Introduction: Architectonic Photo Cube

Picture of Architectonic Photo Cube

Recently I stumbled upon a Web-based service called "Fracture" ( that prints images on shatterproof glass. This inspired me to come up with a novel way to display a series of photos; one which capitalizes on the inherent physical properties of the glass (resisting small compression and shearing forces).

Pictured here is the end result of this thought experiment. By way of a very roundabout process, which included conceiving an intricate 6-way panel connector that, sadly, is almost impossible, or at least too expensive, to manufacture (the subject-to-be of a later instructable), I settled on an assembly constructed from parts found in the hardware aisle at Home Depot.

Rather than focusing on the imagery alone and allowing the framing mechanism to disappear--or perhaps just play a minor supporting role (literally)--in this project I chose to celebrate the display architecture. Follow these steps to do the same...

Step 1: Ingredients

Picture of Ingredients

Here's a list of everything you need; no tools required (almost... the springs will slide onto the bolts more easily if you open up the ends a bit with a pair of needle-nose pliers). It's important to leave the nuts and bolts slightly loose or the glass may crack (I learned that lesson the hard way... twice!). The springs will hold the corner pieces in place, although it will take a little practice and dexterity to pull all of this together. Don't get frustrated. It can be done!

* 5 images of your choice printed on 8"-diag square glass (~5.6" per side) via (Note: Be sure to add the following in the comment field before completing checkout: "no mount please, but include white backing on all photos")
* 40 flat corner braces; 1-1/2"
* 24 corner braces; 1"
* 20 utility extension springs; 5/32 x 2-1/2 x .020
* 96 machine screws (round head combo); #6-32 x 3/4" (Note: You will only need 80 bolts, but you will need all 96 nuts.)

Step 2: Glass Corners

Picture of Glass Corners

Assemble glass corner pieces using 2 flat corner braces and 4 machine screws per corner. Per my earlier comment, keep these loose and gently slide them onto the corners of the glass.

Step 3: Connecting Bottom Corners

Picture of Connecting Bottom Corners

Add the corner braces on the inside corners of the bottom of the cube. This will take some care and patience. This will not be the only time you'll need to remove and then reconnect some nuts and bolts to complete a step. No one said it was going to be easy!

Step 4: Connecting Top Corners

Picture of Connecting Top Corners

Add the corner braces to the top corners of the cube. Connect the springs on all vertical sides only. As I mentioned earlier, this will be easier if you open up the ends of the springs a bit with a pair of needle-nose pliers.

Step 5: Adding Feet

Picture of Adding Feet

Add the "feet" of the cube using 2 corner braces per corner. Again, you'll need to remove and reconnect a couple screws to complete this step. You'll see how these feet look in the next step when we turn the cube upside down.

Connect the springs on the horizontal sides of the bottom of the cube only.

Step 6: Top Assembly

Picture of Top Assembly

Assemble the top of the cube as shown on the right side of this photo. Note: For correct spacing, the corner braces that connect the top of the cube to the base need to ride on top of the nuts that are holding the bolts in place on the flat corner braces. Then an additional nut needs to be threaded on the screw to hold the corner brace in place (loosely... as always!). This is where 8 of those 16 extra nuts that I mentioned in Step 1 come into play. Finally, connect all four springs around the sides of this top assembly.

Carefully turn the top assembly and the base assembly upside down as shown. (Now you can see how the feet were assembled in the previous step.)

Back off the inner screws along the tops of the four base images (see the one closest to the top of the lighthouse) so the base will fit on the top. Carefully lift the base assembly onto the top assembly. Turn the screws that you previous backed off so that they extend through the corner braces that are waiting to receive them. Add the final 8 extra nuts to attach the top to the base.

Step 7: Completed Assembly

Picture of Completed Assembly

Gently turn the cube over, add the final 4 springs along the top edges of the base photos and voilà... you're done!

Step 8: Final Version

Picture of Final Version

... with internal illumination! For the lighting, I used three battery-powered "under-cabinet" led lights. The lights are carefully positioned to avoid lighting hotspots; the one pointing upwards is rather low to allow the light to spread out and soften. The remaining two lights are aimed horizontally at the back of the cube; this allows the light to bounce off the white backing on the backward-facing prints, resulting in a soft and even glow on the forward-facing prints.


SophiaLiu made it! (author)2014-09-18

I made a similar one, photo ball for child's photos

kaylae (author)2013-10-23


I am itching to make this but i'm wondering, if i were to use smaller glass even just 5x5, do i need to change the size of the screws/springs/corner braces I buy as well?

danorama723 (author)kaylae2013-10-24


I believe the only part you may have to reconsider is the length of the springs. The corner braces will work the same--they'll just appear a bit "heavier" in proportion to a smaller cube.

Good luck!

