Introduction: T-Rex Dinosaur Puzzle With Different Sizes and Positions

Picture of T-Rex Dinosaur Puzzle With Different Sizes and Positions

This Instructable is to show you how I designed and built my own 3-D T-Rex dinosaur puzzle.

There are a lot of different dinosaur patterns that you can find to cut out with a scroll saw.  I wanted to make one of these for my son, but couldn't find a pattern that I liked.  I also wanted to be able to make a large scale pattern that was somewhere between 4 and 6 feet tall.  After looking for one for a while I decided to make one myself.  The plan was to make a pattern and then cut out a small size dinosaur and then scale it up for a larger size with any improvements I wanted to make.

Step 1: Materials and Tools Needed

Picture of Materials and Tools Needed


1. Baltic birch plywood for the dinosaur pieces.
2. All wood pieces were left unfinished as adding a finish coat like polyurethane could affect the tightness of the interlocking joints of the pieces.
3. Spray adhesive for sticking the template pieces to the wood for cutting.


The tools I used on the project were as follows:

1. Computer and computer program to draw the parts.  I used Autocad, but Sketchup or 123D should work as well.
2. Printer - for printing out the template pieces.
3. Band saw - for rough cutting the pieces into more manageable sizes.
4. Oscillating belt and spindle sander - for sanding the faces of the smaller pieces and the edges of the pieces when needed.
5. Random orbit sander - for sanding the larger pieces.
6. Scroll saw - for cutting out the dinosaur pieces.
7. Sanding block with sandpaper - for some additional spot sanding when needed.

Not all of the tools in this list are required, but will make the construction much easier.

NOTE: If you plan on using any tool for a project please make sure you are familiar with the tool and all of the dangers associated with it. If you are not familiar with a tool then you should ask someone who is to show you the proper way to use it. A lot of communities have classes at local colleges on the proper use of tools and machinery. There are also local woodworking clubs that offer classes at very reasonable rates for beginners. I highly recommend using these resources for your safety and for the most efficient use of the tool.

Always wear eye and hearing protection.
Always work safe with the proper safety equipment and guards on your tools.

Step 2: Trace a Picture and Make the Model

Picture of Trace a Picture and Make the Model

I looked for patterns for a long time and couldn't find anything I liked and there didn't seem to be anything for a large size dinosaur.  I decided to download a bunch of T-rex skeleton pictures and have a crack at it myself.

1. I started by just tracing the outline of the skeleton to create the spine which most of the other pieces attach to.  Due to the length of this section I made it into two pieces that connect together with a simple puzzle piece outline.  Another piece slips over the connection location to hold these two pieces together.  The spine has a duplicate notches at the top for the head and at the mid-point where it sits on the legs to give the model four different positions.  This way the body can be in the upright or running position and the head can be pointing forward or looking up.

2. At each of the rib locations I made a notch the thickness of the wood for the rib piece that would go there.  Each of the ribs is a scaled version of the other, but they are all different sizes.

3. I then made notches in the tail for those parts that stick up.  The pieces that go on the tail are all scale versions of one piece, so they get smaller as you move closer to the tip of the tail.

4. Next I traced the skull and the lower jaw.  The pieces on each side of the head are the same.There is one key piece that fits on the end of the spine (at the head) that all four pieces of the head tie into.  Having pieces on each side of the head gives the model the thickness that it needs.

5. The arms were mostly traced off the skeleton.  Small notches for the arms to rest in were added to one of the ribs. 

6. Next I added the pelvis (I guess that's what you would call it).  It is a key piece that holds the dinosaur together.  The spine of the dinosaur sits on this piece.  It also accepts the legs and the two bones between the legs although I don't know what they are called.  There are also a couple other bones on the top and side of the pelvis.  The dinosaur looks a little strange without these two side pieces.  I think they add the mass to the center of the body that is needed.

7. Next the legs were added.  These are connected to the feet with a connecting piece.

8. Next I added the feet.  I decided to make these a little wider than I had seen in some previous patterns to give it a little more stability and also add more thickness to the model.

The 16-inch tall dinosaur is made out of 1/4-inch baltic birch plywood.
The 48-inch tall dinosaur is made out of 1/2-inch baltic birch plywood.

Step 3: Balance the Model

Picture of Balance the Model
Now that I had the model complete I needed to check it for balance.  I needed to make sure the center of gravity of all of the pieces was somewhere over the midpoint between the feet of the dinosaur.  If not, the dinosaur would not stand up on it's own.  Since I was using autocad, I extruded all of the pieces of the dinosaur to make them a solid piece of material the same thickness as the plywood I was using.  Then I assembled them in 3D into one model as you see in some of the pictures below.  Once I did this I was able to use the software to find out where the centroid of the model was.

