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Sunday, 25 November 2012

Half Truncated Cube Build

I've really been wanting to do a proper shape modification on a twisty puzzle for a while now, and I finally managed to get around to doing it!

Now, I have no experience in these things whatsoever, so I picked up all the info I needed from useful sources like the Forum and Tony Fisher's YouTube Videos. And I was surprised to find that many of the more simple modifications are not actually that difficult to make.

I was given a spare, unloved, standard Rubik's Cube a while ago, and I knew that I would end up using it for my first shape mod. Then I had a look around to see what would be a nice puzzle to make as my first stepping stone into puzzle modding, and I decided to go with a Half Truncated Cube, which is essentially a cube which has had half of its corners removed.

Poor thing had no idea what was coming...
So, I started with a bog standard Rubik's 3x3x3, then I immediately proceeded by hacking off four of the corners!

In order to do this I had to cover the cube in masking tape so that it wouldn't move during cutting. I then drew on the lines I wanted to cut along using a pencil and ruler and checked to make sure everything was in the right place before making any cuts.

A not-quite Rubik's Cube

The cutting was done using my Dremel 300, which was surprisingly easy. The cube spits of some pretty hot plastic shrapnel during cutting, so if you're going to do this make sure you're wearing long sleeves and some kind of eye protection.

Here is the result of the cutting. The cuts don't need to be perfectly clean or accurate, and that would be hard to achieve anyway, instead I didn't cut quite up to where I had drawn the lines.

Once the corners had been removed I could use a flat power sander to sand the corners right up to the lines. This also made sure that the resultant faces were perfectly flat.

Now we have our Half Truncated Cube shape, but there is still the small matter of the fact there are holes in the puzzle, because all those cut pieces were hollow.

Pieces filled with Milliput
This problem is rectified with some wonderful stuff called Milliput. Milliput is a type of epoxy putty. It has the texture of the sticky tac you put posters up on the wall with, and it comes in several different colours. Since my cube was black it seemed best to go with the black variety. You thoroughly mix the epoxy from two parts, then you can use it immediately. I used some water to help with the moulding as it gave the Milliput a kind of clay-like texture which enabled me to get a much smoother finish along the edges of the pieces, and it stopped it from sticking to my fingers.

Each piece of the cube (apart from the centres  needed filling, and this would take a lot of Milliput to achieve. It seemed like such a waste to use so much of the Milliput, so instead I mostly filled the pieces with white sticky tac, then filled the last part up with Milliput. This dramatically reduced the amount of Milliput used.
As you can see I took the cube apart for this bit as it was easier, and this way there was no chance of me accidentally sticking different parts together using the epoxy. I left the parts overnight, and by morning the epoxy was rock hard and ready for sanding again. It actually sets in four hours, but I wanted to be sure.
At this point I could remove the white sticky tac from inside the pieces using the hole at the back of each piece. This way it makes the puzzle much lighter again, and I can reuse the tac for my next project.

Sanded again and sprayed black
As you can probably tell from the picture, I had slightly overfilled each piece with the epoxy to leave a margin of error, so I once again needed to sand the pieces flat. I reassembled the pieces back into their original shape and used the flat power sander to sand off the excess black epoxy.

Sanding black Milliput kind of gives the pieces a grey finish, so to bring back the colour uniformity I gave the whole puzzle a coat of black modelling spray paint. This made the grey pieces black again, and also gave the whole puzzle a nice matte finish.

From a previous project I worked out that it was better to give the puzzle this light coat of spray paint while it was still assembled. A light coat of paint done from a distance will not stick the pieces together at all. It will give the whole puzzle a nice even finish and also the paint won't land on any of the internal edges, so the cube will turn just as well after painting as it did before.

All that was left to do now was to add some new stickers! Luckily, because this is such a popular design for many first-time modders, there were already stickers available. This is lucky because otherwise I would've had to painstakingly measure and cut each sticker by hand, and that would've added many hours onto the build time.
I ordered my stickers from OlivĂ©r Nagy who runs a website called Oliver's Stickers. It is a brilliant website! He supplies a massive range of puzzle stickers, and will even make stickers to order if you come up with a new design. So for just over 2 Euros I saved myself having to do a lot of extra work!