PlanetaryGear (author)2012-04-23

I’ve been meaning to build this forever and finally finished putting things together. This way to mount up those pictures was a really great idea. I opted to use brass fittings and build a lamp base as well, very happy with how it turned out.


Great job PG! And awesome to see my concept carried further with your design and functional enhancements. You made my day!

abstracted (author)2012-03-18

ohhhhh you know i gotta make one of these...awesome. did u say you broke it twice? i thought it was shatter proof glass?

danorama723 (author)abstracted2012-03-18

Yep. Sadly, "shatterproof" does not mean "unbreakable".

LeviMc (author)2011-11-16

do you know if this project would work with regular 8x10 pics - i think it would be cool to be able to swap the pics out from time to time and if you used reg photos instead of the fracture glass then you could

blinkyblinky (author)2011-09-22


jktechwriter (author)2011-08-29


Took about 2.5 hours -- no accidents!

Definitely a patience-tester, though... but it looks great. The photos here don't do it justice because you can't tell the scale of the thing. Sorry for the blurry photo -- may try to reshoot but you can see that it's a solid match to your own!

Thanks again for sharing the steps!

danorama723 (author)jktechwriter2011-08-29

Awesome. Great job JK!

jktechwriter (author)2011-08-11

Where do you buy the Extension Springs? Hardware store or special order?

Great project - 5 stars.

danorama723 (author)jktechwriter2011-08-11

All the hardware, including the springs, were purchased at Home Depot... And thanks for the compliment!

jktechwriter (author)danorama7232011-08-11

Thanks, Dan! I do remember you saying you got everything at the hardware store, but just wanted to confirm. Those springs seem like an odd item to carry.

Ordered my 5 pics... 10 day wait, but I'll be patient.

danorama723 (author)jktechwriter2011-08-11

JK... FYI: Given the quantities required, don't be surprised if you have to visit more than one Home Depot to buy everything you need (I had to go to two). Also, the springs came in a 2-pack along with a different size spring that was of no use in this application--a bit of a waste of both money and materials--but I was too anxious to complete this project to spend time researching other sources to acquire only the springs I needed.

Hope that helps and thanks for the patch!

jktechwriter (author)danorama7232011-08-12

It does help, thank you. I found the exact springs on and will be going to check price comparisons today -- with shipping costs, I think buying locally may be just as good an option.

Just a follow-up -- pricing for the springs, flat braces, and corner braces was MUCH cheaper with McMaster-Carr than at Home Depot, even with shipping costs. The braces are slightly less at MC, but the springs are a BIG savings with MC versus the 4 pack you buy at HD where 2 are the right size and 2 are a different size... waste of money IMO buying springs at HD unless you can come up with a use for the left-over 2 springs per pack.

danorama723 (author)jktechwriter2011-08-23

Thanks for doing that research JK. And good luck putting together your APC. Remember to be both patient and careful. Also, at times it won't hurt to have another pair of helping hands. A few days ago I built my final version on my own, but it took almost 3 hours and I used a couple large books to help stabilize things at various times during the build. Let me know how it goes!

maxxflow (author)2011-08-08

Put a lightbulb inside, and it'll be even better.

danorama723 (author)maxxflow2011-08-19

You are so correct maxxflow. My final version has three battery-powered "under-cabinet" lights inside and it looks freakin' awesome! Thanks for the inspiration.

joeslost (author)2011-08-14

how did the shapeways thing go?

danorama723 (author)joeslost2011-08-19

Great, actually, except for the cost. Still a bit expensive. Still searching for more cost-effective options.

freximus (author)2011-08-08

I'd love to build this, but I spent a little time looking at the cost... Well past $90 bucks in hardware

danorama723 (author)freximus2011-08-09

True.. But once I started, I couldn't stop! :-)

freximus (author)danorama7232011-08-09

but then again, the darn thing is soooo SEXAY! Time to start saving money!

BlueberryCrazy (author)2011-08-07

This is cool looks like it should do something dangerous, all those nuts and bolts, but really, its so cool it doesn't need to actually do anything :)

So how do you display it? Do you just leave it on a shelf somewhere?
Would it be possible to use magnets or something to suspend the cube, like in a shaft of light, so someone could take it out to look at it and then put it back and it would just hover in space, maybe rotating slowly...I can totally see that in my mind but have no idea how one would go about actually making it happen

Mine sits on a table, but I've thought about doing a version that hangs from the ceiling. In that case, I would probably leave the top open and close the bottom instead.

LynxSys (author)2011-08-08

I don't know what your 6-way panel connector design looked like, but you could probably have it fabricated by one of the many online machine shops, if you wanted to.
I know that some might consider that cheating, but if you don't happen to have the spare cash for a CNC waterjet cutter, why not bring yourself up to the level of those who do?

danorama723 (author)LynxSys2011-08-09

Hey LynxSys... I don't consider outsourcing production cheating at all, as evidenced by my "Neighborhood Terrain Model" instructable. In my experience, finding the right shop and figuring out how to best communicate your project specs can be quite a challenge at times, an experience which other members of the instructables community can benefit from if they decide to do a similar project.

