About: Professionally I have been a summer camp counselor, a Draftsman/designer, salesperson, bicycle mechanic, laminate flooring machine mechanic, teacher, and designer of the OP Loftbed. Personally I am a human...

This is a new version on an old puzzle.  Invented by Sam Loyd 1841-1911.  The puzzle is placed on a buttonhole and seems impossible to remove.  This is where the term buttonholed (to get someone's attention) came from.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

You will need strong string and a piece of pipe.
I used para cord and some copper pipe 1/4 O.D. x 5/32 I.D.
The main thing is to pick something small enough to fit thru a buttonhole.
Something to cut the para cord.  A hot knife would work best, I used the knife on the Multi-tool.
Something to fuse the ends of the para cord.  I used a lighter and a candle.
Something to cut the pipe.  A pipe cutter or hacksaw.  I used the saw on the Multi-tool.
Something to smooth the pipe, after cutting.  I used the file on the Mulit-tool and fine sandpaper.
Something to crimp (Smash) the pipe.  Pliers, hammer, press, clamp whatever, not your teeth. 

Step 2: Cut the Pipe

You will need to cut the pipe 2 inches long.  If you get your pipe from the local plumbing supply store, tell them you need a few two inch long pieces of 1/4 inch pipe.  They will think you are crazy and probably not charge you for it.  Remember to make an extra puzzle to give to the guy at the plumbing store, even if he does charge you.  Karma is something that goes around and good karma travels faster.

Step 3: Smooth Edges of Pipe

Smooth the outside and inside edges of the pipe.  Use a file followed by sandpaper.  If you role the sandpaper into a cone shape it gets the inside nicely.  Note in the pictures that the puzzles are assembled, you should smooth both ends before assembling the puzzle, I just forgot to take pictures till after wards.

Step 4: Cut Para Cord

Cut the para cord to 5 inches long.  I like to use a lit candle to cut and seal the cord at the same time.  You could even cut the cord with another cord  https://www.instructables.com/id/Cutting-cord-without-a-knife/ whatever works for you.

Step 5: Don't Let the Ends Fray!

Whenever you cut rope, twine, or cord, seal the ends.  It will keep it from fraying and is especially helpful in the next step of the puzzle.

Step 6: Insert the Para Cord

Insert both ends of the para cord into one end of the pipe.  You want the ends of the cord to go into the pipe 1/2 an inch.  This is usually easiest to insert one end in a little, and then stuff the other end in.  It will be a tight fit.  Make sure the loop "bight" of the para cord is not long enough to go over the other end of the pipe, that is what most people will try and do to remove the puzzle from the buttonhole.  Note pictures show pipe crimped, once again getting ahead of myself.

Step 7: Crimp the Pipe

Crimp the end of the pipe.  The crimp should flatten out the first 1/4 to 3/8 of and inch of the pipe.  This will hold the ends of the para cord inside the pipe.  To keep the pipe smooth it is best to use pliers or a vice without teeth or a smooth cover for the teeth.

Step 8: Admire Your Work

If you make one or one hundred, now is the time to admire them in all their simplistic glory.

Step 9: How to Implement the Buttonhole Puzzle.

Make sure you know how to put on and remove the Buttonhole Puzzle BEFORE trying it on someone.  Find someone in a shirt with buttons.  Make sure that they want to try the puzzle.  Warn them that they could be driven  insane.  Let them inspect the puzzle.  Explain that you will place the puzzle on their buttonhole and that they will try and remove the puzzle without cutting the cord, or their shirt.

Step 10: Unbutton One Button

Unbutton one button.  Midway down the shirt works best.

Step 11: Load the Puzzle

Feed the buttonhole and surrounding fabric thru the para cord loop of the Buttonhole puzzle.  Pull enough thru to insert the opposite end of the pipe into the buttonhole.  To make the puzzle more difficult, ask the victim to not watch this step.

Step 12: Smooth Out the Puzzle and Enjoy.

Smooth out the puzzle and the shirt and observe the struggle.  Some people will give up quickly, others will insist on "a few more minutes".  Some people will figure it out.  Ones that do not figure it out will think they get it, when they watch you take it off.  Ask if they want to try again.  Be careful some people can get very upset.  Chose your subjects wisely.



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    32 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Cool. In my opinion, this is very simple to undo. Maybe I am just special...

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    Some people are special. Some will be able to solve it right away, some will not. It is very simple to undo. I think the simplicity is what makes it so cool. Also knowing the solution makes it easy.

    Thanks for you comment.


    3 years ago

    Thanks for the comment. It is funny how a simple gadget can have such great memories attached to it. Enjoy making memories for your friends and families


    3 years ago

    I haven't seen one of these in years!! My earliest recollection was my grand dad made one & stuck it on me.. I'm 62 so go figure.. musta been the late 50's early 60's.

    Thanks for bringing these to the front again.. Now I have to make a handful of them.

    Thanks for the 'ible & the memories..


    This reminds me of my granddad. He used to make these for us out of wood and some nylon cord when we were young. I miss him.

    Perfect for April Fool's Day! Making one to put on my dad's shirt one day! :D


    This is great, thank you! The only copper that I was slightly thicker than I would have liked, so I folded it in half (which took quite some time) but it makes for a good effect and works well. Thanks for introducing me to this - great instructable!


    6 years ago on Step 2

    I'm an Archer and and still use old fashioned aluminum arrows. when one breaks or bends I get an arrow pen (just pull out the ink stick from a pull off cap bic pen and jam it in the end of a cut off arrow) and use the rest to make a few of these

    just another idea for sourcing tube

    2 replies

    I have wood ones for my recurve :) i like fletching arrows myself with feathers. I'm not so keen on these new tiny carbon fiber arrows with rubber feathers. I like a little wight behind mine.

    I made one of your puzzles and i was really funny to see how easily my friends got frustrated


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I love this puzzle, it is clever and cheap. i think i will make some for friends and relatives for christmas gifts! Great 'ible

    1 reply

    They are very cheap, but I think saying inexpensive sounds better, especially if you are giving them as gifts. The first time I was shown one of these, it was a gift. Even though I have made many since, I still have the one that was presented to me.

    Thanks for the comment,



    7 years ago on Introduction

    This a excellent project and well laid out ible

    slightly on topic, What brand of multi-tool is shown in step 7?

    1 reply

    Thanks for the Comment.

    The multi-tool is a blacked-out Leatherman Charge. My favorite of many different multi-tools that I own. Black looks cool but if you drop it in the woods, it is very hard to find.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Kewl! I think I might find a different use for this but I can't think of one right this minute but when I do I will make a comment here! Thanks for sharing!

    3 replies

    Etch your name and number on it and take it to a job interview. Attach it to the interviewer's shirt. Tell them to give you a call.

    Make a pen version. If someone asks what is sticking out of the top of your pen, there is your chance to puzzle someone.

    Let me know what you come up with,

    Thanks for the comment,


    Etch your name and number on it. Take it to a job interview. Put it on the interviewers shirt. Tell him you'll be expecting a call.

    Put an ink cartridge into it, and always have something to write with.

    Cheap enough to give to friends and strangers.

    Let me know what you come up with,