In the following video you can see the centroid of the dinosaur as a small yellow circle just in front of the legs in line with the farthest right rib piece.  I added a yellow line and projected it straight down to make sure it was aligned between the two feet.  In the pictures below and in the video you can see that the center of gravity ends up being in the right position to allow the dinosaur to stand on his own two feet.  The first model I made had this point just in front of a line that would connect the front edge of the feet.  I modified a few of the pieces and made the rib pieces a little smaller to lose some of the weight in the front.  My second attempt at locating the centroid of the dinosaur put it where you see it in the pictures and video.


Step 4: Lay Out the Parts and Print the Templates

Picture of Lay Out the Parts and Print the Templates

Now that I had all of the parts correctly sized so that the dinosaur would balance I labelled all of the notches with matching letters or combinations of letters so that the dinosaur could be easily put together.  You can label each of the notches on the inside end of the notch so you don't see them when the model is fully assembled.  This is extremely helpful that is unless you want it to be a challenge for anyone trying to put it together.

I took all of the parts in a plan (flat) view and arranged them so I could print the parts on 8.5 x 11 inch paper.  I then took the paper and used spray adhesive to attached the paper to the 1/4-inch baltic birch plywood that I was going to cut the pieces out of.  For the 16-inch tall dinosaur this ended up being 5 pieces of paper.  Due to the length of the spine pieces being longer than 11 inches, I had to extend those two pieces across two sheets of paper.  I added a match line so I could more easily align the two pieces of paper when gluing them to the piece of wood.

Step 5: Cut Out the Pieces

Picture of Cut Out the Pieces

Next you need to cut out the pieces from the single sheet of plywood if you have glued all of the template pieces down on one sheet.

With the 16-inch tall dino I started by cutting the single piece into smaller manageable pieces with 4 or 5 dino pieces on each piece of wood.  That makes it much easier and safer to cut out the smaller pieces.

With the 48-inch tall dino I started by cutting all of the individual pieces out of the one single piece of plywood.

Once you are done cutting out the pieces you will need to peel the remaining template paper off of the wood.  You will need to give the pieces a light sanding on the faces of the piece and a little on the edges to remove the sharp corners.

Step 6: Assemble the Dinosaurs

Picture of Assemble the Dinosaurs

The finished dinosaurs are really a fun project for kids to put together.  The 16-inch tall dinosaur easily fits on a shelf.

The 48-inch tall dinosaur is a great addition to a kids room.  One of the nice things about this is that when taken apart it easily fits under a bed or in a closet.

Step 7: CNC File Prep, Digital Files, and Moving Forward

Picture of CNC File Prep, Digital Files, and Moving Forward

In order to prepare the dinosaur pieces to be cut with a CNC machine I needed to remove all of the sharp inside corners of the pieces.  This included the inside corners of all of the slots where the pieces come together.  The picture of one of the head pieces below shows how the square inside corners of the slots were modified for the use of a router bit.

Attached is an Autodesk dwg file and dxf file with the pieces for the 48-inch tall dinosaur using 1/2-inch baltic birch plywood.  If you decide to use the files then make sure the slots in the files match the thickness of the material you are using so the pieces fit together tightly.

Also attached is an Autodesk dwg file with the 3D model for the 16-inch tall dinosaur.

I have added PDF files for the 16 inch tall dinosaur made out of 1/4-inch thick baltic birch plywood and the 48 inch tall dinosaur made out of 1/2-inch thick baltic birch plywood if you would like to download the files and give it a shot at making one yourself.  They make great gifts for kids!

I have started on plans for several other 3D models of dinosaurs, but haven't had an opportunity to finish one yet. 

I would love the opportunity to try to print the 3D model of the autocad version of the dinosaur to see how a model like this would turn out on a 3D printer.  I think another great exercise would be to print the individual pieces and then assemble them like the wood ones in this Instructable.

I would love to get some feedback from others on Instructables who have built models like this.  It would be great to get some input on the challenges of a project like this from others.

UPDATE: I added three new files for download at the request of a few members.  I have uploaded Acad 2004 versions of the 3D model, the CNC dwg and DXF files.  And I guess I'll say it anyway, but use any of these files at your own risk.  Enjoy.


ivan_s (author)2016-12-29

Perfect !!!! Greats to Munich Maker lab :)

TheMovieModeler made it! (author)2016-03-20

Fantastic design.

Took the drawing and made it a "little" larger then had them printed out. I cut the individual templates out then taped them to (1) 4' x 8' x 3/4" of plywood. I then lightly spray black paint over them leaving a ghost image behind to cut to.

After several coats of epoxy and test fitting/filling/sanding it was done.

I then took the project up to my sister's for my niece's birthday party. We made three planters with about (3) yards of gardening soil and buried the parts for the kids to dig back up and assemble their own dinosaur!

Everyone had a good time.

Thanks, Steve.

