Puzzle Box: Dovetail

This puzzle box was inspired by Roy Underhill’s Woodwright Shop. Based on an early American grease pot design it is crafted out of poplar. It measures 8 inches by 3 inches, just big enough to hide special jewels or a secret treasure.

Handcraft Wooden Puzzle box DYI
Puzzle Box

The clean dovetail is essential to making this puzzle box work.  Ideally, you want to use a harder wood than you used for the box.

Handcraft Wooden Puzzle box DYI
Dovetail close up
Starting a dovetail for a puzzle box
Measuring a dovetail

Use a chisel to measure the width of a dovetail.  Cut two sets of parallel line and carefully remove the outer edges, then cut it off the wooden beam.

DIY wooden puzzel box
Cutting the lid and lock.

Make use to secure the wood and cut very slowly to get a clean cut. If using a Japanese saw let the weight of the saw do the cutting, instead of using lots of force.

DIY wodden puzzle box
Drill a hole after cutting off the lid 

We tried drilling the hole before cutting and found out the pieces did not align tightly.  Even a thin blade takes a lot of material from a piece of wood.

DIY wodden puzzle box
Finished box

Remember to carve out the dovetail before cutting the lid and lock. Be prepared to make mistakes- that is all part of the process. For the locking slider make sure it is angled to secure the lid. We made that mistake more than once, so we used the wood that we made mistakes on for other projects.

Handcraft Wooden Puzzle box DYI
Fully opened

To make the dovetail pop, we typically use a darker stain. To make it harder to unlock, you can paint the whole piece to hide the locking mechanism.

Happy Creating!