Introduction: Rubik's Cube Chest of Drawers

Picture of Rubik's Cube Chest of Drawers

30 years on from its invention, Rubik's Cube is still instantly recognizable. People like picking it up, turning it a few times, maybe doing a side or two (or five, as a braggart in my class once memorably claimed). Solving the cube remains a reasonably rare feat - you're either smart enough to have figured it out yourself, or geeky enough to have followed a how-to, and most people are neither.

Rubik's cube is not just the quintessential hand-held puzzle, though: it's also an iconic piece of design, so I co-opted it when making a new chest of drawers for my son's room. This cubic piece of furniture has only one of the three required axes of rotation, so is unsolvable in the conventional sense, but can be arranged in any configuration you like by non-sporting means. The drawers do pose a brain-bending challenge: the first thing you have to solve is detecting that they're there, and all three have hidden locks in different locations.

Step 1: Design

Picture of Design

Unsurprisingly, there are lots of bits of furniture around that are based on the Rubik's cube; coffee tables are particularly popular, and for 980€ (!!), you can even buy a Rubik's cube locker. I wanted to do something different, and use lazy Susan bearings to achieve at least one axis of rotation - they're cheap, really strong, and add a wacky dimension to a chest of drawers.

The design is simply three boxes, each containing a single drawer. Their construction is basic - they're made of 1/4" and 1/2" plywood (which you should get precut at the lumber yard into two 2'x8' sheets), and assembled using a brad nailer and wood glue. This method of construction is super fast and precise, and results in really strong objects. The main challenge in this build is cutting the pieces with high precision - if you can't cut plywood to within 1 mm, you should probably practice on something simpler until you can. Having said that, I'm no pro and I've never made a chest of drawers before, so this project is NOT fancy woodworking by any means! If you weren't fussed about the drawers, it would be dead easy - it's just three boxes and a couple of lazy Susans, and you'd have a cool coffee table with no additionally functionality aside from rotatability. Deluxe Scrabble, anyone?

I was going to simply glue the "stickers" on to decorate the outside - or even just paint them on - but the future owner insisted he had to be able to scramble and "solve" the cube, so I enabled this with the help of rare-earth magnets for holding power and short dowels for positioning. I'm glad I did - it's more fun now, and the colors can be selected to match your mood or decor, including impossible combos of color (insofar as the real cube goes).

The puzzle is a little under 60 mm across, and this chest of drawers is exactly 600 mm across, so it is in approximately 10:1 scale. 1000 regular Rubik's cubes would therefore fit inside.

There are cubes that are 2x2, 4x4, 5x5 etc, so if you need more (or less) drawers, there is an obvious design solution...

Step 2: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools

One and a half sheets of 1/2" plywood
One and a half sheets of 1/4" plywood
Two 12" lazy Susan bearings
Three pairs of 22" full extension slides
Shorter screws than those provided with the above, say 60 1/2" flat head screws
45 3/8" rare-earth magnets (in hindsight, the 9 on the top are not really necessary, so 36 would be enough, but they come in packs of 50 anyway)
54 3/8" steel washers
54 6 mm x 30 mm dowels, cut in half
Wood glue
Epoxy glue
Brad nails
Gloss paint in six different colors of your choice. I used spraypaint, as it's a relatively cheap way of getting small quantities of paint, they keep well, and they're handy to have around.
Black gloss paint

Close to $200 all up.

Circular saw, table saw, miter saw, router, orbital sander, cordless drill with a 3/8" forstner bit , and a brad nailer.

Step 3: Cut Your Plywood

Picture of Cut Your Plywood

Cut the plywood into the following dimensions. You'll notice that my extra half sheet of 1/2" ply actually came from offcuts I had lying around from other projects (yes, even after making the Lego construction table, I still had a few old cupboard doors left over...).

1/2" plywood (11 mm thick)
6 of 600 x 582 mm (tops and bottoms of cases)
6 of 582 x 178 mm (sides of cases)
3 of 600 x 200 mm (drawer fronts)
6 of 543 x 160 mm (sides of drawers)

1/4" plywood (7 mm thick)
3 of 600 x 200 mm (backs of cases)
3 of 550 x 550 mm (bottoms of drawers)
3 of 550 x 160 mm (backs of drawers)
54 of 165 x 165 mm (the "stickers", see later for more detailed instruction on these)

I always cut using a straightedge with the circular saw, which gives you a perfect straight line but requires a few clamps. Get a decent finishing blade, you'll save yourself a lot of sanding. I use Freud thin-kerf blades in all my saws - the quality is excellent, and it reduces the load on the saw and the amount of sawdust produced. I used the bench saw and miter saw wherever possible, because the set-up is quicker. Cut to a stop using the miter saw to ensure reproducibility.