I just saw all of your pictures. Thanks!

That looks great! I think that is the biggest one I have seen someone build.

RogerW34 (author)2016-02-01

Can you send me the acad drawings version 2002. Thanks,

stevemoseley (author)RogerW342016-02-01

Sorry. Not distributing these right now.

RogerW34 (author)2016-02-01

Can you send me the acad drawings version 2002. Thanks,

ChenRboin (author)2016-01-13

Hi, Can you share this project to my email, thanks!


haruyuki.takayanagi.7 (author)2015-02-07

By laser

4mm is of wood

Thank you for data

Hi, Can you share this project to my email, thanks!


acalder made it! (author)2014-12-26

I scaled down the file and cut it out onto cardboard using a Laser cutter. Worked perfectly. Thanks!

stevemoseley (author)acalder2014-12-27

So glad to hear of your success. Thanks for posting a picture too.

antennas (author)2014-12-15

Wow great job. When I get home I will download this and cut it for a friend who has a young fellow into dinosaurs. Thanks.

sarahsrikumar (author)2014-11-07

Dear Sir, Can you please give me the templates to my email id : . i need in pdf form . it is so interesting that i want to do for my son....


At the bottom of the Instructable there are two PDF files that you can download - one for a 16 inch tall version and one for a 48 inch tall version. Good luck with the build!

mikef6 (author)2014-10-23

I was just wondering if anyone would be willing to sell the larger one since I am absolutely not handy in any way

OkThailank (author)2013-10-06

It a very nice model and many thanks for your sharing a T-Rex model. I am looking for "Make Your Own Model Dinosaurs" book to make them for my 10 year daughter to join her school dinosaur exhibition next month, but I can not effort now.

I tryed to buy it from but unfortunately he did not has that service for my country at Thailand.
Can anyone suggest me where can I find an ebook version of this book?.

awesomecreations (author)2013-09-08

Just a suggestion, why not make the theropod posture more accurate to what we now know is more accurate to bipedal carnivorous dinosaurs; with a horizontal tail and the neck starting downwards then curving up a little. These types of dinosaurs did not drag their tails like some herbivorous types may have.

That said, nice idea and good instructable :)

meodowla (author)2013-08-27

Good Work...

mothershipto6 (author)2013-07-12

I work at a public library in Idaho, and we are going to attempt to make this out of 1/2 in polystyrene insulation and cut it out with those un-sharp pumpkin carving knives. Like pgeelen, I'll do it as a group project and have the children cut out the smaller pieces, and then we'll put it together. Wish me luck!

pgeelen (author)2013-05-05

Yesterday we made ​​the dinosaur. The kids had great fun making and puzzling. MDF 4 mm was ideal for jigsaws but the dinosaurs can not stand by itself. We go glue it and paint it! Steve, thanks for the drawing!!.

stevemoseley (author)pgeelen2013-05-05

Thanks for posting the picture. The dino looks great and it looks like the kids had fun with it.

pgeelen (author)2013-02-01

This is very very very nice! I'm cub leader en i think i'm gonna use this. We have 32 boys in group en they are 7-11 years old. Every year we have a program: hand jigsaw cutting. Normal we have boomerang, birdhouse, etc. But this is amazing! Cause we have only 2 hours in a week, I will make the big pieces at home with machine en the little pieces the kids can cut with handsaw. I will use thinner wood (MDF 4 mm) en will change the holes but Thanks for sharing this! All the kids like dino's so i need to do this! (I'm sorry for my bad english, just want to thank you very much!)

stevemoseley (author)pgeelen2013-02-01

I am glad you can use this for your program with the boys. That will be great to have them all work on pieces and then put them all together into one dinosaur. Please post a picture of it when you have it complete.

claramecium (author)2013-01-23

was this very hard to make?

stevemoseley (author)claramecium2013-01-24

I don't think it is a very hard project. If you are cutting the pieces out by hand then you just want to take your time and make sure you don't cut the slots where the pieces fit together wider then the thickness of your material. It's a lot easier to take some additional wood out of the slot than to put it back in.

poofrabbit (author)2012-11-14

Congratulations on being a winner in the digital fabrication contest! I really really want one of these and I'm trying to find a saw to borrow so I can make one!

stevemoseley (author)poofrabbit2012-11-14

Thanks so much. I was really hoping to win the Shapeoko so I could try cutting out a really small version of the dinosaur. Hmmm......Someday.

p3nguin (author)2012-10-25

This was an excellent post. I cut one out of 3/4 plywood for Halloween and it works nicely. Great job.

stevemoseley (author)p3nguin2012-11-14

Is that a CNC in the garage behind the dinosaur? Did you build it yourself? I am so envious!

stevemoseley (author)p3nguin2012-10-25

That is great. Thanks for sharing that funny picture. What a terrified look.

