Introduction: BLOKL 2.0 or SOMA X 4 in a Pencil Case

About: USN veteran 76-82, medical device R&D by day, STEM/Arts education nights/weekends.USN veteran 76-82, medical device R&D by day, STEM/Arts education nights/weekends. I retweet art/math @mathart4all on http://ma…

This is an update to my previous Instructable "Build-BLOKL-or-SOMA-Cube-X-8"

BLOKL 2.0 is four color coded SOMA Cube puzzles that fit nicely into a Sterilite Small Pencil Case 1722 with room for accessories. The big motivation here is to make the BLOKL 2.0 easier and less expensive to build while making it portable by using:
1. Barclay Woods 5/8" cubes and 5/8"x 5/8" x 1 1/4" pieces that reduce the number of glue steps to eleven per SOMA Cube instead of twenty-seven. The 5/8" size also stacks better than the 1/2".
2. Food Coloring instead of RIT Dyes
3. Alcohol instead of hot water for dyeing speeds up building process
4. Super Glue Ultragel instead of wood glue speeds up the gluing process
5. Reducing the number of SOMA Cubes from eight to four makes it portable while preserving the ability to look at and compare interesting cube solutions, play BLOK-TOK (20 questions with a BLOKL built figure hint) or just free play blocks.

Step 1: Parts

1. 44 each 5/8" x 5/8" x 1 1/4" from Barclay Woods
2. 20 each 5/8" x 5/8" x 5/8" maple craft blocks from Barclay Woods
Note - To order items 1 and 2 copy the above into a message using the Barclay Woods "Contact Us" page:

If you like you can of course order a few extra of each so you can practice the staining and gluing ahead of making your BLOKL "for reals."

4. Isopropyl Alcohol
5. Loctite Super Glue Ultra Control Gel
6. McCormick's Assorted Food Colors & Egg Dye
7. Ziplock plastic bags
8. Sterilite Small Pencil Case 1722 (not shown in the above pic)

Optional Items
1. Crayola 8 Crayons - for marking solution cards
2. Solution cards - go to this link print and cut out
3. Activities Guide -

Step 2: Piece Names and Colors and Why Before How

I have been considering how to record and categorize for quite some time and have decided short and sweet is the ticket. It really makes spreadsheet recording go so much better when you can "search for R" and then select background color Red for all the cells found in the search.

BLOKL Name and Colors Rationale
1. Descriptive names that can be abbreviated by the first letter of that name.
2. A unique color for each piece that is can be abbreviated by the first letter of the color.
3. V, L, T and Z have the English alphabet names they most resemble
4. The two chiral or "twisty" pieces are mirror images of each other so I am describing them with "hand rules". If I hold the Blue piece (see pics above) in my right hand and line it up with my thumb my fingers can curl around it without leaving a gap. So I call it "D" for "Dexter" which means "right" in Latin. Similarly the Auburn piece works the same way in my left so I call it "S" for "Sinister"
5. The last piece has the highest amount of symmetry and has been called the "Crystal" by many authors so I do also

V - Red
L - Green
T - Yellow
Z - Orange
D - Blue
S - Auburn (Brown of course but we already are using B for Blue)
C - Violet or Purple

Step 3: Notes on Dying the Wood

The basic recipe I found to work is approximately 20 drops of color into 2 tablespoons of isopropyl alcohol. This worked well for Red, Yellow, Green and Blue. However the blended color descriptions here for Purple and Brown are not the best for coloring wood. I recommend using more Red in each formula.

Step 4: Color the V Piece Red 1

Caution - you are about to make an "alcohol ink" it can stain most porous materials like your skin, carpet, clothes and towels. Hard surfaces like a sink can can be most likely cleaned up with more alcohol. You decide what level of mess you are willing to deal with. Plastic gloves maybe?

If the "Caution" has made you a little paranoid let me offer some alternatives before you decide "Ick, I can't deal with stains."

1. Go ahead and build the BLOKL pieces and then using the color guide in Step 2:
a. Color the pieces with Crayola 8 Crayons. Very non messy and they do look nice.
b. Color the pieces with watercolor paints. A little messy but Crayola also makes nice paint sets.
c. Color the pieces with permanent ink markers

OK then ready to get messy? Let's color the V piece Red as an example.
1. Pour 2 tablespoons of isopropyl alcohol into a zip-lock bag.
2. Add 20 drops of Red food color.
3. Add the blocks you see in Step 2 designated as V. This will be 4 of the "two cube" pieces and 4 of the single cube pieces.
4. Zip the bag closed. Be sure it zips. I had a Red thumb for a day or two from not checking
5. Rub and move the pieces around in the ink for about one minute.

Step 5: Color the V Piece Red 2

OK now what to do with the colored pieces and excess ink? I used a couple disposable baking pans to pour out the contents and let them dry for four hours. You will likely have some ink left in the pan even after four hours. I picked out the pieces and poured off the excess into the sink.

So again maybe wear gloves. Zip-lock bags work as gloves pretty OK.

For the remaining BLOKL pieces repeat these steps referring to the color chart and the piece pics in Step 2

Step 6: Gluing the Red Piece 1

If you have let your dyed pieces dry for at least four hours they should be ready for gluing. Let's start with the Red V piece. You should have four of the long "two cube pieces" and four "single cube pieces. Check to make sure they are truly dry.

Step 7: Gluing the Red Piece 2

I really like Superglue Ultragel. It sits where you put it and it has a few seconds of re-positioning time. Just apply a single squeeze to make a dot of glue like the one shown in the picture.

Step 8: Gluing the Red Piece 3

Apply glue to the remaining pieces

Step 9: Gluing the Red Piece 4

Position the pieces and push them together. A flat surface really helps align the bottom's of each piece. You just have to align the sides by eye or by feel. The small amount of glue you used should not squeeze out of the joint much so not much should get on you fingers. If you do get stuck Nail Polish remover or Acetone are you best friend.

Step 10: Gluing the Rest of the Pieces

Use Step 2 as your guide to build the remaining pieces. I recommend waiting at least ten minutes before playing with the blocks. Superglue cures fast but ten minutes is a reasonable amount of time to be sure.

Step 11: Dexter and Sinister Gluing

Just going to add this one step as a reminder to look at the pieces carefully as you assemble and glue. These pieces are mirrors of each other.

Step 12: Build Some Cubes

All four of the cube solutions in this picture have "two piece gems" that can either be flipped, twisted or rearranged to form another solution or two or three or four. This is truly hands on mathematics.

Step 13: Box Your Blocks

The Sterilite 1722 Pencil Case is just a perfect fit for your BLOKL and some accessories.

Step 14: Have Fun and Share That Thing It's Portable

OK it is not as small as a Rubik's Cube but it is not too crazy big to take to school or to a friends's house or party. Also you made it so if a piece gets lost or broken you can fix it.

If you have questions or want to share your discoveries, block creations or games please join us at the "BLOKL Building Blocks Users" FaceBook Page:

Step 15: