Cardboard Dinosaur Puzzle





Introduction: Cardboard Dinosaur Puzzle

About: My name is Jason Poel Smith I am a Community Manager here at Instructables. In my free time, I am an Inventor, Maker, Hacker, Tinker, and all around Mad Genius

I was recently act my local hobby shop and I picked up a bunch of 3D wood puzzles for my son to put together. They are really cool, but they are a little small.So I decided to take the design, blow them up 500% and make them out of cardboard. Now instead of just being a simple decoration on the shelf, it is big enough to decorate a whole corn of the ceiling and it is still light enough to hang.

In this project, I am going to share with you how to make large dinosaur skeleton puzzles out of cardboard boxes. 

Step 1: Materials

The primary material that you need for this project is corrugated cardboard. For making a large puzzle, I highly recommend using double layered cardboard. If you don't have easy access to two-ply cardboard, don't worry. You can easily make your own by gluing two pieces of regular cardboard together. Spray glue works well for this. 

Step 2: Find or Make a Template

The first thing that you need to do is find a template that you like. You can find quite a few with a simple Google search. My favorites are these two by instuctacles users kaptaink_cg and stevemoseley:

Stevemosley actually made his from scratch by scanning a picture of a T-Rex skeleton and modeling it with CAD software.

Another way to get a template is to purchase a small 3D wood puzzle from your local craft store, then scan it and enlarge it to the size that you want. I have included several patterns in Step 8 that I scanned from puzzles that I recently purchased.

In the end, I decided to use a pteranodon template that I got from Kaptaink_cg's instructable.

Step 3: Print Out the Template

Now that you have a template, you need to print it out in the size that you want. There are a number of programs that you can use to print out pictures on multiple sheets of paper. The simplest one is Microsoft Paint. To do this, go to the Page Setup menu and find the "Scaling" options. You can specify the number of pages wide by the number of pages tall that you want the printout to be scaled to. 

Step 4: Attach the Templates and Transfer the Outlines

To attach the templates to the cardboard, you can use tape or a removable glue.

Then you need to mark the outline of each piece on the cardboard. You can do this by tracing each piece with a dark pen. You could also use a sharp object such as a knife or a needle to pierce through the template and into the cardboard.

Step 5: Cut Out the Puzzle Pieces

Next you need to cut out each individual piece. I used a scroll saw for this. It is fast and does only minimal damage to the cut edges. A sharp knife such as an x-acto knife will give you greater precision, but it is much slower at cutting thick pieces of cardboard. I do not recommend using scissors because they crush the edges as the cut.

Depending on the size that you made your template, the original connecting slots might not match the thickness of your cardboard. You want all of the connector slots to be the same width as the thickness of your cardboard (or a little smaller). Each connection should be tight but still be easy to fit together.

Step 6: Assemble the Puzzle

Now comes the fun part, putting the puzzle together. This is a great opportunity to get small children involved. I recommend having a picture of the dinosaur (or at least the model) nearby for reference while assembling.

Step 7: Hang the Puzzle

One of the benefits of making the puzzle out of cardboard instead of wood is that it is much lighter. This makes it easy to hang from the ceiling. This is especially good for models of flying dinosaurs such as pteranodons which look much better when hung. 

If you decide to hang your model, I suggest that you hang it as you assemble the pieces. I started by hanging just the spine and rib cage with one loop of fishing line Then, I added the head and attached a second support line. Then I added the legs with a third line. Lastly, I added the arms. In most cases you will want to have a support line for each arm to help keep it balanced. In my case, I hung the model in the corner of the room and used the walls to balance and support the arms.

Step 8: Additional Models

I purchased a lot of puzzles at my craft store. After a little bit of research, it appears that these models aren't in any way copyrighted. So I scanned them and included them here for you to use if you want.

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34 Discussions


1 year ago


i´ve seen some like this in a garden in my town, but they are made out of aluminum or so :D

hi, can you send this file to my mail please???

1 reply

Do you still have this in the svg? Would like to have it I'll pay for it if you still have it.


2 years ago

Hi! I'm looking for more dinosaur skeletons for an upcoming class project. Can you help?



1 reply

I have posted all the models that I have. But you can always check your local crafts stores for more.

do you have instructions for the triceratops? my son's birthday is dino themed and this would be a great addition. thanks so much

2 replies

Sorry. All I have is the digital picture. You can download that and use it. But you would just have to go by the pictures.

hey ! can anyone send me this pdf or AI files ? i cant download it here :(


2 years ago

Can you send any puzzle cardboard again?

1 reply

Two puzzles complete. The pterosaur has a wingspan of over 3m and is made of a kind of plastic signboard. The plesiosaur is about 1.8m long and made of foam board...a complete nightmare cutting all those pieces...but the kids love them both.

2 replies

2 years ago


hi, can you send this file to my mail please???