As for my connector: its small size and multi-axis nature makes machining wasteful, welding difficult, and casting impossible. But I haven't given up yet; I've ordered a couple prototypes that will be 3D-printed in high-strength plastic from Fingers crossed!

hbrown6 (author)2011-08-09

Where does this lighthouse happen to be?

It reminds me of one I went to in Co. Cork... Maybe in Ballycotton perhaps? I can't remember quite where...

danorama723 (author)hbrown62011-08-09

That's the Pigeon Point lighthouse located about halfway between San Francisco and Santa Cruz on the California coast.

jimbarbera (author)2011-08-08

Flat angle braces, 1.5" x 1.5":

Bent corner braces, 1" X 1":

You can get the rest of the hardware there too.

Once you have created the order, "forward" it to yourself.
Then click the "Edit and place order" button in the email.
This way it will be saved in case you want to order that compliment of parts again in the future. Just go back to the email and click the "Edit and place order" button again.


mikegalloway (author)2011-08-08

Love it. Very cool idea and the results were fantastic. Nice job!

Additionally, thank you for introducing me to I just ordered a few prints =).

Madrigorne (author)2011-08-08

take pictures of your house - front/back/left/right, use google maps to get a view of your house from above, and on the bottom put a picure of your family, or Cthulhu, or something.

You could also print these pictures on a transparent or translucent film and then light the cube from within with an LED.

Love this project. My list goes on forever.

Ladycroft39 (author)2011-08-07

This is a good idea. There was a post asking what it can do. As mentioned, one can display photos. Another idea is it can serve as a beautiful paper weight. If we do not cover the top part and put glasses inside protecting the pictures, it can also serve as a candle holder thus illuminating the pictures if printed on a thin sheet of paper. We can also put different pictures for a lovelier display, paper weight or a candle holder.

suayres (author)2011-08-07

That's just plain gorgeous! Good job, why settle for the bland and boring to frame your pix.

terribug (author)2011-08-07

So, not to be mean, but what does this actually DO?

danorama723 (author)terribug2011-08-07

Fair question terribug. From a functional perspective, this is a framing system for displaying a series of photos. Admittedly, it performs this function in a rather elaborate manner. That was on purpose.

I suppose the other thing it does, based on many of the comments I've received, is delight people. The word "cool" comes up most frequently, but of course that's a subjective response.

More importantly, it gets people THINKING!!

See Mechanic2011's comments - this instructable was the foundation of a train of thought that goes to the next level. An instructable outlining that next level will get someone else thinking of a level beyond that and so on and so forth...

This is how we put men on the moon, and then establish international space stations and eventually we'll colonize other planets and explore the cosmose!

Mechanic2011 (author)2011-08-07

Great instructable on building your project.
They DO sell picture photo display cubes in the stores that would do the same thing and are made out of plastic with a foam insert that holds all the pictures in place.
My mother has one of these from many years ago.

What about making a 3 dimensional "video cube" ??
It would use 4 LCD screens with a camera on each side pointing out the opposite direction ??
It's kind of the same idea used in a recent James Bond movie.
It was an adaptive comouflage system .
How about the system used by the predator monster that bends light around it self ?
Ya it was in the movies but still a cool idea.

sdudley (author)2011-08-07

Yes this is COOL!

It's simply a display case for photos and I guess to venture that every single person who walks into a room and see's it will love it.

Great job!

dewrell (author)2011-08-03

you are so winning the photo skills contest if entered!!! awesome project

danorama723 (author)dewrell2011-08-03

Thanks for the kind words and especially for the suggestion dewrell. I didn't realize that framing projects were eligible for this contest. I just entered. Vote for me! :-)

dewrell (author)danorama7232011-08-05

will do

splazem (author)2011-08-05

Awesome! This is so cool!

dimtick (author)2011-08-04

I really dig this, although I think I'd like this better if you reversed the bolts so the heads were on the outside....
you could also adapt this so that instead of using "Fractured" images you could have a photo sandwiched between 2 pieces of plexi.


danorama723 (author)dimtick2011-08-04

Thanks for the feedback dimtick! I actually thought about reversing the bolts, but didn't for three reasons:

1. They interfered with each other on the inside corner (I suppose I could use shorter bolts).

2. They make effective holders for the springs.

3. The "bolts-sticking-out" aesthetic furthers my intention of "celebrating" the display architecture.

And, yes, this is perfectly adaptable to photos sandwiched in plex, which would certainly be less fragile and easier to assemble. Probably wouldn't even need the springs then. Good idea!

skimmo (author)2011-08-03

these would be great with a 360 view of uluru

danorama723 (author)skimmo2011-08-04

Great idea skimmo!

luc.dof1 (author)2011-08-04

Splendid !

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