Introduction: Three Layered Secret Puzzle Box With Maze

Last year I developed this treasure chest. At first glance you see a lock and a hinge, but you need the key to open it. Where is the key ?!?

At second glance you see that the cover also has hinges. What would be underneath ? When you open the lid (here no key is necessary as you can see on the picture) you see a lot of random papers and in a corner a strong magnet. When you remove all the papers, a black velvet bottom shows.

But, oh, wait, you can lift the secret bottom via not so obvious black velvet lips. What you see then, is amazing. (If I say so myself): A MAZE.

At the beginning of the maze, a key is stuck behind a small ledge. If you use the magnet, you can lift the key over the ledge and bring it all the way through the end. There a small hole in the outside of the box, allows you to recover the key and open the locked compartment at the bottom of the box where you can retrieve your price.

In all of this it is of course important that the box can not be lifted over someone's head or the whole pleasure of using the magnet trough the maze is spilled.

Step 1: Supplies

You can build this box in cardboard (which I did first), a more durable version is of course in wood (which I made after I was sure of all the measurements).

  • A4 photo frame without border (you need the glass as well as the A4 wood plate)
  • cardboard
  • wooden plates (I used 4 mm) for the bottom, the false bottom, walls and lid
  • wood glue
  • lollysticks (you can also use cardboard or small pieces of other wood)
  • paint (I used chalk paint in two colours : gray and white)
  • craquelure varnish
  • extra strong magnet
  • 3 hinges 40x40mm
  • 1 hinge with lock mechanism (2 parts)
  • superglue
  • paper glue
  • hobby paper with motives of walls and floors
  • 1 lock and key
  • black velvet
  • pieces of a broomstick, cork, ... (for the feet on the bottom of the box)

Step 2: Making the Maze

The most important part of making the maze, is of course designing the maze. You can choose for a maze that at first sight really looks complicated, but is in fact only one in and one out. You can also design one with a few dead ends. While designing your maze on a piece of A4 paper, keep in mind that the key of your lock has to fit in between all of the walls and don't forget the thickness of your walls itself.

For my maze, I didn't use any dead ends, but you can put as many dead ends in there as you see fit.

Take the A4 picture frame without border. Put the glass in a safe place so it does not become dirty or scratched.

We will use the A4 piece of wood that normally would support the picture behind the glass as the 'floor' for our maze. I tiled my floor with a strong hobby paper with a nice tile motive. You can use any motive you like, design it yourself or even paint the floor. I used this particular one because in combination with the walls, it seemed like the key was in a dark dungeon miles under the surface of the earth. And I kind of liked this idea.

When the whole floor has been tiled, it is time to make the walls of your maze according to your design. When you determine the hight of your walls, keep in mind that the key (with it's ring) have to fit between floor, walls and glass seiling, as well as the fact that your magnet needs to be strong enough to lift the key from the floor through the glass.

My walls are 1.5 centimeters high and around 3mm wide. I cut them out of cardboard with a thickness of around 3 mm. If you don't have that, you can also put two layers of cardboard together. When all the walls have been cut out, place them again on your floor plan, just to see if there is still enough place left for the key to pass trough.

To finish my walls I used the same kind of paper as for the floor, but with another motive. Again, you can use whatever you like for your walls, but to stay in my dungeon theme, I used these dark orange bricks.

Last, but not least, it is now time to fix the walls with instant glue to the bottom.

Step 3: Making the Walls, True and False Bottom and the Lid

Next up is cutting out your walls, the true bottom of the box, the false bottom which will later be wrapped in black velvet and the cover of the box.

I used mdf plates of 4 mm for this, but you can also use plywood, cardboard, ...

The bottom of the box will have the same measurements as the floor of the maze. The false bottom will be a few millimeters smaller because it will be wrapped in the velvet.

For the walls I used a hight of 14 centimeters, this way every layer has sufficient place to put things and papers into it.

The measurements of the walls I used are : 31x14 cm (2x) and 21.2x14cm (2x) - of course it is important to really measure everything at your side, so that everything fits really well in the end around the maze and the bottom.

