Framing a Puzzle

Dear Donia,
How can I frame and display a puzzle without damaging it?

Framing a puzzle


Q. Dear Donia,

I have a Dr. Seuss Essolube "Foiled by Essolube" puzzle from the 1930s. The puzzle pieces include many straight lines so they don't hang together. I would like to frame the puzzle in a way that preserves it and doesn't damage its collectible value. I can have it professionally framed, but I am concerned that they would want to glue it somehow together on the back so as to keep the pieces from shifting apart. I have a second one of these puzzles that I purchased already framed in a wood frame that is about 20 years old and has a glass cover. Should I have it unframed and re-framed by a reputable conservationist? What other ideas do you have for framing puzzles that are worthy collectibles? I thought that it would be nice to "frame" it in some kind of table from the bottom with a very strong glass top (do they make those museum UV safe quality?) such that it could be appreciated flat as a surface and thus not having to glue it in any way. Thanks, Ramon

A. Dear Ramon,

What a fantastic piece and a great puzzle for me to solve! As you mentioned, most puzzles are glued but this would decrease the collectible value. The puzzle could be framed directly against the glass to hold it in place, but there is a risk of condensation and the puzzle being damaged by moisture and mold. It could be framed flat under a table top, but you again run the risk of something spilling and getting between the glass and the puzzle as well as increased light exposure which would fade the colors on the puzzle.

The best thing would be to frame the puzzle and hang it on the wall using good conservation principles. In a discussion with colleagues, I think the best approach would be to have your framer create a sink mat for the puzzle which would hold the edges tight together. Over the sink mat but under the window mat, they can place a piece of clear polyester sheeting (brand name Melinex) held down to the sink mat with double stick tape. This should keep the straight edges pieces in place but not cause a problem with condensation. The window mat will cover the sink mat beneath it, giving it a more polished look. The glazing on the frame should be UV blocking to help with some of the light exposure and the puzzle hung out of any direct light, sunlight or otherwise. In light of the age of framing of the other puzzle you have, I would encourage re-framing since it is unlikely the glass is not UV blocking and the puzzle is most likely in direct contact with it.

I hope this helps and if you have any more questions, please don't hesitate to ask "Dear Donia"!