Step 4: Add Drawer Slides

Picture of Add Drawer Slides

These are best attached BEFORE you assemble the individual cases. The exact height doesn't really matter, but make sure they're square, parallel to each other, and 5 mm back from the front edge.

Step 5: Assemble Cases

Picture of Assemble Cases

Assemble the cases with wood glue and brad nails, as shown. Leave to dry overnight, then sand, fill any imperfections with wood filler, and sand again.

Step 6: Build Drawers

Picture of Build Drawers

Build three more boxes, without a top or front, that fit nicely inside the runners. I made the base and back with 1/4" ply and the sides with 1/2" ply. Nailing into the edge of 1/4" ply is perfectly doable, but you do have to be a fair bit more precise than for 1/2". Sand and fill.

Step 7: Add Drawer Faces

Picture of Add Drawer Faces

Attach the drawers to the slides, and check the fit (whether they slide in and out nicely). Put the case on end, and drop something in behind the drawer so it will sit slightly proud when closed. Line up your drawer front, and mark and cut to fit. Glue and nail to the drawer, again taking care with the nailing (I recommend transferring the lines to the front to avoid errors). Round the edges of the drawer front to match the case, remove the stop, and sand, fill and sand again.

Step 8: Groove the Faces

Picture of Groove the Faces

To create the illusion that the cube can spin conventionally (i.e. on three axes, not just one), I faked it using a router with a V-shaped bit to cut grooves in all the exposed faces. Use a guide - because it's hard to clamp on to a face, I just tacked the guide in place temporarily using the brad nailer the correct distance from the desired groove. I ripped a piece of wood exactly the right width so I could rout both sides using the same guide (with my router, it needed to be 56 mm). The groove doesn't look exactly like the horizontal gaps, of course, but the visual illusion holds at least at first glance.

Step 9: Cut Squares

Picture of Cut Squares

I measured each cubie to be 19.1 mm on a side, and each sticker as 15.6 mm, about 81% of the size. So I rounded up to the nearest 5 mm (165 mm for a "sticker" for a 200 mm cubie) and ripped much of one sheet of 1/4" plywood into 170 mm strips. I then set a stop on my miter saw to 165 mm and made two cuts for every square, to ensure the 54 squares were as close to perfect as possible. I ganged them all together with a strap, and routed and sanded the corners of all squares simultaneously. This step was pretty quick, and all the components were done now. Just painting and hardware to go!

Step 10: Paint Case and Drawers

Picture of Paint Case and Drawers

Remove the drawers, and take the hardware off them. Undercoat everything except the inside of the cases (you don't see them), then sand. Paint the cases and drawer fronts gloss black to give it a shiny plastic look. Three coats should do nicely, sanding lightly between coats with very fine sandpaper.

Step 11: Washers and Dowels

Picture of Washers and Dowels

Make a template for this step. Drill two dowel-sized holes part way into each "sticker" (about 3/4 the way through), and with the Forstner bit, drill a shallow (just deep enough for your washer) hole in the center. Repeat 54 times! You really need two drills, or the swapping of bits will drive you nuts. Now cut 54 dowels in half by taping them to a scrap piece of plywood and running them through the bench saw. Glue the half-dowels into the holes. Epoxy the washers into the shallow holes in the center.

Step 12: Paint Stickers

Picture of Paint Stickers

Undercoat, then spray paint the edges and top of each sticker in whatever combination of colors you like - we stuck with the conventional white/yellow/orange/red/green/blue. I let the future owner pick exactly which shade of each he liked of each. I spent a few minutes painting one coat, then returned about 15 minutes later and did another. I used about half a can per set of nine, I reckon.

Step 13: Holes and Magnets

Picture of Holes and Magnets

You'll need to use a template again. Use the previous template to make this one; it needs to be 200 x 200 mm. Make the dowel holes slightly bigger (I used 15/64" for the dowel holes, and went to 17/64" for these). Drill just deep enough for the magnet to sit flush with the surface (conveniently, this was just into the second layer of ply, so I just eyeballed it), but bore all the way through for the others. Repeat 45 times (you don't need to do the base, for obvious reasons!). Glue the magnets in the holes using a thin layer of epoxy.

Step 14: Lazy Susans

Picture of Lazy Susans

The 12" lazy Susan bearings are pretty low profile (9 mm), but I reduced the gap between cases further by routing out a layer of plywood from the cases (3 mm from each) to set them into. I just freehanded it after marking the lines carefully. I greased the ball bearings - this makes it stiffer but quieter, both desirable for this application. The lazy Susan bearing has to be PERFECTLY centered. I screwed one side on and just epoxied the other.