The stickers arrived a few days later, and after ten minutes or so of stickering this was the result:

I'm very happy with how my first puzzle mod turned out, plus I had a load of fun making it! The total cost of materials for this build probably came to less than £10, and for that I get a new puzzle for my collection that I can proudly say I made myself.

This certainly won't be my last build, and if you haven't given it a go yourself yet then I highly recommend that you do. You'll have great fun, and there's nothing more satisfying that seeing a puzzle come to life that you've made yourself.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Dutch Cube Day (DCD) 2012 / MPP8

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be able to make it to this years Dutch Cube Day (DCD) event! I was extremely happy to be going as it was to be the first international puzzle event that I have ever attended. A couple of the other Midlands rabble managed to make it last year, and they came back with such good stories and pictures from the event that I just knew I had to make the trip out to the Netherlands this year.

It started with a 4am drive on the Saturday to pick up Ali (a fellow MPPer) and then we were straight off to Luton to catch the plane. I made the slight error of going to the cinema the night before, so to say I was a wee bit tired would be the understatement of the year. But still I was very excited for the day to come, and I think that easily carried me through the whole weekend!

Once myself and Ali had landed in Amsterdam we met up with Allard, Chris, Nigel and Louis (even more fellow MPPers) at the airport. Allard Chris and Nigel had flown in from Birmingham just before us, and Louis caught the train from Eindhoven to meet us there. Louis has made the trip out to the Midlands many times now for our (very) regular MPPs, and it was nice to finally be able to make it out to the Netherlands to meet him there for a change. So many of us Midland lot made the trip out that we decided to combine DCD with the 8th MPP!

The Hotel Lobby
We travelled from the airport to the hotel via train, which was only a short distance away. And as the hotel was right next to the train station, that made the travelling aspect of the trip very laid back. Although I dare to think where I would've ended up if Louis hadn't been there to direct us.

I took a photo of the hotel entrance. It's a terrible photo that doesn't really show anything, and I can only really blame tiredness for that. I kept forgetting to take photos as there was always so much going on, then I'd suddenly remember and start taking loads.....then forget again, and so on.

Off To The DCD Venue
We stopped at the hotel for a while for everyone to settle in, then we met up in the restaurant for a bit of brunch. Right around this time Wil Strijbos and Christiaan Eggermont turned up and joined us for some food before we all headed off to the actual DCD venue to help Wil unpack his wares for the next day. This years event was going to be held at Sint-Maartenscollege in Voorburg, which as luck (or good planning) would have it was only a ten minute walk away from our hotel.

Only a couple of puzzlers had turned up today to set up their stalls for Sunday, including Wil and Bernhard Schweitzer, and as well as helping to unpack we looked through the puzzles that would be available the next day and chatted with everyone there.

A Good Few IPP Exchange Puzzles
After a few hours we all jumped into cars and cabs and made our way over to the home of Rob Hegge, who had kindly offered to entertain a group of unruly puzzlers for the afternoon. Frans de Vreugd and Simon Nightingale were already puzzling away on our arrival, and Rob made us feel very welcome with food and drink, although I think our attention was mostly taken up by his awesome puzzle collection!

An Incredible Puzzle Room
Rob kept us thoroughly perplexed for most of the afternoon. Whenever one puzzle was solved (usually a puzzle box in my case) another one appeared shortly afterwards. He was very trusting and let us try any puzzle that was out on display in the cabinets, although I did try my best to make sure that puzzles went back into the cabinets in the same state that they came out.

I think all of us there managed to find a fair few puzzles that we've never solved or even seen before. I got completely stuck trying to solve the Monkey's Palaquin puzzle box by Shiro Tajima, but happily managed to make my way through a good few other puzzles to make up for it. I have to admit that I spent most of my time working on the puzzle boxes because they are my favourite puzzle type, but there were so many other puzzles there that it was difficult to stick with one puzzle too long as there was always something else I wanted to look at next.

