This is a puzzle box. To open it you need to perform a certain gesture and press a button. The gesture is defined by the shape of an internal ball bearing maze. You can easily create your own maze and plans using the website www.mazepuzzlebox.co.uk. The design is parametric, making it easy to make with materials of differing thickness.

Someone who doesn't know how to open it will struggle for a long time, especially if you give them no clues. Once you've learnt the gesture, you can open the box in a couple of seconds. My uncle (who is a maker working at a museum) took 24 hours to open it, with a team of interested buddies, an xray machine, a metal detector and large magnets!

Many thanks to London Hackspace, and everyone who has helped me out with learning how to use the laser cutter! Thanks Lou for the good photos! This design has taught me a lot about using the laser cutter, parametric design and designing for CNC. This is about the 12th version, so it's pretty reliable by now. I hope the instructions are good enough!

Tools and Materials
Tools: a laser cutter, a CAD program
Materials: a sheet of 4mm ply, PVA glue, a small rare earth magnet, 2 x 25x4mm springs (you can get them from pens), a 4mm ball bearing and 2 x 10mm of 4mm metal rod (I use brass).

Step 1: Cut your peices

Design your unique maze!

Go here http://www.mazepuzzlebox.co.uk/create   and draw your maze. To make the maze harder, use dead ends and junctions where timing becomes more important. Click 'create box' and then enter your material thickness. Click 'generate plans' to get the plans that are correct for the thickness of your material.

Inspect the plans

open the DXF in your CAD program (QCAD is free ) and check things look OK. I use an HPC laser and the software won't import the file as it stands, so I have to save it with QCAD and then it works. I'd be really interested to hear if other software works without having to open and save it in a CAD program.

Laser settings

The finished CAD file has 4 colours, white and grey for the cuts, green for patterns and blue for etched parts. The settings I use on a 30W cutter are:

* etch (blue): speed 200, power 30, scan gap 0.05
* pattern (green): speed 100, power 40
* cut (white and grey): speed 4.2, power 100

It is well worth experimenting to make sure that the etched parts are sufficiently etched.  This is hard to explain, but if you look at the plans (image above), the ball rolls on the big etched rectangle on layer 4 with layer 5 (the maze) and layer 6 on top of it. The material is meant to be 4mm, but it is often thinner (my 4mm ply is actually 3.72mm). So we have to etch at least .3mm out of one layer for the 4mm ball to roll in the space between 2 layers.

