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Sunday, 1 April 2012

Gear Cube (Oskar)

Recently I've been getting more into the world of 'twisty' type puzzles, and a variety of them that really caught my attention were the ones that implemented a mechanism based on gears. Not only do I think that this type of mechanism looks incredible, but they are also extremely tactile and fun to play around with.

The most recent addition to my collection from this series of puzzles is the Gear Cube in black.

The design came from the mind of the prolific puzzle designer Oskar van Deventer from inspiration given by Bram Cohen. Oskar originally gave it the name 'Caution Cube' due to the caution a solver would have to take so as not to get their fingers trapped in between the very sharp gears on his 3D-printed design. The original 3D-printed version can still be bought from Oskar's Shapeways Shop for a pretty hefty price, or if you're on a budget like me (and don't want to hurt your fingers) then Mefferts have mass-produced the Gear Cube to a very decent standard at a price we can all enjoy.
One 90 Degree Rotation

The main thing that I like about the Gear Cube is that it is not massively difficult for a twisty puzzle. I managed to solve it within half an hour or so the first time, and now that I understand the movement it would only take a matter of a few minutes. Understanding the movement also isn't very difficult, because although it looks incredibly complex with the gears showing the movements are actually pretty simple.

What's Inside A Gear Cube?
Each time the the top and bottom layers of the cube are rotated 180 degrees, the centres of the middle layer will rotate only 90 degrees. But what really makes this puzzle interesting is that the edges rotate as the layers are turned. Because of this you would have to perform twelve 90 degree turns to complete one full rotation! after re-reading that last paragraph it actually does sound pretty complicated, but I promise you that it is nowhere near as difficult as a standard Rubik's Cube, and anyone should be able to understand the movement with a little practice.
Hell, if I can understand it then anyone can. Remember how terrible I normally am at twisty puzzles?

Fisher Sticker Modification
 A while back a puzzle designer by the name of Tony Fisher came up with a minor sticker modification to the Gear Cube to not only make it look much nicer but also to make it more difficult.

Fisher Sticker Modification Scrambled
If you really look hard at the first pictures you can see the four little inner edge pieces on each side of the Gear Cube. They really are tiny, and they are needed there to allow the edge gears to turn even when they are not touching the corner pieces.
Neither Mefferts nor Oskar ever stickered these pieces, and Tony saw this for the shame that it was and added them himself.
All But Inner Edges Solved

Since the standard Gear Cube was easy for me to solve now, I loved the idea of this. So I ordered a new set of these stickers from Cubesmith to give it a go. I stripped off the basic Mefferts stickers and carefully applied the new Fisher style ones. It was a delicate process and probably took me about an hour or so with a hobby knife and a steady hand.

With Tony's sticker modification added it is possible to have the cube solved as before, but still have the inner edges in the wrong place! Working out how to solve this requires more thinking and practice, but again is easy enough to work out by yourself without having to spend years on it.

This is a puzzle that I really do recommend. It is just so much fun to play around with, and although it looks intimidating it really isn't as hard to solve as it looks. And if you want to up the challenge then head over to Cubesmith for some new stickers. They are well worth the extra couple of dollars!


  1. Hi Oli,

    I'm glad that you did this review because the gear cube is one of the cubes I've been wanting to get! Once I figure out my speed cube this one will be next.

  2. Hi Oli,
    I also have been getting into twisties (much to my wife's disgust) - I have bought 35 different puzzles in the last 3 months. They are awesome! I also have discovered the delights of restickering too - my Gear cube now looks like yours - the extra centre piece didn't really make it much harder for me.

    You should try the gear cube extreme/ultimate - it is a MUCH harder geared cube than the plain one you have (especially when you add the tiny stickers). Then of course, you should look at the higher order cubes, cubic cuboids, cuboids of varying dimensions, circle/crazy cubes, bandaged cubes, 3x3 cube mods etc. etc. etc. I will be writing a number of blog posts documenting my journey.

    Now sitting in my study dribbling and rocking gently to myself!


  3. Sounds like you're going to have to give me some pointers Kevin! Looking forward to your future twisty posts! The Gear Cube Extreme/Ultimate is definitely next on my list. I liked this puzzle so much that there's no way I can avoid getting it now.


No puzzle spoilers please!

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