Wooden Programmable Puzzle Box

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Welcome to my Wooden Programmable Puzzle Box. For this project I wanted to design a wooden box that would be like a reverse escape room. It was important that it could store physical clues and objects, and it had to be programmable. I wanted to make it completely mechanical without using any digital mechanisms. At the start, I wanted to make all the lock integral to the box structure, but eventually designed it with one padlock. This Instructable will walk you through the design of the box and how it fits together. It doesn't go into how I cut the box out or assembled it. To make it I used Inkscape to design each layer of the sides. Then I used a laser cutter to cut 4 different layers for each side out of 1/4 inch plywood. The layers were glued together when they didn't need to open, and screwed on if it needs to be removed to reset the combination. When assembled the Puzzle Box acts like a 9 stage Cryptex. I will walk through each side.

Step 1: Puzzle Box Top

The top of the Puzzle Box is locked with an uppercase letter, a lowercase letter, and a number. The combination is set by rotating the rings to align the right letter or number with the triangle on the bottom. If the right combination is chosen, the sliding the lock back with the circle opposite the triangle. Once unlocked the lid can open revealing the top tray. To reset the combination, the inside 2 panels are removed to reveal the locking mechanism. The top is the only side with 5 layers. The locking bar has ribs that are blocked by the lock rings unless the gaps in the lock rings are aligned. The lock rings are changed by rotating and setting the cog teeth in a new position. The letter or number centered in the gap will be the new combination.

Step 2: Puzzle Box Back

The back of the Puzzle Box requires the top to be unlocked or it will not open. The back is locked with a letter and 4 numbers. First the the numbers on the star dials need to be rotated until the correct digit aligns with the triangle. If all 4 numbers are correct, the outside ring can now be rotated. If the correct letter is aligned with the top triangle, the 4 locks on the right and left side can be slid inward. The back side can now fold open to reveal the first locked tray. To reset the combination, the inside layer is removed by unscrewing the screws holding it to the other layers. The locking portion of the dials can be removed and set to any digit. Unless the correct digit of each dial is rotated to point to the center of the circle, the outside ring is blocked from spinning by 1 or more of the dials. If all the dials are rotated to have the cutout portion pointing outward, the outside ring can now freely spin to align the cutouts with the side locks. When the back is unlocked and rotated down it exposes the first of four locked trays. While the tray does not physically prevent the left side from being opened, I usually put the clues to solve the combination for the left side inside this tray.

Step 3: Puzzle Box Locked Tray 1-3

The locked trays exposed by opening the back, left, and front sides are identical in construction. This will be the only step that discussed the locked trays. The dials that unlock the locked trays are hidden by locked sides, until it becomes the top tray. Each dial has 10 digits, and the correct digit must be rotated to align with the top triangle. If all for dials are correct, the lid of the tray can be opened by pulling up. The tray can be reset by removing the back panel. With the back panel removed the dials can be set by inserting the locking ring into the dial with the gap aligned to the desired digit. Each tray is slightly less than 2 inches deep and 10 inches by 10 inches wide. The tray is anchored to the next side to be opened. The stacked trays physically prevent sides from being opened out of order.

Step 4: Puzzle Box Left

The Puzzle Box's left side has an alchemical theme with the combination dials marked with the symbol for spirit, earth, air, fire, and water. The dials are set into a terraced pentagram. Each dial has 10 digits, and the correct digit must be rotated upward to align with the triangle to unlock. If the combination is correct, the lock can slide left along with the lowest level of the terrace. When the left side is open, it exposes locking tray 2. To reset the combination, the inner layer is removed. The locking plate with its 5 screw pegs is taken out to reveal the dials. The dials can be set the the right digit by rotating the dial to have the correct digit pointing "up" and the locking cog inserted with the slot extending away from the slide lock. Each side of the Puzzle Box can not be reset until it is unlocked because the inner layer is obstructed by the unopened trays. No cheating.

Step 5: Puzzle Box Front

The front of the Puzzle Box is a large numbered grid. Using clues the player uses a strong magnet to drag a key through a hidden maze. The maze always starts in the lower left corner (44) and ends at the upper right corner (5). Clues given or solved for let the player know how they need to navigate the key to not bump into the walls and drop the key. If the player drops the key, there is a string that is attached to both the magnet and key that can be pulled to reset the maze. When the maze is successfully navigated, the key will exit to the right of number 5 and unlock the block preventing the slide lock from opening. The lock is not shown in the photos. The side works, but it is very difficult. I usually include an extra key in an envelope to open if the mechanics fail. To reset the maze, the inner layer is removed. Sections of the maze can be cut out, and new walls placed with masking tape folded over nails set in every corner of the grid.

