What is a Speed Cube?!
A brief guide to speed cubes for the uninitiated :)
One of the questions I’m asked most frequently is one that, to be honest, cubers like me forget is even a question! And while it’s very simple it’s also very fundamental - what even is a speed cube?!
Now of course one should never make broad generalisations, but please forgive me while I make some massive ones!
For the sake of this blog I’m going to assume if you’re reading this, then this might be one of the first times you’ve visited speedcube.co.nz, and you or someone close to you has either a Rubik’s brand cube they got from Whitcoulls or the Warehouse; either that or you’ve got a dollar store cube or something you found at a car boot sale.
Either that or you’re a parent or carer, and one of your charges has asked for a Weilong WRM 2021 maglev with purple bits, and now you’ve stumbled into a world you didn’t even know existed!
Either way, there’s a good chance you’ve found yourself asking - what even is a speed cube?!
Don’t sweat it - let me be your speed cube tour guide :)
Earlier I mentioned a Rubik’s brand cube puzzle or dollar store cube. The reason for that is it’s important to point out that a speed cube is a different beast entirely. They’re made differently, designed to be fast, customisable, light, and created for one purpose; to make you solve faster!
So here’s a bit of a breakdown of 6 things that make a speed cube different from the “regular” cube you have now;
- Spring tensions The spring tension of a cube is a major factor in how a cube feels at high speed. Too loose and the cube can be uncontrollable; too tight and the friction between pieces becomes too great affecting performance in other ways. HIstorically the spring setting was adjusted at the same time as distance (Which we’ll get to!) with a screw and spring, but cube companies are coming up with increasingly complicated and innovative ways to make these adjustments!
- Distance setting The distance between the core and centre pieces is another important setting that cubers need to have access to in their speed cubes. This effects one of the most vital (and talked about) aspects of any cube, “corner cutting”, which is a term you might hear cubers using, but if you’re new you might not understand! Let’s do that one next.
- Corner cutting OK so adjusting your spring and distance settings has a major impact on one particular aspect of a cube’s performance, and that’s corner cutting. In a nutshell, this is how easy it is to make a turn with one face of the cube when another, adjoining face is out of alignment. You can try this yourself by turning the U (top) layer clockwise a little, then trying to turn the R (Right) layer clockwise. The U layer should snap into place at any position up to about 45 degrees on any speedcube worth its salt. Try it yourself and see if your cube corner cuts!!
- Magnetic cubes The purpose of magnets in cubes is to make cubes more stable while turning at high speeds. The magnets are inside the pieces and are designed to help keep the layers aligned by “snapping” the end of your turns into place. The main aim is to prevent overturning and “locking up”, which is when you’re trying to make a turn but another layer out of allignment is blocking your efforts. Magnetic cubes are pretty standard now in almost every cube shape, and in fact it’s unusual to find a speed cube that isn’t magnetic since 2020! Since late 2019, cube companies have been wrestling with how to make the strength of those magnets adjustable, and they're still coming up with new methods!
- Lubrication Another essential element of “setting up” a speedcube is lubrication, and there are any number of armchair experts online to tell you what combinations of cube lubes you should be using for the best results, but the best thing to do is try as many as you can and form your own opinions. And remember - it’s easier to add more than to take away so be careful how much you add! Oh and also - yes, cube lube is a thing :) Don’t be tempted to put CRC or WD40 or Vaseline or vegetable oil in there! (These are all things I’ve heard of people using to their misfortune!!!
- New for 2021 - Maglev Finally it’s worth mentioning the most major upgrade we’ve seen in 2021, which is the us of Maglev to replace the traditional spring in tensioning systems. Essentially, repelling magnets replace the spring, and it’s that magnetic repulsion that replicates the spring feel, while at the same time reducing overall friction and creating a faster cube. At the time of writing the jury is still out as to whether this is going to become the new normal, but one thing is certain from my own experience; it certainly makes cubes faster!!
There’s a little more to the humble Rubik’s cube than you may have first thought, and that’s OK! We’re here to help, and you’re a legend for reading this far and trying to understand what on earth we’re on about!
I hope you’ve found this helpful - if you think I’ve missed anything or have any other questions then please do get in touch at email@example.com or give me a call at the number in the footer :)