Last week Ann transformed her turtle pull toy in to a snappy serving dish and showed us all that an ordinary toy can become something extraordinary and useful with just a little modification.  One of my favorite childhood toys were puzzles, not those terribly tricky 5,000 piece one that always ended up having only 4,997 pieces, but the wooden tray style ones with the reassuring dent right where one is meant to place each of the very few pieces. So when I went in search of a toy to alter, I was very excited to find a puzzle in the 70% Clearance section of Michael’s. Keep reading to see how I was able to make it in to a key holder in just an hour or so and for around  $1.00.

Here is what you will need:

  • Puzzle with a wooden tray (this one had a box style base but any thickness will do as long as it is thick enough to hold a small screw
  • Sandpaper
  • Drawing Paper (I used Canson Mixed Media Paper, which I love)
  • Drawing tools, pencils, markers, etc…
  • Gel Medium
  • Acrylic Paint/ Paintbrushes
  • Masking Tape
  • Small Screw in cup hooks
  • Hardware for hanging


I wanted to cover the mass produced robots of this puzzle with something unique so I began  by  using sandpaper to rough up the surface of each puzzle piece.













I then traced the pieces on to the drawing paper.

Next I  used pencil to draw in the  head, abdomen and legs of the new , improved characters.  I did a robot , a bat man and a fuzzy green monster.

Once I had them drawn in pencil I used marker to color them and then cut them apart so they could be glued to their base pieces. I used gel medium to adhere them to the puzzle pieces.






Once I had my pieces covered I set them aside to dry and set to work on the base.

I began by measuring where I wanted to attach my cup hooks.

I used a pencil to mark the center line horizontally and then where I wanted to place the hooks. Because my puzzle base was balsa wood I was able to just manually screw them in. If your base is made of sturdier stuff you can use a drill to make your holes first. I added hanging hardware to the back so it can be hung on a wall.




I used tape to mask the edges of the box so I could paint the sides, and the lid with acrylic paint in contrasting colors. You could, of course, paint them all one color, leave the wood natural or collage over the wood, if you prefer a different surface treatment.Once my paint dried I used a clear gloss varnish to seal the paint and add shine. You could use a matte spray if you don’t want a shiny finish.



After everything dried I reassembled the box, popped my pieces in and it was ready to display. If you find your puzzle pieces want to fall out of the tray when it is held vertically just use a small piece of velcro on the tray and each of the pieces to help hold them in place.













In the mood to play along in our February contest?  Alter a toy and give it a practical purpose (following these contest rules), and feel free to heart it up if you want to make it into a Valentine’s gift!  The winner of the contest will receive not only a spot on our home page in March, but also this original 6×6 collage:






Cindy Jo

Cindy Jo teaches art and enjoys passing her love of the pretty ,the weird, and the pretty weird on to another generation of artists.Check out CIndy Jo's shop


Danielle · February 10, 2012 at 10:40 am

I love this idea…. and you made it look so easy! Might have to give this one a whirl…

    AnnDAngelo · February 10, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    I agree, Danielle! Cindy showed me the little guys earlier in the week, and I almost fainted. I have to do this!

tracy · February 10, 2012 at 6:40 pm

the teeth crack me up!! 🙂 LOL

cindyjob · February 10, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Thanks guys!

lillipadstudio · February 14, 2012 at 11:03 am

well these are just the cutest things. I am going to Micheal's today. ♥

    AnnDAngelo · February 14, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    So cute, right Lovefroud?! I am mad that I haven't had time to try to make my own yet. I hope you find them, but if you don't, I can send you some of mine. About a million pieces come in a box . . .

lillipadstudio · February 15, 2012 at 10:09 am

I found some stupid ones *sigh* . If you have better ones, Ann and want to share I would love it!

cindyjob · February 15, 2012 at 3:03 pm

oh BOO. I hope you track one down that you like!

Melissa Reed Hart · February 17, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Hmmm….I have a couple of bear puzzles like this. The kids don't play with them, so this would totally work out without any extra cost!

cindyjob · February 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Go for it Melissa!

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