Introduction: Spinning Paper Cube Globe

This project was a lot of fun to make. I love cubes especially ones that are standing on their diagonal axis, it makes them more dynamic. I went looking online for a diagonal cube globe but found very few so when I saw the Maps Challenge Contest I thought I'd use it as impulse to make my own version. If you're just here for the neurosis I do more ranting about world maps and globes in Step 7. If you're here to see how easy and cheap this Paper Cube Globe really is then please follow me...

...The material costs were less than $10. Equipment used was basic. What was most costly here was time



Matt Black Canson Cardstock 225 gr. It's important to use stiff cardstock here. I used 2 sheets of oversized A4 (230 mm x 320 mm)

Matt South Seas Blue Cason Cardstock 185 gr. I used one big sheet that I cut down to A4 for my printer

Matt Black 5 mm Foam Board A3

2 Long Pins or Needles

Small piece of metal or a coin


Cutting Mat

Steel Ruler

Craft Knife

Prit Stick

PC and Printer

Step 1: Make 3 Edges and 3 Diagonals of the Cube

I decided to make the cube 8 inches long because my cutting mat's grid is in inches and also as I used thick black cardstock that came in oversized A4 sheets meant that I could cut strips from the length and width of the sheets. It took less than 2 sheets to complete the entire cube!

Make three edges 6 mm wide (8 inches long) and score a fold line down the center. Then fold it 90°.

Cut 3 strips the length of the diagonal of the 8" cube by 4mm wide. To cut the widths, just measure the first strip and use a piece of off-cut to align the ruler top and bottom to cut all the rest of the strips the same width.

Then taking 2 edge strips and 1 diagonal strip, glue up a right angle isosceles triangle. Then stand it up vertically and glue in place the third edge strip perpendicular at the apex of the triangle. Use the mat's grid to keep things square. Then glue another diagonal in place to secure the edge strip. Now it looks like two triangles joined at 90°. Stand both triangles up and glue the last diagonal in place joining the other two triangles so that now it looks like a three sided pyramid.

Step 2: Make 6 More Edges and 3 More Diagonal Strips

Cut the strips as before.
Stand the three sided pyramid on one of the sides so that one edge is upright. Be sure to be aligned with the grid and glue in place another diagonal crossing the one flat on the mat to form an X. Then continue to glue in place two edge strips so that all the points of the"X" are enclosed in a square. Then turn the pyramid onto another face and repeat the same process until you have a second X enclosed in a square of edge pieces and then do the same for the third side of the pyramid. I hadn't been taking many photos up until this point so I've tried to draw the steps instead. The one photograph here shows the 3 square sides made up and with the diagonals forming the "X"s also in place. The rest of the strips in this photo are explained in the next step.

Step 3: Adding More Strips

All these strips are 4 mm wide. Their lengths vary but you can measure and cut them quickly using the cutting mat grid. It's not too hard to make out where they go from the photos. All the edges are divided into 4 equal parts. Six of the strips are running parallel to one of the diagonals and the other six are radiating out from one of the corners but I cut them short so they are glued to the small strip closest to the corner. So that's 12 strips more on each of the three sides, that makes 36 more strips. Be sure to add a dab of glue at each crossing. I didn't do it until after I made the whole cube and it was more tricky.

Step 4: More Sides and More Strips

You need to make just three more edge strips but 42 more flat strips!

If you have used the same cardstock thickness as me the cube will be light yet sturdy. Keep working to get all the strips in place. Take extra care to make sure the lines converge from three faces in one corner and they converge from the three other faces to the DIAGONALLY OPPOSITE CORNER. These opposite corners are the north and south poles of the globe.

The further on you go the less space you have to maneuver.

Step 5: Completing the Cube... the Last Face

Glue together all the strips that go in this last face of the cube but WITHOUT ANY EDGE STRIPS because they are already in place. Do them on the cutting mat separately from the cube and insert them all at once. This way you have more control.

Make the "X" of strips then glue all the diagonal ones in one direction and the radiating strips in the other direction. The hardest part here is to apply pressure to the glue in the final moment of assembly. Use something long and thin to stick in between the strips to reach where the glue is. At this stage I realised I still had some of the strips flopping around . That's why I mentioned before to glue all the crossings. Having to do it after the cube was assembled was tricky. I made up a little spatula on a chopstick to reach in and aply the glue where needed.

Lastly, I made a 5 mm strip of foam board to stick up the middle of the cube. I only did this afterwards but maybe you could get it in place before closing the cube. Squash in the corners to make it reach deeper into the corner of the cube.

