Maze Box

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Project by Charlie Kilian posted 10-23-2018 02:08 AM 1215 views 5 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The maze box was my entry into the LumberJocks Spring 2018 Box Swap. I had everything done except for installing the hardware, and then—much to my embarrassment—and long story short—life happened and I never got it shipped. It sat in that state for several months, incomplete but never forgotten. Life settled back down, and I’m happy to finally be able to say Hairy received his box.

I’ve had the idea for this box rolling around in my head for awhile now. I wanted the design incorporate a couple of key elements. First, the solution to the maze should require crossing all six faces of the box. And second, the maze should be solvable magnetically—the ball bearings used to solve it should stick to the surface as you go around corners. I’m happy to say I achieved both goals.

The box is padauk and maple with Peruvian walnut edging. The maze walls are curly maple. Sheet metal embedded in the sides allows the rare earth magnet ball bearings to stick to the top, sides, and bottom of the box, even when the box is upright.

Designing the maze took far more time than I anticipated. I played with a couple of approaches before I settled on doing it by hand on grid paper. I’d made mazes before when I was younger, but I’d always constructed the maze ‘walls’ out of lines. I’d never designed a maze where the walls took up actual space. And I had certainly never designed a maze that wrapped around corners.

With the design complete, I thought it would be a good idea to test it out before I started cutting real wood. So I built the Test Article. It was a rough box the same size as the final project built quick-and-dirty out of hardboard. This let me test out the maze with the solution I had in mind. I also traced each path through the maze with a pencil to verify there weren’t any accidental shortcuts that jumped you to the end of the maze without touching all six sides of the box.

Next I cut the pieces for the box, and prepared the magnetic trick. To get the ball bearings to stick to the box, I found ball bearings that were super strong rare earth magnets. I found that if sandwiched sheet metal in the middle of each of the box sides, and if I kept the wood fairly thin, the rare earth magnets were strong enough to stick to the sides of the box.

With the hard parts done (ha!), all that was left was to…actually do all the work of assembling the box, routing the maze, and laying in the maze walls.

I transferred the maze design to the box using a printer ink transfer technique I’ve used for other projects. I had to reverse the maze before I printed it, and then make sure to print on the wrong side of the inkjet transparency sheets. The ink only likes to stick to one side, so by printing on the wrong side, the ink easily transfers to the wood. I could flip the transparency over, line it up, and press it onto the side of the box so I’d know where to route.

Once the maze routing was done, I needed to inlay the Winner’s Circle. I had to be careful not to route too deep into the padauk, because just a little lower was a layer of sheet metal waiting to tear up my router bit. I used metal powder and superglue to do the arrow inlays. This is the second time I’ve tried it, and I’ve had trouble both times. You can mask off the areas of the wood you don’t want power on, but that only lasts until the superglue has set. After that, you have to take off the masking tape to scrape it level. And the scraping just creates the problem you were trying to avoid by masking in the first place. I cleaned it up as well as I could manage.

At this point, I was ready to lay in the maze walls. I ripped strips of maple and created a jig to help me thickness plane them to the same width every time. This part was slow and methodical. I ripped all the strips I’d need at the beginning, so this was all work with hand tools.

The final project was a hit with my cousin’s little ones. I can’t think of a better endorsement than that.

I really can’t apologize enough to all the participants of the Spring 2018 Box Swap for being so late to deliver this box. I’m really embarrassed. But I am glad to have gotten it sent off to its proper home. I hope late really is better than never.

13 comments so far

View sras's profile (online now)


5135 posts in 3581 days

#1 posted 10-23-2018 03:11 AM

What an impressive project! I’m sure it was worth the wait.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

4039 posts in 1034 days

#2 posted 10-23-2018 10:37 AM

It’s a very impressive box, Charlie! Nicely done!

-- Dave - Minneapolis

View hairy's profile


2887 posts in 3984 days

#3 posted 10-23-2018 11:22 AM

Pictures don’t do it justice. Thanks,Charlie!

-- My reality check bounced...

View jeffswildwood's profile


3983 posts in 2429 days

#4 posted 10-23-2018 11:59 AM

Very remarkable box Charlie. Totally original and unique. Your are correct, sometimes life does get in the way and better late then never is a good thing.

-- We all make mistakes, the trick is to fix it in a way that says "I meant to do that".

View Bill Berklich's profile (online now)

Bill Berklich

867 posts in 840 days

#5 posted 10-23-2018 12:22 PM

Wow – superb work. The more I look at it the cooler it gets!

-- Bill - Rochester MI

View swirt's profile


4066 posts in 3423 days

#6 posted 10-23-2018 12:41 PM

Life gets in the way. then you get back to making stuff. Great work. Clever design and great implementation.

-- Galootish log blog,

View socrbent's profile


872 posts in 2721 days

#7 posted 10-23-2018 01:15 PM

Awesome and inspiring. Well worth a wait.

-- socrbent Ohio

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6340 posts in 1164 days

#8 posted 10-23-2018 01:35 PM

I was in that swap…….. I’m just glad you are ok………… another wild design ……….. dont forget to tag it ….. GREAT JOB :<))

-- Tony---- Reinholds,Pa.------ REMEMBER TO ALWAYS HAVE FUN

View EarlS's profile


2965 posts in 2799 days

#9 posted 10-23-2018 01:45 PM

Charlie – what an amazing box!!! Makes the box I dent you look like a coloring book in comparison. I’m not sure I could even figure out how to open it, let alone design something like that. I’m sure Hairy will be thrilled with it.

I’m glad to hear that things are back to normal. I know everyone was concerned if something happened to you.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View mcoyfrog's profile


4757 posts in 4046 days

#10 posted 10-23-2018 01:56 PM

So amazing!!! WOW love it

-- Wood and Glass they kick (well you know) Have a great day - Dug

View Charlie Kilian's profile

Charlie Kilian

86 posts in 1069 days

#11 posted 10-23-2018 02:46 PM

EarlS, I disagree. The box—actually, two boxes!—you sent me are stunning. I look at them every time I’m in my shop—they are easily the most beautiful thing in there. Honestly, they inspire me to do better work. I look at those boxes and think, That’s what I should be producing.

I want to tell you all that I’m just touched by the community here. Failing to produce a box on time has really had me down. I was worried how people would react when I did finally ship it. I guess I didn’t need to be worried. I’m gratified by the support, positive encouragement, and kind words from everyone. This is a community of people I want to be part of.

View Peteybadboy's profile


910 posts in 2401 days

#12 posted 10-23-2018 09:20 PM

Holy crap! That is a lot of work! Original idea is noted and well executed. Thanks for posting.

-- Petey

View bushmaster's profile


3671 posts in 2734 days

#13 posted 10-25-2018 12:20 AM

totally amazing

-- Brian - Hazelton, British Columbia

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