Step One: Gather materials.
- Wood (In this example, Bocote wood was used.)
- Silver Dragon Pendant (Optional, Replace with Whatever the user’s preference is.)
- Countersunk Magnets (Rare Earth).
- 1/16-inch Thick Leather.
- Wood Glue.
- Super Glue.
- Shellac Finish.
- Blue Painters Tape.
- Hand Drill.
- Needle Files.
- Tape Measure.
- Planer (not required).
- Jointer (not required).
- A bandsaw (not required).
- Table saw (not required).
Step Two: Milling and Getting the Wood Ready!
- To get started, find a piece of wood to make the box from and prepare it to be worked on.
- It starts as a piece of rough lumber so to get it straight, flat, and square, use the Jointer and Planer. Or the user can use hand tools which takes a bit more effort, or not at all. It depends on the user’s wood.
Step Three: CNCing on the X-Carve!
- The general shape of the box is a top and bottom that each has a cavity cut out, along with some grooves that keep them aligned. There are also some spots for magnets on the top and bottom to hold them together, and lastly, the ends have these inset miters that will be used to hide the puzzle mechanism. (The ends pieces are made by hand in another step.)
- Note: This example made five prototypes before figuring out exactly how it was all going to work. What was clear that everything needed to be incredibly precise or it wasn't going to work so this example opted to use a CNC to cut out the precise shapes. It takes a lot of trial and error and experimenting with different setups on the X-Carve so this example used pine and other cheaper materials before finally choosing Bocote wood. This example uses the X-Carve desktop CNC and the Easel software for this.
Step Four: The Inside of the Box (in this example).
- The top and the bottom of the box have corresponding grooves so that they fit together cleanly, but the fit was the slightest bit too tight, so a shoulder plane was used on the edges of the groove to take a few shavings off and get a snug fit.
- A few quick passes with the hand plane will get it too fit really well.
- Then use some small magnets and pressure fit them into the holes that were CNC'd on the top and bottom. These are countersunk magnets and they'll get screwed in later on in the project.
Step Five: Creating the Magnet Lock.
- The user needs some small springs for the magnet puzzle lock, so they take one from a retractable pen and then cut it in half. This example took two magnets and super glued the spring to the magnets. They did this twice so they had one for each end of the box.
- Next, drill a hole into the end grain of the bottom of the box at the same diameter as the magnets. A slightly smaller hole is drilled at the bottom that matched the diameter of the spring.
Step Six: Making the Mitered Ends of the Box!
- The two end pieces of the box need to have small mortises (holes) in them where the puzzle's locking mechanisms fit into.
- This example couldn't CNC them from the same top and bottom pieces since they'd be on the side. Also, they opted to make these by hand because they weren't sure exactly how they'd work and it took a couple of tries to get it right.
- For this example, cut some small tabs from one of the strips of Bocote (cut off earlier) so the wood grain matches, and then at the shooting board, use a hand plane to put a delicate 45-degree miter on both ends of each piece.
- Next, drill a 1/8-inch deep hole in the inside of the piece and then use a chisel to make a square mortise. This is the small little place where the magnet lock will fit into. See the video (below).
- Once everything is cut, glue the pieces on and the box has six sides.
Step 6: Sanding and Finishing the Box!
- Before assembling all the parts of the puzzle, sand the exterior surfaces of the box to 320 grit and then finish the box with Shellac. Also, drill a hole in the top of the box (to work with later).
- Note: Shellac is a good finish for this type of project. It's easy to apply, dries quickly, and is forgiving if the user makes mistakes.
- For this example, the user adds 5 coats of Shellac and it when it’s all dry, it's very glossy.
Step 7: The Leather Interior!
- In this example, they figured a leather interior would give it a sophisticated look so they used some 1/16-inch thick leather, the same Easel setup file for the X-Carve and cut out the leather shapes using the CNC.
- Next, the user uses some super glue and then a block of wood to help push the leather all the way in and secure it in place. The perfect fit helps here.
Step 8: Assembling the Magnet Lock.
- With the countersunk magnets, take the tiny screws and insert them about halfway into the holes. Then take our spring/magnet mechanism and put it in the holes on the side, making sure the end of the spring hooks around the screw.
- The screw has then screwed the rest of the way in, securing the spring/magnet in place.
- Note: Here, the user can then twist the magnet/spring to calibrate how far out the magnet sticks out of the hole, giving them total control over how tightly the box locks. (The further out it sticks, the harder the box is to open.)
- At this point, the user is able to close the box and it can be locked shut. The magnets that stick out of the end fit into the mortises.
Step 9: The Secret of the Dragon!
- This example used an old silver dragon pendant and built the secret to unlocking the puzzle box. Not only was it a good size, but it had a small cavity on the back that was the correct size to hold a couple of magnets. This particular piece is specific to the user’s preference.
- This example started by cutting off the chain and then boring out the back of the dragon using a rotary tool. The user also rubbed the back of the dragon on some sandpaper to flatten the back so it would sit on the wood flat.
- Next, they used super glue to attach two magnets in the space they'd cleared with the tool.
- Lastly, for this project, the user returns to the top of the box where they previously drilled a hole through. With the leather now in place on the inside, the user applies some super glue and then attaches a magnet in the hole that sits about 1/16 inches below the surface of the top.
- The dragon now attaches to the top of the box by fitting into the hole. The magnets on the back of the dragon fit into the hole and are held in place by the magnet that is glued in the hole. It pops out easily but won't fall off unless the user pulls it off intentionally.
Step 10: The Results!
- The secret to opening this puzzle box dice vault is the opposing force of the magnets. The magnet lock and the magnet on the back of the dragon are opposite each other so when the user holds the dragon against the side of the box, the opposing force pushes the magnet back into the hole which unlocks it. All they need to do is take the dragon off the top, hold it against the sides and the box unlocks.