Step 6: Puzzle Box Right and Final Tray

The right side of the Puzzle Box is the last upright side. It is unlocked by setting 4 slides to the correct digit from a choice of 5 digits. If all four are correct, the center slide block can be raised, and the bottom locks slide in. When the right side folds down, it exposes the last locked tray. The combination can be reset by taking off the inner layer. The slide bars that set the combination are each made of three portions. The slide bare has the digits and holes for the teeth. The locking portions are set into the slide bar with a single space gap between them. this gap corresponds to 1 of the 5 digits. The final tray only has to dials, because the right side is locked into the tray.

Step 7: Hinge and Conclusion

I designed the hinges to set inside each box side to allow each side of the box to fold flat to a table. I also wanted the hinges to be removable for repair or replacement of any side of the box. This box is version 2.2. It is the second box I have designed (the first just had 4 lids each with its own resettable padlock). This version of the box has a redesigned back and left side. The whole box when closed is a perfect 1 foot cube. It has 4 trays each about 2"x10"x10" that can store puzzle pieces and clues. Of those 4 trays, 3 are lockable and puzzles on their own. The final tray is also lockable and can store a prize or gift. I have used the box to hold a game where the trays hold various puzzles that must be solved to get the combination for subsequent sides. Since the box is made of some what thin plywood, it is possible to force the lock by breaking the wood. However it requires enough force that it shouldn't happen by accident. I would like to give 10bitworks makerspace in San Antonio a shout out for a great laser cutter and help with inkscape. They are a great community of crafters. If you know of any other boxes like this I would love to see them. Feel free to add links below.

Step 8: Puzzle Box Files

I have attached my Puzzle Box Inkscape files. I made some small tweaks just before cutting, but they were not saved. These should give you the 95% solution. Just import and move the layers one on top of the other to make sure everything lines up right. It will still take a little sanding to get everything to move and slide easily. Enjoy, and thanks Instructables!

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    18 Discussions

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    burton.kent

    8 weeks ago

    Amazing. What thickness wood did you use? Which parts of the box are not programmable?

    This is the best I've seen!

    2 replies
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    brandonelmsburton.kent

    Reply 8 weeks ago

    Everything is programable. I can set any combo the dials have, and all the dials are removable if I want to replace the numbers or letters with symbols, for thematic reasons. I used 1/4 inch plywood so when the 4 layers of each side are sandwiched together, it measures a little over 8/10 of an inch. Due to 1/4 inch plywood being thinner than 1/4 inch.

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    burton.kentbrandonelms

    Reply 6 weeks ago

    I did not expect that! I'm going to build this just to see how it works! Any idea how many square feet of wood it takes?

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    carlos66ba

    7 weeks ago

    This is truly fantastic! Have you considered selling the kits (laser cut parts and other hardware) with a nice instruction manual (PDF or printed)? I'd be happy to buy one and I am sure many others would too. Maybe if not you, you can find someone/some company willing to do this for you.

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    Fodskammel

    7 weeks ago on Step 8

    This is frickking awesome mate!
    I'll just might build a lasercutter just to make this project!

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    parapedro

    8 weeks ago

    Bloody A-MAZE-ING dude. Well done! I wish I had the patience to make this.

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    gregs273

    8 weeks ago on Introduction

    simple as that! Maybe for you! Difficult for me! Great build dude!

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    QuentinM1

    8 weeks ago

    Whoah seems really awsome.
    Can you tell the needed raw material and the screw or material needed to build it ?
    Can you also post a video to show how to assemble it ?

    1 reply
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    brandonelmsQuentinM1

    Reply 8 weeks ago

    I ended up using 7 2x4’ sheets of 1/4 inch plywood due to recuts, but I think it required at least 4 with optimal cuts. There were about 54 1/2 inch screws, about 60 small nails for the maze, 2x3” sheet steel for the magnet, a 1” magnet, a small lock with a ferrous key, and 10 large framing nails to make the hinges. I believe that was the whole material cost. Obviously the required tools would add more (angle grinder, sander, laser cutter...).

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    brandonelmstreymartin82

    Answer 8 weeks ago

    Not at this point, but might turn a hobby into a career down the road sometime.

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    Lochtar

    8 weeks ago

    Wow!

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    painfull

    Question 2 months ago

    Wow. This would be a lot of fun to make, and to use. Can you add a video (or link to a video) of this project in action?

    1 more answer
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    brandonelmspainfull

    Answer 8 weeks ago

    Ok embedded a short video of the sides in action. I need to sand the working parts on the back to get them to slide easier.