I love puzzles. When I was a kid, I started out on jigsaw puzzles but my parents soon discovered that I loved all puzzles. As teachers they realized that puzzles stimulate creative thinking and spacial reasoning. I have puzzles that sit on a shelf when not being used, puzzles I can wear as jewelry, and even electronic puzzles on my computer. I have used them for years to get my students to do their work (bribery in the classroom is highly effective), challenge their thinking, and offer them a chance to compete with each other.
Even more fun than solving puzzles can be making puzzles and giving them as gifts. There are a lot of different puzzles that can be made by gluing together cubes. If you have access to a table saw, it is simple enough to make many cubes. Not everyone has the tools or the skills. Since the school woodshop closed its doors many years ago, I have been forced to get creative. Dice are easy to find and come in a variety of sizes and colors.
Step 1: Materials:
Lots of dice
Good strong glue
I have a number of different sources for dice. If you live in the U.S., Dollar Tree usually has a nice supply. I assume that other dollar stores carry them too. Look in the toy section. You want to make sure that you get dice that are all the same size and shape. Some brands are just a bit bigger or have more rounded corners.
I have a variety of glues that work well. I have been using E6000 a lot lately. It works well for this project--assuming that you can get past the smell.
If you have a pile of 'store bought' wooden cubes, my advice is to check them before you start working with them. I bought them once intending to use them for this project. It turns out that they were all just a little longer in one direction. You want them to be perfect cubes for this to work.
Step 2: Gluing the Pieces
I have found that it works best if you glue in stages. Just 2 dice at a time. Allow the glue to dry before gluing more pieces. If you try to glue 4 or 5 dice, one of them can shift and ruin the whole piece.
Use a dab of the E6000 that is not too big. It will ooze out the sides and make a mess if you use too much. Leave the piece to dry for 20 minutes or so before adding the next cube. When you are done, check on the pieces occasionally for the next few hours. If a cube slips (which it does occasionally), you may have to yank them apart to reapply a bit of glue.
I intentionally did not line up the dice so that the pips (dots) were facing the same direction. I like the random look. I also think that it makes the puzzle just a tiny bit more challenging.
Step 3: Soma Cube
I think this is the original 3 by 3 by 3 cube puzzle. Every piece of this puzzle is a different shape from all the others. There are numerous web sites that will suggest other things to make from these pieces rather than just the 3 by 3 by 3 cube. I encourage my students to do the research. Start by googling "soma cube shapes".
Step 4: Green Puzzle
This puzzle is a bit sneaky, according to my son. It only uses 26 dice to make a 3 by 3 by 3 cube.
### Spoiler alert!!!!! ## #
The 3 by 3 by 3 cube is hollow inside.
Step 5: Red Puzzle
This is one that I made up myself. I encourage my students to try a variety of these and then give each a difficulty rating. Some are seriously easy. Others are more challenging.
Step 6: Pentomino Puzzle
This is another puzzle that I encourage my students to research online. The name "pentomino" refers to the fact that each piece is comprised of 5 cubes. There are exactly 12 different ways to arrange the 5 cubes without stacking any. This puzzle can also be made from squares instead of cubes--but there are a lot more things you can build from the cube version. Try googling "pentomino cube puzzle".