How to Crop a Country – The Netherlands in Scrapwood

The scrap wood map of the Netherlands is a good example of digital recycling. A map of the twelve provinces, made from old planks, slats, boxes, scaffolding wood, plywood, floorboards and similar scrap. But what is actually the most economical crop for that map?


Sometimes, when I get stuck during a design process, I ask the Facebook panel for advice. Social media is a blessing for the self-employed: since I no longer work in an open-plan office, I can not walk up to my colleagues anymore to ask them what they think. In those cases, I ask my friends on Facebook for advice. As I did with this important issue.

Detail of a map of the provinces of the Netherlands made of digital scrapwood, including Gelderland, Utrecht and surrounding areas
The provinces of Utrecht and Gelderland


Because what is the most efficient way to crop a map of the Netherlands? Square, portrait or landscape? The square crop leaves relatively much white space (in this case actually gray space) left and right. But the portrait version results in a lot of white space at the top and bottom.

After rotating the whole country some twenty degrees counterclockwise it fits a lot better in a rectangular frame. But we are so used to having the north on top that even such a small rotation looks weird.

Three different crops of a map of the Netherlands with the provinces done in various pieces of scrapwood: square, portrait and rotated
Three different crops

Data density

Approximately half of the panel members opted for the square version, but the two other versions also had fans and received each about a quarter of the votes. A panel member motivated his choice for number three with “permecologically the optimal one, the least white space and largest data density per pixel²”.  I could not have said it better.


Especially version 3 provoked mixed reactions. One of the panel members thought it made the country look drunk .

Another member, on the other hand, spotted the Dutch Lion in this option. Even though lions have never been part of the indigenous fauna of the lowlands, the animal has found its way to flags and blazons. And yes, I certainly see a similarity…

Map of the Netherlands made out of scrapwood, rotated 20 degrees anticlockwise, with next to it the Dutch lion as a recessed surface in the concrete of the wall
The Dutch Lion

Historical maps

But the panel also came up with other alternatives, referring to historical maps. For example the map of Inferioris Germaniae, for example, made by Joan Blaeu in 1649, on which the North Sea (the Oceanus Germanicus) is at the top.

Another mapmaker, Abraham Ortelius, put the North Sea on the bottom on his map of Hollandiae Antiquorum in 1581.

Two versions of a map of the Netherlands, with the provinces made of various pieces of scrapwood: one version with the north to the right and one with the north to the left
The Northsea or Germany on top


For the version that I have put in my webshop I have picked the rectangular variant, with a little modification: ratio 4: 5 instead of 3: 4. But of course, I can make other crops by request. That is the advantage of digital recycling.

UPDATE: my Rust Maps of the Netherlands have the same crop.

A canvasprint of the scrapwood map of the Netherlands, on the wall in a living room with a table and a chair in the foreground
The Scrap Wood Map on the wall

World map

A world map of scrap wood is on its way. But the cropping issue does not really play a role there.

Update: greater Utrecht

In general, the Dutch provincial borders are fairly stable, but occasionally something changes, usually as a result of a municipal reorganization. The province of Utrecht in particular tends to expand at the expense of South Holland from time to time. In 2019 Leerdam, Vianen and Zederik merged to form the municipality of Vijfheerenlanden. Leerdam and Zederik used to be in South Holland, but the new municipality was added to Utrecht. Fortunately, South Holland continues to border on Gelderland, although that border has now shrunk to a few kilometers near Gorinchem.

When I was adjusting the scrapwood map to the new reality, I also corrected a small mistake that hardly anyone noticed. I had accidentally added the Land van Heusden and Altena to South Holland, but in fact it belongs to North Brabant. That mistake is not incomprehensible; with its clay soils and protestant population, the area is an anomaly in sandy and catholic Brabant. But this is the way the boundary runs.

Detail of the provincial scrapwood map of The Netherlands including the enlargement of the province of Utrecht because of the merging of Vianen, Leerdam and Zederik
Municipal reorganization

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