The Illusionist's Heart




About: I made a beer mug with only a knife and a hatchet. I think that says a lot about me.

You're in love.
You like woodworking.
You hate to buy industrial-made junk-jewelry.
You want to give something personal and special.
You don't want to cut your heart out to give it away either.

This Instructable is for you!

I'll show you how to make a wooden 'cartouche' - just a piece of wood - that can be transformed into a beautiful heart.

Give the cartouche to your love. If after two hours she's still asking you what it's good for: take it back, and change her into a smarter version.

Where I got the inspiration from? Did you see 'The Illusionist'? That famous movie with an outstanding Edward Norton? Remember the wooden heart? Didn't it inspire you to build one your own?

All you need:
- a beam of hardwood (square shaped - three inches thick)
- the usual woodworking tools
- a lot of patience

Step 1: Cut the Beam

Sand ONE side of the beam to get a smooth surface. No need to sand the other sides.
Cut two cubes out of the beam.
Use a circular saw. Don't forget gloves, goggles & ear plugs.

Step 2: Glue the Cubes Together

Mark the midpoints of the cubes ON THE SMOOTH SURFACE.
Drill a hole in each cube - I used a drill bit with a diameter of 3mm (0.1 inch) and drilled 1 inch deep.
Put the drill bit in one of the holes, the bit will serve you as axis.
Put wood-glue ON THE MARGINS of the smooth surface of one cube.
Put the other cube on the axis.
Glue the two cubes together and press them with a clamp.
Let it dry.

Step 3: Dismantle the Proto-heart Part 1

In the folowing two steps you'll remove all the wood you don't need.
Undo the clamp.
Put the mini-tower on one of it's growth rings sides.
Mark the midpoints of the cubes.
Link the midpoints with a line. Exactly under this line lies your axis.
Draw two other lines on a parallel distance of the middle-line.
Cut the tower on the two parallel lines.
If the blade of the circular saw doesn't go deep enough - like mine's ' - finish the job with a regular saw. Or use a band saw.
Sand the two sawed surfaces with a sander.
Pay attention to have a board with equal thickness everywhere (mine's was one inch).

Step 4: Dismantle the Proto-heart Part 2

Mark the midline of the board. The axis should be exactly under this line.
The two halves remain together because there's still some glue between them, remember?
Mark two points on an equal distance of the suture-zone.
Take a bar of aluminium, or whatever, of about one inch thick and place it diagonally between the two points. Mark the outer-zones.
Take a piece of tube, a coin or whatever round piece with the same diameter of the bar.
Use it to trace the rounded sides of the cartouche aka the heart.

Saw the excess wood.
Saw the rounded-sides first.
Then you saw the others. TAKE CARE FOR THE DRILL BIT that's still inside!
There's no more glue left.
You can seperate the halves.
Turn them.

TADAAA, a proto-heart!!!
Well done, all you need is finishing.

Step 5: The Mechanical Part

In this step you'll fix the two halves together.

Take a screw - I used a stainless.
Fix it on your drill or dremel.
Round the edge of the screw on a file.

Re-drill the holes of the two halves, corresponding to the diameter of the screw.
Enlarge the holes (diameter of the screw-head) ON THE OUTER SIDE OF ONE AND ON THE INNER SIDE OF THE OTHER.
Don't drill to deep, take your time.
Keep in mind that the head of the screw should'nt be deeper than 5mm of the suture line.
The bigger hole on the inner side of the other half shouldn't be deeper than 2 mm. The reason for this hole is that in the final stages you'll put some sealant in it WITHOUT SEALING FOREVER THE TWO HALVES.

Put the screw in place.
Screw it very solid to prevent any movement of the two halves.

Step 6: Raw-sanding

In this step you'll sand the 'cartouche' into it's final shape.
Round the curves of the heart first.
Than sand it to the thickness you want - mine is almost 1 cm (0.3 inch).
This step is boring repetitive: sanding, releasing the pressure of the screw, verifying if the two halves correspond exactly, re-pressuring the screw, resanding etc.

When the thickness is ok, you'll sand the edges.
Keep on sanding, verifying, re-sanding etc.
Start with heavy grain and go finer and finer.
Be patient, take your time.

Step 7: Assembly

You're ready to put the screw definitively on it's place.
Put some sealant or glue in the enlarged hole in the inner side of one of the halves.
Put some oil in the enlarged hole in the outer side of the other half.
The glue will hold the screw in place on one side, the oil will lubrifiate it on the other.
Put the screw in place. Not too heavy, not too soft.
Let it dry.

