Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Exitement and disappointment in the new tiny Rubik's cubes (images)

When I saw it at a store in a mall in Massachusetts I was surprised and excited, they hadn't made these since the '80s and the company that had made them was no longer operating.

It's not uncomon to see tiny cubes in coin machines, but those things are utter crap.

[Added] I just looked up to see what the old ones are selling for now --14 to 18 dollars, it's a good buy, not because the value will go up, though be aware that the originally sold for 99 cents, but for the quality (assuming they haven't been damaged, I bought one once that looked fine on the outside but had somehow been absolutely crushed inside, it flew apart in my hands)-- and came up with a surprise.

The name "Wonderful Puzzler" is going to be introduced because it's what I thought my old tiny cube was.  It's not.  I remember the packaging it came in and seeing a picture of that packaging in an ebay listing came with a surprise.

It's in Wonderful Puzzler colors, it's from the Wonderful Puzzler era, and Wonderful Puzzler did make ones that size, but my tiny cube from the old days is an actual Rubik's brand one.

I didn't even know that the actual Rubik's brand made cubes in that size back then.  So, every time I say "Wonderful Puzzler" for the necklace cube in the rest of the post, I was wrong. [/added]

Wonderful Puzzler (Mr. Rubik was from Hungary, then a Soviet satellite state, we respected their patent claims not in the least, tons of companies made their own version) may have been a clone making idea stealing company, but they were also a quality company.  Their cubes were good and so were their mini-cubes.  The 19 millimeter ones were often sold as earrings or necklaces but they were never purely ornamental nor were they mere gimmicks.  They were good solid puzzles that worked just the same as the big ones because they were the big ones, scaled down to the 1/3rd length, width, and height.

Which is to say that they were a fully functional, quality, Rubik's cube that was smaller than two millimeters cubed.

Specifically they were 19mm.  That size is important.  That size is the size of one of the cubies on a regular cube.

Yes, I lost a sticker.  One of my favorite color even.  The thing could very well be older than I am, it's kind of impressive that the other 53 stickers still stay on so well.

Anyway, the point here is, you know it's the same size because of how well it fits between the top and bottom layer.  If I popped out a corner cube and put that in its place you'd see that if fit perfectly there too.  It would have to be a corner because the centers and edges have cutouts that are used to keep the cube from falling apart.  (If you've ever wondered about the mechanism you could google it or I could do a post sometime.)

Before we get on to other things, here's the modern tiny cube joining the family:

I had meant for them all to be showing the same colors but I guess I angled the new one wrong.  An interesting thing to note, which you can't see from this side, is that the regular sized cube and modern tiny one, which is an official Rubik's cube, have the same color scheme as the Wonderful Puzzler necklace cube.

This was not always so.  When the Wonderful Puzzler necklace was made white opposite blue and green opposite yellow was the official Rubik's color scheme and its white opposite yellow and green opposite blue marked it as a clone.

Modern Rubik's cubes are made with clone style coloring.

Anyway, here's just the little ones:

Things to note:
  • While the Wonderful Puzzler necklace is a great puzzle, it looks worse because its stickers are a bit too big for it.
  • My camera somehow made the Wonderful Puzzler's red side look orangeish but didn't do the same to the modern tiny cube's red side.  (In fairness to my camera, they are different shades of red.)
  • Doesn't the modern one look a bit bigger?  By eyeballing it I think that the stickers on the two puzzles are about the same size but look at how much more of the necklace cube is covered by them.
Here's a look at the size difference:

Sorry it's a bit blurry/hazy, I realized way too late that I should have been using macro mode instead of trusting automatic to choose macro mode which sometimes works and sometimes...

Anyway, I didn't take the necklace off the shelf to compare sizes and then notice the difference.  I noticed the difference and then took the necklace off the shelf to compare sizes.

I noticed the difference because of this:

It's not huge.  But it is enough that they don't fit right.  You've got to shove a bit to make it happen, the upper blue cubie of the normal cube is noticeably pushed out of place by the size of the small one.

I looked at that for a bit and concluded it was two millimeters larger clocking in at 21 millimeters.

Eventually I found the calipers and the confirmed it.

It's still nice to have the little cubes in production, and there are still a lot of things that can be done with them, but it's disappointing that the size is off what I was expecting by those two millimeters.

If I want to make a 9x9x9 cube that's exactly the same size as a traditional cube, for example, it can't use the new little cubes for parts.  Making a cube where parts of it move as a 3x3x3 and parts of it move as a 9x9x9 is likewise not going to be had via combining part sizes of the two new standards.


  1. Some very cool Rubik's cube art. I've seen their work in person, it's pretty fun. http://www.cubeworks.ca/?page_id=16

  2. The cubes I met back in the day had extrusions on the insides of the edge and corner pieces, as seen at

    So you might be able to add such an extrusion to the outside corner or edge of a mini-cube to build it into a bigger one, but I think the amount of manipulation you could do to it would be fairly limited.

    A bit of skimming suggests that larger cubes are often made "bulgy" (i.e. getting closer to a sphere in chape), presumably for ease of rotation.

    1. While it's nice of you to try to offer helpful information, I don't come at this topic as a neophyte.

      I'm surprised I haven't brought it up more here, but doing a search I can see why you'd think I might not know the basics.

      This may be the only post where I've even hinted at the subject. I'll have to change that. It'll be at least a week because of various commitments, but clearly an image post is due.

    2. Apologies; I probably misunderstood what you were suggesting with the combination of large and small cubes.

      (I've been doing quite a bit with OpenSCAD lately.)

    3. It entirely understandable misunderstanding given that I didn't go into any great detail. I'm not about to now either, though I will say that having retail quality injection molded parts to work with can be very useful.

      They're just a base (you cut what you need to cut and add what you need to add) but they're kind of the gold standard of a base.

      I tend to end up using 3d printing rather than doing things by hand, which means I haven't done much of anything in ages (money reasons), but when it came to the little cubes doing things by hand was never an option in the first place, because no one was making them.

      That necklace in the picture, even though back in the day it sold for 99 cents, is a valuable that I'd never think of mutilating. Something that's currently in production is another class of thing entirely.


      And I need a need a new cad program. I know Alibre, now geomagic I think, but I've gone though so many computers that I don't have it anymore.

      Unfortunately, as mentioned, can't spend. Paying off debts and not missing payments is more important right now.

    4. Note that when I say valuable I'm taking about worth, not price. A vintage 19mm cube can be had on ebay for about the same price as a brand new standard sized cube. That's only four to ten dollars more than a new 21mm cube.

      So the price isn't high, but for someone like me who cares about its actual worth, well that's too high to it to be used for parts.

  3. I'm using OpenSCAD for things that are most easily approached as composites (e.g. cone - cube + other cube), Blender for more full-on modelling. Both are free. Blender's user interface is pretty weird.