For the cover of the box I used a 22.3x32cm piece of mdf wood.

Now, before you start gluing the walls and the bottom together, it is important that you cut out the "front door" of the box and the hole where you will retrieve the key.

Step 4: Making the Door and Keyhole

And here we found ourselves at the tricky part of the project. Because the door and the hole need to be exactly at the height where we want them. So a bit thinking ahead will not hurt.

The door has to be lower than the maze, and big enough to put your hand in to gather the stuff inside once you found the key. You can choose these measurements yourself, but mine had a width of 10 centimeters. In the short wall where the end of the maze will be, drill a hole (or multiple holes next to each other) where the key will fit trough. Make sure the height of this hole is maximum the height of the walls of the maze.

I cut my 'front door' out with a height of 6 centimeters. If you are using cardboard, you can easily do this without damaging the rest of the wall. If you have a laser cutter, idem dito. I was in neither case, so I had to cut a part of my wall out, and glued it back together afterwards.

The keyhole started at 7.5 centimeters from the bottom of the box and went up for two centimeters. It was also between 2 and 3 centimeters wide.

Step 5: Gluing the Box Together

In this next step we will be gluing the box together. At this point it is important that you only glue the walls to the real bottom of the box. Don't glue the door to anything, or the maze at this point.

Step 6: Getting the Maze to Its Correct Position

To get the maze to its correct position in the box, I have glued some really thick pieces of cardboard on the walls. The height of this depends a bit on the thickness of your original A4 wooden photo frame plate. When you place the maze on these pieces of cardboard in the box, the hole you drilled in the side should perfectly align with the end of your maze.

Don't glue the maze to the walls or the cardboard help pieces, instead get it back out when everything is aligned and paint the true bottom and inner walls of the whole box. I used gray for this, but you can choose of course whatever color you like.

When the paint is dry, mark in pencil where the inner walls of the maze will be, that way you can extend the feeling of the inner maze walls, to the outside walls as well and is the dungeon feeling complete.

Step 7: False Bottom

Before you glue the false bottom in the black velvet, make sure that it still fits with the velvet around it in the box. It should not fall out, but it should be easily removable when small handles are provided.

I cut these small handles as well from the black velvet, so it would not be noticeable right away.

When everything fits to your liking, glue the velvet to the false bottom.

Step 8: Painting

We have come in the latest stages of this project, but these may take the longest, depending on what you would like for your finished look.

I used the craquelure technique which involves two colors of chalk paint and craquelure varnish. You can use this technique or any other finish you like.

I topped it off with a few coats of clear varnish to give it a nice shine and a bit of extra protection.

When you do this, don't forget to paint the outside of your box, both sides of the cover and both sides of the door that is at this moment still missing from your front wall.

Step 9: Hinges, Locks, Feet

The first bit of the last step is to put the feet under the box, this way it gets a nice allure, but it also prevents your box doing weird things when your door opens and doesn't have place to lay itself. I used small pieces of a broken broomstick I had laying around, but you can also use wine or champagne corks, other pieces of wood or cardboard, ...

Now it is time to put the hinges on the cover and the box. I used super glue for this, because the wood I used is not thick enough for the screws that came with the hinges. Try in advance where you would like the hinges, before you start putting glue on them.

Next up is hanging the front door in the wall with the third hinge. If you have a really wide door, it may be better to use two hinges for this as well.

Lastly, the hinge with the lock part has to be glue to the upper front wall and the door so this can be closed by hanging the lock on it.

Step 10: Putting Everything Together

Now the box is almost complete to get someone to crack it open.

If the maze is not in the box, lay it in its place and put the glass ceiling on top. On top of this glass, I have put small pieces of ice lolly sticks which I painted in the color or the walls, so the glass cannot fall out.

Put the stuff you want to keep hidden in the bottom part of the box, lock it up and put the key in the maze. Use the magnet the bring it all the way back to its home base and behind its ledge.

Get the magnet out of the box, put the false bottom on top of the glass ceiling and put the stuff you don't mind people finding and looking at on top of it. You can place the magnet there or keep it somewhere else, depending on how easy you want to make it.

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