Merlin047 (author)2012-10-15

great work. But I can not download the dwg and dxf files.

Merlin047 (author)Merlin0472012-10-15

Thank you, I already download, so I'm cutting on my cnc
.Best regards

stevemoseley (author)Merlin0472012-10-15

In Google Chrome browser I just right click on the file name "Trex 3d model.dwg" and choose the option "Save link as ...". It will give you a same dialog box. I have noticed on my computer it changes the name of the file to save to a different name with a ".dwg" file extension. Just rename the file to your liking and same it in the best location on your computer. Remember to keep the proper extension.

Hope that helps.

janunes65 (author)2012-10-15

liked a lot, I'll try to make a

stevemoseley (author)janunes652012-10-15

Please post a picture if you build one.

mindykin (author)2012-10-15

Great work! For people who don't want to draft their own pattern, here's a book:

mindykin (author)2012-10-15

Great work! For people who don't want to draw their own pattern, here's a book of oversized dino skeleton patterns:

lucidmonkey (author)2012-10-14

Good stuff!
I did a similar one a few months ago (velociraptor) with a cheap 16inch scroll saw and some half inch ply and wood stain to give it a more fossilised look. Also a coat of clear to protect it from the elements as we keep our pet dino outside.

deathmango (author)lucidmonkey2012-10-14

This looks great -- I like the dark stain for an outdoor display. Dynamic pose and hilarious photo. What a treat! :D

stevemoseley (author)lucidmonkey2012-10-14

That's a great idea to add the stain and clear coat. I don't think our dinosaur would like being outside for the Iowa winters where we live. That stone texture spray paint could be a neat texture as well.

lucidmonkey (author)stevemoseley2012-10-14

I hear you, we get lots of snow and occasional -30C days in winter here in Ontario.
I like your idea about the stone spray paint.

Another thing you could do with the patterns you have made would be to cut out the shapes in a thicker substance (maybe that foam insulation you can get at hardware stores) but discard the "pieces" and keep the negatives instead and use them as a mold to fill with concrete or resin.

Then you could do cool looking stepping stones in the garden or an archaeological dig in the veggie patch. I think i will give it a try this spring.

stevemoseley (author)lucidmonkey2012-10-14

Great idea for the molds for stepping stones. I think the head pieces would look cool, but the teeth would have to be supported somehow.

deathmango (author)2012-10-14

What a great model, and your instructions are exceptional!

I can't load steps 3 and 5; is it possible that something happened to the links?

I'd love to see the whole instructable - this is one of the best I've seen in some time.

stevemoseley (author)deathmango2012-10-14

Thanks for your kind comments.

Not sure what would cause steps 3 and 5 to not load. Did you ever get it to work for you?

deathmango (author)stevemoseley2012-10-14

Hey, the pages are loading now! Darn gremlins must've been in the tubes again...

I may have to try a mid-sized cardboard model for fun. Maybe an oreodont, using your methodology (I'm a fan of prehistoric mammals).

I love that your method makes for accurate proportions (tracing from a fossil or reconstructed skeleton picture). I also think it's great that the poses are adjustable. Clever work, and generous of you to take the time to document and share so clearly!

adf (author)2012-10-14

Awesome project! FWIW, I built a slightly larger one for my daughter using a CNC router & 3/4" MDO (weatherproof fiberboard). "Jaws" stands about 7 ft tall and guards our garden.

stevemoseley (author)adf2012-10-14

Oh Man! That is awesome. What I would give for my own CNC router that would be great. It can get a little hard to cut the larger pieces on a scroll saw without help supporting them.

gilleseg (author)2012-10-12

Fantastic job. Looks amazing. I am going to make a 48" one for my son. When using the pdf do i need to take it to a print shop or print it out as is. In other words is it to scale or does it need scaled up. Thank you so much for the PDF I am very excited.

stevemoseley (author)gilleseg2012-10-12

Thanks so much.

When you print the PDF you should be able to just print to normal 8.5x11 inch sheets and then line up the adjacent sheets as necessary.

Print with NO page scaling (at 100%). Each page should have a scale on it that you can use to check they are printed to the proper scale. Maybe print one sheet as a check and then print the rest.

Make sure you adjust the width of the slots in the pieces for your thickness of material. Just hold a small sample piece on edge over the slots on the printed templates. Then draw a line on each side with a pencil for the proper width of your material.

Good luck and let me know if you have any questions.

timmolderez (author)2012-10-12

Whoa, I'm a 76-inch tall "kid" and I think that looks awesome :) Yet another reason I should get a scroll saw..

About This Instructable




Bio: Just a guy who likes building things for my family.
More by stevemoseley:10 Degree Kitchen Drawer FixCamp fire skewers for SMORES CONES!Raspberry Pi Arcade Game High Score DIsplay for Multiple Locations
Add instructable to: