Rubik’s Companion Cube, or How to Make a Custom Rubik’s Cube

Behold, the Rubik’s Companion Cube!

The Rubik's Companion Cube

I know the cube loves me because, no matter how I turn it, it’s always solved.

(If you’re completely confused now, you should read my dissection of the game Portal or listen to me rave about it on a podcast.)

(Also, if you don’t care about how to make a custom Rubik’s cube, you should skip to more pics of the Rubik’s Companion Cube.)

Anyway, here’s how you can make your own custom Rubik’s cube. What you’ll need:

  1. A Rubik’s cube. Our local department store stocks them in the electronic toys section. Sadly, it didn’t include a robot to solve it for me.
  2. Self-adhesive lamination sheets. Look for ones that are about 3 mils thick or so. Staples and Office Depot has them, as does Hobby Lobby and other scrapbooking-centric stores.
  3. A sharp X-Acto knife. And it’d better be sharp. Don’t use something you’d be ashamed to bring to a knife fight in the arts & crafts room.
  4. A metal ruler. You’re going to need to cut very straight lines, and it’s best if you cut the paper and not the ruler.
  5. Double-sided tape. Get the kind that has one side covered with a peel-off back. If you’re lazy, like me, you can pick up the small double-sided tape squares they sell scrapbookers for sticking photos into scrapbooks.
  6. A craft cutting mat or a big stack of paper so you don’t score up your table, desk, or lap.

In theory, you could use sticker paper made for inkjets instead of laminate and double-sided tape, but the resulting cube won’t stand up to handling as well as the laminate-protected one will.

Right. Let’s get down to cube-making.

  1. Create your graphics. If you’re going to make a Rubik’s Companion Cube, you’re in luck! I have a 300 dpi file ready for you. If you’re making something else, you’ve got some more work to do. Stickers on a Rubik’s cube are roughly 0.6-0.61″ square. If you want to be sure, measure the size of the stickers on your cube. For the graphics, I recommend making your picture, slicing it into those 0.6″ squares, and putting crop marks around them. To make life easier, I’ve got a 300 dpi template for that as well.
  2. A stickerless Rubik's cubeRemove the existing cube stickers. Take your sharp knife, slide it under a sticker’s corner, and pull the sticker back a bit. Pull the rest of it off with your fingers. Careful! Try not to tear the sticker or dig into the cube with your knife. When you’re done, you should have a sad, naked cube.
  3. Print your graphics. You may want to measure the size of the resulting squares to make sure they’re about the right size, but no one’s going to notice if you’re off by ten mils.
  4. Put a laminate sheet across the graphics. Cut the laminate sheet to fit over the printed graphics. Peel back part of the laminate’s backing. Stick it to the page. Remove the backing, carefully smoothing the laminate forward and removing any air bubbles as you go. If you end up with an air bubble, find the smallest pin or needle you can, puncture the bubble, and squeeze out the air. (Bubble-removing tip thanks to ctate.)
  5. If you’re using plain double-sided tape, put double-sided tape on the back. You want to cut everything at once. If you’re using the scrapbooking tape squares, skip this step.
  6. Cut out your squares. Here’s where your cutting mat and metal ruler come in handy. Put the laminated paper on the cutting mat or stack of papers. Place your metal ruler along each set of crop marks and gently cut through the laminate, paper, and (possibly) tape. If you forgot about the cutting mat, you’ll also gently cut into your desk. One word of caution: on your last couple of cuts, the previously-cut squares will try to move out from under the knife. Run your knife lightly over the laminate once to score it, then again while pressing harder to cut it.
  7. Rounded Rubik's cube stickersOptional: round the corners. If you look at the actual Rubik’s cube stickers, they’re rounded on the corners. Yours aren’t. You can fake this effect by taking your knife and clipping each square’s corner a teeny tiny amount. Don’t do too much or you’ll end up with a stop sign instead of a rounded-edge square.
  8. Apply the stickers. If you used plain double-sided tape, peel the back off and put the squares on the cube. If you’re using scrapbooking tape squares, peel a tape square off, put it on the back of one of your squares, peel off the backing, and apply the square.

And you’re done! Let’s see the final result.

The Rubik's Companion Cube

Me and the Companion Cube

Me listening to the cube

The cube trying to stab me

We play Playstation games

We go on a date

As you can tell, I’m pleased with how it turned out.

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