Puzzle Box Repair

Those of you who buy older, used puzzles on a regular basis are probably all too familiar with puzzle boxes that have been mis-handled over the years, resulting in various damages to both the box bottom as well as the lid. Most of these damages can be succesfully repaired to at least a functional state once again. I will attempt to show some of the ways in which I deal with some of the more common damages found.

Here is a list of some of the supplies you will need to repair your puzzle boxes. Most of these items are readily available, if you don't have them already: Some items didn't make it into the picture. Don't be afraid to get inventive and substitute things if you don't have them. This is not an exact science.
  • A ruler
  • A selection of spring clamps in ac ouple different sizes. (You can find these, pretty inexpensively, at discount tool stores. I've even seen them at dollar stores.)
  • Pair of scissors
  • Wax paper
  • Small wooden blocks, in various sizes, or something similar that is thin but stiff.
  • White glue. (This stuff is dirt cheap at places like Walmart, just prior to school starting up. I always grab a few bottles just to have around)
  • Goo Gone (Not necessary, but it comes in handy on some things)
  • Reinforced paper tape, the type used for sealing shipping boxes. I've also used brown paper shpopping bags (cut up), and brown "craft" paper from Walmart, and they work adequately as well. I cut the reinforced paper into strips of 12" x 3/4" wide.
  • A hairdryer, or other small heat source (not pictured) will also come in handy
  • A small paint brush (not pictured)


Split, torn, or missing corner reinforcers (box bottom)

One of the most common damages found on older puzzles are split corners. Right now I am only referring to the box bottom and not the lid, which will need to be dealt with in a slightly different manner.

Split corners occur, usually, from mishandling of the box itself. With most of the older puzzles the box bottom is only held together at the sides with small, paper reinforcemnt strips. When mishandled, these strips can come loose or tear very easily, leaving a box that is weak and can lead to puzzle pieces falling out. Here are a few examples of the most common split corners.

This first one is where one flap of the corner reinforcemnet paper has come loose from the box. This will be the easiest to repair.

Next, is where the corner reinforcement paper has torn, or "split", leaving the 2 pieces still attached to both sides. This will require a litte bit more attention than the first example.

And finally, there are cases where the previous owner, with all the best intentions, has attempted a "repair", usually very sloppily and done with some sort of "self-adhesive" (tape). This will require the removal of the old repair, then re-repaired in a more acceptible fashion.

You will probably run into other types of damage besides these, but these are the most common I have run across.

Repair that corner!!

A) Loose reinforcement strip

Step1) The first step in repairing a loose corner reinforcemnt is to gather the tools and supplies you will need. In this case, you will need white glue, a small piece of wax paper, 2 blocks and a spring clamp.

Step 2) Next, apply a thin layer of white glue on the inside of the loose side of the paper reinforcement. I spread the glue around with my finger.

Step 3) After you apply the glue, press the reinforcemnt flap back into it's original position. Then cut a small piece of wax paper, about the same height as the box, and wide enough to cover the reinforcement and to catch any glue that might squeeze out. Place it over the repair.
Step 4) Place one block on the inside of the box and the other on the outside, over the wax paper and repair. then take your spring clamp and place it over both blocks, as close to the corner as you can, and about half way up from the bottom of the box. Set aside and let dry for about 20 minutes.
Finished repair (compare to first picture in this sequence).

B) Torn, split, or missing reinforcement strips

The tools you will need are essentially the same as in repair A above, withthe addition of a small paintbrush, a small container of water (I use a plastic milk jug lid), and a piece of the reinforced paper tape that I have already cut into 3/4" wide strips.
Step 1) The first step in this type of repair is to remove the existing, torn paper strips. Many puzzle owners would simply tape these 2 sides together and leave it at that. Not very sturdy and not very good looking. To remove these strips, put a small amount of water in a plastic milk jug lid. Use a small paintbrush (mine is 1/4" wide flat, but anything small will work) to paint the strip with water. Be sure to cover the entire strip, but try not to let the water get on the box itself. It's ok if you do, it can be fixed too. Let the water soak in (until it's not shiny) and reapply. You may have to do this 3-4 times.
Step 2) Test the strip by trying to pull it off with a pair of tweezers, or your fingernails. If it's still holding fast, apply some more water. Keep doing this until the strip comes off easily.
Step 3) After removal of the old strips, the box should be left fairly clean. If you accidentally got water on the box, let it dry before proceeding. Or, if you wish, use a hairdryer to dry the box.
Step 4) Now, take your ruler and measure the length of one of the other existing corner reinforcements on the box, and cut a replacement from one of your 3/4" wide strips that you prepared earlier.
Step 5) Fold your cut strip, longways, into a right angle.
Step 6 ) Apply a thin layer of glue to 1 of the inside faces of the strip and spread it around that side with your finger.
Step 7) Now, press the glued edge of your new reinforcement to one of the box edges. Make sure the edge of the cardboard butts up against where the reinforcemnt paper was folded. sandwich the glued strip with a piece of waxed paper and 2 blocks, as in step 4 of the first repair above, and let dry. Always, when making repairs that include 2 adjacent box sides, work on 1 side at a a time and let it dry.
Step 8) When the first side has dried, repeat the gluing procedure for the second side. This is essentially the same step as step 3 from the first type of repair above.
Before and after shots of this repair.

C) Repairing a previous "repair" (coming soon)