<p>I tried to make this, but failed. Since the linked site gave the option to use other dimensions than 4mm, I used 3mm. But apparently it doesn't adjust everything well. The hinges won't fit, the lock won't fit, the springs from pens won't fit. Very disappointed.</p><p>If you want to make this, I suggest using 4mm and not any other dimensions.</p>
<p><a href="http://www.instructables.com/member/matthewvenn/" rel="nofollow">matthewvenn</a></p><p>please send me this pattern, i can not download it. i can not become a pro either. PLEASE... TNX</p>
<p>oh God, :(</p><p>someone help me. i can not be a pro member. i live in iran. i need this pattern. what can i do? HELP PLEASE.</p>
<p>I had a lot of fun making this. Even made a little video about it (<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URM8LZDHit4" rel="nofollow">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URM8LZDHit4</a>). My next one I want to make out of perspex and make the maze 3D instead of 2D.</p>
Hello, <br>I had to make an account to thank you for this! I made one for a xmas present. It came out really well with what was labeled as 1/4&quot; plywood but was actually 5mm and 4.5mm bbs. <br> <br>However, one suggestion to all. I was sanding the sides of the device with a handheld sander and I ended up getting tons of sawdust into the mecanism. Now it tends to stick pretty often. I highly suggest you sand with that edge of the box vertical or else it will fall in and gunk up the mechanism. <br> <br>Thanks again!
Amazing! Please send me a picture(s) so I can put it on the website! My email is matt at mattvenn dot net. <br> <br>Good tip on the sanding. I always sand horizontal because I use a bench mounted disk sander. Will add it to the instructable.
Hey i need to ask you a q My email is Hess1113@gmail.com
I am planning to build a box by hand as I don't have access to a laser cutter. Ive downloaded the plans however I am experiencing the same problems as kholts, the hinges and maze designs are not there. I am using NX CAD 7.5 to open the dxf file. I am planning to print out the designs and stick them to the wood to help cut out. Another problem is trying to find a suitable way to scale up the images to the correct size. <br> <br>Matthewvenn, would you be able to help me out? <br>link to maze: http://mazepuzzlebox.co.uk/2312 <br>wood thickness 5.5mm <br>Email: davidcole293@gmail.com <br> <br>Many Thanks! <br>
Thank you!!! http://mazepuzzlebox.co.uk/2178 will be good with a thickness of 6.35mm <br> <br>Thanks again, this is pretty sweet <br>-kholtz <br>holtz.kristen@gmail.com
Yes - i've tried qcad on mac osx and windows 7 but it didn't work =(
oh well. send me a link to the maze and tell me the thickness of material you want and I'll send you a dxf.
Hi, <br> <br>I'm having some huge problems getting the file to properly download from the mazepuzzlebox.co.uk site. The hinges and maze both don't show up. Does anyone have any suggestions or can download and email it to me? <br> <br>Thank you!
have you tried qcad? It seems to be the only cad file that can open the files.
Really beautifull. <br>To add some difficulty to the puzzle I would put some soft material (suede-paper or felt) in the inner walls of the maze, so the ball could run without any noise. ;)
thanks for the comment! <br>Sometimes I put ball bearings in the space so it confuses the sound. But it's already really hard for someone who doesn't know what's inside!
Hi, I can't get the file from the website correctly, I have qcad but the maze and hinges etc, like someone posted before, are missing, any ideas? Thanks! /Anders
weird, what platform are you running qcad on? I've not had any problems with it myself. Otherwise, what ID is your puzzle and I'll download it and send it to you.
Hi!, I'm using Mac, Mountain Lion.. the #175 would be ok!<br>Thanks!<br>/Anders
forgot to say what thickness is your material?
Hi, I'm working with 3mm acrylic
email address?
andershjorth@gmail.com thanks!
yep, you solve the maze, open the box, close the box and solve the maze in reverse to lock.
That makes sense. I'm going to try making one of these. Some sort of return mechanism to save the whole reverse trip would be good. Hmmm, lemme think about it.
I think it would be straightforward enough. I think a &quot;one way valve&quot; is what's required, which could be done with another magnet perhaps? <br>Matt <br> <br>Keep me posted!
One thing that's confusing me is how you get the ball bearing back to the magnet. Do you just have to &quot;undo&quot; the maze once you've opened it?
I downloaded your box maze DXF files to make one on my cnc router. Obviously the files will need adjusted. But I ran into the problem that the file was missing lines. Specifically the hinges, catch, and maze lines were missing. Granted it could be the CAD programs I used. I tried at first with Vcarvepro V5.5 which supports DXF, and then I tried with a copy of TurboCad Mac Pro V3. That wouldn't even import the file at all ( and it should.) although it's a very buggy piece of software.<br><br>Anyhow, I can obviously put in the line work manually on my own. Just thought I would ask first in case I am missing something obvious. Great box. Love it!<br><br>p.s. I tried downloading multiple box files from multiple browsers (e.g. Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer) both on PC and Mac.
Hiya,<br><br>I take it you made and downloaded the dxf from the website: mazepuzzlebox.co.uk ?<br><br>I'm afraid that the DXF files are very buggy, they only seem to reliably open with qcad. So I'd suggest installing this and then opening and saving the file. Once it's saved with qcad you might be able to open it with your other programs.<br><br>If you don't want to or it doesn't work, send me the link to your box and I'll open, save and send it to you!<br><br>I've learnt to loathe the DXF format! I'll be converting it all to SVG in the future and let people convert the file themselves.<br><br>Matt
Does anyone have a CorelDraw file of this they'd be willing to give me? Or maybe tips on how to use these CAD plans for a Epilog?
sorry, I missed this comment. Have you tried importing the dxf file into corel draw? What happens?<br><br>Matt
I have, a small error window appears and says &quot;Unrecoverable Error&quot; I have tried closing CorelDraw and restarting my computer and trying different box plans such as 167 and 175 which are suggested on the site.
can you try this one? I opened and saved it in qcad.<br>http://mattvenn.net/files/boxmaze_829.dxf
Great stuff.<br>Thanks
I am curious how to get the dxf files as I would like to try this out and make modifications. (Are you selling the plans, or did I simply miss a link???) <br> <br>I use CorelDraw to make other boxes, but I find your design very unique. <br> <br>Keep of the great work!
You missed the link! go to mazepuzzlebox.co.uk, design a maze and then download the DXF.<br><br>Cheers,<br><br>Matt
Wish I could make this... too bad I don't a cutter precise enough...
if you've got a bit of money I can cut your pieces for you, see mazepuzzlebox.co.uk for info.<br><br>Matt
By laser cutter do you mean a guided saw?
no, a computer controlled machine that uses a powerful laser to cut through various materials. If you don't have one, you can still design a box and then I'll cut the pieces and send them to you. Check the details on the website mazepuzzlebox.co.uk!<br><br>Thanks!
Got mine built using a scroll saw. Even with the improved instructions I couldn't get the python script to work - I kept getting a syntax error. I gave up on it and with with the scaled-up 4mm plans. <br><br>It worked out fine. All the parts fit correctly (with a bit of sanding) and it works well. I used a regular BB and regular pen springs for hardware.<br><br>Thanks for the plans! I'm currently working on staining it and I'm planning to line the inside with felt (mostly to cover some imperfections I couldn't sand out).
amazing!<br>could you send me a photo?<br><br>Also, it would be great to have a copy of the syntax error you're getting, so I can fix it and improve the instructions...<br><br>Nice one,<br>Matt
Here are the pics of mine:<br><br>http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v445/Moonie1998/DSC02159.jpg<br><br>http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v445/Moonie1998/DSC02160.jpg
I'll get a pic after I'm done with the finishing work, should be soon.<br><br>The syntax error popped up in python as soon as I typed in &quot;python boxmaze.py&quot; into the command line. It acted like I was typing in nonsense. I got the exact same error no matter what I typed in - just &quot;syntax error&quot;.
what OS are you running on? what happens if you just type <br>python -V
Sorry, I already uninstalled Python. I'm using XP.<br><br>
ok. Well I'm going to get this fixed in the future by hosting it all on a web server.<br>looking forward to seeing your box!
Do you absolutely have to use a lazer cutter?
some people are trying with a scroll saw, but I haven't heard back from them yet. Alternatively I could send you the parts. PM if you're interested...
thank you for this

About This Instructable


376 favorites


Bio: I'm an artist/engineer excited about making cool stuff!
More by matthewvenn: Push fit LED moodlamp wireless organ pipe doorbell floppy drawbot
Add instructable to: