Wooden Cubes Puzzle

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Last summer I was talking to my brother about toys we had when we were kids and he said he missed a cube puzzle we had of Pocahontas.

It was exactly this one:

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So, when I found these wooden cubes on Amazon…

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…I knew I could make him something special for his birthday: a cube puzzle like the one we had but with images of things that had a meaning for him.

The image transfer technique is quite simple, but it requires time and patience.

So, I chose 6 meaningful images, adapted them to the size of the square of 3 x 3 cubes and printed them REVERSED (this is kind of important), you need to print them mirror like, specially if there’s text in them. Also, it needs to be printed in a toner-based machine. Probably your printer at home wont work. You should need to go to a copy center, or use the printer in your office if you can.

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Then, what I did was cut each image in 9 squares the size of each cube, and glue each piece of paper on top a wooden cube using this thing called medium.

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You need to apply a very thin coat either to the paper or the wood (I found it easier the latter), put the paper on top, press and let dry at least for two hours. Since I’m not fond of unnecessary risks, I let it overnight.

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Can you see the glossy coat in the first cube?

What the medium does is basically trap the ink pigments in an acrylic film. So, once it’s dry it’s when the fun part begins.

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Find yourself a pretty little bowl like this turquoise one below and fill it with water. A big ugly bowl or a glass would do also, but isn’t it better to surround yourself with pretty things? 🙂 Dip your index finger in the water and start rubbing the paper in circles. The idea is to peel off all the paper to reveal the image underneath.

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This is the tricky part. As I said earlier, the ink has been absorbed by the acrylic medium. This means the image it’s not IN the wood, but rather in a very thin coat ON the wood. So you have to be very careful with all the “paper peeling” process. It’s nearly impossible, at least for me, to completely remove all the cellulose without taking away little bits of image. So, I’ve found it’s best for this technique if you embrace a “vintage” look from the beginning and not try to make it look perfectly neat. Also, the faces of the cubes are all different, because of how the wood is cut, some have more grain than others, or are darker, or more rough. Accept each cube will come out differently.

When you think you are done, let it dry. You’ll be awfully surprised to see there’s still paper in there you couldn’t see when the image was wet.

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Don’t despair. You may need two or three times to completely clear each image.

Keep on doing the same on the 6 faces of the 9 cubes (yeah, that’s 54 in total) until you are satisfied with your job.

Once you are done, you can protect each image with a thin layer of the same medium you used for the transfer, a varnish, or similar.

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It was quite a work, but I think my brother loved it, so it was completely worth it.

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