Two for Tee

A pair of perplexing puzzles

I’ve always enjoyed wooden puzzles, both making and solving them. The two puzzles shown here are easy to make, but challenging to solve. The “Broken Tee” consists of four pieces to arrange into their namesake “T” shape. The “Framed Tee” is a double-sided puzzle: Its four Tees perfectly fit the frame on one side in a particular pattern, and the frame on the other side in a different pattern. 

The “Broken Tee” is the easier of the two to make. A few saw cuts, a little sanding, and you’re done. The “Framed Tee” puzzle requires a bit more care. For the puzzle to work, the Tees must all be identical and precisely sized. The frames—one of which is just slightly smaller than the other—must also be perfectly sized. While there are many ways to cut the lap joints that connect the Tees for the frame puzzle, I chose to use my dovetail saw and chisels. The pieces are small enough that cutting them with power tools would be dicey without using suitable hold-downs. If you prefer the production speed of a table saw or router, consider scaling all the dimensions up for safer part-handling. 

I suggest digging into your box of exotic offcuts and making a batch of these puzzles for the inquisitive folks on your gift list. In case you want the fun of solving these yourself, we’re not showing you the solutions right here, they’re on page 60.

A few cuts in a piece of scrap lead to fun 

Bandsaw the pieces for the Broken Tee puzzle from a single length of 1/4 × 3/4 × 5" stock. Sand the edges to clean up the saw marks and break the edges before applying a finish. I used Danish oil. There is a full-size pattern available online should you need it. 


Both of these puzzles are unsafe for children under the age of three as they contain small pieces that could present a choking hazard.

Four lap-jointed Tees fit a two-sided frame 

The “Framed Tee” puzzle consists of four Tees and a double-sided frame. Make the four Tees from a single length of stock. Pay close attention to all part sizes and frame dimensions, as they are critical to the success of the puzzle. Follow the construction notes below. 

Construction Notes 

  • Cut the Tee parts. Mill a piece to 1⁄4 × 3⁄8 × 15". Crosscut the pieces on the tablesaw to the required lengths using a miter gauge. For uniformity, place a stand-off block against the rip fence forward of the blade. 
  • Cut the lap joints. Hold the pieces against a bench stop as you make the crosscuts for the lap joints with a dovetail saw. Hold the uprights in a vise as you make the rip cuts to complete the rabbets. Chisel away the waste from between the crosscuts on the cross bars. 
  • Glue the Tees. Sand the pieces before gluing up the joints. Clamp with binder clips or spring clamps. 
  • Cut the frame stock. Cut a piece of 1⁄8" plywood to size to serve as the frame base. Cut two 16" lengths of hardwood for the frames: one 1⁄4" thick × 1⁄2" wide and the other 1⁄4" thick × 5⁄8" wide. 
  • Miter the frames. Saw each length into four equal pieces with 45° miters at both ends to form the frames. Cut the 1⁄2"-wide frame pieces to form a square with an interior opening of 23⁄8" and the 5⁄8"-wide pieces to form a square with an interior opening of 23⁄16". Sand all the parts. Glue one frame at a time to the base. The frame made from the wider pieces will probably overhang the plywood slightly. After both sides of the frame are glued in place, sand the outside edges of the completed frame flush. Apply your favorite finish. I used Danish oil. 
  • Let the fun begin. Try your new puzzles on yourself and/or on an unsuspecting victim. If necessary, refer to the solutions on page 60. 
Online Extras
Back to blog Back to issue