Thursday, November 6, 2014


I don’t know where it came from. Probably a Christmas or birthday gift from some thoughtful, generous and underappreciated member of my family.

Somewhere around 1,000 pieces, it was a jigsaw puzzle of the famous painting by Howard Chandler Christy depicting the signing of the Constitution of the United States. The original, thirty feet wide and twenty feet tall, with life size portraits of all fifty five delegates to the Philadelphia convention, adorns the East stairway of the House of Representatives wing of the United States Capital Building.

It was a labor of love, patriotism and dogged determination. The love of my life doesn’t do jigsaw puzzles. Especially when the pieces are spread out on the table in the basement man cave of our home.

So it sat there months on end while I nibbled away at it. Two or three pieces at a time. Or sometimes burning the midnight oil to make noticeable progress at the price of pushing bedtime back to the wee hours of the morning.

And of course there were a few spurts when the higb-spirited daughter-in -law came to visit and wave her magic wand at the reluctant monocolored pieces.

But finally it was done. A magnificent reproduction twenty-seven inches wide and nineteen and a half inches high. In a spate of unbridled euphoria I determined to keep it. I would do whatever it is that people do to turn a mundane jigsaw puzzle into a truly decorative work of art.

First, I managed to slide the puzzle off the table and onto a piece of plywood. Then I shellacked it. That was supposed to make it hang together. No such luck.

Then I decided that I had to turn the puzzle upside down, so that I could glue a backing on it. That involved covering the puzzle with a piece of poster board and taping the poster board to the plywood. It worked and shortly I had the puzzle upside down and back on the table.

Then came a trip to Home Depot where I acquired backing board, framing trim, and a diabolical form of merger called Wildwood Contact Cement.

Today was the Day. I cut four pieces of the trim in forty-five degree angles and produced a creditable picture frame.

Then I set about the fussy business of gluing a backing onto the puzzle. The directions required that I coat both the backing and the puzzle and let them sit for forty minutes. They also warned that if one of the surfaces was porous, it might take two coats. Since I was coating the backside of the puzzle, it was indeed porous and I obediently gave it two coats.

Now came the hard part. How to get he sticky backing onto the sticky back of the puzzle, exactly where I wanted it. The directions had carried the dire warning that once the two surfaces touched each other, no power on earth could separate them.

So make sure it’s a bull’s eye.

There are many times in a man’s life when getting the job done ushers in a blast of adrenaline. Making a speech. Getting married. Walking your daughter down the aisle.

Gluing the backing on a 27 by 19 jigsaw puzzle rates right up there. It was a challenge, but I did it. Hooray!

All that was left was to remove the poster board on the other side of the puzzle. It wasn’t glued on. Just flip the thing over and pull it off.

Not so easy. Here is where Murphy’s Law comes into play. Unbeknownst to me, some of the Wildwood miracle Contact Cement had seeped between the pieces of the puzzle and taken hold of the innocent poster board.

After a fruitless half hour of trying to separate the inseparable, I gathered up the puzzle and delivered it to the trash bin in the garage.

Some days s—t happens. Probably no one will read this blog, either. Maybe tomorrow will be better.


  1. Judge, I always read, and enjoy your blogs. What I can't figure out is how you find time to accomplish so many varied tasks.
    Speaking of bad things happening, Bernie took me for $3 yesterday.........please come back to Florida so I can recoup my losses.

  2. Glues that are formulated especially for preserving jigsaw puzzles are readily available. Next time shop at Hobby Lobby instead of Home Depot, or search the Internet before shopping for lots of practical advice and links to good products. I know: horse, barn door.

    The painting in your puzzle was a nice choice -- so sorry for your loss.