Step 8: Plastic Surgery

Put some wood-pulp in the remaining holes. Take care to use the right tint. Test it first (I didn't, big mistake!!!).
Let it dry.
Sand the excess with fine paper.
Sand it all with the finest grain.
Ready for the last step!

Step 9: Oiling

I used natural oil - as always.
You know the smell? It's the smell of victory!!!

Step 10: Enjoy...

One of the most nerve-breaking projects I ever did. This needs precision, time and patience.

I'm really satisfied with it, nice feeling ;-)

My wife loved it, she had it right immediately ;-)

Enjoy, and good luck if you'll try this yourself!

Note: you can turn this into a pendant. I didn't because I didn't want to drill this prototype...

Woodworking Challenge

Finalist in the
Woodworking Challenge

10 People Made This Project!


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99 Discussions


Reply 2 years ago

Hi, I'm as beginner as you could be but thought my wife would appreciate this. In regards to using a dowel for the center, does that mean it can be pulled apart because (as far as I know) a dowel wouldn't be able to grip/latch on to the non-glued side?

I realize you posted here 5 years ago so sorry if this question is inconvenient.


Reply 2 years ago

Lucky for you, I still check my email :) Yep, 5 years ago as a freshman in high school woodshop class. The dowel was my idea to put it together quicker I suppose, and yeah it means you can pull it apart easily.


3 years ago

I finally got around to making this for my mum's birthday and it turned out really nice. I made a couple of modifications though.

1. For the screw I didn't want a metal thing inside my wood because I'm OCD so I turned one on the wood lathe.

2. For the oil to lubricate the pin I didn't know/ have the oil to use and didn't know how it would work with homemade putty so I cut out a circle of baking paper and it worked very well.

Thanks for the beautiful project.


3 years ago

This is fantastic. Thanks for sharing!


3 years ago

Hi I made one of these and it came out beautifuly however I cant get rid of the gap any sudgestions?


3 years ago

By any chance is there a possibility that you would be willing to craft this and sell it? Im been looking all over the Internet for a gift i could give my husband and came across this page. I dont know much about woodwork or have the tools to craft this item.

2 replies

Reply 3 years ago

Hi Vidauri! Thanx a lot to appreciate that much what I made here. It was my third attempt - or fourth, I stopped counting - and it was definitely one of the most nerve-breaking projects I've ever done. To do this right - and there's no other way to do this right than doing it right - you need a lot of time and patience. I just don't have those, in particular the first. So you saw me coming, I don't think I'll ever build this again. I made it with a lot of love and that was just the only trigger that kept me going. Making this 'for the money' is just not worth it, I'm sorry.

I'm wishing you best of luck in the search of a present for your husband, and instead of trying to make this version I suggest you to make something less complicated. Your husband will appreciate the effort put in it - especially if you're not used to it.


Reply 3 years ago

I am in the process of making one and could make an extra to sell to you. Send me a message for more info.


3 years ago

I am unclear how the two pieces will not come away from each other when twisting it since their are still the threads on the screw. Could you please explain how this works?

3 replies

Reply 3 years ago

The end of the screw is glued 'immobilised' in one half while the other half (with the screw-head) moves freely (no glue). Hope this is clear enough - and good luck!


Reply 3 years ago

Thank you for the quick reply! I get how the glue one end will keep that end of the screw fixed into that half of the piece, but if the threads are still on the other half, as you twist the piece around, won't the half that has the screw head try to move along the axis of the screw like a worm drive?


Reply 3 years ago

When you screw the screw in the half which - obviously - will have the screw head, you can easily 'sabotage' the thread zone by continuing the screwing even when the head is at its end. So, by 'screwing' the thread created in the wood the half will not move FROM the other half while turning it. Or you can just drill the hole in this half a bit bigger than the one in the other. Difficult to explain, but I hope I made it clear enough..


3 years ago

What kind of glue should I use? :)

1 reply

Reply 3 years ago

Wood 'elmers' glue to glue the 2 cubes, CA to immobilise the threaded part in one heart-half. Hope this is clear enough?


3 years ago

I am at the end of step 4 but I cannot separate my two pieces. How did you separate your pieces?

1 reply

Reply 3 years ago

I'm affraid your glue's gone too far - in the best case scenario there shouldn't be glue between the two pieces.. So, take the piece in both hands and turn your hands in opposite directions. All or nothing, good luck!


4 years ago on Introduction

is it possible to make it more foldable such a way dat we can put photo of two love birds in each fold of heart?

1 reply