How to Make a 3D Wood Turtle Puzzle

Transform a block of hardwood into a fun puzzle anyone would enjoy.


Materials and Tools:

any hardwood 2 inches or thicker
3/16-inch dowel
band saw
3/16- and 1/8-inch blades
safety glasses
flexible shaft grinder
abrasive burr with aligned cutters
sanding sleeve
permanent marker
drill press
wood-burning tool
vacuum dust collector


1. Draw a turtle form on paper and cut out the shape with scissors. Place the template on a piece of hardwood and trace the outline with a permanent marker.

2. Cut one side of the turtle shape on a band saw with a 3/16- or ¼-inch blade. Save the shape from one side to be used as a sawing jig.

3. Cut out the other side and keep the excess intact so it can be used as a holder to keep the puzzle pieces together.

4. Turn the turtle on its side and drill a 3/16-inch eyehole in the head. A dowel peg will be inserted in the eyehole to hold the puzzle together.

5. Roughly cut out the head shape and round off the shell area of the turtle.

6. Change the blade size to 1/8-inch and cut the puzzle pieces freehand, starting with the top head piece, followed by the side piece and alternating from side to top until all are sawed.

7. Put the puzzle pieces back together. Push the 3/16-inch dowel through the eyehole and saw off the excess. This locks the puzzle together.

8. Using a rotary carving machine with a fine (¾-inch) abrasive burr, finish carving the turtle shape.

9. Change to a ¾-inch sanding sleeve with 80- or 120-grit and smooth the carving.

10. Finish the puzzle with the fine-flap sander.

11. Burn the ends of the wood dowel with a wood-burning tool so the turtle looks as if it has eyes.

12. Brush two or three coats of polyurethane finish onto the puzzle.

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