How to Crop a Country – The Netherlands in Scrapwood

Sometimes, when I’m struggling with a design issue, I ask the Facebook panel for advice. Social media are a blessing for a freelancer: since I no longer work in an open-plan office, I cannot easily ask a few colleagues what they think. In those cases, therefore, I ask my Facebook friends for their opinion.

Scrap wood

Recently the panel helped me with the important issue of the scap wood map of the Netherlands. An interesting piece of digital recycling: a map of my country made of old boards, slats, boxes, scaffolding wood, plywood, floor boards and similar scrap.

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


But what is the best way to crop a map of the Netherlands? Square, portrait or rotated? The square crop leaves relatively much white space (in this case actually gray space) left and right. But the portait 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

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

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


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.

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

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

Frans Blok

My work explores the border regions of photography, painting and computer visuals. With my company 3Develop I do work in commission but I use the same techniques, skills and software to make free work. I am originally an architect and I live in Rotterdam; for that reason the architecture of that city is a major (but not the only) source of inspiration. But also travel to countries like Iceland and Britain, or walks in the Netherlands, provide much material. Seeing and showing quality and beauty, that is what my work is about.

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3 Responses

  1. 9. April 2019

    […] map of Europe in digital scrap wood. The third in a series; previously I made a scrap wood map of the Netherlands and the […]

  2. 17. March 2021

    […] was somewhat tempered by a nice little job for the municipality of Groningen. They had seen my digital scrapwood map of the Netherlands and wondered if there was such a map of the city of Groningen. That would be a perfect gift for a […]

  3. 29. March 2022

    […] of the most successful works in my webshop is the World Map Rust. And also the Scrapwood Map of the Netherlands is popular. It is therefore surprising that it took so long before I came up with the idea of […]

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