How to Make a Wooden Cross Puzzle

February 14, 2013 | by Ethan (email) |

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!




18 Responses
  1. poiboybf says:

    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!

  2. Rebecca Lynn says:

    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!

  3. Icarus says:

    so this was or wasn’t related to Lent?

    • Ethan says:

      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.

  4. trebor says:

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

  5. bigredmachine says:

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

  6. Reuben says:

    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.

  7. blynn says:

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

  8. JustME says:

    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.

  9. Brady says:

    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 says:

      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.

  10. HANDYMAN51 says:

    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.

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

  12. Dale Wagstaff says:

    Please show the puzzle soulution.

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