Drilling Jig for Making the Wooden Centrifugal Puzzle




About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first ...

Making this puzzle requires some fairly accurate drilling into the end of the pieces.  I thought I would make only one or two of these puzzles, but they have become very popular and I have been making quite a few of them to give to friends.  You may want to click on the link above to acquaint yourself with how the puzzle is made so that this Instructable has more of a context.

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Step 1: Drilling

This was the setup I used.  I mounted a drill chuck on the 1/2" x 20 thread arbor at one end of my radial arm saw's motor shaft.  There are two problems.  First, the motor speed is 3,000 rpm.  That is really too fast for my twist drill bit.  It heats up when doing a lot of drilling and drilling is slower than it would be at a slower speed.  Second, I do not want to disturb my setup, so my saw is tied up and unavailable for other uses.

Also, I found I can go to Lowe's or Home Depot and buy ready-made 5/8" x 5/8" square dowels.  Using them saves a lot of time over making my own square stock.  The drilling jig shown in this Instructable is made to accept 5/8" x 5/8" square dowels.  They work very well for making these wooden puzzles.

Step 2: Special Drilling Jig

I decided to make this special drilling jig for use with a handheld electric drill.  I began by welding two pieces of steel bar to make a 90 degree corner.  I needed a crisp internal corner.  Angle iron off of the shelf usually has a rounded internal corner.  When I welded these pieces together, the hot welding beads contracted and the corner was suddenly greater than 90 degrees.  I used a hammer and a vise to bring the angle of the corner back to 90 degrees.

Step 3: Custom Sleeve

I needed a metal sleeve to guide the drill bit.  What is known in the USA as a 1/4 inch pipe nipple worked very well.  It is a bit larger internally than 1/4 inch in diameter.  I drilled it out to 19/64 of an inch, which is the size of hole I am using for the dowels in the wooden puzzle. 

Step 4: Place the Nipple for Welding

I had already drilled some parts for a puzzle by using my radial arm saw drilling setup pictured in step 1.  The photo for this step shows the welding completed.  To do the alignment for welding, place the nipple sleeve onto the drill bit.  Insert the drill bit into the pre-drilled wooden puzzle part.  Lay the wooden puzzle part into the angle welded up in step 2. 

See the second illustration for this step.  It shows the nipple sleeve in its place with two short pieces of steel rod filling the space between the nipple and the angle.  Weld a bead where you see the lime green.  This is to be a precision guide, but welding always causes things to move when the weld bead cools.  Making these welds first reduces the movement that can take place. 

See the third illustration for this step.  Make tack welds shown in dark blue to secure the nipple in place.  (If the nipple is galvinized, remove the zinc coating before welding.)  The rods limit any possible movement on the pipe when the weld beads cool.

Step 5: End Stop

I welded a scrap of round rod across the bottom end of my welding jig to act as a positioning  stop.

Step 6: To Use

Cut the square stock to length.  Insert it in the angle of the jig.  Insert the drill bit into the nipple sleeve.  Drill to the required depth.  Remove the drill.  Tap and blow sawdust from the hole. 

This little jig makes producing the wooden puzzles much faster.  My holes are not perfectly aligned on center, but are close enough that the puzzles work very well.  The jig will last long enough to make quite a few of these puzzles. 

In the second photo with this step you can see I used an engraver to label the jig so I will always know what it is and why I am saving it.

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    6 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    My father was a woodworker and always making jigs for various applications, usually out of wood since neither of us knows how to weld. Nice jig, thanks for sharing.

    3 replies
    Phil Bdfuller1

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I did not have a welder until recent years. My welding generally involves non-critical items, so self-taught skills suffice nicely. This jig could have been made from wood, although it would have been more bulky. Thank you for looking.

    Phil BShaunHill

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Instead of steel 1/8 to 3/16 inch thick, you would be using wood about 3/4 inch thick to make an "L." You would glue a block for a stop at one end of the "L" and a longer block at the other end, which you would have to drill on center as accurately as possible. That would be the drilling guide for making the puzzle pieces. Because it would be made of wood, it would wear faster and need to be replaced in time.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Good task, Phil!

    We (you and me) spend more time doing tools than working!

    BTW, Merry Cristmas!

    1 reply
    Phil Brimar2000

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Merry Christmas to you, Osvaldo. My father often said, "The trouble with you is that you cannot do anything without making a jig first!" A good jig helps so much. I once visited a factory where they made fine furniture on special orders. Special jigs hung from every wall and from the ceiling. We are in good company. Thank you.