You started a puzzle on your kitchen table with full intentions of completing it before dinner. However, time slipped away and it is only half finished. What do you do now?
You might attempt to slide it off the table onto a large board which can be challenging even destructive. Or, maybe you relocate your dinner to the family room. But, you guessed it, neither option is very desirable, so most likely you take the puzzle down wasting all that hard work.
While we can’t fix the immediate problem of moving your unfinished puzzle, there is a good solution for relocating future puzzles, and it’s called a puzzle roll-up mat. It is a simple mat that creates a flexible and mobile surface to make your unfinished puzzle mobile.
But what makes a good puzzle roll-up mat? The simple answer is a good puzzle roll-up mat has a solid rolling tube, a non-sticky surface, a combination of rubber and fabric material and is rolled not folded when packaged.
A puzzle roll-up mat is a thin rectangular mat made of a soft, flexible, and smooth material that can be laid out on any flat surface on which a puzzle can then be assembled. Because the material is thin and flexible it can be rolled up with the unfinished puzzle pieces securely layered between the mat surface as it is rolled.
Typically, a puzzle mat includes a 2.5 to 3.5 inch diameter tube that the mat rolls around providing a sturdy surface that adds pressure to the puzzle pieces and keeps them intact. Once rolled up the jigsaw puzzle is easily portable and storable while not in use.
While puzzle roll-up mat is the most common terminology you might also see them called: puzzle storage mats, puzzle saver mats, foam puzzle mats, portable puzzle mats or puzzle saver pads.
There are many different puzzle mats ranging in size and materials. But most puzzle roll-up mats are made of polyester, felt, and rubber or a combination of these materials. The typical roll-up mat is 46 x 26 inches in size big enough to accommodate a 1500 piece puzzle. Most of this might seem trivial but choosing a good puzzle roll-up mat makes a difference.
Not all puzzle mats are created equal and most puzzle mat companies only focus on their positives and never mention the negatives. This makes it challenging to know for sure you are getting the best option for you.
To help, we have reviewed many of the leading brands including customer reviews to determine what makes a good puzzle roll-up mat. It was interesting what we discovered.
There are many factors that go into these simple mats, which we will discuss in detail below, but really there are just a few things that separate a good mat from a bad mat.
The least expensive puzzle roll-up mats sacrifice on the most important aspects so don’t settle for cheap. You should expect to pay about $30 plus for a quality mat.
Many less expensive options offer a blow up tube. These work but lose air and effectiveness over time and require strong lungs or a pump to inflate. Solid one piece tubes, made of foam, work the best. Make sure the diameter of the tube is 3 inches or bigger as this will have the least impact on curving the puzzle pieces as they roll up and are stored for long periods of time.
This may seem counterintuitive but imagine having a big chunk of puzzle done and needing to move it to another location on the mat. Sticky surfaces, such as felt, make this very difficult and even frustrating. So, the best surface is a smooth surface which allows the pieces to slide and move easily. The stickiness doesn’t affect the rolling up or the storage, it just affects the ease of working the puzzle. But this is big, don’t make this mistake.
Many mats come with just a single layer of felt or other material and are very thin and flimsy. This creates a non-smooth surface for doing the actual puzzle which is not good. The flimsy nature of the material also makes it difficult to roll up and store the puzzle.
The best puzzle roll-up mats are a combination rubber base with smooth surface polyester. The combination of materials provides a thicker, sturdier and more durable product that makes a mat worth having. Multi layer mats ensure the surface is flat with no creases enhancing the puzzle making experience. The only slight negative is when they are delivered rolled up it can take a little work to get them to lay flat as the memory is retained in the rubber foam.
Many of the less expensive puzzle mats come in a square box with the fabric material folded. This simple fold creates creases in the material and and bumps on your puzzle surface. It is very frustrating. The best mats will come with a solid tube with the mat rolled around the tube eliminating any creases.
While any mat can be managed and serve a purpose the best mats meet the criteria above. Which means you will likely pay more, but the frustration you will avoid is priceless.
Here are a few more things to consider.
Most mats come in black and create a nice contrast to puzzle pieces.
While no mat will be fully waterproof, a rubber base can resist water the best as it raises the fabric above a spill on a table and provides more resistance when the puzzle is rolled up.
Before buying, read the reviews and watch for words like: flimsy, chintzy, cheap, blow up, lightweight. These are not words you want to invest in.
The bigger the better as it gives more flexibility to doing larger puzzles. Most mats are 46 inches x 26 inches which accommodates up to 1500 qty puzzles. Anything smaller than this probably is not a good investment. You should always remember to leave 1.5 inches all the way around a mat when positioning the puzzle. Space on the edges makes the roll up process better and prevents pieces from slipping out. It is also important to consider how much space you have to roll out the puzzle mat.
Once a mat is rolled up, there are 2 different types of straps to hold the roll secure. Velcro straps and rubber bands. The thicker the width of the strap the better and the ability to tighten the strap the better. 2 straps is common per mat, but 3 is plus. Velcro seems to provide the best security, rubber bands can lose tension and not hold as securely over time.
Unique Design - Guidelines
One feature that seems to be found in about 25% of the mats is lines showing how to layout a puzzle on the mat. The mat will have pre drawn lines showing 500 piece, 1000 piece and 1500 piece puzzle positioning. This is helpful to ensure your puzzle is centered on the mat. This feature isn’t standard even on the higher end puzzles, but is a nice feature to consider.
Most puzzle roll-up mats come with a storage bag making them more portable and more secure once rolled up. A bag can collect any pieces that may slip out of the rolled mat. A bag that has a drawstring offers a way to hang the matt giving it more storage flexibility.
Thicker fabrics and airless tubes just make a puzzle mat more durable.
Some puzzle mats come with 2-4 sorting trays which has nothing to do with the mat itself but does help you sort similar type pieces when doing a puzzle. These sorting trays are enticing to people but they really have nothing to do with the mat and in fact may make storage a little more difficult.
While there are many different mats on the market and it is impossible to really review every one, based on the above criteria we will list 5 puzzle mats that may be worthy of your consideration. Click the link to take you directly to Amazon for review and purchase.
Yes, the right puzzle mat is a must investment for any puzzler who is doing more than 5 puzzles a year. Just follow the suggestion above in choosing the right one and you will not regret your decision.
Other than quality, the only limitation to puzzle mats is the size. Most puzzle mats accommodate up to 1500 piece puzzles so if you are trying to do a 2000 or bigger puzzle, you likely need to find a different option.
Puzzle mats come in a standard size of 46” x 26” inch size. There are other sizes but it is best to stick to the standard.
Puzzles mats are relatively affordable and range in price from $10.00 to $40.00. As described above price does matter, when choosing a $10.00 - $20.00 mat you are sacrificing some important features that make life easier.
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