How to Solve a Dovetail Wooden Puzzle

Updated November 22, 2016

Dovetail puzzles are among the most challenging. In these puzzles, a box or other item is made out of two pieces that appear to be dovetailed together. The challenge is to find a way to separate the pieces without breaking them. Most dovetail puzzles rely on optical illusions and can be solved by careful examination.

Examine the puzzle from all sides. Look for hidden keys in the bottom or sides of the puzzle.

If you find a key, try removing it. If it does not come out, return to step 1 to search for other hidden keys. Once you have located all keys, try removing each key one at a time. This may open the box.

If there are no keys, or the box does not open after removing all keys, feel the sides of the box for unusual cuts. This will give you an idea of where the box might open.

Once you have located the cuts, manipulate the box in different directions to remove one side from the other. For example, if you have been trying to separate the box from the top, try opening it from the side.


Many dovetail boxes use cuts made along the joints of the box.


Do not try to force the box open or pull too hard on a key, as the puzzle may break.

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About the Author

Jack Ori has been a writer since 2009. He has worked with clients in the legal, financial and nonprofit industries, as well as contributed self-help articles to various publications.