Puzzle Box (Unabox)





Introduction: Puzzle Box (Unabox)

About: I like to design and build random things.

This is a modified version of the Unabox which was built by TXTCLA55 as shown here:


This simplified version can be built with limited tools and a basic skill level. The drawing is included in the video description. Note that the drawing units are in inches verses millimeters shown in Make Magazine.

Step 1: Tools/Materials


  • Saw
  • Drill & bits
  • Hammer (optional)
  • Sander
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil


  • 4 foot long 1x6
  • 4 inch long 2x4
  • 3/8” and 1/4” dowels
  • Screws or Nails (optional)
  • Glue
  • Wood filler
  • Paint or Stain

Step 2: Overview

Refer to these images during build.

Step 3: Bottom and Sides

Cut bottom to 8.25” x 5.125”. Cut two sides to 8.25” x 2.75”

Step 4: Ends

Cut ends as shown. Add blind hole to T-shaped end. This will be the locking feature for the top.

Step 5: Fixed and Rotating Top

Cut fixed top and rotating top as shown. Note that this piece should start from the same size piece as the bottom (8.25” x 5.125”). Add thru holes as shown.

Step 6: Slotted Top

Cut slotted top as shown. Add blind 3/8” hole to end. I used a drill and wood file to make the slot.

Step 7: Inside Block

Cut block from a 2x4. Add blind hole as shown.

Step 8: Pins

Cut dowels as shown.

Step 9: Assembly - Step 1

Attach sides and ends to the bottom piece. This can be done with glue, nails, screws, etc. I used a pocket hole jig and glue.

Step 10: Assembly - Step 2

Add inside block and pins. The block can be attached as desired. The pins are glued into these pieces.

Step 11: Assembly - Step 3

Attached fixed top and slotted top as shown. I used glue and wood screws from the inner side.

Step 12: Assembly - Step 4

Assembly as shown. Insert locking pin as the final step.

Step 13: Final Product

Step 14: **Update - Added Drawings**

3 People Made This Project!


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26 Discussions

Can you relink to the file please — not working!

Sorry, the link was blown away. I added the actual PDFs to the last step. Feel free to download.

DoH, didn’t see them there. Ended up finding some files here: http://makezine.com/projects/make-20/the-unabox/

What length do you cut the dowels to? You don't say in the image, you just say diameter. :-?

3 replies

Good catch. Unfortunately, I can't find the CAD file. BTW, the lengths are not critical - I think I cut them to fit while making the box. If you really need them, they can be easily backed out from the other dimensions.

It isn't terribly important. I kinda figured you just stuck them in and cut them to the "about right" length. :) I have done that before (with varied results).
I am planning on making this as a Christmas present for my brother. Originally I was going to make it for myself but I realized it would be perfect for him. I'll try to get pictures up when I complete it.

(P.S. This is by far the best and easiest design I have found. and it gives plenty of room for adjustments and improvisations. Thanks a bunch!)

Yeah, I just winged the pin length. This was one of my first woodworking projects so I was still in the learning stage. If I ever build it again, I will try to make it more of a puzzle. You could add multiple fake pins on the top surface. Read the comments below for suggested improvements.

I'm definitely going to make this....the ONLY change I'd make is I wouldn't put the "locking pin" in at all. As the locking pin isn't hidden, it seems a bit un-necessary, and could possibly get stuck if it were pushed in too far.

5 replies

I agree, I don't really care for the locking pin either. It is a pain to remove if you don't have enough sticking out. Unfortunately, the top will spin without it. I went back and drilled a thru hole that allows me to push the pin into the box to open it. I would be interested if someone has a better idea.

It would be cool if you had one of those rod magnets. You'd have a weak magnet glued inside the box that pushed the rod up...you'd simply push it back down to slide the top into place...To open, you'd have a strong magnet key you'd wand over the outside of the box...pushing the internal magnet rod down, allowing you to open it.

I like the idea of a hidden pin. I would like to see the concept if you can get it working.

First up, FANTASTIC instructable! Even with as many thumbs as I have, this is something I will make.

The locking pin has me amused though. Can you not simply lift the top piece off its swivel dowel?

I'm probably the worst woodworker to try and describe this: how hard is it to glue the inside block at the TOP of the end where the swivel dowel is and have the hole go right through so the swivel dowel goes into into (say) a larger diameter dowel? Then you could glue the top onto its dowel, but it will (I think?) still swivel because it is not glued into the block piece. How much would this stick or can you use something to make it move freely?

Thank you. I just checked your theory about sliding the top off the pins. I couldn't do it with my hands since the connection is tight due to the friction fit. I assume I could pry it off with a screwdriver.

However, I do see your point. I'm not sure a totally understand your question. I think you are referring to something similar to a shoulder bolt (made from dowels). I think that concept would work. The top would be glued to the pin. The bottom side would spin but would be locked by the larger dowel. I think you could also do this by using a counterbore in the bottom side of the inside block and using a screw and large washer to secure the dowel into the block. This would allow the dowel to easily spin in the lower block but not come out. The dowel would be glued into the top.

thanks for the up load of your box , Ive been looking for stuff to build and sell ,my ssi pay sucks . needless to say your box is a great little something to do:)

can you please tell me how thick the wood you used is? very nice job I think I am going to try and make it myself

1 reply