Rubik's Cube

43,252,003,274,489,856,000 permutations

Back in 2002 I had the idea of building a working Rubik Cube. This is a bulding challenge that has always appealed. Here the challenge is to create a mechanical device that has a number of degrees of freedom about a central point. It's not easy! The cube consists of 12 edge pieces, 8 corner pieces and one central piece. All of these have to be interlocking, yet still be able to rotate about any axis at any time in any direction! And all this with a basic square block! Thankfully LEGO has been kind and the ratio of 5 bricks to 6 studs allows us to create a genuine cube structure.

I must point out that quite independently a fellow LEGO enthusiast, at the same time as me, also constructed a working Rubik's cube. Maarten Steurbaut's cube is quite a bit different from mine. His original design is based around 8x8x8 cubes and so it's slightly larger than my cube. After seeing my version Maarten went on to create a Rubik's cube that's smaller than my one based on 4x4x4 cubes.

Since then numerous other LEGO fans have built Rubik's Cubes as any web search will attest. Typically, they are based on 4x4 studs and have corner pieces not disimilar in concept from Maarten Steurbaut.

Rather than boring you with endless detail of how a Rubik Cube works it's probably better just to scroll down and see how it was constructed. There's even a movie of the Rubik's cube in action - its operation is a bit sticky due to there being slightly different levels between pieces (a result of not having enough tile plates), and self-destruction was always a possibility! Please also bear in mind that this video was made on a basic 3MP digital camera with limited video resolution, well before the days smart phones or HD devices.

Inside a Rubik's cube is a mechanism that has six stems coming from the centre. Each of these stems a centre piece is attached. These pieces can rotate with the stem being their axis of rotation.

The edge pieces have to lock between two of the centre pieces, but allow the corner pieces to slide past them when one face is being rotated. There are twelve edge pieces in total.

A Rubik's cube has eight corner pieces. These were the most difficult part to make since the square nature of the LEGO brick doesn't lend itself too well to the creating circles. The corner pieces have to move completely round the entire cube as well as ensuring the whole puzzle remains self-interlocking (ie. it doesn't fall apart).

The whole cube was pretty big, which meant trying to do it very was difficult. In fact the whole model was prone to self-destructing, something that could only really be prevented by using glue. I also didn't have enough tile pieces, the consequence of which can be seen in the movie. Basically, it meant that some of the centre and edge pieces were at fractionally different heights to their neighbours, resulting pieces catching when rotating.

Here are the step-by-step instructions for building your own cube

Please bear in mind this video was made on a basic 3MP digital camera with limited video resolution in 2002, well before any smart phones or HD devices.

Rubik Cube Gallery

"We turn the Cube and it twists us." - Erno Rubik"

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