In this project, I am going to show you how to make large dinosaur skeleton puzzles out of cardboard boxes. You may have seen small 3D wood puzzles at your local craft/hobby store. This is basically the same thing, only several times larger.

Project Steps


The primary material that you need for this project is corrugated cardboard. For making a large puzzle, I highly recommend using double layered cardboard. If you don’t have easy access to two-ply cardboard, don’t worry. You can easily make your own by gluing two pieces of regular cardboard together. Spray glue works well for this.

Find or Make a Template

The first thing that you need to do is find a template that you like. You can find quite a few with a simple Google search. My favorites are these two by instuctacles users kaptaink_cg and stevemoseley:

Stevemosley actually made his from scratch by scanning a picture of a T-Rex skeleton and modeling it with CAD software.

Another way to get a template is to purchase a small 3D wood puzzle from your local craft store, then scan it and enlarge it to the size that you want. I have included several patterns in Step 8 that I scanned from puzzles that I recently purchased.

In the end, I decided to use a pteranodon template that I got from Kaptaink_cg’s instructable.

Print Out the Template

Now that you have a template, you need to print it out in the size that you want. There are a number of programs that you can use to print out pictures on multiple sheets of paper. The simplest one is Microsoft Paint. To do this, go to the Page Setup menu and find the “Scaling” options. You can specify the number of pages wide by the number of pages tall that you want the printout to be scaled to.

Attach the Templates and Transfer the Outlines

To attach the templates to the cardboard, you can use tape or a removable glue.

Then you need to mark the outline of each piece on the cardboard. You can do this by tracing each piece with a dark pen. You could also use a sharp object such as a knife or a needle to pierce through the template and into the cardboard.

Cut Out the Puzzle Pieces

Next you need to cut out each individual piece. I used a scroll saw for this. It is fast and does only minimal damage to the cut edges. A sharp knife such as an x-acto knife will give you greater precision, but it is much slower at cutting thick pieces of cardboard. I do not recommend using scissors because they crush the edges as the cut.

Depending on the size that you made your template, the original connecting slots might not match the thickness of your cardboard. You want all of the connector slots to be the same width as the thickness of your cardboard (or a little smaller). Each connection should be tight but still be easy to fit together.

Assemble the Puzzle

Now comes the fun part, putting the puzzle together. This is a great opportunity to get small children involved. I recommend having a picture of the dinosaur (or at least the model) nearby for reference while assembling.

Hang the Puzzle

One of the benefits of making the puzzle out of cardboard instead of wood is that it is much lighter. This makes it easy to hang from the ceiling. This is especially good for models of flying dinosaurs such as pteranodons which look much better when hung.

If you decide to hang your model, I suggest that you hang it as you assemble the pieces. I started by hanging just the spine and rib cage with one loop of fishing line Then, I added the head and attached a second support line. Then I added the legs with a third line. Lastly, I added the arms. In most cases you will want to have a support line for each arm to help keep it balanced. In my case, I hung the model in the corner of the room and used the walls to balance and support the arms.

Additional Models: Stegosaurus

I purchased a lot of puzzles at my craft store. After a little bit of research, it appears that these models aren’t in any way copyrighted. So I scanned them and included them here for you to use if you want.

Additional Models: Brachiosaurus

Brachiosaurus Template

Additional Models: Dimetrodon

Dimetrodon Template

Additional Models: Parasaurolophus

Parasaurolophus Template

Additional Models: Plesiosaurus

Plesiosaurus Template

Additional Models: Spinosaurus

Spinosaurus Template

Additional Models: Triceratops

Triceratops Template