How to Make Your Own 3D Puzzle

Three-dimensional puzzles fascinate young and old alike. They come in a number of varieties: jigsaw puzzles, 3-D tangram puzzles and animal model puzzles, for example. Especially fascinating are 3-D puzzles that create animal models from interlocking pieces.

To create a three-dimensional animal puzzle, you should be able to use simple hand tools, such as coping saws, mitre saws and sandpaper. Three-D animal puzzles consist of a spine, torso pieces, pelvic piece, shoulder piece, limbs and head.

Sketch your animal roughly; you just need to have a general idea to work from.

Draft front, side and top views of the animal. The views should be created in a 1:1 scale and include only contours, no rendering.

Design the puzzle's spine from the side view--with a long, slotted strip. Centrally located, it runs the length of your puzzle, holding it together. Give the backbone a width of at least 1-inch. The slots are 1/2-inch deep and 1/4-inch wide. Place them 3/8 inches apart.

Design the puzzle's torso pieces from the side, top and front views. The torso pieces are a series of concentric shapes. Each torso piece needs to include a slot 1/2-inch deep and 1/4-inch wide to connect it to the puzzle's spine. The exact number of pieces depends on the design and length of the animal.

Design the pelvic and shoulder pieces. These pieces need three 1/2-inch by 1/4-inch slots--one to attach them to the spine and two to attach the limbs to them.

Design the animal puzzle's head and limbs, consisting of one or several pieces, depending on how complex you want the puzzle to be. Remember to include the necessary 1/2-inch by 1/4-inch slots to connect the pieces to each other and the spine.

Transfer each piece to the plywood, using carbon paper. Make sure that whenever possible, the 1/2-inch by 1/4-inch slots are aligned with the wood grain.

Cut out the puzzle pieces with your coping saw. Sand the edges until smooth to the touch.

Cut the 1/2-inch by 1/4-inch slots into your pieces. Use the mitre saw to cut the sides. Punch the out with the 1/4-inch wood chisel. Sand the slots until smooth.