How to Make Your Own 3D Puzzle

Three-dimensional puzzles fascinate young and old alike. They come in a number of varieties: jigsaw puzzles, 3-D tangram puzzles and animal model puzzles, for example. Especially fascinating are 3-D puzzles that create animal models from interlocking pieces.

To create a three-dimensional animal puzzle, you should be able to use simple hand tools, such as coping saws, miter saws and sandpaper. Three-D animal puzzles consist of a spine, torso pieces, pelvic piece, shoulder piece, limbs and head.

Things You'll Need

  • Tracing paper

  • Carbon paper

  • Plywood, 1/4 inch thick

  • Coping saw

  • Miter saw

  • Wood chisel, 1/4 inch wide

  • Sandpaper

Planning the 3-D Puzzle

Step 1

Sketch your animal roughly; you just need to have a general idea to work from.

Step 2

Draft front, side and top views of the animal. The views should be created in a 1:1 scale and include only contours, no rendering.

Step 3

Design the puzzle's spine from the side view--with a long, slotted strip. Centrally located, it runs the length of your puzzle, holding it together. Give the backbone a width of at least 1-inch. The slots are 1/2-inch deep and 1/4-inch wide. Place them 3/8 inches apart.

Step 4

Design the puzzle's torso pieces from the side, top and front views. The torso pieces are a series of concentric shapes. Each torso piece needs to include a slot 1/2-inch deep and 1/4-inch wide to connect it to the puzzle's spine. The exact number of pieces depends on the design and length of the animal.

Step 5

Design the pelvic and shoulder pieces. These pieces need three 1/2-inch by 1/4-inch slots--one to attach them to the spine and two to attach the limbs to them.

Step 6

Design the animal puzzle's head and limbs, consisting of one or several pieces, depending on how complex you want the puzzle to be. Remember to include the necessary 1/2-inch by 1/4-inch slots to connect the pieces to each other and the spine.

Creating the Pieces

Step 1

Transfer each piece to the plywood, using carbon paper. Make sure that whenever possible, the 1/2-inch by 1/4-inch slots are aligned with the wood grain.

Step 2

Cut out the puzzle pieces with your coping saw. Sand the edges until smooth to the touch.

Step 3

Cut the 1/2-inch by 1/4-inch slots into your pieces. Use the miter saw to cut the sides. Punch the out with the 1/4-inch wood chisel. Sand the slots until smooth.

References & Resources

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