover this area (?).

Trying to handle a puzzle glued to fabric, and then trying to glue that to another product sounds like a nightmare to me.
posted by misterbrandt at 8:43 PM on September 30, 2010

« Older Help me recover from on-again, off-again, and then...   |   What's the time? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.