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How to Make a Wooden Cross Puzzle

How to Make a Wooden Cross Puzzle

by Ethan Hagan (email Ethan) | | February 14, 2013 | 17 Comments »

Pro-Follow Update: The good news is that I hope to back on a Pro-Follow with Joe Bianco later this week. Things have been a little slow so I’m eager to get back to it. I won’t give away any of the details except to say this it’s another basement with a few complications.

In the meantime, I have a quick, easy puzzle to show you. I enjoy the brain-teaser-esque wooden puzzles, and I came across one while perusing¬†LumberJocks.¬†This puzzle is easy to make, and it’s easy to solve if you know the trick.


Tools & Materials

For this project I used:

  • Small piece of 1 x 2″ maple
  • Fluted dowel pins
  • Wood glue

And the tools:

  • Table saw
  • Combination square
  • Sandpaper


Step 1: Cut Individual Pieces

I started by cutting the maple into two 4″ long pieces and then ripping those in half.


I took two pieces and cut them in half again for a total of two long pieces and four short pieces.

Step 2: Find Center

Very carefully I measured and found center on the ends of all the short pieces. I also measured for the center along the length of the longer pieces.


Step 3: Drill Holes

I’m drilling holes for 1/4″ dowel pins, and for the puzzle to work, the pins need to slide freely. Using my measurements, I drilled 3/8″ holes.


On the short pieces, the holes need to be deep enough to fully house the pins.


On the longer pieces, I drilled the hole all the way through. By placing a piece of scrap underneath, I was able to drill the hole and prevent any tear out. After drilling, I held the pieces together to make sure the holes lined up, and the pins could slide back and forth.


Step 4: Glue Together

I glued two identical pairs as shown below. The space between the short pieces is just wide enough to fit the other puzzle piece. Also, I made sure the dowel pins were in place because they’re too long to insert afterward.


Step 5: Rip Even

I used my table saw to trim the ends flush.


Step 6: Sand Smooth

I sanded every side until all the joints were completely smooth and the two pieces fit together easily.



When you overlap the two pieces together and give it a shake, the pins slide out and lock the puzzle together. If you know the secret, it’s easy to retract all the pins simultaneously to unlock it.

I may stain the puzzle or just apply some poly. I haven’t decided yet. Regardless, the puzzle works really well, and it stumped Jocie!




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Conversation on This Article

17 Responses to How to Make a Wooden Cross Puzzle

  • poiboybf responds...
    February 14th, 2013 7:22 am

    Neat project. Can you hear the dowels sliding around in their seating when you shake the puzzle? Seems like that might be a hint for someone trying to solve it. I love puzzles like this. Yours turned out great!


    Ethan Reply:

    You can hear the dowels, and if you know that’s what’s keeping it locked, the puzzle is easier to solve. Otherwise, you just hear something moving, and you’re not sure what it is.


    poiboybf Reply:

    Gotcha. Very cool.


  • Rebecca Lynn responds...
    February 14th, 2013 7:27 am

    A few months ago, I came across this puzzle: and am determined to make it, but since I only have a miter saw, I like the idea of starting smaller- this is a puzzle I can totally make with what I have! …or maybe this is finally the excuse I need to get more tools!


    Ethan Reply:

    That’s a cool puzzle too, and I think I’ve seen sketches for the different pieces. Really any reason is a good one to get more tools!


  • Icarus responds...
    February 14th, 2013 11:00 am

    so this was or wasn’t related to Lent?


    Ethan Reply:

    Not related to Lent…. or Valentine’s Day. Although if I had thought of it, I might have turned it into a V-day gift somehow. That would have saved me a trip to the store.


  • trebor responds...
    February 14th, 2013 1:12 pm

    While you’re on the puzzle theme, you should make this one too:


    Ethan Reply:

    That is pretty cool!


  • bigredmachine responds...
    February 14th, 2013 9:36 pm

    That look like a nice puzzle to make and take on trips to pass the miles away.


  • Reuben responds...
    February 15th, 2013 7:43 pm

    Oh that’s pretty cool. This would make a nice little homemade gift for someone like a family member. This is so much better than some piece of junk you buy at a store.


  • blynn responds...
    February 15th, 2013 10:46 pm

    Oooo, I want one of these too. Jeremy is going to be busy. :0D


  • JustME responds...
    February 19th, 2013 12:15 am

    Great conversation piece Ethan. I’m still not sure how you get it apart and I watched the video. You much have to hold it at just the right angle.


  • Brady responds...
    February 19th, 2013 10:09 am

    Great idea. I assume the dowels fall out when the parts are separated.
    Also, I like that you could easily batch out a half dozen of these for cool gifts.


    Ethan Reply:

    Actually the dowels can’t come out. The gap is designed to be too small for the full length dowels to fall out. Otherwise, I’d probably lose them pretty quick.


  • HANDYMAN51 responds...
    February 19th, 2013 6:14 pm

    That would make a neat prop for a children’s message at church, presuming one member could be longer than it’s counterpart. ” Jesus died on the cross, BUT also conquered death by way of the cross.” Could let the kids try to ” break” the cross ( hoping none could!) and then shake it into 2 pieces.


  • jeff_williams responds...
    March 1st, 2013 5:22 pm

    Ethan, if you ever get a drill press you’ll have to make a cube in a cube (in a cube).


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