Wooden Puzzle

Make your own wooden puzzles
The solutions to these classic brainteasers are bafflingly simple

TWO CLASSIC PUZZLES challenge you to ar­range their geometric parts into a square or a capital T. They look easy to make but require careful planning and straight and accurate cuts.

Although similar puzzles are usually smaller, we made these a little oversize: the square has 11 Ma-inch sides, and the T is 10 inches tall. For durability and appear­ance, we made our puzzles from pieces of hardwood (ma­ple and cherry), but you can use any type of wood. You’ll need 2 feet of l-by-4 for the T and the same amount of 1-by-10 stock for the square.

If you don’t have a table saw, ask your lumberyard to rip the l-by-4 to 3 inches in width and the l-by-10 to 8 inches. From these, you can cut the puzzle pieces with a jigsaw or a handsaw. You’ll also need a sanding block, medium- and fine-grade sand­paper, a metal ruler, and a pencil. Sand and seal with paste wax.

Wooden Santa & Reindeer

SET THE STAGE FOR SANTA’S arrival with these simple I slot-together wood figures. I Our Western Santa and his reindeer are cut from pine 1-by-12s, with notches that let you slip the fig­ures together for quick display.

To make the figures, you’ll need heavy paper; a saber, jig-, or band saw; a drill with a 1/2-inch bit; sandpa­per; and wood (about 4 feet of 1-by-12 per figure if you cut all pieces so they run with the grain, less if you cut smaller pieces across the grain). Our Santa’s arms pivot on a piece of 1/2-inch dowel, but you can glue them onto the body if you prefer.

Enlarge pattern on paper so each square equals 2 inches, then outline on wood. Make notches no wider than wood’s thickness so figures stand properly. Cut pieces, drill ‘/2-inch holes for eyes and arms, and sand. Sand as needed to widen notches.

Finish the figures with paint or stain, or leave them natural. We painted the white beard on our Santa. For his clothes and cowboy hat, we applied red paste shoe polish to let the grain show through. Use masking tape to keep lines precise.