Step 15: Add Locks

Picture of Add Locks

I added a simple hidden lock to each drawer, all in different places. I just drilled holes through case and drawer from the side, and stuck a dowel in. To unlock, you just remove the correct sticker and push in the dowel. It's low tech but effective, and I don't anticipate it spending much time locked, but it's nice to know you can.

Step 16: Solve the Cube!

Picture of Solve the Cube!

Add the "stickers" however you like to get the design you want (store the leftover nine stickers in one of the drawers, of course!). Change the stickers and make a new piece of furniture. Take it for a spin. Play some Scrabble (or 3D Settlers of Catan). Leave it in the middle of your living room as a coffee table. Bring it with you to a park and confuse strangers. Organize your underwear in high geek style. Talk to it. Sit on it and slowly orbit. Put your favorite boardgames in it. Challenge people to solve it one handed, and/or blindfolded, and time them. Use it as a stand for your prize-winning laser-cut, LED-lit, Arduino-controlled, solar-powered, steampunk-themed, EL wire-crocheted Halloween cupcakes...

Many thanks to the following sites for featuring this build: make, boingboing, hackaday, neatorama, ohdeedoh, geekosystem, technabob, manmade, babble, wins.failblog, design-milk, storagegeek, discovery, thisiswhyimbroke and others; thinkgeek for tweeting about it, and of course instructables users for all the great feedback. Cheers!

Some people have even made replicas! See
here, here and here. If you make one, please send me a link or post a picture in the comments.


JustinR152 (author)2017-06-27

This is a fun and cool idea. Do you still sell these?

makendo (author)JustinR1522017-06-27

Thanks for your interest - it's been really hard to find the time to do this, so sadly no. I'm not really set up for production.

MarkF30 (author)2016-01-15

Cabinetmakers everywhere will hate you for making this design possible, I know I do.

Nah, just kidding. I have added it to my favourites.

Seriously good instructable and thanks for taking the time to make it.

I also noted with interest your interesting work shop arrangements, everything seems to either nest away and/or fold away, could you possibly do an instructable on your workshop?

makendo (author)MarkF302016-01-17

Thanks for the kind words. I built the workshop before I joined instructables, so have no record of the build - but the good news is that it was based very closely on one I found online and the article is still there:

ohoilett (author)2016-01-14

This is awesome. Great job.

TIFFARRINGTON10 (author)2016-01-07

Hello, do you still sell these? I am very interested in buying one. Thanks

makendo (author)TIFFARRINGTON102016-01-07

Thanks for your interest. I've sent you a private message.

supercellus1 (author)2015-12-04

Hi. I would like to buy one (it would be crooked if I tried to make it). I am in New York and would pay the shipping and the cost you mentioned. Do u have one available?

makendo (author)supercellus12015-12-04

Thanks for your interest. I've sent you a private message.

Cats_Eye (author)2015-01-02

This is awesome! My brother's birthday is coming up and he loves Rubik's Cubes, so this would be perfect.

makendo (author)Cats_Eye2015-01-02

good luck with the build

kahht (author)2014-09-24

Ridiculously brilliant! I'll definitely be building one of these one I get a house... and tools :)

ruth.gilchrist (author)2014-07-31

Hello just wondering where you get the 12" lazy susans from as we have been unable to find any

makendo (author)ruth.gilchrist2014-07-31

See link in Step 2

ruth.gilchrist (author)makendo2014-08-01

You in the US ?

makendo (author)ruth.gilchrist2014-08-02

No. But Lee Valley Tools has a US site; click on the flag at the top of the page.

alexgibb003 (author)2013-08-26

Hey man, this is my first instructable, I really really liked your design but dont trust in my ability to make something as high quality as yours so ive gone instead for a 25x25 rubix cube coffee table where the top 3rd is actually a removable lid with secret locks hidden behind two of the covered panels thanks for the inspiration!

makendo (author)alexgibb0032013-08-26

Sounds great! Post a picture/link if you can.

sdean10 (author)2013-07-07

How do the draw open

makendo (author)sdean102013-08-26

With the edges of the face of the drawers. They're hard to see but easy to grip with your fingertips.

nmertens (author)2013-01-04

I come from Belgium and i dont speak english but i have make my own rubik's cube !

It does not turn. This is the first piece of furniture I make and I'm very happy !

