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How to Make an Escape Room Puzzle Box

Escapeless in Seattle
The final product!

The Book of Khepri Puzzle Box


Today we'll look at a small prop box that can be made with just a few hours of working time, for less than $100. This type of simple puzzle box is similar to the props in our escape room Rise of The Mad Pharaoh.








Step 1:

Put on your safety goggles and gloves and stain the wood book. Use a foam brush to wipe on the stain, let it sit for about 30 seconds and then use a clean rag to wipe off the stain. Multiple coats, once the stain dries, will become darker. If the stain is left on the book, it will become sticky.

Step 2:

Block out where the Scarab will go, marking its position for later, and cut your decorative molding using the Miter box and saw. Once cut, sand any rough edges and coat lightly with the gold spray paint. Let it dry completely. Once dry, super glue it to the front and back edges of the stained wood box. I used two different types of molding to make the front and back a bit different.

Step 3:

On the underside of the scarab, trace a loose outline around your key. This will be the area you remove so that the key can slide in and out. With safety glasses on, use the Rotary tool and carve out the spot for the key. Please refer to safety instructions that come with the tool. **Never wear gloves with a rotary tool, it can catch and drag your finger or injure you.

Step 4:

Drill a hole in the box the right size for a threaded insert, where your scarab will lay. Mix your epoxy and glue the insert into the scarab, then let dry.
Step 03

Step 5:

Print out the mirror image of the art you want to add on either an inkjet or toner printer. If you have an image you want to use, consider the direction you want it to face; you may have to flip it in a photo program like Photoshop or Paint. I used Egyptian clip art for this box. Paint an even coating of Matte Mod Podge on the area you want to lay the graphics and then use the roller to lay the graphic ink side down. Make sure to push out all the bubbles. I recommend practicing on some scrap wood to test your method first. You can find similar methods on this blog

Step 6:

Let the Mod Podge dry fully, around 24 hours. Rushing may cause the image to fail, but to speed up the process, you may also use a hair dryer.

Step 7:

Use a damp sponge and rub off the paper but leave the ink. Take your time, this is a tricky process and takes practice and patience.

Step 8:

For the back side, print your choice of art or clipart on photo paper and glue it to the box with Mod Podge, both underneath the photo and over top. Let the Mod Podge dry, then mix your epoxy and coat the whole back side and let it sit overnight to cure fully. It will give it a shiny enamel look. The Mod Podge in this case acts as a barrier and helps stop the ink from bleeding.

Step 9:

Insert a screw and washer through the underside of the box lid so that you can screw it into the threaded insert that is glued into the Scarab. I also made a small stop out of a brass tack on the right of the scarab to prevent the hardware from coming unscrewed through use.

Step 10:

Screw the hasp and lock to the outside of the box, then fit the key inside the scarab. Notice in the second photo that when the scarab is upright the key slides down without hassle, and hits the stopper on the right.

Step 10.5:

SAFETY! Be safe and make sure the box has no sharp screws or edges, or any splinters or loose parts. Use the rotary tool to file down any long screws, and sandpaper to clean up rough edges.

Step 11:

Finish up any small decorations, such as the spine, gems or accents on the box with paint pens. A clear coat spray will protect it and prevent rubbing off or scratches.

Just turn the Scarab, slide out the key and unlock Khepri's ancient secrets!

When not wearing a Fez and making silly faces, Seth Wolfson is the co-owner and creative director of Hourglass Escapes in Seattle. He has been in the film and theme park industry since 1989 and has worked for Universal Studios, Disney, Ripley's Believe It or Not Wax Figure Shop, and more.
His work can be seen at and you can hear him speak on art, make-up effects and escape rooms on the podcast Original Lines episode #5 or on an episode of "So you're in Seattle" with Gregr and 107.7 The End.

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  1. Justin Nevins

    Nice job! Looks fantastic!

    1. admin

      Thanks Justin!

  2. Jonathan Roth

    After making a puzzle box according to your specifications, sealing it, and then opening it on a test run, I found that by doing so, I had inadvertently summoned the cenobites from Hellraiser. They abducted me, threw me into an other-dimensional abyss, and have been subjecting me to nonstop indescribable torment and agony. Two thumbs down. Would not recommend. (Although, to be fair, I may have rushed the Mod Podge and not let it dry fully. This may be the reason for my unsatisfactory experience.)

    1. admin

      Yes, Cenobites hate tacky Mod Podge..but I would love to see your project if you make it back from the netherworld…

      Ps- I love Hellraiser, great reference.

  3. […] Hourglass Escapes posted a how to guide for creating a puzzle box. […]

  4. […] the methods from our last blog, “How To Make An Egyptian Puzzle Box” you can see how to transfer the images with Mod […]