Introduction: Wooden Gordian Knot

About: My name is Kellie and I'm a physicist with a passion for crafting! I love learning new skills and making things. Some of my many passions are sewing, quilting, drawing, painting, crocheting, upholstery, baking…

I was visiting my little nephew a while back and he was playing with a plastic Gordian Knot. I thought, "wouldn't it be cool to make a wooden one!" So the wooden Gordian Knot was born. Try making your own!

Step 1: Tools and Materials


  • Table saw
  • Miter saw
  • Band saw
  • Square
  • Clamps
  • Drill press
  • Cordless drill
  • Belt sander
  • Orbital sander
  • Safety glasses
  • Plywood
  • Sandpaper
  • 3/8" forstner drill bit


  • 8.5 linear feet of 3/4 x 3/4 inch hard wood (I used red oak, you can use 6 different types of hard wood and opt out of staining)
  • 5 linear feet of 3/8" hard wood dowel rods
  • Wood glue
  • Stain (5-6 different colors)
  • Polyurethane

Step 2: Strip Lumber With Table Saw

  • Set the table saw fence to the depth of the board, that way when you rip them you will get square cuts. It also takes out the stress of measuring.
  • Rip at least 8.5 linear feet from your hard wood.
  • Always wear safety glasses, use a push stick, and stand to one side of the blade when using a table saw.

Step 3: Cut Pieces

  • Using a miter saw cut the smaller pieces from the wood you ripped in the previous step.
  • Make sure your miter saw is square before cutting or you will not be able to get square cuts and your puzzle pieces will not align correctly.

Pieces to Cut (length)

  • 20: 3.75"
  • 6: 2.25"
  • 1: 1.5"
  • 15: 0.75"


Step 4: Glue Pieces

  • Using a ruler and pencil on the longer pieces, mark the centers and sides where the smaller pieces should be glued.
  • Apply glue to both pieces, press together and clamp.
  • Repeat for all of the puzzle pieces. You may need to piece together in steps until the final pieces are all put together.
  • Wait 30 minutes before removing the clamps and 24 hours before drilling the dowel pin holes.

Step 5: Cut Dowel Pins

  • Buy some hardwood 3/8" dowels. You will need at least 5 linear feet.
  • Stick the dowels in a cordless drill. Using some sand paper turn the drill on and sand a little off each dowel, the whole length of the dowel.
  • Mark the dowels for cutting.
  • Cut 37 1.5" pieces and 1 2" piece.
  • Use a band saw to cut each piece.
  • Use a belt sander to clean up the cut edges for putting them into the dowel pin holes.

Step 6: Drill Dowel Holes

  • Find two scrap pieces of plywood or wood and cut them to fit to the size of your puzzle pieces. I was lucky and found two pieces the perfect size and I didn't need to cut them.
  • Sandwich each puzzle piece between the pieces of wood and using some small c-clamps clamp the top edge.
  • Use a flat bench clamp to clamp the bottom of the puzzle piece.
  • Position the bench clamp on the base of the drill press.
  • Adjust the dept of the forstner bit (3/8") to 1.25" past the puzzle piece.
  • Clamp the bench clamp to the base of the drill press.
  • Once by one drill the dowel pin holes into each glued joint piece.
  • Continue this process until all dowel pin holes have been drilled.
  • For the long dowel pin on the side of one puzzle piece, adjust the depth to 1.75".

Step 7: Set Dowel Pins

  • Squirt a little glue into each dowel pin hole and using a smaller dowel spread the glue around evenly.
  • Push the dowel pin in the hole.
  • Use a small bar clamp to help force the pin in all the way. It will create a snug fit and glue will spill out the end and grain of the wood.
  • Repeat for all dowel pins.
  • Allow 24 hrs for drying time.

Step 8: Trim Dowel Pins

  • After the glue has dried, trim the excess dowels sticking out off using the band saw.

Step 9: Sand Each Piece

  • Sand the inside of the pieces by hand.
  • Step sand the outside of the pieces. Round out the edges.
  • Sand all the pieces until you can fit every single piece into each others long horizontal inside slots.
  • The puzzle will not go together correctly if you cannot achieve this. It may take some extra sanding or maneuvering.
  • Assemble puzzle to make sure it goes together correctly.
  • Not sure how to solve it? Google search: Gordian knot puzzle solution

Step 10: Stain and Finish Each Piece

  • Stain your pieces different colors.
  • Dry 24 hours.
  • Or finish them naturally if you used 6 different kinds of hard wood.
  • Apply 3 thin coats of polyurethane. You don't want it too think, or you puzzle wont got back together.
  • Let dry 24 hours before you put your puzzle back together.

Step 11: Enjoy the Gordian Knot

Have fun playing with your Gordian knot! Make your friends try and solve it. Use it as a center piece on your coffee table.

Woodworking Contest

Second Prize in the
Woodworking Contest