Thanks for your instructable !

makendo (author)nmertens2013-01-04

Fantastic! Great job, it looks really nicely finished. Thanks for posting the pictures.

tokuta (author)2012-12-18

hey how much did this cost?

makendo (author)tokuta2012-12-18

see step 2

bowlen199 (author)2012-09-17

amazing build by the way as everyone else above agrees. I love the interactivity of it and how well it was finished.
very roughly how long do you think this took you to build?

makendo (author)bowlen1992012-09-17

Thanks. About 6 weeks, very much part-time. Maybe 20 hours, as a wild guess?

HollyMann (author)2012-04-12

you are amazing! I LOVE IT!!!!!!!

bfk (author)2011-11-23

So cool! I want one & I'm over 60

mad_mat (author)2011-11-12

Epic build Makendo, top shelf.
'bout how many hours?

makendo (author)mad_mat2011-11-12

thanks. Hmm, really hard to guess how many hours, because I built in in scraps of time on weekends and evenings over about a six-week period. I know I built the drawers themselves very quickly - maybe a few hours - but slowed right down when it came to the repetitive parts, because I'm easily bored and cutting/drilling/gluing/painting all those stickers wasn't particularly exciting work. It would be a hard project to do quickly I think, because I seem to remember doing a lot of small jobs that then took time to dry, whether it was glue or paint.

antony.trupe (author)2011-11-09

Almost have mine finished.

makendo (author)antony.trupe2011-11-09

Antony - that's fantastic, good work! Keep me updated, it would be great to see the fully stickered version.

Melissa W (author)2011-11-09

This is gorgeous. Seriously love it. I featured it at The Storage Geek With full credit and link back.

makendo (author)Melissa W2011-11-09

Thanks Melissa.

majorson (author)2011-11-08

Inspiring! lovely father..  
If you intereted, Learn:

How to solve a Rubik's Cube

(Great animated guide for beginners, I'm sure you'll success shortly..)


baba87 (author)2011-11-05

Awesome. You should sell these!

scaremeifucan1428 (author)2011-11-03

Ok I want to make a chest, but not one this huge. I was thinking something more like the size of a jewelry box. What would my new dimensions be and would any of the steps be different? I would love this as a chest, but I just don't have the space in my room. It would be great if you could help me make a smaller version of this!

Well, you can get smaller lazy Susan bearings (see materials step) and you wouldn't need the metal slides for a dinky little cube like the one you're planning. You would need to be good at making small boxes, though, which is an art I have no experience with (my background, such as it is, is in carpentry rather than woodworking). The removable stickers would be pretty fiddly to scale down, so you might have to come up with another solution (just painting them on would be easiest, or sticking on vinyl of the right colors).
As for your dimensions - how big is a jewelry box? That's how big it needs to be. About 1/3 the size of this one, i.e. about 1'x1'x1' sounds about right. It would be a cool project - good luck with it!

lanvy-nyc (author)2011-10-30


karbuckle (author)2011-10-27

This is genius at it's best. I didn't realize it was seperate drawers on each layer. I thought it was just a square box with the lid that opened for storage. I will build these for my kids for sure!

makendo (author)karbuckle2011-10-27

Thanks, good to hear - post a photo if you get it done!

DisplacedMic (author)2011-10-19

Sorry to keep bugging you with questions - but i am in the market for a new router - any recommendations? would i need a variable speed router for this project?

Im looking at the Porter-Cable 690LR 11 Amp Fixed-Base Router which is ~ 120 shipped.


oops - and also the DEWALT DWP611PK 1.25 HP Max Torque Variable Speed Compact Router Combo Kit which is a variable that comes w/ a plunge addon...

makendo (author)DisplacedMic2011-10-19

I've not owned a Porter-Cable tool so can't comment on them, but I've used a few De Walts and the quality is excellent - my DW miter saw is fantastic. I have a single speed 1.25 HP Makita plunge router, and it's good. You only need variable speed if you're planning to use big bits (not necessary in this project), in which case you should get one with a bigger motor. I hardly ever use the plunge capability, but it's handy to have, so the combo kit sounds pretty smart. Good luck with the build - post photos if you get it done!

ggardner7 (author)makendo2011-10-23

this is super cool

Bard (author)2011-10-13

Just out of curiosity how much did you sell it for?

makendo (author)Bard2011-10-13

My kids would riot it I sold it! I've made one, and it is not for sale.

Bard (author)makendo2011-10-14

the way the instructible was written it sound like it was a commissioned build that's why i asked. Nice design by the way.

makendo (author)Bard2011-10-14

Ah, gotcha. Yes, it was - but the commission was issued by my 6-year old son. So the pay was lousy (i.e. 0) but the level of appreciation was priceless :)

DisplacedMic (author)makendo2011-10-19

you are clearly a great dad!

About This Instructable




Bio: Analog maker dabbling in digital manufacture
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