Out For Dinner
After a few hours (probably...I completely lost track of time so have no idea how long we were there), we managed to pry ourselves away from Rob's place and travel en masse (there were eleven of us) to find somewhere nice to have dinner. We dropped our stuff back at the hotel and then proceed to wander the streets with Bernhard at the helm trying to find an Italian restaurant that he remembered. After a few backtracking manoeuvres we arrived at the restaurant and sat ourselves down for some good food, drinks and generally puzzling conversation. Wil would regularly pull a puzzle or perplexing object out of his bag and proceed to hand it around, which always managed to conjure up a fair few laughs. At one point Louis even tried to solve the restaurant wall! He did have a few drinks by this point, although none of them were alcoholic so I'm not sure what his excuse was.

After dinner we all toddled back to the hotel for a very overdue rest to get ourselves ready for the main event in the morning. Most of us hung around in the bar for a few more drinks before heading off to bed.

A Teeny Tiny Bit Puzzling
A few of the guys headed off early the next morning to get to the DCD venue, but I went across an hour or so later with a few others who didn't fancy quite such an early start. 
Upon arrival we signed in and picked up our name badges and the tiniest souvenir puzzle you could ever imagine. I love miniature puzzles, so this little 3D-printed creation by Rich Gain was right up my street, and everyone else there seemed to really like them as well. 

The pretty large main hall was full of puzzlers and their puzzles. Tables and tables of puzzles! I knew to expect quite a few people and puzzles to be there, but I was still surprised by the sheer amount and variety of them!
In The Main Hall

We all split up and started wandering around the room. I kept seeing puzzles that I've been searching for all over the place! And occasionally they were even being sold by the designers themselves! It was great to finally be able to put faces to so many of the puzzlers I talk to regularly online and via emails. It really was a room of some of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. A couple of them were even obliging enough to sign some of their own puzzle designs that I had bought that day.

Oskar And His Creations
It was a real highlight to be able to meet Oskar van Deventer for the first time, and have a play with some of his latest 3D-printed designs. He even brought along a copy of his infamous 17x17x17 cube, although I have a feeling that not too many people attempted a solve while they were there.

Another thing I was very much looking forward to was to picking up a long awaited puzzle from the incredible craftsman Jack Krijnen. I'll write a bit more about that properly later on though as it is well deserving of its own review.
17 x 17 x 17
Marcel Gillen has his own table there selling puzzles  of all types, including some of his own hard to come by designs. Tom van der Zanden was there showing some of his 3D-printed twisty puzzle designs, including his incredible Multidodecahedron, which I was thrilled to finally see 'in the flesh'. Goetz Schwandtner was there, and he brought along several 'N-ary' puzzles (that I really enjoy), including a design called Fidgety Rabbits by Namick Salakhov which was also an entrant in this years IPP Design Competition. I really loved this puzzle, and I made a mental note to track one down for myself eventually.

So many more puzzlers were met, and many many more puzzles were solved. I can't quite get pictures of them all into this post, but if you're interested in seeing the full set of pictures then visit the DCD folder in my puzzle image gallery and you'll find them there.

Speedcubing Finals
At the end of the event we stayed to watch the finals of the Dutch Open speedcubing competition, where we got to see the European record being beaten for a 3x3x3 cube with an average time of just 7.66 seconds! After the event had finished we were all exhausted (and somewhat lighter in terms of our wallets), so we retired back to the hotel to pick up our bags ready to make our way back to the airport and then onto home.

It was a truly incredible weekend, and I can't express enough thanks to everyone there who made it as fun as it was. I met many new puzzlers, and saw many many new puzzles, and somehow a few of them managed to creep back home with me. It was really great fun, and I'm definitely looking forward to making the trip out again next year.

The Puzzles That Somehow Followed Me Home
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