Introduction: Wooden Puzzle #2 (Alternative Style)

A few weeks ago I made this puzzle out of half inch plywood. The laser left the pieces kind of charred, and I wasn't too pleased with how it came out. The laser also left a huge kerf, making the pieces somewhat loose. In this tutorial, I am rehashing that puzzle. I will be recreating it using a completely different method so as to avoid the charred edges and large kerf. Instead of cutting the pieces out of 1/2" plywood, we will be making the pieces by stacking 2 profiles from 1/4" plywood.

Note: this is not my design. I did create the Illustrator file with the parts, but the idea of the puzzle came from a puzzle company that my friend got the original puzzle from. The box is long lost though so I do not know who owns the creative rights to this puzzle. If you know, please mention it in a comment so I can properly acknowledge them.

Download the one of following files; the .ai if you use Adobe Illustrator or the pdf otherwise.

Step 1: Tools and Materials


This tutorial assumes you have access to and operator's knowledge of a CNC lasercutter. As each machine's software and interface are drastically different, I'll have to assume that you know how to operate the laser cutter you will be using. The laser I used accepts illustrator files, which is why I uploaded the design as an .ai file. However, I also uploaded the .pdf for people who use a different software. Open the .pdf file in your laser's software, as pdf's are very standard file types and should be accepted by your laser's software.

Additionally, a clamp or table vice can be useful when gluing but is not necessary

Sand paper/orbital sander


7"x7" of 1/4" plywood

Wood Glue. I used Elmers Wood glue, but any wood glue will do. You can probably get away with super glue, but don't use hot glue.

Step 2: Laser Cutting the Pieces

If you followed along on the first version of this puzzle, you'll remember that the laser cutting instructions were very complicated, as we were laser cutting the same piece multiple times in different orientations to do 3D machining using a 2D laser. It was a cool learning experience for me, but overly complicated. This tutorial is very straightforward for the laser cutting part.

I used a Universal Systems Laser Cutter. It has a materials data base in which you select materials and the machine then knows what power/speed/ppi settings to use. I used the material 'general medium woods' and set the thickness to .245 (using my calipers). I will have to assume for this part that you know how to use your own laser cutter, because they vary significantly from model to model.

Using your laser, cut out the provided file and collect all the pieces. Bring them over to a table with your wood glue to make the puzzle pieces.

Step 3: Sanding the Pieces

The cool thing about this is that you can put the pieces back in the cut outs from the plywood, and use that as a holder while you sand them. That way you dont have to hold each individual piece and sand them one by one. I put all of them back in the plywood I cut them from, and used my orbital sander to clean them up. Got them all sanded in just a few minutes.

If you don't have an orbital sander, use normal sand paper. Sanding isn't strictly necessary, it just makes it look nicer.

Step 4: Making the Pieces

Each of the pieces is made by stacking two layers of 1/4" plywood. The 11 main pieces are formed by stacking two of the C shaped profiles on top of each other, as shown in the first image.

The 'key' is made up of three pieces. One of the little squares gets glued onto the bottom of the key, and the other square gets glued on to the top of the key. For a more detailed illustration, see the last 3 pictures from this step for how to assemble the key.

The next step is assembly. If you wish to figure it out on your own, stop here.

Step 5: Assembly

This puzzle is a little more tricky to assemble than the first one I posted. Since all the pieces look the same with the exception of the 'key' piece, I will rely heavily on the images to explain how to assemble it. Set the key aside, you will need it last.

Make a structure that resembles picture 2 using 6 of the pieces. Next, add two cross peices as shown in figure 3. After that, you will want to add the second cross piece to the back, with the 2 top pieces half inserted. See picture 4 for exactly what I mean here. After this is done, add the key to the last remaining spot. Next, you will lower down one of the vertical pieces (see picture 6). Once it is lowered, the key can be slid to the left, allowing for the left most of the half inserted top pieces to be fully inserted. After this is done, push the key back to its original position, and push the vertical piece back up as well. Now, you just have to slide the other half inserted top piece all the way in, and presto, the puzzle is complete!

To take it apart, you just have to do those steps in reverse. Hope you like the puzzle! If you enjoyed this, stay tuned as I will be making more complex ones in the coming weeks.

Note: Each type of laser is different, and yours may use slightly different settings than mine, resulting in a different kerf. This could make the pieces not fit together appropriately. If the pieces are too loose, consider scaling down the file by about 5% and trying again. Likewise, if the pieces are too tight and don't slide together, scale the file up by about 5% and cut the pieces again.

I hope you enjoyed the tutorial and like the puzzle. If you would like to see the original version, check out my profile. I think this one comes out much better though.

Makerspace Contest 2017

Participated in the
Makerspace Contest 2017