Step 6: Make the Foam Board Base

I just printed it out on paper and cut the foam board by hand using the print out as a stencil. Here is the drawing for you to download. I bet you could make a better one if you had a laser cutting machine. The slots are for 5 mm foam board. If you are using a different thickness you will have to adjust them. And you'll need two needles or pins to spear the globe at the poles so that the whole thing will rotate.

The arch is just held in place by means of a tight fit. Be sure to CUT THE SLOTS AS A TIGHT FIT.

It's a very simple design but the globe doesn't weigh too much so you don't need to worry. This way you can adjust the angle of the arch to wherever you want but if you choose to have it horizontal you might need to come up with a better fixing than the pins at the points or it might fall.

Step 7: Plotting the Map

People have studied cartography for centuries. There even was a particular branch of cartography that studies polyhedral mapping and the mapping of the world onto the Platonic Solids such as the cube. Buckminister Fuller's icosahedra map is another example. There is a paper by Mr. Carlos A. Furuti that gives his own examples of mapping the globe onto cubes but I couldn't get a good size file to work from and also I wasn't fond of the curving lines of latitude. I didn't care if it meant more distortion. I'm no authority on what is a good map but I know what I want my map to look like especially if I'm making it from scratch.

The most popular world maps show us all there is to be seen on one big rectangle. You could cut up the rectangle to be more like the development of a sphere but this is just a fetish for mappers and students of geometry. Large portions of the general population get lost along the way. But by keeping everything on a square page we also get distortion. In the case of the Mercator Projection map the farther away from the equator the more distorted the land masses get as this animation by Jakub Nowosad brilliantly displays (it's also on the Wikipedia page about the Mercator Projection).

Anyway, I took the Mercator Projection map from Wikipedia by Daniel R. Strebe (uploaded on 16 December 2011) and opened it up on the screen at the same time as Autocad. It has the same number of longitudinal lines as my paper cube globe, 24. And the same number of Latitudinal lines too, 12. Magic!

Now all I needed to do was transfer the outlines of the land masses from the Mercator distorted grid to my distorted grid. I did this here on a PC but you could also just do it by hand. Draw up the square sides of our cube just like we built already and sketch the outline of the land.

By the way, it's worth mentioning that with the globe divided up into 24 longitudinal spaces each one counts for an hour of our 24 hour day. You can visualize the time differences and understand it more clearly.

Step 8: Test Print, Cut and Tape the Land

When you have everything drawn print a practice version on plain paper to make sure its okay. I was experimenting with text and grid lines too but in the final draft I left it plain.

Cut it all out, albeit roughly and set up the pieces on the globe. I used small bits of masking tape to keep them in place on the globe. If all is well continue to print the good version.

Step 9: Print Out and Cut Out the Good Ones

Cut out the pieces as neat and as carefully as you can. This cardstock is thicker than the test print before but that makes everything more sturdy

Put them in place on the globe and trace the outlines of the strips on the back side to know where to apply the glue

Go ahead and start gluing up everything bit by bit...

...until it's all in place!

Step 10: Counter Weight, Island Disclaimer, Etc.

On this globe the land is represented by the blue cardstock but the oceans are a negative space. It's a cool aesthetic for globes but the problem is the Pacific ocean is a large chunk of our planet and in this case its empty and therefore lighter on that side so that on the tilted axis of the base it always faces up and Europe and Africa fall to the bottom. I didn't know this was going to happen but not to worry. All we need is a counter weight. I used a couple of bits of Brass rod I had lying around. Maybe you have the exact same pieces of junk in your house too. Maybe not. Maybe best you look for something else that has a bit of weight. A coin or two might do the trick!

Anyway, I noticed that one side of this cube is completely bare except for New Zealand! The Pacific ocean IS a big place. Poor New Zealand looks very lonely on my globe but there are many islands I left out of this model. I am sorry if you don't see yourself on my globe but that's the way it goes there are an infinite number of small places in the world that can't be made out even on the best of globes. I'm from Ireland and I don't think I could show my face back home if I didn't manage to feature Ireland on this globe. In order to do it I left Ireland and Britain as one little piece of cardstock and blacked out the space in between to make it look like it is floating. I did the same with Tazmania and New Foundland.

So, there you have it. It was a lot of fun building this. It's a bit tricky but it's as cheap as chips so I hope you give it a go.

See ya!

Maps Challenge

Grand Prize in the
Maps Challenge