We love puzzles in our house. However, our cats really hate them… and oh yeah… we have small kids that also like to destroy beautiful things… So needless to say we can’t dedicate a table top to a great puzzle session. There’s nothing more sad than finishing a puzzle only to find out you’re a piece short.
Which brought me to designing and building this low profile puzzle tray with storage. It slides right under a couch or coffee table to keep safe when not in and lets you enjoy your puzzle time.
This post has been sponsored by DAP Products where I used their Weldwood Original Wood Glue for this entire build. It’s a fast setting, odorless and easy to clean up wood glue that’s perfect for interior woodworking applications.
Watch The Puzzle Tray Build Video
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Tools & Materials Used
Puzzle Tray Measurements – 2″ x 25-1/4″ x 37-1/2″
- (2) 2’x4′ x 1/8″ sheet of underlayment
- (1) 8″ x 72″ x 3/4″ lumber (I used poplar cut by the board foot from Home Depot)
- DAP Weldwood Original Wood Glue
- Table Saw
- Amana Tools 8″ Dado Stack (optional upgraded features)
- If you don’t use a dado stack you’ll need (2) pairs of drawer slides
- Miter Saw
Step 1 – Lateral Stretcher
To kick this build off you need to rip your 3/4″ material into 2″ strips. For the outside stretcher pieces of the puzzle tray, you’ll need to cut them 2″ x 37-1/2″. In order to have the 1/8″ underlayment inset into the stretchers, you’ll need to cut a groove with your table saw 1/4″ from the top and 1/8″ deep. You may need to make two passes to slightly widen the groove if your table saw blade is the standard 1/8″ thick. Just cut it to fit the underlayment snugly.
Now if you don’t have a dado stack to cut these pieces out of the frame joinery you can skip this step altogether and adjust the end pieces by 3/4″ so the male and female pieces don’t interlock. Or you can still use a table saw and make multiple passes with a standard blade to get the same effect. It will just take a little more time. If you go with the joinery, cut a 3/4″ dado centered on both ends of the 37-1/2″ stretchers.
Step 2 – Puzzle Tray End Pieces/Drawer Fronts
Next we’ll cut two more pieces of 2″ material to 25-1/4″. Before using the dado blades again to make the male connector of this dado joint, I would recommend cutting the grooves on the top and bottom of the 25-1/4″ drawer front so it’s equal to the groove on the side stretchers. Those again, will be 1/4″ from the edge and 1/8″ deep.
With the grooves cut, use a dado stack or a table saw with standard blade to cut the male portion of the dado joint. Start with centered 3/4″ x 3/4″ post and then sand it to fit into the female portion of the dado joint. This joint is not permanent and is there strictly to hold the ends in place when transporting. Plus it looks cool.
Again, if you don’t have a dado stack or aren’t comfortable using a standard table saw blade to make this cut, you can miter the corners or adjust the drawer front/end piece to fit inside the later stretchers.
Step 3 – Puzzle Tray Frame Assembly
For the large piece of underlayment that will serve as the tray top, rip it down to 24″ x 36-1/4″. For the center support post, rip a piece of material down to 1-3/4″ x 23-3/4″. Then glue that support to the center of the sheet of underlayment. There should be 1/8″ of overhang of underlayment on each end of the center post. Once that piece has dried, slide the underlayment into the grooves of the 37-1/2″ side stretchers with wood glue in the grooves and attach and center onto the post. For the glue up, you might want to leave the end pieces dry fitted into place to make sure everything fits correctly when assembled.
Step 4 – Drawer Box Assembly
If you’re not using a dado stack or using a standard saw blade to cut a dado with multiple passes, you’ll want to use standard drawer slides inset the sides of the drawer box sides to account for them. However, I love the wooden drawer slides made from cutoffs for this. It makes the whole piece feel more organic. For each drawer box (2 total) cut a pair of 1-3/4″ x 17″ pieces for the sides of the drawer box. If you ripped your material down to 2″ strips to start, save those 1/4″ (ish) x 17″ x 3/4″ cut offs. Cut another inside facing 1/8″ groove that matches the groove on the inside of the drawer face on both pieces. The drawer bottom will side into this groove. In order to cut the dado groove for the drawer track, set the height of the blade equal to the 1/4″ (ish) cutoff strips. Then cut a centered 3/4″ dado the length of the 17″ piece of material on the outside face. Do this for both pieces for both drawer boxes.
Attach those 17″ drawer box sides to the inside of the drawer face. Make sure the grooves for the drawer bottom line up (you can make adjustment cuts) and then have the dado tracks facing outward. Cut a piece of material to 1-1/2″ x 22-1/4″ for the back of the drawer and attach.
Cut a piece of underlayment for each drawer bottom to roughly 17-1/4″ x 22-3/4″. You might need to make some minor adjustments to fit. Add wood glue into the grooves and then slide the drawer bottom into place in the three grooves of the drawer box. Then you can tack (or glue) the drawer bottom to the back of the drawer box underside.
Step 5 – Drawer Slides
For the drawer slides attach those 1/4″ (ish) x 17″ (ish) x 3/4″ strips centered on the inside of the puzzle tray on all four inside tracks. I glued them into place with wood glue and then tacked with a pin nailer just to make sure they did not move during dying. If you skipped the wooden drawer slide step, make sure the width of your drawers can accommodate a modern drawer slide. Once everything is dry, the drawers should slide into place. I did lightly sand the outside edges of the 1/8″ tray top so they were slightly tapered to fit into the drawer face groove we cut on the side face of step 2.
To Finish or Not To Finish The Puzzle Tray
For the final looks I opted not to add a finish or even paint the entire Puzzle Tray. Especially with a more difficult jigsaw puzzle, the last thing you want is a distracting background that the puzzle pieces get lost in.
I did add a little paste wax to the wooden drawer slides, but that’s the only application I added to the entire piece.
*This post is sponsored by our friends from DAP Products. I was provided with product and compensated for my time with this build.