How to make wood puzzle boxes

Updated February 21, 2017

Puzzle boxes involve a unique type of woodwork that consists of hiding the mechanism that opens and closes the box. Making a wooden puzzle box may seem like a daunting task, but it can be done successfully once you have the right tools and supplies. Making a wooden puzzle box is time-consuming and requires concentration, but if you are patient and deliberate you can make a puzzle box you can be proud of.

Cut the wood pieces to the dimensions specified in the "Things You'll Need" list. Mitre the two main sides and ends to 45 degrees to ensure that no end wood is visible on the finished product.

Cut a groove 1/8 inch deep and 1/8 inch wide into each piece, to accommodate the base of the puzzle box, using a circular saw or router. Then cut a new groove 1/8 inch from the top of each piece except one of the ends to accommodate the sliding lid. Cut the remaining end piece off at the top, so it is only 13/4 inches in length. Use this short end as a space for the locking mechanism. Rout out a small area that is 1/4 inch deep.

Rout a lip out of the base, 1/8 inch from the edge, that is 1/8 inch deep. Repeat this step for the lid. Glue the side and end pieces together around the base to create the frame of the box; use clamps to keep the box together. Allow to dry overnight.

Decide which end of the lid will be the lock end, then rout out a groove on the underside of opposite end to allow the lid to slide over the locking mechanism. Make the groove 1/2 inch wide, 11/2 inches from the left side and 11/4 inch away from the right side, 3/16 inch deep. Create a niche to the left of the groove the same depth as the groove, 1/2 inch wide and 1/8 inch from the lock end, to accommodate the locking mechanism when the puzzle box is locked.

Rout out a lip on the underside of the lid end that is 1/8 inch deep and 1/8 inch wide, then rout out a niche 1/4 inch from the inside edge, 1 inch from the left and 11/4 inches from the right.

Rout out a groove on the strip in the middle of the box using a 14-degree dovetail router bit. Cut the groove 7/8 inch high and 11/4 inches from the bottom of the box, 1/4 inch deep and 3/8 inches wide at the surface. Repeat this process on all four sides of the box.

Cut the two middle strip sides in a shape of a wedge; do the same with the top strip ends. Test the fit of the strips by placing them in the groove in the middle strip. The fit should be snug, with a little room to slide in and out freely.

Sand the box and round off all of the corners. Glue the two middle strip sides and one top strip end into the correct grooves. Continue by gluing three of the corners in the respective places. Do not glue the corner that sits at the right-hand end of the locking groove.

Slide the locking end strip into place and then glue the last corner into place. The locking end strip is also the last top strip end. Allow the box to dry overnight.

Remove the locking end strip once the box has dried and apply wax to the area to help the strip move freely in and out of the groove. Put the strip back into the groove. Screw and glue the locking mechanism to the inside edge of the locking end strip. Attach the locking mechanism 11/2 inches from the left-hand side. Position the locking piece of the mechanism in the niche that was cut out of the lid. Make sure the glue touches the strip and the locking mechanism only. Allow the piece to dry overnight again.

Test the box.


Be careful when handling tools and wear the appropriate protective gear.

Things You'll Need

  • Router
  • Sander
  • Mitre saw
  • Circular saw
  • Clamps
  • Wood glue
  • Measuring tape
  • Table saw
  • 2 2-by-113/4-inch side pieces
  • 2 2-inch-by-4-inch end pieces
  • 1 31/4-by-11-inch lid
  • 1 1/2-by-4-inch lid end
  • 1 31/4-by-11-inch base
  • 2 1/2-by-111/4-inch middle strip sides
  • 2 1/2-by-31/2-inch middle strip ends
  • 2 9/16-by-113/4-inch top strip ends
  • 4 1/2-by-1/2-inch corner pieces
  • 1 7/16-by-1-inch locking mechanism
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About the Author

Based in New Jersey, Ashley Leonard has been writing professionally since 2007. Her articles have appeared on and various other websites. Leonard holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Marymount Manhattan College.