Introduction: My First Puzzle Box

The idea

So a little while ago I was searching the internet for secret compartments and then found these awesome boxes called puzzle boxes. I directly wanted to design one by myself and make it. But i hadn't had a clue about how to do it. So I did some research. And as I found out there was like only one webpage where i could find any detailed plans. here's the link But as I find out theplans for puzzle boxes that had more moves also costed some money. and there wasn't any guide on the internet explaining the basics and concepts of these boxes.

I knew already a few things puzzle boxes have there sides made out of layers and i found out that by using a pin and making some kind of maze (also called keyways) you could make a lock.
If you want to have side that slide off you need 3 layers.
front view
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or this works as well (not as handy as the one above I think)

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But normally locking layers (I call them that) have more layers like 4 or 5

So then  I knew enough and started designing my own puzzle box. It has only 1 locking side because that was much easier for to design especially it was my first one ever.
I based my design on one of the puzzle oxes I had seen on youtube called: "The De Vincy Box". The cool thing was that it had rotating wheels on it.
Here is a slide show of the puzzle box from flat wood to its creation:

Here is the slide show link to see my puzzle box.Still have to varnish it.

Video of my first puzzle box

- Started building it
- Started designing tools, tips, etc
- Started last word from author (me)
- Added picture of my tools
- Added link to slideshow (WIP)
- Added some simple puzzle box building plans
- Added a video of my first puzlle box
- Finished the slideshow
- Added building plans for the turn and slide
- Added more instructions about how the "turn and slide" works, in innovative tricks
Since I'm new to this myself I'll try to regurly update this when I find out new stuff. As well any tips that are given by other people.

If you like my work, please vote for it in the Woodworking Competition beginning October 3rd.

Step 1: The Basics

Tools and materials
So what you basically need are wood, a saw and some sanding paper.

As I already told before puzzle boxes are made out of layers this is what  makes it hard to design them. If you start designing puzzle boxes for the first time I recommend you use only one locking side (I'll explain what that is in step 3). Normally you use like 4 or five layers and 1 off them is glued to the rest of the box, normally the last one. This locking side should normally not come of the box (nor be able to), what this side does is preventing 1, more or all layers of your lid to move, in that way your lid can't move and can't come off. By moving this layer the right way it wil move far enough down ( if your lid is on top) so you can slide of the lid.
Also on the locking side you ussualy use a slide to move to the right and left and the whole side (except the glued layer) moves up and down.
links to some videos of puzzle boxes  I like this one has some innovative tricks.
In 3th step I'll go into greater depth of this and upload some pictures.

This is you're actual lock, the solution for it is like the key (of a real lock) and the keyway is like the inside of a lock.

1+ locking sides
This means you have several side with keyways or other clever tricks that you have to aply to a side to solve it. These boxes are rather difficult to design I would recommend Using 3D software.

Progressive and Dead ends
What does this mean? well in some puzzle boxes every next move is correct these are called progressive puzzle boxes. But in others you can have puzzle boxes wich have moves that lead to a dead end. Normally these are a lot harder to open if you don't know the solution and can be a real pain in the ass.

Be innovative
Use smart tricks and new ways to make the puzzle lock, be example use rotating wheels like I did, use cold, use other kind of shape so not only use squares and rectangle, use magnets, etc.
So what I want to say is think outside the box, if you think you're already able to think outside the box solve the next riddle.
click here for the solution

Step 2: Tools and Materials

- Figure saw (absolutely a must, luckily they are not very expensive €5,00 more or less)
- Sanding paper
- Ruler or measurement tape
- Pencil or pen ( I prefer pencil)
- Clamps (not so expensive as well lets say 2 or 3 euros for 2 to 4 clamps)
- Bandsaw (I don't have but it would be very usefull)
- Table saw
- Jig saw (useful for cutting the all the big rectangle pieces because it's fast)
- File(s) (Even if  it are metal files they are always very handy)
- Compass (or you could use a little string and a small nail/screw/needle)
- Printer + Computer + Prit (glue stick, is easy to get off the wood) + Paper + Inkt
- Drill ( Could be necesary, if your dad hasn't got one get a hand drill if a normal drill is too 

- Wood can be any kind as long as its strong enough for your design (a few options):
     - Triplex/Plywood ( This is what I used, cheap and strong, However it can easily split
        when working it)
     - Ash is rather lighter colored than oak, but is sometimes used in connection with it. It
        is less likely to split.
     - Ebony is of a deep black color, and highly prized for several purposes, particularly
        inlaying. It is exceedingly hard, heavy, and durable, but expensive.
     - Mahogany its price is regulated, and with a very fine, close texture.
     - Beech, a very close and tough wood, don't know about the price.
- for the wood you need a board and probaly some pins ( round stick cutted to the right
   size will do as wel)
- Wood glue, I use tappex ut bison would also be good. The best is probably titebond, but
   it's rather expensive.
- Metal for decorations or innovative creations (a few):
      - Brass
      - Stainless steel
      - Steel
      - Iron
- Magnets
- Paint

Desinging Tools
- First of all the most Important YOUR BRAIN.
There are several things you can use for this.
- Just paper, a pencil and an eraser.
- A drawing programme like photofiltre(free), photoshop, preferable having a grid (haven't 
   found a good free programme with customaizble grid yet, if you know one tell me.)
- A 3D modelling programme like google sketchup.

Don't know any yet, If you know some tell me please.

Step 3: Layers Into Depth

Sides of a box
A box most likely has 6 sides, of wich if you're using 1 locking sides you have 3 or 4 fixed sides and have 1 or 2 lids. Fixed sides normally simply consist out of 1 layer and are glued to the other fixed sides so they can't move. Lids can normally come all the way off or be a fake. These sides normally rest on rails look at the image. Then you have the locking side this side can consist out of 3 layers (it's possible) but this give a lot of limitations especially if the box is quite small. Normally it consist out of 4 layers or 5, you use that fifth layer to make it stronger and cover up the keyways on the inside.
(see the first picture on this page)

Normally these are used to guide your your round pin trough the keyway. In the less moves(most likely easier) boxes there is probably one slider on 1 side, and then as the moves go, 1 slider on 2 sides, 2 sliders on 2 sides, 3 slider on 2 sides and then 4, etc.
Sometimes the whole side panel is used as a slider . But when making slider you have to keep a few things in mind. Sliders have to be attached to the panel someway, so they can't move up or down alone, nor can be pulled out or off. This can be done in several ways (see picture 2 and 3). Also keep in mind that the parts from the slider that are between walls of the box need enough space to move to the right and left. If you have mutiple sliders make sure that the keyways are so that if you move your sliders the right way they always have enough space to make the right move.

Step 4: Keyways

What are keyways? keyways are like mazes, only if the right way is taken you'll get out.
Keyways can be made in a lot of different ways, but the most usual is to make it so that a round pin has to be guided trough. Simpler and easier puzzle boxes have progressive keyways meaning every next move is the right move. harder puzzle boxes have dead ends in their keyways.
Keyways also determine partially the amount of moves (like 50% to 100%) but its important that if you wanna make a box with alot of moves, to keep in mind that by just making 1 or 2 keyways and 1 slider per keyway it's not becoming that much harder nor more fun.
A good amount of move Per Keyway should be between 5 and 15 (note this is just a guideline).
It's much more fun and harder to use 2 or 4 sliders per locking side.

Step 5: More Than 1 Locking Side

2 Locking Sides
Since I'm new to puzzle boxes I only know a few techniques and 1 I'm sure of how it works. So I'll explain that 1 to you. First of all in this technique the lids are very important and it's very usefull to have a 3d programme like google sketchup(the free version is good enough I use it myself).
The lids are used to each block 1 locking side from moving, so you first have to move the right locking, panel then the right lid, then the other locking panel and then the other lid and so on.
In the first pictures you see a the technique in 2 different ways (the are probably more ways to apply to technique) I personally prefer the first one, Why you can also use this one to make 3 locking sides.
As you can see these keyways are very simple as you get more difficult keyways you also gonna have to adapt your lids and the number of layers on it.

3 Locking sides
Doing this is actually pretty simple it's just the same as 2 locking sides, but you have to add a slider and locking layer to 1 of the 2 lids.
... more coming soon

4 Locking sides
I'm gonna try to find a better way .
So I don't reallyknow how to epxplain this but I'll try my best.
Imagine that you have a box with a moving panel on the front. Now you gonna add moves to the left (or right) side. As you know the locking layer with the keyway has to be glued to the left and right side. The left side is now gonna exist out of 5 layers, the most outside and inside are just there for covering up the keyway and stopping the round pin from falling out.  As you can see in the picture in the middle of the 3 layers there's a rectangle that can move to the left and right. If you move the cover up and round pin along the keyway you'll see that when you make the last move to the left, you automatically push the rectangle to the left as well. This would free the front panel, so it can move up and down.
to add more moves, you can add a rectangle that block this rectangle, the bottom or top. This exra rectangle should move up or down of course. And you can keep adding rectangles as long as you have enough space.

In the google sketchup model I'm gonna add a front panel, without slider and actual keyway (you just gonna have to imagine these.

Google sketchup model:

5 Locking sides
this is exactly the same as 4 locking sides. You just add another one of these on the other side.

6 Locking sides
This is only possible if you are able to disassemble the whole box or locking bars ( I'll explain what this when I 've some more info about 6 locking sides.). Or you could use a different kind of 3D shape.

Step 6: Innovative Tricks

Some examples

I''ve seen several things, using cold (of a freezer), moving a metal ball  with a magnet (how the ball opens the mechanism I still don't know), using a paperclip to push a piece that's behind a small hole.

A fun thing you could do is make a piece with a string attached and put it behind a small hole. his way instead of only having the option to push it you can also pull if you make a hook on the end of your paperclip (or pushing pen or whatever).

More coming soon
The turn and slide
google sketchup file of this box (30 moves):

So how does this puzzle box work, as you can see in pic 1 and 2  the keyway is a round maze, wich is cut out of a circle. This circle is glued to a big round pin, so that if you turn the round pin the circle will turn as well. Then there are 2 round pins that have to slide trough this maze/keyway. After turning the wheel/circle in the right position you can slide 1 or both round pins left or right (depending on how you designed the keyway). You can make it so that the box can only be opened if the pins are in the outmost position but that isn't necesary. There's 1 layer in front of the wheel (pic 3) and there're 2 behind it pic 4 and 5, and 1 small blocking layer so the pins can't be pulled out pic 6. Togehther these 4 layers form a locking panel. When the pins are in the right position you can move the locking panel up or down depending on what you want (how you designed it). Then you can pull the top layer off. If you want to double the amount of moves, you have to add a fake lid. this lid will prevent on locking panel to move either up or down. This fake lid is in its turn blocked by the other locking panel. So that you frist solve 1 locking panel, move the fake lid, solve the other locking layer and then pull the top lid off.

Pic 7, So what is a possible way to design this kind of keyway, well this one is very simple.
First make the amount of circles you want for your keyway, with adding to 2 times the radius of the pins to the radius of every bigger circle then the one before. Now for making the keyway select the center. Now chose wich pin you want to be able to move first. Now look how far you want to turn the wheel, and then depending the turning direction, draw a line trough the center. This line shows where either both the most upper or down parts of the pins will be. so as you can see in the example pic, you will have to add 5mm to above on the left pin if the wheel is turning anticlockwise or 5mm to below if it's on the right side. If the wheel turns clockwise it's the opposite.

Step 7: Designing Tools, Tips, Etc.

More coming
My designing process
How do I normally start, well that's easy. I first look for ideas: shapes, special mechanisms, certain amount of moves, special/tricky moves, other puzzles (especially flat ones), etc.

When I've got my idea, I look how can i make a puzzle box out of this and how should the mechanism work. If I've to I adapt it and modify it so I can place it in a puzzle box. This is normally the hardest part.

Then I look at the dimensions I wanna make it. And start designing it in google sketchup. This is normally the most time consuming part of the design process. Here, I first make the mechanisms and the cover up.

As last I test it in google sketchup and maybe make some cool art designs for it.
All that is left then is actually building it (takes a lot of time).

Google sketchup tips
Oke the first thing I would recommend is that you use the right template, I recommend either using "product design and woodworking - milimeters" or "product design and woodworking -  inches". Then second I would create materials at the paint bucket that have transparency.
Third make components this works a lot easier. Fourth if you want to make lines or squares, etc that have exact sizes then just type that size and press enter. For a line just type one lenght, if your using milimeters you could either type 5 or 5mm and press enter, another example you could type 70, 70mm or 7cm,etc and press enter. For a square type 5; 5 and press enter for a square 5mm by 5mm.

Step 8: Building Plans

Puzzle Box Plans
Here I will Be posting plans to build puzzle boxes.

If there're people who will settle with some plans fo simple puzzle boxes(at least 5+ moves) I will make some plans. Note I wont make these puzzle boxes my self, so it could be there are some mistakes.

If there enough people that want the plans of my first puzzle box I'll make them and add them here. But the movement isn't so nice and smooth because of the piece in the picture.
Because I can't glue the pieces to the round pins, cause if I do so the design won't work anymore.

Oke here are the plans for a simple puzzle box (15 moves with FL option1):

Puzzle box building plans "turn and slide" (30 move, can easily be upgrade to 60 move):
See attached files for more permanent link
google sketchup model:
See attached files for more permanent link
I'll explain how to modify it in "innovative tricks" when I've time.

Step 9: Building It

Online wood working tutorials
Glueing and more videos
Great instructable of how to cut, glue wood and making wood cube assembly puzzles

A few things you need to know when building a puzzle box.
First you have to know all the pieces you're gonna cut and how much wood you're gonna need, but always take on every panel and every side of that panel AT LEAST 1 mm extra space ( because your saw will always make you lose between 1 to 10 mm of wood).
Second I prefer to look at all the panels as rectangles and then cut those aal out before I start doing the precision work.
If you know how to use photo editing programme precisely (by entering measerements) then I would suggest you make the drawings in a photo editing programme and print them out in real size. Then take a glue stick ( this type of glue is easy to remove from wood) and glue the paper on.
Before you start glueing your puzzle box together make sure you have planned it very well, cause if make a mistake at glueing (especially if you do it in the wrong order) your hard work will be ruined. It's normal to first glue the sliders together.

Also when drilling a hole in a kind of wood that easily splits, put a wooden leftover behind it.

more coming soon

Step 10: Tips by Other People

Waiting on you guys out there

Step 11: Last Word of Author (me)

So why did I chose this extreme license, well I've seen tuts on the internet where people had done 20% of the work (max, they just improved the looks and outlay) and saying they had done 90% or all the work. I don't won't this to happen to my guide, nor do I want anyone making profit of it while I did almost all the work.
If you wanna translate just ask me I don't have a problem with that as long as you tell I made the guide.

Wich languages do I speak:
Dutch (NL not german De)
English (american and british mixed sometimes srry)

more coming soon

Woodworking Contest

Finalist in the
Woodworking Contest