Devious Designs: How to Build the Dynamite Box from Murder at the Broken Heart Mine


Welcome to Devious Designs!  Every so often, we’ll post an article on how we created some of our craftiest, craziest, and most cunning props, costumes, set pieces, and much more.  These designs help make a Master Mystery Production truly one-of-a-kind, and we want to share them with you.  So let’s get started!



On February 11, 2017, Murder at the Broken Heart Mine, the 11th Master Mystery Production, opened at Hodel’s Country Dining in Bakersfield as a collaboration with Writers of Kern.  As a special prop for our evidence table in the first act of the show, a dynamite box filled with high explosives and sinister secrets waited for our guests.  Somewhere within that dangerous cargo hid a very important clue, and teams had to brave its explosive character to retrieve the clue.

What hides within?
Leaving no dynamite stick unturned.
The Dynamite Box

How did Master Mystery Productions create this dynamic prop?  Let us show you!



We began with a standard wooden create we got at a crafts store.  Ours was actually damaged when we began, so we fixed it.  However, this did mean we got it for a much more affordable price.  So don’t be afraid to look in clearance sections or at the “as-is”products and think about you can incorporate those elements into the final look.


We decided to add a hinged lid to the crate, so audiences would interact with it.  This is totally optional.


A dynamite box needs dynamite.  And ours are made of cardboard paper towel tubes we saved up for this project.  They are a good length are and are easy to work with.  A little paint and some Master Mystery magic and it’ll be showtime!


Our dynamite sticks were closed on both ends.  To do this, we used another simple household object–milk jug caps.  They fit exceptionally well at the end of the cardboard tubes.  We glued the cap to a 1/2″ cut piece of 1 1/2″ PVC pipe, which creates the sort of recessed end to the dynamite sticks.  If you don’t want to use the milk jug caps or have trouble using them, a cut circle of thin foam board or cardboard will work as well.  Paint the ends red to match the rest of the dynamite sticks.

Checking the fit.


Next, we glued ONE end of the dynamite stick in place.  This is because we wanted to put long wicks through the other ends.  We used a strong, very tacky craft glue to affix the end in place.



Time for a coat of paint.  We painted ours a bright red.  And now one of the reasons  we only attached one end becomes apparent.  It helps with the painting and the drying.  We created this drying rack out of dowels and scrap lumber.  The open end of the tube slides over the dowel, but the closed end keeps it from sliding all the way down.  Now we can give our sticks a 360 degree paint job without worrying about the tubes rolling around AND be able to do the whole tube at once.  You can make your own drying rack out of dowels and lumber or use bamboo skewers and Styrofoam.  Take care to wear gloves, and always spray paint in well-ventilated areas.


Some of the sticks we just sealed with the other end.  But for some we created long wicks, so our Gold and Silver Rush miners were ready to use them


To make the wicks, we first poked a hole through one of the ends using an awl.  Notice in this picture it’s a disc of foam board, which is really easy to pierce through.



Black yarn served as our wicks.  We used the awl to help negotiate the yarn through the hole and pulled it through.  We tied a knot in one end of the yarn, and then used more of that craft glue to attach the yarn securely.  This is so the yarn wouldn’t be pulled out on accident.  Then we cut the length of yarn to the desired length and sealed the cut end with more glue so it wouldn’t fray.

Sealing the wick end.
Finished dynamite sticks.

For variation, you could also fill the tubes with a little bit of sand or gravel or weights to give some sort of mass to it.  You can also design and print out your own dynamite labels to wrap around the outside of the sticks.


Most dynamite crates have spray-painted labels directly on the wood.  To save time, we just created a paper label to adhere to the side of the box.  After designing our own label (which can be seen at the top of this blog post), we printed it on copy paper, cut it out…


…centered the label of the end of the box…

dsc_0123 dsc_0124 dsc_0128

…and used spray adhesive on both the back of the label and the side of the crate.  We placed the label where wanted it and smoothed it down.  We made two labels, one for each and of the box.

Now it’s time to fill the box!



We wanted to create a packing filler to “protect” the  “dynamite.”  Like the sort of stuff they used to keep the explosives from rattling around dangerously in their crates.  This just adds to the effect.  We used kids’ manuscript tablets we found at the school supply section of the dollar store, but you can use butcher paper, wrapping paper, old newspaper, whatever you want!  We tore the newsprint sheets into irregular strips.  You don’t need a whole lot because the strips fill up the crate quickly and you still want your “dynamite” in there.


One final touch: Lights!  We used small orange fairy lights controlled by a battery pack and an on/off switch.  This gave the illusion that the wicks were lit and that the explosives were live.  The orange glow finished the whole project perfectly, and you just had to wonder what was hiding inside the crate.  Could it blow at any moment?  Wait and see…

The Dynamite Box

And there you have it!  The completed project!  It was lightweight and easy to place.  We had it prepared it advance, so all we had to do was place it where we wanted it.  Simple as that!

Of course, you don’t have to use it as sneaky clue storage for an interactive mystery.  If you’re having a Western-themed party, it makes a fun prop or decoration.  You can fill it with bagged treats for kids at a cowboy birthday party.  Or maybe prizes for a game.  There’s a ton of ideas you can use it for.  You just have to get creative!

We hope you have a blast making it for yourself!


Hope you enjoyed this Devious Design, and we’ll see you for our next interactive mystery!

–Master Mystery Productions


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